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Berkeley prof moans that the 'law fetishizes free speech,' calls hate speech an 'act of violence

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A professor at the University of California, Berkeley — where left-wing protesters rioted earlier this year over a planned speech they didn't like — argued in an op-ed that hate speech is a "act of violence." (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

In the lead-up to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro's speech at the University of California, Berkeley, last week, a Berkeley professor absolutely excoriated Shapiro, her school's administration — as well as the present legal interpretation of the First Amendment, complaining that it "fetishizes free speech."

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the Chancellor’s Professor of Medical Anthropology, also wrote in her op-ed that she considers hate speech an "act of violence" — all while calling Shapiro a "schmuck," a "racist, sexist, misogynist, Islamaphobic jerk," and a "little bully right wing prodigy."

A student questioned conservative commentator Ben Shapiro about abortion and first-trimester fetuses during a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, on Sept. 14. Shapiro's answer received thunderous applause. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

What did she say about Berkeley students?

Scheper-Hughes slammed the school's extensive security measures — which included barricades near the event venue and a heavy law-enforcement presence — calling them "ridiculous, overkill," and "insulting to our student body." Yet in the same sentence she added that those very measures are "an unintentional dog whistle to our students to riot."

Curiously, she made no mention of the destructive left-wing rioting on campus over a planned Milo Yiannopoulos speech earlier this year.

Protesters march off the UC Berkeley campus on Feb. 1, 2017 in Berkeley, California. A scheduled speech by then-Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos was cancelled after protesters and police engaged in violent skirmishes. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

What did she say about the First Amendment?

Scheper-Hughes called the First Amendment "a work in progress. It evolves, there can be and have been amendments." She then ripped the ruling that gave Nazis the right to march in Skokie, Illinois, back in the late '70s — a decision that underscored the notion that Americans must vigorously defend speech they find most heinous, as it's the best weapon to defend their own right to speak out.

Instead, Scheper-Hughes wrote that the Skokie ruling "needs to be corrected" and that "strong legal scholars and thinkers and researchers" should "push against it, to recognize when the rule of law is illegal ..." She added that "current law fetishizes free speech to include the rights of a neo-Nazi organization that is to this day responsible for killing Black citizens in Alabama and disposing their bodies in the Alabama River."

Image source: YouTube screenshot

What did she say about hate speech?

Scheper-Hughes said "hate speech harms people; there is no doubt about it."

That ain't all:

Hate speech can make people hate themselves, it can make one want to crawl into a corner and disappear. It can makes one wish one was dead or worse had never been born, the ultimate existential black hole. Hate speech is a speech act that can harm the central nervous system, it can result in PTSD, and when used by police and jailers to humiliate prisoners hate speech is psychological torture, a civil rights and human rights violation. In short, hate speech is an act of violence. The First Amendment is ignorant of the vast research on these topics by medical anthropologists, clinical psychologists, and neurological scientists.

This writer's perspective

Scheper-Hughes broke out of the gate in her anti-hate speech op-ed using what one might successfully argue is blatant hate speech against Shapiro — not to mention her non-civil tone in her lengthy opening paragraph, a rant that's unlikely to win any converts to her position.

Her assertion that students at Berkeley — a mega-elite institution that's not exactly a haven for the weak-minded — could riot after succumbing to the "dog whistle" of security measures is odd. It essentially equates her students with animals. But then again, recent campus rioting may have been an unconscious trigger for Scheper-Hughes.

The professor's views on the First Amendment and hate speech are the most disturbing aspect of her op-ed. America doesn't move forward and free when we shut down others' right to speak and express themselves, even when we find others' speech reprehensible.

The lesson of Skokie is that we absolutely let the Nazis spew their vile viewpoints freely — so that we can battle back with better points of view. Once we erroneously silence those we despise, we endanger our own freedom to speak down the line if others stand against us — and all by the very precedence we've set.

And hate speech is not "violence." It's sad, it's hurtful and we should speak out against it — but "violence"? Nope. And I'd venture to say that Shapiro — the target of Scheper-Hughes' rather astonishing aspersions — would agree.

One of the reasons America is great is because everyone has the right to speak out. We may not like what's said, our feelings might get bruised — but we have to accept such slights as part of a better package. One that lets us freely express ourselves instead of whispering under our breath in fear of getting in trouble for what we've uttered.

Which also means that while some may disagree with Scheper-Hughes' words — or even may be offended by them — we all must defend to the death her right to say them.

(H/T: Campus Reform)

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