“Free Speech”


I’m not going to mince words here. The people who are fomenting “violence” at various anti-Trump rallies are police agents, witting or unwitting. Some of them may be well-intentioned. I get it that what we’re seeing is not violence. Violence is killing people, which the other side does on an hourly basis. But vandalism is adventurist and provocative, and will get our people killed. We are up against the most powerful military machine the world has ever seen with the capacity to destroy life on the planet as we know it many times over. In approaching such a diabolical monster, we should at the very least be strategic. I’m not a pacifist. I’m conscious of the fact that the conflict in the U.S. could easily turn seriously violent. I’m not saying don’t provoke the monster. I’m saying have as many people with you as possible as you approach it.

I was arrested in Sproul Hall in 1964 in the so-called Free Speech Movement. We were not fighting for free speech for racists. In fact, the movement was not about free speech at all but about the right of students to raise money for the Civil Rights Movement in the South. We called it “free speech” to broaden the base of support (it included the Young Republicans at the time), but in retrospect, that was a mistake. We should have emphasized that it was about civil rights. By “branding” it free speech if you will, we separated ourselves from the civil rights movement. Suddenly, there was the civil rights movement and the student movement when in reality it was the same movement.

I have no problem denying “free speech” to haters like Milo Yiannopoulos. Hate speech should be disrupted “by any means necessary,” which doesn’t mean by busting windows, lighting fires, and other manifestations of childish adventurism which isolates the movement from our natural allies, provokes the police, and scares people from coming out to demonstrations. The vandals themselves need to be disrupted and shamed at every turn by chants of: “Police Agent…Police Agent…Police Agent.” Witting or unwitting.

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