Updated: ECLECTIC RANT: Yiannopoulis’ scheduled appearance at UC Berkeley

Ralph E. Stone
Monday February 06, 2017 - 12:57:00 PM

The Berkeley College Republicans hosted conservative Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at UC Berkeley. Known by many as a hate-filled agent provocateur, his scheduled appearance sparked demonstrations. The UC Berkeley administration initially took the high road, saying that it could not discriminate based on a speaker's anticipated speech.  

The peaceful demonstrators were joined by about 150 masked individuals with paramilitary tactics, including hurling Molotov cocktails, setting fires, throwing fireworks at police, pushing barricades into windows and damaging campus and city property. An early estimate of campus damage is around $100,000. As a result of the violence, UC Berkeley canceled Yiannopoulos' appearance.  

Trump added his two cents, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Trump wrote on Twitter. It should be noted that Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, previously headed Breitbart News. This raises the question whether UC Berkeley should have denied Yiannopoulos' appearance right from the beginning when violence was likely or let him speak and prepared for the possibility of violence.  

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in his concurring opinion in the 1927 Whitney v. California case said in essence: The cure for bad speech is more speech, not less. 

Before the controversy, I doubt many people knew much, if anything, about Yiannopoulos. Now they do. Yiannopoulos walked away without giving a speech no doubt with a smile on his face as did the Berkeley College Republicans, while UC Berkeley was left with egg on its face. 

Sales are soaring for Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous, scheduled for release next month. 

Unfortunately, most people in the Bay Area will remember the violence associated with the demonstrations rather than the free speech issues involved when a controversial figure speaks at a public university.