ECLECTIC RANT: What is Berkeley College Republicans’ goal: civil discourse or rabble-rousing?

Ralph E. Stone
Monday April 24, 2017 - 10:45:00 PM

The Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) invited Ann Coulter to speak at UC Berkeley. Earlier, the group had invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. Yiannopoulos' speech was canceled after violent protests erupted. 

Guest speakers are a good way to add interest to a university education and help students get the benefit from the knowledge and expertise of an accomplished professional or a respected authority in his or her field.  

That raises the question as to what Yiannopoulos or Coulter bring to the university experience? Both are provocateurs of the alt-right where it is difficult to tell whether their writings and speeches are serious or intended to provoke outrage. Most of the alt-right support Donald Trump and oppose immigration, multiculturism, and political correctness.  

Yiannopoulos, for example, is a vocal critic of feminism, Islam, social justice, political correctness, and other movements and ideologies he sees as authoritarian or of the regressive left. In February 2017 he resigned from Breitbart News -- "the platform of the alt-right" -- after a controversy arising from a video clip in which he said that sexual relationships between 13-year-old boys and adult men and women can be "perfectly consensual" and a "positive experiences for the boys." 

Coulter has described herself as a polemicist who likes to "stir up the pot," and does not pretend to be impartial or balanced, as broadcasters do, drawing criticism from the left, and sometimes from the right. She is anti-abortion and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants. She opposes same-sex marriages and civil unions, but in recent years she has attracted many LGBT fans, namely gay men and drag queens

The BCR, the group that invited both Yiannopoulos and Coulter to speak, describes themselves as a "diverse group of independent minds who think critically about issues involving politics, philosophy, and civil service. As the premier political organization at UC Berkeley, we take our role as campus activists and thought leaders seriously." 

I wonder if the BCR were acting as "thought leaders" and "independent minds thinking critically" when they invited Yiannopoulos and Coulter to speak. I suspect the BCR invited both to "stir the pot," not to benefit students about "politics, philosophy, and civil service." Given the past experiences in Berkeley, BCR knew or should have known that these invited speakers would provoke violence. I suspect that was BCR's goal. Now they can claim denial of free speech. But maybe, BCR should act more responsibly in the future.  

However, I am disappointed that those opposing Coulter espouse the First Amendment right of free speech for themselves, but seem willing to deny it to others whose views they oppose. Why don't those opposing Coulter and her views just stay home when she speaks?