On The Latest Round of Rioting at UC-Berkeley

There was yet another riot at the University of California-Berkeley over the Easter Day weekend, and judging by the all cell phone video footage that quickly wound up on the internet it was a pretty nasty affair. Such unpleasantness on the campus was a staple of the evening news way back in our boyhood, and lately it seems to be another one of those annoying ’60s fads that is back in fashion again.
This time around the violence is somehow different, though, even if it does seem destined to end in the same desultory way. Last time around Berkeley became famous as the birthplace of the “Free Speech Movement” that demanded free expression of an emerging New Left sensibility, but by now the New Left’s pony-tails have turned gray and its radical demands have become the status quo and the tie-dyed diaper baby grandchildren currently attending the university are famous for demanding speech codes and safe spaces from any sort of dissent. Those subsequent ’60s riots were a response to the Vietnam War, the wisdom of which remains debatable but undeniably involved more than 58,000 American fatalities and countless more casualties and was something you could at least understand somebody rioting about, but the previous riot at Berkeley was a response to a campus lecture by an inconsequential alt-right provocateur and self-described “faggot” named Milo Yiannapolous, which is something that most people would sensibly ignore.
Saturday’s riot happened during one of the many peaceable protests occurring around the country demanding that President Donald Trump publicly release his tax returns, which attracted one of the many counter-protests by supporters of the president, but even in Berkeley that wasn’t enough to cause a riot. So far as we can tell from all the cell phone video footage and some fine reporting by Esquire Magazine, of all places, it was the mix of black-masked self-described “anarchists” on the left and some self-described “white nationalist” types on the right that proved more combustible. The conditions for this happening are especially ripe at Berkeley, but hardly unique to that campus.
Most of the left eschews black masks and brown shirt tactics and anarchy, preferring their safe spaces and ’60s-era notions of non-violence, but they do have among them a troublesome number of people who are quite enthusiastic about all that. The vast majority of Trump’s most ardent supporters and pretty much all of the more reluctant ones have no use for white nationalism or its street-brawling ways, preferring law and order and old-fashioned notions about free speech, but by now there’s no denying they also some rather unsavory compatriots in their midst. You’ll find the extremists almost anywhere by now, and if you throw in the complex issues of race and class that you’ll find almost anywhere there’s reason to worry that Saturday’s riots could happen just a neighborhood away from anybody.
In both the distant and recent past we’ve faulted much of the left for making excuses for the more egregious behavior on its side, and been proud of the principled conservatives who took pains to distance themselves from those hippie-bashing hardhats and newfangled white nationalists who claimed the mantle of conservatism, but these days we have to admit that the Republican president did promise to pay the legal bills of anyone at his rallies who punched a protestor and openly longed for the good old days when they’d be carried out in a stretcher. Even the most peaceable sorts on both the left and right can get pretty confrontational in the comments section of any internet news site these days, all the panel discussions on all of the cable news networks seem more a verbal riot than a real debate, and even in the Senate it took the “nuclear option” to get a quite reasonable and even rather boring nominee confirmed to the Supreme Court.
We’re old enough to remember the ’60s, though, and can console ourselves that the country somehow stumbled its way through that tumultuous decade of far more violent and arguably more reasonable riots. The country had to stumble through the ’70s and all the rest of it to get to his damnable moment in time, where both the left and right seem to have jettisoned notions of free speech and full disclosure, and neither is willing budge an inch enough to disavow for their most unsavory compatriots, but for now it’s just a bunch of crazies pushing around trash dumpsters and duking it out on the always-crazy streets of Berkeley. The cell phone footage makes it look something from the last days of the Weimar Republic, but if they’d had cell phone cameras back then, and everyone could see hot very ridiculous it looked, perhaps it wouldn’t have ended so badly.

— Bud Norman



Chris Dorner is dead, and that is probably for the best. There is no knowing what pushed the ex-police officer into madness, but whatever it was had clearly pushed him so far that he would allow his murderous rampage to end only with his death.
There remains a madness in our society, however, which will be harder to eradicate. As Dorner was cold-bloodedly killing four of his fellow human beings he was being cheered on by his many admirers at Facebook, Twitter, and other internet sites, with many urging that he continue to “fight the power,” while numerous cars through the state of California wore adorned with exhortations to “go, Chris, go.” Almost all of the media politely declined to expose the political ideology that Dorner had explicitly stated in a rambling manifesto as the rationale for his crimes, and even in the most respectable broadcast circles some supposedly intellectual sources seemed to almost celebrate the murder spree. Such enthusiastic apologetics for evil are as difficult to comprehend as the evil itself.
Part of the explanation can be found in that rambling manifesto, which offers a self-serving and self-pitying account of Dorner’s firing from the Los Angeles police department along with simmering racial animosities, superficial statements of support for such liberal causes as tighter gun control, and strangely chummy shout-outs to such favorite political and media figures as President Barack Obama, news commentator Chris Matthews, and the famously drug-addled television actor Charlie Sheen. Many people can sympathize with someone who has lost a job under any circumstances, the Los Angeles police have apparently earned an unfavorable reputation among many of the citizens they are sworn to serve, race relations remain a problem everywhere, and it seems that most of California shares Dorner’s preferences in politicians and has the same false familiarity with the celebrities.
The fact that Dorner reacted to his firing by going on a killing spree obviously vindicates the department’s action, though, and his crimes against entirely innocent victims did so little to bolster race relations or advance any other liberal cause that most news outlets deemed them not worth mentioning.
Had Dorner chosen to espouse conservative causes and praise the likes of House Speaker John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, and Clint Eastwood it would have been a prominent part of the story for most reporters, but to the extent that his political views were made known they were treated with a respect not usually afforded to the ramblings of serial killers. A panel discussion on the Cable News Network featured Columbia University professor Mark Lamont Hill likening Dorner’s murders to “’Django Unchained’ in real life,” an allusion to a currently popular movie about a former slave killing slave-holders, Buzzfeed Sports editor Jack Moore finding it resembling “a Denzel Washington movie,” and all but one agreeing that Dorner had helpfully drawn attention to police brutality and other issues. None thought to question a popular culture that peddles such mindless violence as entertainment, nor note the irony of an anti-gun crusader protesting police brutality by shooting people, nor express any real sympathy for the four human beings who had been sacrificed for the cause.
The estimable Andrew Klavan argues that such violence is inherent in leftism, which can only impose its well-intentioned dictates on free individuals by such means, and we believe he has a point. Some people in Eric Rudolph’s backwoods home cheered him on in the late ‘90s when he went on a murderous bombing spree motivated by extreme conservative views, but the mainstream of conservatism was pleased when he was brought to justice by the notoriously right-wing Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Timothy McVeigh committed the deadliest act of domestic terrorism after taking a logical conservative critique of big government to an illogical extremist conclusion, but we recall nothing but denunciations coming from the conservative press. Left-wing violence, from the eco-terrorism of the Unibomber to the have wreaked at every multi-national gathering by black-masked anarchists to the old-fashioned thuggery of the union movement, are always more likely to go unmentioned or excused.
The madness that afflicted Chris Dorner is not unique to any political philosophy, but the madness that celebrates it is mostly found on the left.

— Bud Norman