As conservatives go, Ben Shapiro is hardly a flame-thrower. He tends to speak in a sharp, well-reasoned manner, and doesn’t suffer fools joyously, but he’s not a provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter.
He’s not a Trump supporter, for that matter, and if you call him “alt-right,” that’s just glaring evidence that you don’t know what you’re talking about. While Shapiro doesn’t exactly fit the mold of what I call old-consensus conservatives – think Mitt Romney and similar conventional proceduralists for that – he’s much closer to that model than to anyone who is routinely called alt-right (e.g., Yiannopoulos).
So it is very informative that the radical left is trying to scare him away and intimidate the University of California at Berkeley, where he is scheduled to speak on 14 September.
It’s not informative about Shapiro, who hasn’t undergone any sort of game-changing transformation in the last year. It’s informative about the radical left, and about Berkeley.
An AP story on the impending event contains this interesting passage:
“Things have changed,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said. “We’re a quantum leap away from the sort of arrangements we needed to make in the past for events that have the potential to attract strong political support or opposition.”
In contrast, a similar event featuring Ben Shapiro on campus in 2016…and also hosted by Berkeley College Republicans had “basic security.” It went off peacefully and made no major headlines.
You’ll notice I ellipsed out a few words in that pull-quote. I did that for a reason, because the words constitute thought pollution: a deliberate attempt to corrupt your thinking process on this matter. The words inserted by the AP writer want to pre-condition how you see the change since 2016. But I want you to think about it.
Ben Shapiro’s 2016 talk at Berkeley occurred in April. At that time, the primary campaign for the 2016 election was at a fever pitch. We were starting to be aware of the huge turnouts for Donald Trump’s rallies around the country (which had actually been a factor for months at that point).
We were also seeing counter-protests at the Trump rallies. The first counter-protests that made national headlines had occurred in February 2016. By April, they were being well covered, and had significant participation from the same groups that have continued them into 2017, including Antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Yet, in that atmosphere, Ben Shapiro’s speech at Berkeley went off peacefully, with no more than “basic security.”
Shapiro hasn’t changed since then. The overall conditions of politics haven’t changed either. Trump was an outsize factor in terms of media absorption then, just as he is now. He was drawing huge attendance at campaign rallies, and the same lot were protesting him then as protest him today.
If anything, there were more Trump supporters turning out in independent rallies in early 2016 – rallies apart from those scheduled by Trump – than there have been at any time since the election. Some of those independent rallies were troubled by counter-protests, back in 2016.
Conservative speaking engagements went on all the while; some encountering rude blowback from campus audiences, many going off without those indignities. The opportunities were numerous for the radical left protest mobs to conflate the appearance of any conservative with a manifestation of “Trump” or Trump support. Yet for the most part, they didn’t do that – back in 2016.
If they’re doing it now, what is the reason? The AP writers want you to think it’s “because Trump got elected.” Here is their sentence again, without any words redacted:
In contrast, a similar event featuring Ben Shapiro on campus in 2016 before President Donald Trump was elected and also hosted by Berkeley College Republicans had “basic security.”
But objectively, it isn’t the election of Trump that caused the radical left mobs to start trying to shut down all conservatives. It’s the reaction of the radical left to the election of Trump. Instead of behaving like the American right throughout the Obama years – opposing much that Obama was doing, but remaining orderly and law-abiding, and not trying to silence anyone’s voice in the debate – the mobs on the radical left have expanded their target set.
They aren’t waiting for actual Trump rallies to occur. They’re going out to disrupt and shut down the free speech of anyone who isn’t actively, affirmatively as far left as they are.
Their trend of behavior isn’t the fault of Trump or his supporters. Nothing the slash-and-burn mobs do is caused by anyone else. It’s entirely their fault that they do these things.
Absurdly, some commentators on the left make excuses for them, arguing that their ends are good even if their means can’t be condoned.
But that form of special pleading merely serves to justify violence by according it relatively faint condemnation.
The truth is declarative, not surreptitiously deductive. I am anti-fascist. Antifa is not. Antifa is pro-violence, pro-chaos, and pro-hatred and division.
I believe black lives matter. The street thugs who shout “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon!” don’t believe that. They are anti-police, anti-law-and-order, and hateful toward safety and peace for the people hit hardest when the police can’t do their jobs: usually people who are poor, often people who are also black.
I am anti-Nazi. I am disgusted by white supremacism, by racism, by anti-Semitism. The so-called “anarchist” mobs are nihilists who want to tear down the civilized order, and remove all the protections ordinary people have from exactly those dangerous -isms.
I think most readers are on the same page. If you want to know what an anti-fascist actually looks like, here it is. Ben Shapiro, based on his body of work and the way he lives his life, is also an anti-fascist.
So when you read that Berkeley is closing off six buildings around the venue for his speech on Thursday, and loading up on armed security, and requiring people to show ID to pick up their pre-reserved tickets to a free, campus-sponsored event – remember that.
When you learn that instructors have actually canceled a class on Thursday because they understand some students feel uncomfortable with the campus lockdown, remember who the problem is here.
It isn’t Ben Shapiro. It isn’t Donald Trump. It isn’t Trump supporters – any more than it’s Hillary supporters, for that matter.
It’s the radical left mob organizers. Berkeley isn’t locking down a big chunk of the campus because of Ben Shapiro or Donald Trump. It’s locking down the campus because of Antifa and its associated laundry list of rent-a-thugs.