Berkeley Riot (Not A Safe Space for Neo Nazis)

riot

I’m only of mixed mind regarding the violent riot at UC Berkeley shutting down the talk by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. This episode at Berkeley is much like the now famous one that involved Richard Spencer on his trip to Washington D.C. getting punched in the head by a BlackBloc activist. I can neither support nor condemn this kind of reaction.  But campus free speech codes are going to have to come to terms with a new political reality, namely the rise of the racist far right on the American political scene. I am tempted by the argument that the constitution of morality and politics depends upon the drawing of definite red lines that cannot be crossed without the provocation of a grave public consequence. That is to say that, normatively and descriptively, neo-Nazis and crypto Nazis have no “rightful” place on a university campus. But even if one supports giving neo-Nazis a university free-speech platform and while it is undeniably true that the violence gave Yiannopoulous a larger platform, it also is true that Republicans, mainstream or otherwise, should be forced to either condemn or own the alt-Right.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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13 Responses to Berkeley Riot (Not A Safe Space for Neo Nazis)

  1. Jon Awbrey says:

    We’ve seen this before … and it’s kind of funny that those Men In Black never seem to get arrested …

  2. monte tator says:

    Are you saying Milo is a Neo Nazi? Based on what exactly? Is Ted Cruz also, since he wishes to limit a woman’s right to choose? If not, why not? Do Democrats get to be forced to “condem or own” Students for Justice in Palestine, or other BDS groups? BLM? This is really confusing

    • zjb says:

      Yes, ne0-Nazi alt-Right if by that one includes someone who gives the neo-Nazi alt-right a “platform.” By any stretch of the imagination, comparing SJP and BLM with the neo-Nazi alt-right is a false equivalence. Nor do they exercise the same power now exercised by the alt-Right with its position in the White House. No, this is not confusing. One draws a firm red line with the kind of racism unleashed by this Trump Administration. Even the Orthodox Union has come out against the Muslim ban.

      • alex says:

        So you’re redefining neo nazi as anyone aligned with Trump? Because of the nazi -alt right -trump continuum?!? (Im not aware of any actual neo nazis given any kind of platform with milo or even brietbart.)why not keep it going and include anyone pro life or who wants lower taxes since they also have lots in common politically with Trump supporters. Where was all this exactitude and guilt by association when the previous president was palling around with al Sharpton or Jeremiah wright?

      • zjb says:

        Nope, not going to include the mainstream GOP and political conservatives in this toilet, and trying to bring Sharpton and Wright into the discussion makes zero sense. We’re talking very specifically about the neo-Nazis and KKK who are a recognized part of the alt-Right, people whose material the Trump campaign deliberately retweeted, to signal their interest. Add to that all the anti-Semitism that threw itself up online and in the public sphere, the support from David Duke, and the consistent refusal of Trump to condemn any of this by name. There’s simply no comparison to Sharpton and Wright, who were fringe, without a seat in the Obama White House. Look, get rid of Bannon and Miller and the garbage they’re bringing into White House staff positions, and back down from attackes on the judiciary and on the press, and maybe then you might have a point.

      • alex says:

        My point is that people with cynical political agendas call someone racist/nazi/whatever, and then use a trivial details to justify that label. This is what you’re doing. Bannon and miller are not neo nazis. Of course people associated with racism are also supporting Trump. But you can’t label the entire administration or anyone who supports it as a neo nazi; for some reason the Arab anti semites who supported Obama didn’t get lumped in with the white house by the commentariate. BTW Sharpton wasnt marginal and if you believe that wright was someone Obama barely knew (after sitting in his church for 20 years, having him officiate his wedding and naming his book after one of his sermons), I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you. I think this is all hype; Trump has jewish grandchildren and this may be the most pro israel administration ever,so I’m skeptical of all this neo nazi hype; then the hype is used to justify the actions that follow, in this case, suppression of free speech. IMO

      • zjb says:

        But seriously, are you okay with the Alt-Right? Because that’s how I understand you. Sharpton and Wright had no seat at the White House like Bannon. And if Bannon and Miller and other Breitbarters give a platform for ne0-Nazis, i’m not sure what else to call them. Trump’s Jewish grandchildren are no doubt safe, protected Jews who won’t be forced to stand out in the cold like the kids at the JCC’s across the country where the bomb threats got called. That Jewish fascists and racists and apartheid Greater Israel One Staters in Israel are comfortable with Trump is still another problem that I’m sure does not even register to you.

      • Alex says:

        How specifically did/does Brietbart give a platform for Neo Nazis?I don’t read it much, but the little I’ve seen of it, I’ve never seen anything that could be labelled as such. (Isn’t the editor an orthodox jew?) Are you sure you’re not lumping a bunch of different groups together? The fact that you seem to suggest that anyone in Israel who likes Trumps (apparent) policies towards Israel is fascist implies that you have a tendency to use a very broad brush in labeling people. Again, this is something that people are doing to delegitimize people whose policies they disagree with. This all started with the poster justifying violence against Milo since he’s supposedly a Neo Nazi…He may be a lot of things, but I’d rather save that label for people who are actually preaching a philosophy of racial purity/predestination etc… as opposed to someone who’d like to limit immigration

      • zjb says:

        Alex, I’m not making a claim about Israelis who like Trump except they do so unaware or unconcerned about the anti-Semitism unleashed by his campaign and now presidency. Re: Bannon it was he himself who bragged in an interview that Breitbart is a platform for the Alt-Right –i.e. David Duke, Spencer, the KKK and the like have all been gravitated towards the Breitbart platform. I.e. these are hardcore neo-Nazis and KKK racists. Milo may himself not be a neo-Nazi, but he engages in rancid hate speech against entire groups of vulnerable people and, with his work at Breitbart is part of that alt-Right coalition that includes died in the wool neo-Nazis and KKK.

      • Alex says:

        I don’t disagree with anything you said here; there are certainly relationships among the members of the Breitbart/Bannon(Trump)-alt right-kkk continuum, and those are certainly concerning. My issue is that there are still distinctions to be made among these groups, and painting everyone with the same brush strikes me as a totalitarian/ideological purity tactic to stifle or delegitimize opinions one doesn’t agree with.

      • zjb says:

        Agreed, maybe. I’m not sure we have the luxury to draw overly fine distinctions regarding who’s who on the alt-right as well as between the alt-right and those political actors giving them platforms, including the most elevated and powerful platform in the world, i.e. the White House. This has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans anymore.

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