Free Speech isn’t Dead — it just costs $600,000 and three weapons arrests. #BenAtBerkeley


Free speech isn’t free in America, but when there’s a 5'9 Jewish man who wants to speak and a crowd of people calling him the Nazi, there’s a will to defend his right at all costs.

That short Jewish man taking the shape of former Breitbart editor and prominent conservative Ben Shapiro, who took the stage to deliver a speech at the University of California, Berkeley. This event leading to the arrest of up to nine people by police — 3 of them caught with illegal weapons.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof gave comment that the security costs for the event would possibly reach as high as $600,000, but reassured the speech was a “successful event” and welcomed differences of opinion both liberal and conservative on campus.

For the first time in two decades, officers were armed with pepper spray after the city council modified a 1997 ban at an emergency meeting held a week prior.

Among those larping as revolutionaries (who eventually got caught by police) were 20-year-old Hannah Benjamin, arrested for battery against an on-site police officer and for carrying an unspecified illegal weapon.

While at the same time, 44-year-olds Sarah Roark and Eddy Robinson were taken into custody for the carrying of banned weapons on campus.

City police updated citizens of the arrest on their Twitter.

According to Fox News reporters, the demonstrators were “largely peaceful”, chanting the expected condemnations of “fascism, white supremacists and President Trump”. The same things which, ironically enough, Ben Shapiro has explicitly condemned himself on his site The Daily Wire, his series The Ben Shapiro Show, and on his own Twitter.

There are many things to criticise when it comes to the record of Ben Shapiro. He is no friend of the centre-left who want to see a populist agenda that’s been adopted around the world from Australia to Europe. He’s of that old Glenn Beck form of conservatism that hangs in country clubs and still values religious fundamentalism. But to question his record on these hate groups, his being the most consistent and cleanest, is just insane. Where to begin?

Labelling them playfully (and accurately) as right wing social justice warriors?

His Twitter tirade condemning the “evil” Alt-Right movement after the brutal events of the Charlottesville #UniteTheRight rally in August, which saw the death of peaceful protestor Heather Heyer? The same movement antithetical to his own values of hard-right “Constitutional conservatism”?

Questioning the left’s alliance with ANTIFA instead of American’s and political thinkers left and right who hate Nazism?

The condemnation of President Donald Trump’s whining about clarifing his statements on the event?

Inside the Berkeley hall itself, Shapiro condemned white supremacists as “a very small select group of absolutely terrible people who believe absolutely terrible things.”

It’s this line of faux-left attacks that make a liberal like me have to face my camp and just scream

But alas, the caution was not unwarranted due to Berkeley’s recent history regarding their poor defence of free speech on college campuses, particularly for conservative speakers. The Berkeley College Republicans invited right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to speak last February, however the event was canceled due to masked left-wing anarchists and communists known as ANTIFA rioted outside the event. The violence leading to the pepper spraying and assault of men and women alike, furniture fires outside the venue, and window smashings from rioters attempting to break in.

“We have seen extremists on the left and right in our city,” said Berkeley’s Democrat Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who backed the police request to use pepper spray. “We need to make sure violence is not allowed.”

Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia. To support this content, and more to come like it, the options include Patreon and Paypal, where I hope to keep this content free.

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