FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Berkeley Incident

Why did President Donald Trump fire off an angry and threatening tweet early Thursday morning following the violent protests that had broken out the night before on UC Berkeley campus?  Here’s a copy of Trump’s tweet:

“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Maybe the impulsive President was just angry that a controversial, rightwing speaker like Milo Yiannopoulos was unable to deliver his presentation because masked agitators began to rampage across the campus breaking windows, burning signs and wreaking havoc. That’s certainly one possibility, but there are other more intriguing explanations that seem equally likely.

Consider this: Like most Americans, Trump knows that these anarchist groups show up routinely at peaceful demonstrations with the intention of raising hell and discrediting the groups that peacefully assemble to express their opinion on one issue or another. In this case, the protestors had gathered in opposition to a man who seemingly advocates religious intolerance and Islamophobia. Trump was well aware of this.

He also knew that the UC Berkeley Chancellor and his staff did everything in their power to provide security to both the speaker and the groups that had gathered for the event.  Check out this excerpt from an article at  Bloomberg:

“Some advocates for universities and education said they were surprised by Trump’s tweet…

“I have never seen anything like this,” said John Walda, president of the National Association of College and Business Officers. “Why would you infer that you want to punish a university” when it was only trying to protect people. The university “did exactly the right thing,” he said…

The university said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks had made clear that Yiannopoulos’ “views, tactics and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to those of the campus,” but that the university is committed to “enabling of free expression across the full spectrum of opinion and perspective” and condemned the violence.

Berkeley seems to have done everything it can to protect students’ First Amendment rights, Cohn said.”

(“Trump Threatens U.C. Berkeley Funding Over Violent Protests“, Bloomberg)

So if the Chancellor had already gone the extra mile to protect free speech, then why did Trump decide to lower the boom on him? Was he genuinely angry with the Chancellor’s performance or did he interject himself for political reasons?  In other words, how did Trump stand to benefit from getting involved in this mess?

Isn’t his tweet crafted to win support from his red state base who identify Berkeley with the erratic behavior of the “loony left” that burn flags, spit on veterans, and hate America?  Isn’t it designed to discredit the millions of  liberal and progressive protestors who have peacefully participated in pro-immigration demonstrations or anti-Trump marches across the country? Isn’t Trump’s interference  intended to make him look like a strong, decisive leader willing to defend free speech against hypocritical leftists thugs who violently oppose anyone who doesn’t share their narrow “librul” point of view. Isn’t the action part of a broader plan to reinforce a stereotypical view of liberals as sandal clad, fist pumping, Marxist firebrands who want to burn down the country so they can create their own Soviet Utopia?

Isn’t this really why Trump decided to parachute into the event, to enlarge and polish his own image while exacerbating existing political divisions within the country?

Trump’s reaction to the incident in Berkeley is worth paying attention to if only to grasp that –what we are seeing– is not the random act of an impulsive man, but a governing style that requires an identifiable threat to domestic security, “the left”.  A divisive president only prevails when the country is divided,  when Americans are at each others throats and split between Sunni and Shia.  That’s the goal, driving a wedge between people of differing views, exacerbating historic animosities in order to enhance the authority of the executive and usurp greater control over the levers of state power.

Once again, we’re not excluding the possibility that Trump’s tweet may have been a “one off” by an impulsive man but, by the same token, it might be an indication of something more serious altogether.

Keep in mind, that Trump’s chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, is a man who produced documentary movies on Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Occupy (Wall Street).  According to Salon:

“Bannon does not hide his affinity for propaganda. He has cited as an inspiration Nazi propagandist and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. She famously directed “Triumph of the Will,” a film commissioned by Adolf Hitler in 1933 that portrays Germany as a country returning to world power.” (“Three lessons we learned about Steve Bannon from this weekend’s New York Times and Boston Globe profiles “, Salon)

So at best Steve Bannon is a public relations magician and at worst an unapologetic propagandist. But what is so telling about Bannon is his position in the administration. Bannon occupies the seat closest to the throne which shows how much emphasis Trump places on image, public perception and narrative. Bannon is Trump’s most trusted ally, the spinmeister whose job it is to create the Great Leader who is admired and loved by his loyal base but feared and despised by his enemies. All of this fits seamlessly with Trump’s Berkeley tweet.

And it also fits with Trump’s governing style which is geared to deepen divisions, increase social unrest, and create enemies, real or imagined.  In this view, Berkeley was just a dry run, an experiment in perception management orchestrated to sharpen Trump’s image as the hair-trigger Biblical father who will intercede whenever necessary and who is always ready to impose justice with an iron fist.

So the masked rioters actually did Trump a favor, didn’t they? They created a justification for presidential intervention backed by the prospect of direct involvement. One can only wonder how many similar experiments will transpire before Trump puts his foot down and bans demonstrations altogether?

Of course, that may very well be the objective.

More articles by:

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail