FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Great Wall of UC Berkeley vs. Baby Face Shapiro

Photo by Gage Skidmore | CC BY 2.0

The UC administration has gone AWOL, deserting their posts and responsibilities as leaders of one of the world’s finest public universities.  The  current threat is Baby Face Ben Shapiro, a smart aleck, wisecracking, racist, sexist, misogynist, Islamaphobic jerk to be sure. The little bully right wing prodigy argues that transgender people are delusional and suffering from mental illness — after all, so many commit suicide during their transitions —  and  that Israel is a victim state justifying its verging on its  genocidal human rights abuses against Palestinians, that Black people are poor, criminally inclined, drug addicted, homicidal losers because of their undeveloped culture, that abortion is evil and women who have an abortion should be criminalized, that the concept of white privilege is an  excuse for racism against white people, that ‘Black Bodies Matter’ is a stupid and violent mobilization of people who hate police, law and order.  He thinks it is a crime against American families  that schools educate young students to respect gays and transgender students in their classrooms. And these are just a few of his talks available on You Tube.  So he’s a jerk and the university is giving this schmuck all the publicity he wants, and he wants there to be riots – he tells the media that he expects riots,  and he says it with a smirk. Gotcha, Berkeley!

It is unbelievable that our university —  and can we still call it ‘our’ university when there is no shared governance in these decision — is  putting up  obstructions, temporary walls but walls all the same  to close down the very  center of the student free speech arena. Not only is this ridiculous, overkill, it is insulting to our student body and an unintentional dog whistle to our students to riot. The majority of our students have no idea who Shapiro is, but they know or will know as soon as the barricades go up, that he is a very dangerous, extremely controversial,  physical threat  them.  Meanwhile,  Baby Face is laughing, making fools of the free speech campus and basking in the narcissistic  personal drama.

If the clichéd but useful  answer to hate speech  is more speech, why is the university closing down buildings that include  the student centers including the   student learning center (for  students with disabilities)  and canceling  lectures, closing meeting rooms and classrooms, and in our department of anthropology canceling our 2017 Distinguished Lecturer, Prof. Anna Tsing (UCSC)  because her talk was to take place later this month during Milo Yiannopoulos herald return to the Berkeley campus.

Why aren’t department leaders, faculty, GSIs  and  Student Organizations  hosting counter events, teach- ins, timed and presented during  the controversial atl right line up of fall speakers:  Shapiro,  Milo,  and Coulter’s tirades?  Where are the  alternatives? Its not to late to hold conferences, debates, public events  and non-violent  demonstrations around  these talks.

Our university administrators’ fall back position is: ignore it, turn you backs, don’t go there.  Or, Feeling bad? feeling sad? We will provide free counseling and tissues. Your classes are interrupted, your student union is closed by the disruptions?  Why not go shopping?  See a shrink? We shrinking ourselves. We need to be as strong as we can be.  Its OK to cry, its appropriate to feel sick to your stomach, but  look for support from your friends and colleagues on campus.

The university simply cannot play possum any longer.  We have values, mores, rules of conduct, rules  of engagement, all of which are being overturned by fear: fear of law suits, fear of the ACLU, fear of wealthy donors, fear of being more than a passive instrument surrounded by lawyers in  closed door meetings.  We need transparency.

And, we absolutely do not have to accept every single ‘hate man’ or woman who wants to the right to demean, dehumanize , threaten,  provoke and upend our primary university mission as seekers of truth and guardians of intellectual freedom.  The first amendment is a work in progress. It evolves, there can be and have been amendments.  At present we are ’stuck’ with the Skokie affair that gave the right to the KKK to march through the village of Skokie (National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie432 U.S. 43 (1977).  That ruling needs to be corrected.  We need strong legal  scholars and thinkers and researchers  to push against it, to recognize when the rule of law is illegal (  as Laura Nader put it).  The current  law  fetishizes free speech to include  the rights of a neo-Nazi organization that is  to this day responsible for killing Black citizens in Alabama and disposing  their bodies in the Alabama River. (see Scheper-Hughes “No on Sessions” Berkeley blog). The KKK in Mississippi beat up Mario Savio in 1964. In 1967  I was in a truck with local civil rights leaders, Jesse  and Ethel Brooks of Wilcox County, Alabama when a car of  KKK guys shot a bullet that grazed Ethel Brooks’ forehead. The KKK are still killers today.

Beyond that, hate speech harms people;  there is no doubt about it.  “Words are deeds”, according to Wittgenstein.  J. L. Austin (1975) and John R. Searle (1970) wrote  books and essays on speech act theory.  They identified  “performative utterances “ and  “illocutionary acts” that only assert facts or values but that actually bring about some new state of affairs.

Hate speech can make people hate themselves, it can  make one want to crawl into a  corner and disappear.  It can makes one wish one was dead or worse had never been born, the  ultimate existential black hole.  Hate speech is a speech act  that can harm the central nervous system, it can result in PTSD, and  when used by police and jailers to humiliate prisoners   hate speech is  psychological torture, a civil rights and  human rights violation.  In short, Hate speech is an act of violence.  The First Amendment is ignorant of the vast research on these topics by medical anthropologists, clinical psychologists,  and neurological scientists.

More articles by:

Nancy Scheper-Hughes is Chancellor’s Professor of Medical Anthropology, University of California Berkeley. Scheper-Hughes participated in a Vatican plenary on Human Trafficking in April 2015. She has published a series of articles on the “conversion” of Pope Francis, including, “Can God Forgive Jorge Bergoglio?” (2013, CounterPunch,;  “The Final Conversion of Pope Francis” (with Jennifer S. Hughes),  and “Face to Face with Pope Francis”  (2015), Huffington Post.  

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail