Author George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth determined what the public would consider true and false, right and wrong. It was an agency of propaganda. If Big Brother needed 2 + 2 to equal 5, the ministry would make it so.
The University of California, Berkeley, has something eerily similar. It is called the Commission on Free Speech. Chancellor Carol Christ created the commission last fall after violent and destructive riots.
The left-wing riots erupted after a minority, within the university’s minority of conservative students, organized speeches by conservatives Ben Shapiro and Ann Coulter.
UC-Berkeley is government property. That obligates law enforcement to uphold the First Amendment and defend the right of anyone to make a political speech. The First Amendment was not designed to protect popular views. For two centuries, courts have used it to protect all speech — including the least popular and most controversial messages.
Given the simple concept of free speech, and the country’s embrace of this liberty, the Commission on Free Speech had a simple task. After brushing up on the first order of business in the Bill of Rights, and hundreds of years of case law, the commission would surely admonish campus police for allowing criminals to suppress free speech, It would suggest the administration better protect expressions of minority views — even those of conservatives on a left-leaning campus.
That is not what happened.
The commission’s report, made public this week, blames conservatives for the destruction and mayhem committed by hard-left protesters interfering with free expression. The commission decided left-wing activists lit fires and broke glass because anticipated expressions of conservatives offended them. It concluded 2 + 2 = 5.
Here’s how the “free speech” commission’s report expressed its finding:
“Although those speakers had every right to speak and were entitled to protection, they did not need to be on campus to exercise the right of free speech.”
We get it. Conservatives have free speech. Just don’t exercise it on the government property of California’s flagship university.
The commission’s report gets loonier. It ascribes a motive to students who invited conservative. They arranged the speakers “to advance a facile narrative that universities are not tolerant of conservative speech.”
By labeling the concern “facile,” the commission dismissed it as superficial, or simplistic. It is “facile,” despite the fact left-wing protesters deprived conservatives their right to speak and the university failed to uphold the law. It is facile, despite a report by the Commission on Free Speech that says conservatives should not exercise the First Amendment “on campus” — a campus owned and funded by conservative students and all other residents of California.
Free speech belongs to everyone, and no place should welcome it more openly than institutions of higher learning. Free expression is a right endowed in every American from birth. It is not something allocated by a Commission (read: ministry) of Free Speech.
UC-Berkeley allows expression, unless one challenges the official left-wing doctrine of administrators, professors, committees, and riotous thugs with torches and baseball bats. In other words, it has zero tolerance for free speech and the law that protects it.
The Gazette editorial board
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