Quo vadis Berkeley?

“The reality is, if you force everyone to play identity politics, if you insist in pitting whites against blacks, women against men, straights against gays, the reality is you guys are gonna win and the left isn’t going to like it very much. But there’s a better way. Don’t fight identity politics with identity politics. White pride, white nationalism, white supremacy isn’t the way to go. The way to go is reminding them and yourselves that you should be aspiring to values and to ideas. You should be focusing on what unites people and not what drives them apart. You shouldn’t give a shit about skin color, a shit about sexuality… You shouldn’t give a shit about gender, and you should be deeply suspicious of the people who do.”

That statement was made by Milo Yiannopoulos. He knows what he’s talking about. If he were to begin defining himself in the sense of an identity movement, he’d encounter a schizophrenic identity crisis. He is a British homosexual and practicing Catholic with a Greek father and a Jewish mother who lives in the United States of America. When asked to identify himself, he answers:

„I’m America’s most dangerous fagot.“

The German news magazine “Der Spiegel” simply calls him a „controversial right-wing populist blogger and Trump supporter“. We all have our stereotypes. There are even people who call him a white racist. Milo’s response to that accusation:

„With the amount of black dick that’s been in my mouth, I must be the most self-loathing white supremacist in the world! White supremacists and anti-Semites hate me!“

Milo Yiannopoulos is a provocateur. I often disagree with him, but I appreciate his not turning to violence and not judging people by color of their skin, gender and sexual orientation. Yes, his criticism of feminism is harsh, but he doesn’t avoid debate and maintains a sense of humor. The lively debate between him and the feminist author Julie Bindel is legendary, with both sides so brilliant that it’s worth watching the whole two hours.

Whoever has seen that debate will turn into a fan of Julie Bindel because she’s a brilliant academic and also refuses to believe the fake news that Milo is a sexist, a view especially prevalent in Germany. He’s not! His criticism is admittedly tough, but it only affects those people who have too much pride in their own biological characteristics. Milo is a determined opponent of every form of chauvinism. It doesn’t matter to him whether the chauvinist is black, white, male or female.

For me, Milo Yiannopoulos is a kind of test to see how many people are turning to fear, insecurity, hatred, lies, and violence. It’s frightening how many are. Recently, Milo‘ was to speak at the University of Berkeley in California. Due to violent student protests, however, his appearance was hindered. The hatred of perhaps well-meaning students against Milo Yiannopoulos was so great that they violently took away his constitutional right of free speech. The extent of the violence was frightening.

At minute 0:30 a woman is pepper sprayed in the face! At minute 0:40 people are beaten. Blood is flowing. At minute 0:50 a fire is set. At minute 2:00 Molotov cocktails is thrown. At minute 3:00 the fire is spreading. Milo Yiannopoulos had to be ushered away. He remarked:

„They won’t allow students to listen to different points of view, they’re absolutely petrified by alternative visions of how the world ought to look and people with arguments and facts and reason that don’t conform to the crazy Social Justice Left vision of the universe. So I was evacuated by my security detail and by the police tonight from UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley of course being the home of the Free Speech Movement, it’s both ironic and sad.

But the fact that on a American college campus – you know a place of higher education, in place of learning America -, which I’ve come to, as you know, a visitor from the United Kingdom, where we don’t have a First Amendment. Hoping that this would be somewhere where you could be, do and say anything, where you could express your views, express your opinions – you know – crack some jokes, make people think, make people laugh, free from violent responses to political ideas.

You know, I thought America was the one place where that would be possible. I am of course not racist or sexist or anything else that the posters that they put up claim that I am. They do that, in order to legitimize their own violence against (me). But even if I were, even if, well the things that they said about me were true. This still wouldn’t be an appropriate response to ideas.”

If all the people who justify violence voted for Trump, his victory – sarcastically expressed – would probably have been a landslide. I would have expected such violence from the Klu Klux Klan at Obama’s inauguration in 2009, but not at Berkeley University in 2017.

„If we allow people to be removed from public discourse by force, and although I may loathe their statements, believe me, Gerd, we Jews will be the next ones to go.“

Those were the words of my host father, Jim Davidson, a successful lawyer in the United States of America. I owe him. My conversations with him impressed me. His warning impressed me.

Violence thus prevented public discourse at an American university where the intellectual elite resides, where freedom of thought is exercised, where clever minds debate, where gifted academics research and analyze, a place where there is no reason to banish thought because enlightened people have the courage to stand their own mind without submitting to another. Will the writings of Martin Luther and the Koran, writings much more extreme than what Milo says, soon be banned at Berkeley?

How should I know that those who denounce Milo’s right to participate in public discourse may not ban me in the future because they think I represent a danger? I don’t know! But, I know my host father was right. Jews are always the next ones, if not the first ones. On October 27, 2016, Jews were removed from a London university because the police could no longer guarantee for their safety. When the police arrived at the scene, they witnessed a terrible scenario of Jew hatred:

The approximately 25 students attending the lecture had to lock themselves together with their lecturer Hen Mazzig in a small room while a violent mob was forming outside. A student described the situation as follows:

“There was a lot of shouting and banging on the door. We were all afraid, but we were trying to concentrate on the lecture. It was insane. Despite the door banging, Hen continued to speak of peace. That was really very nice, because we were united and sang a song of hope despite the noise from outside.”

The lecturer, Hen Mazzig, who was invited as a humanitarian affairs commissioner, later said, “I was surprised that they targeted my message of peace and coexistence. It was really hard to talk above all the noise.”

When some of the mob managed to pry open a window, the police knew that violence impended. However, the 20 police officers weren’t enough to control the Jew-hating mob. Instead, the ones being attacked were removed from the university grounds. Hen Mazzig was forced to leave the university with his students through a narrow corridor of hate-filled people who shouted at them: “Shame on you!”

I can well imagine why Hen Mazzig was targeted. He is Jewish, Israeli and gay. These are three characteristics that both Hamas and Fatah hate! The leaders of the Palestinian movement make no secret of the fact that “Free, Free Palestine“ is a slogan to murder Jews, destroy Israel and execute homosexuals. This kind of hate erupts frequently. A few years ago, musicians were shouted down at the Royal Albert Hall in London because they were Israelis:

Israelis are shouted down and driven from lecture halls:

Concerts are disrupted because the musicians are Israeli:

Artists such as Lars Vilks are attacked with shouts of „Allahu Akbar“ in lecture halls:

For Jews and Israelis, universities, concert halls and lecture rooms in Europe and America have now become war zones. They are even removed by the police because they can’t guarantee their safety.

I know the motivation of the troublemakers. I was myself a student who was once involved in the disturbance of a lecture, because I thought the philosopher, who was the subject of the seminar – his name is Peter Singer – was a fascist, to whom no platform should be offered. Today, I feel ashamed of my participation. It was people like my wife, Daniel Raboldt and Alice Schwarzer, who took me aside and, in their criticism of my behavior, reminded me of the words of my host father. I thank them.

It was self-pride and arrogance that drove me to dictate to others what they were allowed to hear. I shouted: “Beware the beginnings!“ Today, I realize the beginnings I meant were nothing but the beginnings of a future that I construed. I took other people hostage on account of my own fears. This, however, is the root of totalitarian thinking which allows for force over thought.

It’s characteristic of those aggressors to shout down Jews and Israelis, and denounce them as Nazis! For them, the term Nazi is merely an insult which they always scream when they want to silence an opponent. They don’t care about the fact that they trivialize true Nazism, offend Jews and ultimately question the Holocaust. They feel morally superior. Every one is supposedly a Nazi except themselves!

Even if one is disgusted by another person’s ideas, then where, if not at a university, can one have the opportunity to hear and confront opposing ideas and attitudes?

Milo Yiannopoulos doesn’t scare me. I’m scared of the students who feel they’re so right they set fires. This happened in Germany in 1817. Those were members of a German nationalist identity movement, who applied exactly the same tactics at the Wartburg as those used 200 years later in California. The poet Heinrich Heine described the events as follows:

“On the Wartburg, the past croaked its obscure raven song, and in torchlight stupidities worthy of the most idiotic Middle Ages were said and done! (…)
On the Wartburg, that narrow Teutonomania,prevailed, whining a lot about love and belief, but whose love was nothing but hatred of the foreign and whose faith consisted only in unreason, and in its ignorance could think of nothing better to do than burn books.”

Like Milo Yiannopoulos, Heinrich Heine was not a follower of a nationalist identity movement. He was German because his parents were Germans, French because he was born on French soil (1797, Düsseldorf was occupied by the French), a Jew because his mother was Jewish and Christian because he converted to Protestantism. What Heinrich Heine wrote about Germans, women, Jews, Dutchmen, Christians and Muslims is more extreme than anything Milo ever said. Heine was a provocateur and believed in ideas, not in identity movements. He was often the victim of censorship. Heine was a tireless critic of German nationalism.

Seventy years after Heine’s death, his writings were burnt once again by German nationalist students in 1933 along with many other books, but that time in Berlin.

Quo vadis Berkeley?


Translation: William Wires

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