“I was there for part of last night, and I know what I saw and those people were not Berkeley students. Those people were outside agitators. I have never seen them before.There’s rumors that they actually were right-wingers. They were a part of a kind of group that was organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event. So Donald Trump, when he says Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech rights, that’s a complete distortion of the truth.”
Robert Reich isn’t a supposed to be a political hack. He’s a scholar and a former Cabinet member. Yet he felt it necessary to abandon all logic and honesty in order to try to shift blame for a leftist anti-Trump, anti-speech riot on a major college campus onto its targets. This might be good news: Reich is no fool, and maybe the Angry Left is beginning to realize that its tactics have backfired. So now it is just lying and blame-shifting. That’s an improvement. Sort of.
Reich’s statement is unbelievable on its face. He teaches at Berkeley, but does he really expect anyone to believe that in the middle of a night-time riot, he was in a position to recognize individual rioters and render an informed judgment regarding whether they were students? The school has more than 38,000 students! It is impossible for Reich to know all of them, and during the chaos of a riot at night, it is highly unlikely that he could even distinguish the students in his own classes. His unequivocal statement that none of the rioters were students is a false one: he cannot know that. He cannot know they were “outside agitators.” He cannot know that he had never seen them before, especially since many of them were wearing masks.
Then he says that there are rumors that they were “right-wingers,” and in the next sentence implies the truth of those rumors. You know, I’ve heard rumors for years that Robert Reich is really one of the Seven Dwarfs, escaped from the fairy tale, like in “Enchanted.” The smart money is on “Doc.” However, since there isn’t a shred of evidence that this rumor is true, and thus suggesting otherwise would be unfair and dishonest, I would never, never state that Reich is close associate of Snow White and Dopey. Reich, however, feels constrained by no such principles, being, apparently, a devotee of the false dialectic employed by leftists for a century or so.
Boy, did I get sick of arguing with people like him is college.
Moreover, saying that Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech is far from a “complete distortion.” First of all, we have the evidence of the speech-suppressing riots, which Reich neatly absolves his employers and colleagues of enabling by pronouncing a rumor as fact, mid-paragraph, and attributing to himself internal X-ray face recognition software.
Second, The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education, which tracks such things, has rated Berkeley’s speech codes and regulations “yellow,” meaning that they have “at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application.” For example, the current Berkeley civility code reads in part,
[T]he administration of this University publicly declares its expectation that all members of the campus community will work to develop and maintain a high degree of respect and civility for the wealth of diversity in which we are all fortunate to live and work together.
This language, of course, supports the theory behind the rioting. Since Milo Yiannopoulos’s rhetoric does not manifest “a high degree of respect and civility,” the students who acted to silence him were only following Berkeley ideals.
Asked later in the interview by CNN host Don Lemon, who, typically, didn’t challenge or point out Reich’s slide from rumor to certitude, “You think it’s a strategy by [ Yiannopoulos] or right-wingers?,” Reich replied,
“I wouldn’t bet against it. I saw these people. They all looked very– almost paramilitary. They were not from the campus. I don’t want to say factually, but I’ve heard there was some relationship here between these people and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News.”
This is Big Lie politics, shameless use of talking points, rumor-mongering and outright public deception. A figure greatly respected in progressive circles said on TV, repeatedly, that he knew that the rioters were not students or from the campus, that they were organized by an outside group, and suggested only Breitbart and “right-wingers” as possible culprits. The record strongly suggests otherwise.