Say the word “Berkeley,” and what do you immediately think of? Well, this being the blogosphere, of course the first things that come to mind are violent campus protests, aggressively silly progressive politics of the most self-conscious variety, the height of PC-foolishness, and anti-Americansim in its most ashamed, rabid form. Whether you’re Glenn Reynolds, Steven Den Beste, or just about any other among a host of bloggers, if you’re looking for a name to drop that exemplifies the worst excesses of leftwing silliness and downright ugly, brutish and stupid politics, Berkeley fits the bill nicely.

I would even go so far as to suggest that saying Berkeley has become a caricature of itself is a gross understatement. We’ve gone so far beyond first-level caricature that the original picture is so distorted from reality as to resemble a Ted Rall cartoon. There simply isn’t any credibility left for any kind of statement coming from a UCB faculty member, unless it’s on a rather esoteric (most often scientific) subject that could not possibly have any kind of social relevance.

And despite its pathetically endogamic intellectualism (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn in the next election that people around here are shocked that Mumia Abu Jamal didn’t win the presidency – after all, almost everyone they know voted for him!), UC Berkeley is still a world-renowned research and graduate institution, and still does top-notch work in dozens of scientific fields. However, increasingly, to no one’s surprise, it’s become a laughing stock in the popular American imagination: the quintessential example of extreme leftwing elitism and anti-Americanism .

And that’s the real reason why something like this happens.

Long story short: a research project on the personal papers of a WWI-era anti-war activist named Emma Goldman have, for last several years been funded by the University. The result of that work can be viewed here, where she is repeatedly lauded as primary figure in American free speech and laid the groundwork for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Fine. Good. She also happened to be an anarchist and a utopian loon who wanted the world to become one big free-loving commune.

But no matter . I’m willing to take the good with the bad, or rather, in Goldman’s case, the respectable with the stupid Not that you’ll find any kind of nuanced view of Goldman’s legacy among her fans on the Berkeley site. Indeed, the archivists continually pass over what they apparently consider to be an unappealing part of Goldman’s corpus: namely the ardent anti-Bolshevism of her later years, since that kind of stuff doesn’t lend her any counter-cultural capital.

So, from the SF Gate editorial linked above, and this news story, we learn that a fund-raising letter sent out from the Goldman project included a series of quotes by Goldman about war which Associate Vice Chancellor Robert Price decided were too inflammatory to be included.


Falk chose one quotation from a 1915 Goldman paper that called on people “not yet overcome by war madness to raise their voice of protest, to call attention of the people to the crime and outrage which are about to be perpetrated on them.”


Well now, that’s quite an unusually political stance to be making in an official solicitation for funds from the University of California, isn’t it? Price, at least, seemed to think so, and was quoted as saying so in the New York Times article on the subject, which prompted an outpouring of rage at such “censorship” on the part of the jack-booted goons at UC.

Perhaps Price’s fear of the University being tainted with yet another stroke of the partisan brush was unjustified. Perhaps letting the letter be sent off as it stood, with its clear overtures to the present conflict in Iraq, would have been a prudent and fair thing to do . Reasonable people can disagree on that point.

However, for my money, I think it’s pretty clear where Price’s fears were coming from. Every administration official is painfully aware of the popular derision that ripples throughout the American body politic whenever a report concerning the University and whatever new emptyheadedness from the usual suspects of strident malcontents goes out on the news wires. Sometimes they walk a fine line between encouraging and condemning such sensationalism, vacillating between the mantras of “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” and “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

In the current political climate, when the more ridiculous aspects of liberalism are on the run, and the proponents of such ideologies become only more strident and unlikely that the American public will stomach them, is it any surprise that University officials are suddenly more wary of looking like wholesale endorsers of the far leftwing?

While it would be hard for anyone to argue with the realpolitik pragmatism of such a position as I guess Price’s was, there is no lack of voices crying that it was nevertheless cowardly and unprincipled, and an act of unjustified censorship, whether or not it was the prudent thing to do in the context of public image and fund-raising.

Maybe. Frankly, I’m too sick of silly Berkeley politics at this point to care .

And that’s the real point here, folks.

Berkeley has, over the years, made itself the top contender for the boy that cried “Censorship!” Or “Imperialism!”, or “Racism!”, or “Genocide!”, or any other number of common accusations that are hurled gleefully from the more strident rows of the Left with a uniquely unfettered abandon and a wearying frequency. I know. I’ve lived through it. The place has become such a lightning rod for contempt and laughter (and not undeservedly) that it is no surprise when the latest bit of breathless, outraged accusation runs afoul of an official whose job it is to proetct the integrity of the institution. I’d imagine that Price took a look at this letter and grumbled “Oh Lord, not again. .. another typically shrill and outraged call-to-action that practically accuses the American government of war crimes. Oy Gevalt.”

Perhaps Price overreacted. I’m not willing to really say either way way. What I am saying is that any amount of over-vigilence on his part was wholly the understandable result of the Berkeley cadre of malcontents and their unceasing stupidy which they purposely parade in front of the country, posturing and carrying-on as if they were engaged in some game of one-upmanship with Eugene and Ann Arbor.

Well, at least we’d be winning. Hands down.

Go Bears.

last update : 19-4-2018

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