California Educator

October / November 2017

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Page 23 of 75

What has happened since your report was released in May? In nearly every major city in California and across the nation, hate crimes are up uniformly in 2017. But the state's 931 hate crimes last year were still less than half the number in 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11. Relatedly, there have now been double the number of conflictual public demonstrations in California in 2017 than the year before. We have seen more white nationalist 'mega rallies' of more than 100 people in the past two years nationally than in the previous 20 years. According to an ABC News poll, 9 percent of Americans are finding neo-Nazi views acceptable. Why do you think this is happening? Our research indicates a correlation between widely reported statements by political leaders and hate crime, so it is vital that a U.S. president use the bully pulpit to unequiv- ocally and genuinely condemn bigotry. Social media feeds from a raft of white supremacist leaders have consistently ranged from calmly happy to ecstatic over the president's use of code words, stereotyping, equivocation, staff appoint- ments and invocation of nationalism. In addition, at times of political change, newly insurgent splinter move- ments, such as those on the hard left , have now engaged in reactive aggres- sion to justif y violence as a legitimate par t of their "resistance." (In a few instances, college professors and lectur- ers have publicly discussed violence as a tool for social change.) Do we now have an 'alt-left'? There is no alt-left. There's black bloc tacticians (protesters who wear black clothing, scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items) and Antifa (far-left antifascists who are willing to engage in a show of force). In many ways, these anarchist groups are reactive, somewhat diverse and less organized as a movement. But the inertia of the hard left is rapidly evolving, with many becoming increasingly militant and organized, causing a schism with those who desire direct-action social change without the invocation of revolutionary violence. And mil- itants' aggression against so-called fascists now extends beyond white supremacists to political adversaries, journal- ists, academics, public speakers and police. They contend that the First Amendment is an oppressive lever that harms the oppressed through its protection of "hate speech," which they consider violent. A combination of political instability, along with the galva- nization of a more mobilized and brazen white nationalism into a sociopolitical entity, has reactively energized both sides of the ideological spectrum into an arms race which boils over from social media into the streets at demonstra- tions. It won't just be confined to violence at protests. What happens when universities allow mobs or the threat of mobs to shut down events? Cumulatively, it sends the message that mob rule and cen- sorship by violence prevails in the marketplace of ideas. Our collective liberty, including those of us vigorously in opposition to bigotry, is also robbed. This not only applies to the bigot's right to engage, but to us in the exercise of our options — be it to analyze, peace- fully protest, satirize or ignore. [That said,] academia has a special obligation to encourage critical thought, which requires exposure to diverse, even unset- tling, views. Is freedom of speech at stake? Yes, and its limitations are getting worse, not only by intimidation, but benign neglect. The question is: How far as a society will we allow this? It has occurred incrementally at many univer- sities, which tend to be populated with a diversity of people, but not a diversity of ideas, particularly when it comes to conservatives of good will. We can justifiably point the finger at Antifa and black bloc demonstrators, but universities have been complicit in leaving out not just acerbic controversial conservatives, but conservatives in general and many others of good will. Universities should let any invited speaker who is nonvi- olent speak, as long they fulfill whatever viewpoint-neutral administrative rules that exist generally, although we should " We need to make free speech a cherished value and not something that's merely utilitarian when it suits one's own viewpoint." Levin (center) with Assembly Member Kansen Chu (D-Fremont) to his left, supporting Chu's call for a statewide audit on law enforcement agencies' efforts to protect Californians from hate crimes. 22 Perspectives T H E Q & A

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