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UC Berkeley 'protesters' should be ashamed of themselves

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Believe it or not, there was a time when students, liberals, radicals and their like protested at UC Berkeley to assert their right to free speech.

That right, they knew, was the root from which many others grew. Whether it be the right to protest against segregation or McCarthyite persecution, the right to hold and proselytise political causes and beliefs, the right to protest against the Vietnam war; without free speech there can be no opposition.

Many of these protests were met by violence. The police behaved, and were authorised to behave, in the most thuggish manner. Their superiors, and the establishment Right, argued that some views were too disruptive and dangerous to be allowed a hearing. One of the more famous encounters between William Buckley and Gore Vidal took place against this backdrop. It's worth looking it up.

That the situation has now inverted itself is a sorry thing indeed. Whatever one thinks of parasites like Milo Yiannopoulos, the sight of students treating their opponents in the manner the state once treated them should fill us with shame and anger.

"Hate speech is not free speech" is their slogan. This is morally and practically indistinguishable from the old conservative rebuke to the free speech campaigners. That this fact is lost on the placard-waving fire-bombers is proof that we live in an age which, for all it claims otherwise, has scant knowledge of history. We are, then, doomed to repeat it.

Auden wrote that "I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn, / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return."

In the case of yesterday's 'protestors', they are the ones doing the first evil. We should be fearful of what may one day be carried out in return.

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