Jack Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. both deserved better than the things that are named after them: that dump of an airport, a horrifying street in St. Louis. Bishop Berkeley deserved better, too.
On the University of California’s oldest campus, named for one of the most important philosophers of the 18th century (Schopenhauer thought so, anyway), Breitbart editor and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was invited by a campus political club to make a speech about the events of the day, and this was prevented by riots — not protests, but the violent destruction of property with explosives by a brick-throwing mob that promised further and worse violence if Milo Yiannopoulos were permitted to speak. And so Yiannopoulos was prevented from giving his talk.
The use of violence in the pursuit of political aims is the very definition of terrorism. And while it probably would be too much to treat these half-baked campus radicals with the seriousness applied to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, the crimes committed in this and related episodes are serious and demand to be treated seriously. Political violence has social implications far beyond those of ordinary crime — we are not talking here about local thugs knocking over a 7-Eleven in Oakland.
The Trump administration is right to consider aggressive measures toward Berkeley until such a time as the authorities are willing and able to maintain civil order on the campus. Despite blindingly obvious evidence of criminality during Wednesday’s riots, only one person — one — was arrested. Lawbreakers should be prosecuted, and if they’re students, expelled. Likewise, a Twitter account representing Occupy Oakland declared that the group’s intention is to make “war” — their word — not only on Kentish political commentators but also on the U.S. government, and though it does them too much credit, the U.S. government should do them the courtesy of taking them at their word. If that means a federal terrorism investigation, so be it (though it would be better if the authorities in California would do their job and take the lead in this matter).
We recall that there was a national hysteria, only a few years ago, over the fact that Sarah Palin’s website published a graphic in which Democratic congressional districts chosen for Republican challenges were marked with crosshairs. President Barack Obama himself felt the need to weigh in on the issue, calling for — this seems quaint — “civility.” Sarah Palin has never done violence to anything other than the occasional moose, but faced with actual political violence, the people who still insist on calling themselves “liberals” are strangely quiet.
Berkeley deserves better. So does America.