Michael Rosen tries some field research in Berkeley. A long excerpt:
He defines fascism as “a religion of the state…[that] views everything as political[,]…takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seek to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure….Any rival identity is part of the ‘problem’ and therefore defined as the enemy.”
This description, regrettably, fits Berkeley to a tee. Nary a political fad, health craze, or “children’s issue” has been too outlandish to escape notice, and often codification into law, by the guardians of the city’s virtue, both official and quasi.
A perfect case-in-point was a 2002 ballot measure that would have required all coffee sold in Berkeley’s legendary cafes to be either organic, shade-grown, or fair trade. While in the end voters wisely rejected the ordinance, the sentiment behind it nicely encapsulates many of the city’s liberally fascist ideas: an insistence that residents consume only organic (i.e. healthy) beans; a demand that storekeepers purchase beans from local farmers in developing countries only at “fair” prices; and a mandate that both brewer and drinker reject the supposedly devastating environmental ramifications of sun-grown beans. And for good measure, the initiative would have stuck it to the big, corporate chains like Starbucks (and, ironically, Peet’s), which would have had to choose between spending vast sums to conform their uniform practices to the ordinance or just relocating their stores outside city limits.
This same tendency manifests itself in what is generally thought of as one of Berkeley’s bedrock, principled beliefs: the supremacy of free speech. What this dedication often boils down to is unswerving support for left-wing speech and indifference, at best, to any alternatives in the marketplace of ideas.
When former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to town, his scheduled address had to be abruptly canceled when protesters—decrying, you guessed it, “fascism”—posed a “safety” risk.
Then, an attempt to display the shell of an Israeli bus blown to smithereens by a jihadist suicide bomber encountered, first, stiff resistance from city permit officials and, then, a ferocious and bloodthirsty counter-protest, including such well-considered statements as “Get back to Germany!”, thoughtful chants like “2, 4, 6, 8, we are martyrs, we can’t wait,” and informative posters accusing Jews of stealing organs from Arab children.
Similar instances abounded during the violent Palestinian intifada of 2000-2002, especially on campus, where Jewish students came under figurative (and, in some horrific cases, physical) assault from an alliance of militant Islamists and left-wing fellow travelers.
Thus, the heckler’s veto persists, reinforced by the city government’s complicity in squelching viewpoints that don’t hew to radical Berkeleyan gospel. In a sense, city officials generally need only to sit on their hands to vindicate the people’s “general will.” By keeping a low profile, these activists-turned-politicians help the city’s smiley-face fascism proceed apace, with any would-be opponents shrugging “That’s just Berkeley!” in resignation.