On February 1, Berkeley middle-school teacher Yvette Felarca directed what can fairly be called a paramilitary action by her “anti-fascist” group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), on the campus of UC Berkeley. It succeeded in its objective: to get university authorities to cancel a speech by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos.
The officials cited security concerns. They issued a condemnation of “the violence and unlawful behavior” of BAMN. So far, so good. But then the officials expressed “deep regret” that BAMN’s “tactics” would “now overshadow the efforts to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence and perspectives.” Just to make their point crystal clear, the officials spelled out the fact that “Yiannopoulos’ views, tactics and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to our own.” What exactly, one wondered, was the antecedent of the word “our” there? The entire administration of Berkeley? Everybody at Berkeley? Were the officials suggesting that absolutely nobody at the college agreed with Yiannopoulos about anything?
Given that this episode followed a period of several months during which Yiannopoulos had appeared at dozens of colleges around the U.S. and drawn large and enthusiastic crowds of students who very obviously liked virtually everything he said and were entertained and energized by the way he said it, this claim seemed dubious, to say the least. What was represented as a denunciation of BAMN by Berkeley officials read, on closer examination, like a pro forma slap on BAMN’s wrist, a slamdown of Yiannopoulos, and a between-the-lines suggestion that the best way to deal with the likes of Yiannopoulos was for the whole campus to act in lockstep by engaging in peaceful protest.
In any event, the actions by Felarca and her henchmen on that day didn’t affect her job. On the contrary, it resulted in plenty of national media appearances. On February 13, she turned up on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News, saying that Yiannopoulos “should not be able to speak in public to spread his racist, misogynistic and homophobic lies.” In fact Yiannopoulos is himself gay, is a white man who has had black boyfriends, and, while a fierce critic of the radical, male-hating aspects of third-wave feminism, has many female fans and is a firm believer in sexual equality.
When Felarca called Yiannopoulos a fascist, Tucker asked her to define the word. “A fascist,” she replied, “is someone who’s organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups in a movement of genocide.” She further charged Yiannopoulos with violence. When Carlson challenged these claims, she started babbling about how Yiannopoulos was “trying to be the youth face and token that other people who are organizing violence try to hide behind” and had “whip[ped] up a whole lynch mob mentality.” Carlson’s quiet observation that Yiannopoulos had never called for rape or genocide was ignored by Felarca, who repeated that people like him had to be “shut down.”
After her Carlson appearance, a spokesman for BUSD said that Felarca wouldn’t be punished for her extracurricular activities because of her “free speech” rights. How exceedingly ironic that BUSD decided that Felarca’s violent efforts to keep Yiannopoulos from exercising his own free-speech rights amounted to an act of free speech.