“In a democracy like ours, perception is reality, and the predictable outcome at Berkeley (and other places) was groupthink and radicalization because a fact-based discourse failed to materialize.”
he type of behavior displayed on the national stage in Washington, DC during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process—from senators being accosted as they walked through the halls of Congress to an angry mob banging on the doors of the Supreme Court—has been commonplace for years on college campuses whenever so-called “controversial speakers” show up. University of California, Berkeley has been an epicenter of this. As a student at Berkeley, I have witnessed full-fledged riots when Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak, Antifa attacks on conservatives at a number of mainstream gatherings in town and a school administration that, rightfully or wrongfully, imposed hefty security fee burdens on conservative organizations whenever they invited those “controversial speakers.” So, perhaps we should be grateful for the extent to which our political leaders were finally made aware of this issue that has been brewing on college campuses for a while now.
As the nomination controversy captivated millions and Kavanaugh quickly became a household name nationwide, students in Berkeley engaged in their own form of activism by parading around with signs referring to Brett Kavanaugh as a sexual predator and protesting in front of the DKE fraternity house at Berkeley. (Kavanaugh was a member of the Yale chapter of DKE.)
Until the Left leveraged their dominance in media, entertainment, and academia to institutionally silence and mock other political viewpoints, civil society used to function by allowing all opinions, especially unpopular ones, into the sphere of public debate for examination. The problem in the dystopia of modern college campuses is that supporting the presumption of innocence and due process was considered controversial, whereas taking a mere allegation (without any corroboration or evidence) and turning all its contents into stipulated facts was not. The result was an intensifying echo chamber where nobody dared to question the incensed Left over their character assassination of Judge Kavanaugh.
In a democracy like ours, perception is reality, and the predictable outcome at Berkeley (and other places) was groupthink and radicalization because a fact-based discourse failed to materialize. Too many people believed unequivocally that their interpretation of the facts was the only correct one and that anybody who dissented was a bad person. Many people on the Left thus drew the conclusion that misogyny and structural sexism were the only factors that accounted for Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court. This ignores the fact that nearly every senator who voted for Kavanaugh cited an adherence to a basic legal principle that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty, and in the absence of compelling evidence or corroboration, that standard prevailed.
This hegemonic, intolerant way of thinking isn’t just confined to Supreme Court battles—we have recently seen prominent conservatives accosted and intimidated in their own communities. Ted Cruz is one of the latest examples of this after being run out of a DC restaurant by enraged protestors. Perhaps the perpetrators were just following orders from Maxine Waters, who said last summer to “create a crowd and you push back on them [Republicans], and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Antifa domestic terrorists gathered in front of Tucker Carlson’s home in Washington, DC, and allegedly banged on the front door while his wife was home alone. And in a more extreme case, we saw the assassination attempt of over a dozen Republican senators and congressmen at a Virginia baseball field in 2017 by a left-wing zealot. Only a year later, Hillary Clinton told her supporters that they “cannot be civil with” Republicans, and former Attorney General Eric Holder said “when they go low, we kick them.” The tone is set from the top, and it is irresponsible for political figures whose words pull weight with millions of people to essentially condone political violence.
What’s scary is the only way to break this cycle of indoctrination is for people to have intellectual curiosity, to question their assumptions, and to seek the truth while constantly asking themselves “How do I know I’m right?” The uncomfortable possibility of admitting one is wrong will regrettably dissuade many from doing this. Converting society to the proper mode of thinking is a daunting task, but a vital one that will help propel us forward free from the political squabbles that plague our society and stifle our creativity and potential as a people. An open-mindedness and constant reexamination of held beliefs will facilitate the greatest transfer of information yet in the internet age as people will finally speak their mind, share their experiences, and give their peers a perspective that will advance the whole.
Pieter Sittler is a student at University of California, Berkeley.