Monday, February 06, 2017


Suddenly I found myself thinking of Geraldo Rivera. Not the graying, mildly conflicted Fox News talking head, but the syndicated talk show host from 1988 who once invited a panel of skinheads onto his program alongside a group of Jewish and African-American activists. Who would have guessed that such a mix would bring about a brawl that lived for many years as a prime example of what was wrong with television. Not that it kept any of us from watching, of course. When you put a porcupine in charge of a balloon factory, you can't help but slow down and watch as things start to happen.
This is the only reason that I could possibly imagine for the invitation from the University of California at Berkeley to be extended to conservative commentator and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to give a speech at their student union. The fact that a great portion of that student union is made of glass will be an architectural detail that figures in this story greatly in just a minute. 
Sorry for the suspense there, but who would have imagined that, just two hours before Mister Yiannopoulos was supposed to issue forth with his own peppy version of the world and its realities, a riot would ensue? Sure, I can get the high-minded ideal of having the voice of the alt-right who has recently created a scholarship for white men only should be allowed to speak just yards away from the Free Speech Monument in Sproul Plaza. What better showcase of higher learning and the First Amendment? What happens when you throw a gallon of gasoline at an open flame? Inquiring minds want to know. 
The news story would have been: "Alt Right Celebrity Milo Yiannopoulos Speaks At Berkeley And Thoughtful Exchange Occurs." Instead, the bread landed jelly side down, as it always does, and one hundred thousand dollars of damage was inflicted on and around that great big glass building. A riot? In Berkeley? Like the fog rolling in across the bay, it's a natural phenomenon. Just as we who live in this area have become accustomed to accepting things like the ground shifting beneath us, we are not yet able to forecast every act of civil disobedience, but we know that we live in an area that is prone to such experience. The Big One is always waiting to happen, but you can bet if you dug down deep enough and started poking at the Hayward Fault, you could probably bring it on. 
Like inviting Milo to Berkeley. Now King Twit believes that the University should be defunded. So much for the thoughtful exchange. 
It's like 1988 all over again. Because that was so fun. 

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