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Opinion

Intimidation Is the New Normal on Campus

By Jonathan Haidt

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There must be zero tolerance for mob rule, intimidation of speakers, and intimidation of political minorities among students as well as faculty members.

Images of fires, fireworks, and metal barricades crashing through windows made for great television, but the rioters who shut down Milo Yiannopoulos’s talk at the University of California at Berkeley didn’t just attack property. Fewer cellphone cameras captured the moments when they punched and pepper-sprayed members of the crowd, particularly those who seemed like they might be supporters of Yiannopoulos or Donald Trump.

Although the violence on February 1 was clearly instigated by outside agitators — "black bloc" anarchists who show up at events with their faces masked — at least some of the people behind the masks were Berkeley students who thought it was morally permissible to use violence to stop a lecture from taking place. As one student wrote afterward, "Violence helped ensure the safety of students." Another asked, "When the nonviolent tactics [for stopping the talk] have been exhausted — what is left?"

Still, it was easy for the academic community to think of the riot as a special case. After all, Yiannopoulos is a professional troll. He came to campus to provoke, not to instruct. And he had exposed vulnerable individuals to danger before, as when he posted the name and photo of a trans woman on-screen while he mocked her.

Read full article as published by The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership.