Disappointed though I may be in the Deltopia rioters, I cannot say that I am surprised.
How can UCSB students be expected to behave like decent and socially responsible citizens, when UCSB professors do not? How can we demand orderly conduct of our fellow students, when it is so absent in many of the professors hired to educate us? When Feminist Studies Professor Mireille Miller-Young led a mob against a group of teenaged pro-life protestors, destroying their property and assaulting them, and the university turned a blind eye, how can we then turn around and demand that our students behave any better?
What kind of example did Professor Miller-Young set for the students of UCSB?
The mob that attacked Thrin and Joan Short on March 4 was far smaller, far less destructive to people and property and will probably do far less to damage our university’s public reputation than the Deltopia fiasco. However, of the two mobs, I honestly find the Miller-Young mob to be far more worrisome. The Deltopia riot was leaderless and meaningless, chaos for the sake of chaos. When the police attempt to close a street full of 15,000 drunk revelers, many of them out-of-towners with no loyalty to our community, a riot is all but inevitable.
The Miller-Young attack, on the other hand, was not leaderless or meaningless. It was led by one of our professors. Rather than setting an example of tolerance for the opposition, and restraint in the face of provocative views, she set an example of violent censorship. And, although actions have elicited criminal charges and have been denounced by Vice Chancellor Michael Young, far too many students and professors at our university have lionized Miller-Young into an unfairly accused victim. One online petition, with nearly 2,000 signatures, demands that UCSB “issue a statement of support” for the professor who belittled and assaulted a 16-year-old girl, expresses “love & solidarity to Professor Miller-Young” as a “womyn of color,” and asks that school policy be changed to remove triggering (read: unpopular) speech.
As a UCSB student, I am more ashamed of our reaction to the Miller-Young incident than I am of the Deltopia riot.
Even many of those who denounced Professor Miller-Young still blamed the protestors for provoking her to anger. The same people who are so fond of constantly haranguing everyone about the fact that there are no excuses for rape might do well to keep in mind that there are also no excuses for violent censorship — “she was asking for it” just doesn’t cut it in this case anymore than it does in cases of sexual assault.
People have pointed the finger at a number of possible causes for the Deltopia riots — the influx of out-of-towners, the recent installation of security cameras in Isla Vista, poor handling of the noise ordinance announcement by the police and local government. Allow me to point the finger at another possible contributing factor: Mireille Miller-Young and the students and faculty who supported her.
Mob psychology can be extremely powerful. As someone who witnessed part of the riots on Saturday night, I can say that the excitement in the air was palpable and there was a definite temptation to abandon all reason and revel in the chaos. Of course, another (and I’m proud to say much larger) part of me was horrified at the pointless destruction — but if I had believed that the ruckus and mayhem could be carried out in pursuit of a higher cause, it might have been a different story. Getting to smash stuff and justify it in the name of social justice — what could be more fun? For many immature people, letting loose one’s most primeval destructive energy and being lionized for it is the ultimate win-win, and many student riots start this way. Thrill-seekers go looking for a good time, knowing they can justify their actions by saying they were sticking it to the man or fighting for Rodney King or trying to help destroy the military industrial complex which is hurting those poor Palestinians and Iraqis, which I’m sure the overgrown children smashing store windows and stealing stuff care soooo much about.
The partygoers who rioted Saturday night did not have any ostensible higher justification to fall back on, but the attackers led by Professor Miller-Young did. Operating on their most primitive impulses, they claimed instead to be acting from their most noble beliefs. When confronted with a view in opposition to yours, coming up with a rebuttal is hard — It takes work and brainpower. But raging at them, verbally and physically attacking them and stealing their property — that’s easy, and it’s also fun! Who cares about some noble abstraction like free speech, when you can fuck shit up in the moment? And why should you think twice, when you know that you will probably not face serious consequences for your actions? If the “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” were a little less litigious, Professor Miller-Young would be in no trouble at all. She would have received a half-assed denouncement of her actions from the school, and a good deal of public hatred that would have been more than offset by the hordes of social justice warriors making her into their latest sick role model.
And when UCSB students learn by example that they can form violent mobs and get away with it … is it really any surprise, what happened in Isla Vista the other night?
Jason Garshfield is a second-year political science major.