Berserkly Went Bust

Free Speech Meets Berserkly


Mata Hairy is the nom de plume (pen name) of a word smith and satirist with an extensive knowledge of history. The choice is based in part on the World War I spy named Mata Hari (also a nom de plume) and in part as homage to the Musical Hair, well-known in the late sixties and early seventies.

Hairy's observations on the Berkeley Free Speech, Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements is similar to mine, but expect my voice to differ from his, in part because I lived in Berkeley California from 1969 to 1971. As I recall, the nickname Berserkly was embraced by Berkeley residents at the time.


Berserkly Sledge Hammer Bust

Mata Hairy


William Wordsworth wrote, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.” When he did so, he was referring to the opening days of the French Revolution, begun in 1789. Euphoric idealism reigned in Paris, instead of an absolute monarch and a dominating aristocracy. But other voices from outside France were not so optimistic, and were ignored. John Milton’s sobering admonition could have been applied, “License they mean when they cry liberty.” And Edmund Burke, another Englishman, uncannily predicted the eventual Reign of Terror, approaching from within the political upheaval.

Some of the original architects of the French Revolution, most notably Maximillian Robespierre came to the closing of the circle, by decapitation under the guillotine blade. It took the Corsican Napoleon’s troops firing chains out of cannons, into mobs racing down Parisian streets to end the chaos, and restore order.

Such a momentous precedent has analogous parallels to a mid-twentieth century event in American history. The Berkley Free Speech Movement followed a similar course, with like emotional fervor at its outset. But the California variant was at the geographic end of Manifest Destiny, instead of the City of Enlightenment. It had a greater measure of naiveté mixed into its idealism than did the Parisian revolt, because of the prevalence of chemically induced euphoria, from indulgence in mind altering drugs. Heightened suggestibility in already impressionable youth made for simple, minimally questioned insertion of Marxist cultural dogma.

Students questioned academic presumptions, that inquiry should be focused on professional preparation. A discussion of the role of education, beyond individual goals and into social constructs won the day. The discipline of history was being progressively demoted, and deconstructed into a facet of “Social Studies.” The change came with a cost. After fifty years the price is out in the open.

When a homosexual nicknamed Milo attempted free speech, championed on the Berkley campus in the past, his effort pulled aside a City of Oz curtain of delusion concealing a professor, named Past Fallacy. The mythology of Berkley Free Speech crumbled like a convoluted bag of stale, rancid pretzels. The campus descended into a Berserkly Shut Up Movement, complete with chaotic rioting reminiscent of the storming of the Bastille in 1789. Within the latter day Bastille was overwhelming evidence of culture collapse. It was too late to flunk the rioters in the citizenship category, on grade school report cards. Now they expect an A+ in narcissism instead of chains flying out of cannons.

So Edmund Burke and John Milton rang true again, from their free speech in their time. The societal license sought in mid-60’s Berkley played out in the so called “summer of love” portrayed in Joan Didon’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The San Francisco Bay area, while an initial source for a semantic misnomer “counter culture” actually did a cultural collapse into a hedonistic disassembly of the structure of family. Casual acquaintance sexual intercourse became normative definition. What had started as an insistence on freedom of speech, reinforced Milton’s link between license and licentious.

In order to stymie the collapse of the University of California, an Asian immigrant, S. I. Hayakawa was appointed to restore lost balance. As an accomplished English language linguist at the cusp of his discipline, he was an example of thorough assimilation. His example does now confound the presumptive dogma of multiculturalist insistence, of continued static, personal cultural identity and diversity through his historic, exemplary assimilation. He lived out the Latin maxim, “e pluribus unum” now ignored or dismissed by what might be termed multi culty persuasion.

But surely during the process of Professor Hayakawa’s assimilation from Japanese to American culture, he must have been puzzled by the character of Popeye. The cartoon American sailor was repudiated in English classes throughout the land, for his emphasis on “ain’t.” How could Professor Hayakawa persuade academia that language is always in flux? Did he give up on the effort?

And did Popeye make professors jealous with his broadly disseminated contribution to ontology when he said, “I am what I am, and that’s all what I am?” What a quandary to consider the academic abridgement of an iconic, comic sailor’s speech, within twenty years of the U. S. Navy resoundingly defeating the Japanese Imperial Fleet. The schoolhouse went stagnant, instead of dynamic, heedless of Jewish advice to practice historiography and, “Never forget.”

Other influential voices in the period included the musical talents of the Mamas and The Papas with their ethereal folk songs, including California Dreaming that suggested an existential, blissful disconnect from cares. Bob Dylan, a former Minnesota railroad gandy dancer insisted that, “Everybody Must Get Stoned” while Steppenwolf insisted that, “God, damn the pusher man.” Did that damnation include the romanticized, rugged individualist drug runners in the film Easy Rider, knocked off of chopped Harleys by shotgun blasts?

And we are left to wonder if it was the purple hue of the One Eyed, One Horned, Flying Purple People Eater that inspired paratrooper trained Jimmy Hendrix when he sang, “Purple haze all in my brain, lately things just don’t seem the same.” Did Jimmy have repeated sightings of the people eater leading up to drowning in his own vomit? He did admonish his fans, “See you in the next world, don’t be late.” Many hurried to follow him to the grave.

Dylan was in apparent ignorance of the Marxist firing squad executions of some thirty thousand Chinese opium addicts, while he would have been in grade school, and methamphetamine fueled banzai infantry charges on Pacific islands. None of the deceased were Lenin’s useful idiots, so they weren’t kept around. So too did Bob ignore Sigmund Freud cooking up the recipe for cocaine, resulting in eventual crack addiction in inner cities.

Multiple addictions amplified the folly in the mandate of Housing and Urban Development to eliminate inner city poverty, as a central function of the unrealistic, lost War on Poverty. But surely the noble, naïve intentions were all that mattered, not the results. So obvious failure could continue in perpetuity. And guitar strumming distracted attention away from the century of agony in opiate and alcohol addiction, portrayed in Eugene O’Neil’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.

No, a childish, amnesiac ignorance of earlier societal devastations, from addictions morphed into the mainstream of Western culture. It arrested the emotional development of its participants, trivializing law enforcement while simplistically seated on Arlo Guthrie’s group w bench. The emotional maturation that accompanies learning was discarded, along with responsibility for articulation, camouflaged as “free speech” while bashing capitalism. The romantic euphoria from intoxication stayed stuck in disabled memory.

A repeat of Wordsworth was in effect, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.” Eventually participants in the sixties cultural collapse would be puzzled by grandchildren going to psyche wards with schizophrenia from smoking spice. And the cool Cat Stevens, Mr. Peace Train changed his name to Islam, packed himself up and moved to Syria.

There the iconic hippie, cool Cat’s fantasy jumped the tracks and did a reality freight train wreck. At Aleppo the cool Cat’s pacifism was edited into Asiatic amnesia. Grossly convoluted blame would be laid at the feet of capitalism via hypothetical global warming, or global cooling, or global changing. Any construct other than Islam would do that blamed industrial capitalism, in harmony with the intoxicated embrace of cultural Marxism, for standing in the way of globalism.

Couldn’t indulgence in psychedelic drugs just be a normal part of adolescence, belatedly edited into Leave it to Beaver, Dennis the Menace and Ozzie and Harriet? Why not perpetuate the euphoria right through to geriatrics, silencing Steppenwolf? Just ignore the plague of heroin deaths as a moral issue through narcissistic, nihilistic admiration for The Grateful Dead, busted on the French Quarter’s licentious Bourbon Street. Do we hear echoes of cannons and flying chains in Paris?

My Commentary:


Berkeley is the only place where I heard law enforcement officers refer to other officers as pigs. The Berkeley Police Department was well trained and adept at handling demonstrations and political activists. They were among the earliest agencies to use the community policing model and cultivated relationships with local citizenry in the belief that such bonds would aid public safety.

During the People's Park Movement in early 1969 the State of California under Governor Ronald Reagan and Chief-of-Staff Edwin Meese decided that the Berkeley cops were not breaking enough heads and sent in non-local law officers whose attitudes weren't abridged by neighborhood ties. This was like the Chinese government's use of orphans as special forces to quell demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. The Berkeley demonstrations turned incredibly violent, demonstrators trashed local businesses – such acts had been restrained in the past.

Many familiar with that time and place – including some Berkeley police – considered the surge to have exacerbated disturbances. Shotguns were used against demonstrators. State and county seemed to prefer inflicting punishment to peace-keeping. I personally witnessed unprovoked beatings of non-combatant onlookers by outside enforcers. The city became a war zone. In my opinion, this was a police riot such as the better-known one in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Not that the demonstrators were angels. Far from it; Mata Hairy has made that point brilliantly. Large numbers of individuals were there just to break things, others to exploit high emotions for sexual gratification. After all, it was the time of Free Love – a term both moronic and oxymoronic.

Undercover law enforcement officials seemed to be everywhere. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) working with Savak (Iranian Secret Police) were attracted by the high percentage of Iranian Immigrants (see Citizenship Day). They were probably outnumbered by undercover FBI agents. The FBI were easy to spot. They sported lots of hippieish hairdos, but ironed their blue jeans. I mean, what self-respecting hippie would iron his blue jeans? That was a dead giveaway!

I recall S. I. Hayakawa as the poorly placed President of San Francisco State University at precisely the same time as the never-ending fracas in Berkeley. Hayakawa was one of my favorite linguists when I studied Philosophy of Language, but a linguist does not necessarily promote successfully to an administrator.

In one instance where I differ from Mata Hairy, I must point out that Mr. H. was a Canadian immigrant (as in William Shatner, Neil Young and Ted Cruz) and probably no more Asian than I am Viking or Barbarian (although I am descended from both). He certainly didn't handle barbarians well – not that there's anything wrong with that – I don't either.

The exercise of unfettered Free Speech – as supported by the First Amendment and expanded by demonstrations as in Berkeley – has been embraced by America's political Right in recent decades. Since the repeal of the so-called Fairness Doctrine in 1987, the consequent expansion of those rights has fueled a proliferation of the Talk Show media. Now: libel, slander, insult, marginalization, half-truths, no-truths, non-sequiturs, canards and conspiracy theories are the tools du jour of the mainstream AM radio media. From Mr. Hayakawa's writings, I deduce that he would not have approved of the “blitz radio” medium – neither Right nor Left.

See Puppet Master Radio and Gurus of Group Think.

This industry of trash-talking has been emulated on the Internet and by the Left. In fact the polemics of the Left seems to have prototyped the contentious language of the Right. Demonstrators in Sproul Plaza of Berkeley certainly pushed the limits of the First Amendment. Ultra-Liberal talk show host Alan Berg's outspoken style and confrontational manner resembled that of rightist firebrands in the 21st Century. In 1984, a member of the Neo-Nazi group called The Order hosed down Berg with an Ingram Mac-10. Most well-known talk show hosts have bodyguards now.

The objection of the Black Block to the presence of Milo Yiannopoulos on the Berkeley Campus was handled much more timidly by the University of California administration than were the People's Park Riots in 1969. For those who don't know who Yiannopoulos is – suffice it to say that he is a multi-media hit man and cyber-bully who was in the employ of a Neo-Fascist website called Breitbart, which has managed to infiltrate the White House by way of presidential advisor Steve Bannon. Milo is a poster child for the fact that not all gay men are gentle persons who are into interior decorating, cultivating bonsai trees, and matching their socks to their slacks. He is an Alexander The Great of media mayhem. (Alexander either batted for the other team or batted for both).

Recently, Yiannopoulos was hoisted on his own petard. His fall from grace began when a conservative 16-year-old girl from Canada served up videos of him appearing to be defending pedophilia. In as much as Milo has pushed the limits of the First Amendment, this young lady – with the support and endorsement of her parents – turned the tables on him with the same rights conferred by that amendment. I expect this provocateur to bounce back with his own talk show.

Mobile fomenter groups like the Black Block have been around for a couple of decades now. Counterparts exist on both the Left and on the Right. Jim Baker – consultant to the George W. Bush Campaign in 2000 – had agitators bused to Florida for the vote recount. The Tea Party Express transported malcontents to town hall meetings as opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Now, it appears that leftist surrogates are showing up at meetings about the repeal of the ACA.

We could be moving into a period of warring Sturmabteilungs (as in the Nazi Brown Shirts). Indeed, our President has harnessed political outrage far beyond the scope of talk radio and shown a greater genius at manipulating such outrage than most strongmen. Again, I doubt if Mr. Hayakawa would approve.

One may call up images of Twitter-fueled Trumpists, Tea Party Pummelers and Koch Network Nitwits battling it out with Zuckerberg Zombies, Soros Sycophants and Warren Buffet Buffoons.

Bob Dylan sang, “A hard rain's gonna fall” and Roger Daltry (of the Who) sang, “Don't get fooled again.”

It's gonna be a mighty time, all right.