David Brock isn't the only person who came to UC Berkeley a liberal and turned into a conservative shortly thereafter as a reaction to the left-wing orthodoxy on campus.
Meet Seth R. Norman, a business major in his junior year. Although he grew up in upscale Hillsborough, Norman says his parents' politics were overtly left of center. "We were the only wealthy socialists ever," he chuckles.
His roommate, Berkeley College Republican president Robb McFadden, recalls Norman coming home and throwing a fit when he'd see a copy of the conservative campus magazine, the California Patriot, around. "He'd even throw it at me and say, 'This is what I think of your magazine,' " McFadden says.
Now Norman is a regular contributor to the Patriot and an inside favorite to become its next managing editor. So, what happened? Well, Norman explains, taking first-year economics turned him into more of a fiscal tightwad. And the intolerance of politically incorrect ideas by lefty and minority campus organizations struck him as hypocritical.
"I'd say September 11 really pushed it over the edge for me," Norman explains. "The rally that was put together on September 11 that was just supposed to be a vigil to express our feelings and our sadness, it became an anti-America rally. I'm not the most pro-America guy; I have some pretty harsh opinions about our government and our history, but it was ridiculous. And that was when I really became hard-core."
Norman got involved with the Patriot after three thousand copies of the February issue -- which included a story condemning a Latino student organization as racist -- were stolen from the paper's campus office. "Once the issue was stolen, he got really pissed off," says McFadden. "We started pulling all-nighters and he started helping out, editing and things like that. It's a complete turnaround."
It was far from the first time a conservative campus newspaper at Cal had been stolen en masse. Similar things have happened to the Patriot's short-lived predecessors in the mid-'80s and early '90s. In its first year in 1989, the California Review turned up missing or in Dumpsters on more than one occasion. Shortly before the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Review accused the ASUC academic affairs vice president, a member of the leftist Cal-SERVE student party, of stealing a thousand copies of the paper and hiding them in her campus office.
California Review editor Phaedra Fisher groused in the paper, "It's especially disturbing to us that here in the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, where freedom to speak one's mind should be cherished and protected, people have chosen to attempt to silence the voice they do not want to hear. As our papers are dumped and distribution stands are stolen, we have discovered that free speech does not come cheaply here in Berkeley."
If that sounds familiar, it's because McFadden and Patriot publisher Kelso Barnett said something very similar in the Daily Californian after the February issue of the Patriot turned up missing: "As leaders of the Berkeley College Republicans and California Patriot, this is extremely frustrating not only because our office was broken into and our property was stolen, but also because it represents a form of thought- policing tactics unimaginable on the campus where the Free Speech Movement was born."
Conservatives at Berkeley often invoke the ghost of the Free Speech Movement. David Brock does so in his new book when describing his revulsion at the crude efforts of the campus left to silence people like Jeane Kirkpatrick. And conservatives are the unlikely inheritors of the spirit of the Free Speech Movement, in that they still must constantly fight for their right to express their political opinions on campus. This month, Berkeley lecturer Snehal Shingavi, leader of a pro-Palestinian group, warned in the written description of a class he's teaching that "conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." In his recent visit to Berkeley, author Dinesh D'Souza argued that conservatives at colleges such as Cal must act like radicals because if they tried to "conserve" the current campus culture they'd be conserving liberalism.
"It's a privilege to be a conservative on a liberal campus," said D'Souza, who went to Dartmouth in the '80s and once edited the reactionary Dartmouth Review. "It keeps your wits constantly sharp. ... And so my worry is not for the conservatives at Berkeley. My worry is for the liberals because it's very easy when many people agree with you to develop arguments that cannot withstand scrutiny."
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