Nothing happened when Daniel Pipes and Victor Davis Hanson showed up to give a talk on the UC Berkeley campus yesterday.

Nothing at all. No protests, no interruptions, no shouting, no disruptive audience members, no threats, no cries of “Racist!“, no verbal attacks on Israel — nothing.

Which — considering what happened the last time Pipes spoke at UC, in 2004 — is just about the most remarkable news to come out of the Berkeley campus in a while.

Pipes and VDH had been invited by the Objectivist Club of Berkeley to talk about “The Threat of Totalitarian Islam,” which is the kind of topic that usually brings out all the local leftist and Muslim groups. But at this event — not a single protester in sight.

There was tight security at the event, with policemen lining the walls of the auditorium — in anticipation of disruptions that never arose. The third person on the panel (on the left) was Yaron Brook, who was the Objectivist Club representative.

(Photo courtesy of ProtestShooter)
Fellow photoblogger ProtestShooter has also posted a short report about this event, showing the security precautions outside the venue. He also used his nice camera to take some clear shots of the speakers, as seen here.

This is a video of Pipes giving part of his introduction, and another snippet from later in his talk. There was an embarrassing glitch in the sound system, and the Objectivist Club audio technician never could get the microphones to work correctly. As a result, much of the audience had to strain to hear what the speakers were saying, and hence the audio in this video is less than ideal — though I boosted the decibel level, so it should be audible.

My hidden pocket camera, which doesn’t have much zoom, isn’t quite up to snuff when it comes to taking indoor photos under dim lighting conditions. This shot of Pipes is the best I could manage.

(Photo courtesy of ProtestShooter)
ProtestShooter’s shot of Victor David Hanson is a little clearer.

Here’s a portion of Hanson’s speech. Again, apologies for the audio (and video) quality. Note to Objectivists: objectively speaking, you need a new sound technician!

Yaron Brook, with an accent (he was raised in Israel) and some quirky speech mannerisms, was particularly hard to decipher, to be frank.

What has changed at UC Berkeley that this event elicited not a single protester, when in the past (as recently as six months ago) any similar event would have brought out throngs of naysayers?

Did the event simply pass unnoticed because it wasn’t sufficiently advertised? No. Has the climate changed on campus? Doubtful.

No, what seems to me to be the explanation for the unremarkable nature of this event was that the campus is actually becoming de-politicized: fewer and fewer students seem to give a damn about politics of any stripe. Outside the building where the talk was being held, thousands of students could be seen streaming by in every direction, loaded down with science and engineering textbooks, intent on studying. Fancy that! Despite the radical nature of many of the professors in the liberal arts departments, the days of Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement and mass rallies and riots are long gone. Even when there are protests on campus (as at the two previous events linked to above), many of the protesters are non-students who still hang around Berkeley, dreaming of past glories.

25 Responses to “Pipes and VDH at Berkeley: No news is good news”

  1. 1Thanos on Apr 30, 2008 at 5:53 pm:

    Engineering and science texts – I like that.

  2. 2ProtestShooter on Apr 30, 2008 at 6:54 pm:

    I wish there was a little more light in there – it would have made things a lot easier!

  3. 3MikalM on Apr 30, 2008 at 7:34 pm:

    Regarding the non-protest: I also wonder about the impact of the “Don’t Taze Me, Bro” video on would-be disrupters. That incident could have been the Kent State of the shout-down-a-speaker phenomenon — proof that security forces can, and will, put you down violently if you continue to ignore their orders, bait them, and generally act like an irresponsible asshole.

  4. 4Kalifornia Kafir on Apr 30, 2008 at 8:08 pm:

    I work at UC Berkeley and agree with you Zombie–the students are not as political/radical as they have been in the past. Maybe I’m lucky given the department that I work in, but the kids are all clean-cut, polite, and motivated to use their degrees/careers to do good in the world. They’re more focused on discoveries, and creating and building rather than sitting in trees doing nothing or selling trinkets on Telegraph Ave.

  5. 5Ben on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:07 pm:

    My personal thought- as someone who went to the ‘other’ school across the bay- SFSU- and has an educated opinion of the student organizations that would normally protest- …

    They’re biding their time until May 8th. They don’t want to piss off the administration yet so they are on their best behavior- just wait until the 60th anniversary/Nakba/rallies- They’ve probably each got about $4000 in Student Union funds just to lodge formal ‘protests’.

  6. 6XPLODEIT on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:35 pm:

    No protests are a nice change. Hopefully it will continue.

  7. 7Scott in SF on Apr 30, 2008 at 10:31 pm:

    I was there too, I have never been to an event in the Bay Area like that one. The speakers said nothing new to me because I’ve been reading them on-line. What was totally amazing is that we were in Berkeley and an audience of perhaps 300 people were clapping at:
    1. John McCain for president.
    2. Bombing Iran.
    3. Winning in Iraq.
    Completely unprecidented. This in the same week that Code-Pink gets protested in New Jersey. Are we winning?

  8. 8Jason Hoskin on May 1, 2008 at 2:50 am:

    Nice coverage of the event. It would have been better however if there more background information on Dr. Brook would have been provided, beyond simply that he was the “Objectivist Club Representative.” Dr. Yaron Brook is the director of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. Here is a link to his bio:

    Yaron Brook

    Specialties: Objectivism (the philosophy of Ayn Rand), Middle Eastern History, U.S. foreign policy, terrorism, finance, business ethics, venture capital, economics.

    Click here to download a Photo of Yaron Brook for print publication.

    Click here to view Dr. Brook’s Curriculum Vitae.


    Dr. Yaron Brook is a prominent advocate for Objectivism, the philosophy of novelist Ayn Rand. As president of the Ayn Rand Institute, an educational organization based in California, he appears frequently on national TV and radio to discuss current events and issues from the Objectivist viewpoint. He is a regular guest on CNBC for his expertise on matters related to business, finance and economics. And as an expert on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, he is often interviewed about issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the war in Iraq.

    A popular lecturer at corporations, universities, public forums, community and professional groups, Dr. Brook is known for his radical ideas and passionate speaking style. His talk “Why Conservatives Are Anti-Business” challenges the common notion that conservatives are allies of business and capitalism. In October 2006 he spoke at the prestigious Ford Hall Forum in Boston, where he harshly criticized the Bush Administration’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom” in Iraq and presented his case for a proper war policy based on the principle of self-interest. In 2006 he also took part in several panel discussions at American universities where the controversial Danish cartoons of Muhammad were unveiled in defense of the right to free speech.

    As a writer, Dr. Brook has published articles in many newspapers and professional journals. His most recent editorial on CEO pay appeared in USA Today, and his articles “‘Just War Theory’ vs. American Self-Defense” (co-authored with Alex Epstein) and “The ‘Forward Strategy’ for Failure” (with Elan Journo) were published in The Objective Standard, a new journal devoted to cultural and political issues. You can read both of these articles for free online at the journal’s Web site.

    Dr. Brook was born and raised in Israel. He served as a First Sergeant in Israeli military intelligence and earned a BSc in civil engineering from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel. In 1987 he moved to the United States, where he received his MBA and PhD in finance from the University of Texas at Austin; he became an American citizen on May 28, 2003. For seven years he was an award-winning finance professor at Santa Clara University, and in 1998 he co-founded a financial advisory firm, BH Equity Research, at which he is presently managing director and chairman.

  9. 9laZardo on May 1, 2008 at 6:52 am:

    Must be what happens when they realize that the Free Tibet! movement that they’re ostensibly supposed to support clashes with their beliefs.

    Or maybe word of your blog’s coverage is spreading like a…well…a zombie virus.

  10. 10hybrid_t on May 1, 2008 at 8:17 am:

    Maybe they were all too busy getting ready for May Day.

  11. 11mulerider24 on May 1, 2008 at 9:44 am:

    I’ll piggy-back laZardo’s comment. My gut instinct tells me all those protestors are still sore from running around SF trying to find the “revised” torch relay route. We’ll call it “protest overload” since there’s just been too many big events on a much grander scale lately. Their return is imminent once the lactic acid dissipates.

  12. 12rightwingprof on May 1, 2008 at 10:42 am:

    And isn’t it close to finals week there? Next week is finals week here.

  13. 13CJ on May 1, 2008 at 5:29 pm:

    Quick fact about UC Berkeley for those who may not know … the administration and regents have been fed up with many aspects of UCB for some time now, and what they’ve done over the years is increase the number of science-engineering-business students and decrease everything that could be considered “liberal arts”. I believe that the latter category now comprises less than 20% of the student body.

  14. 14Phillep on May 6, 2008 at 7:19 am:

    Could be they just realized they have to decide between getting a good paying job and pay off the student loan quickly, or flipping burgers for the rest of their lives and have little left to live on.

    I understand the English Lit PhD’s have been crowded out of their usual careers as NYC cabbies. What, oh, what, shall they do now?

    Has anyone calculated the average cost for each student’s education, divided it by time in class, and multiplied by the number of students to get how much money the instructor is stealing from the students for each minute wasted on something not related to getting a high paying job once out of college?

  15. 15Murphy on May 6, 2008 at 3:13 pm:

    I learned about this event from the VDH website. I am not a student or citizen of Berkeley (but I look like one). It was incredibly refreshing to hear these ideas spoken on the Berkeley grounds with absolute civility. Just the fact that the campus had to have this elborate security in place [told to me prior via email by the O's club for this event]—- almost prevented me from attending this event (visions of Recruitment protests down the street danced in his head)

    I wasn’t sure I wanted to go nose-to-nose with a bunch of irrational braindead protesters that would make my blood boil on a Tuesday night after a day of work. After all I’m a 29 year old businessman who could be focusing on other things–why do I need this added stress? But I came for VDH, his prose, his voice, his understanding of history, and to support him on Bay Area turf.

    The sound guy was terrible. Despite me being in the front. He almost sunk the event despite having ample time to properly sound test the equipment since event started late and security checks delayed the event. Perhaps he was a mole….jk or am I?

    Nevertheless, it wasn’t much of a debate. I would have been more interesting, but potentially very explosive if the club invited other speaker(s) as a counter-point. Does Berkeley have a middle-eastern studies department? I would have loved to see VDH and the other panelists mop the floor with them. Maybe that’s why they didn’t come?

    It was a more a discussion of like-minded minds juxedposed with bulky and useless security in hindsight. But still rewarding nonetheless to attend. And it was nice to feel that college environment again especally with how peaceful the event passed. The only tenson filled moments was the overdone security that made like going on airplane and the sound guy.

    In closing, I came away that the event attendees were soothed to hear very respected scholars and historians are fighting proudly for Western Civilization, America, and the War on Radical Islam. We are bombarded with negetive, pessimistic, and half-empty perpectives on these topics 24/7. This event was a comforting repreve. A glorious one perhaps–especially when one factors the history of the narrow marketplace of ideas peddled on campus since the 60s.

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