As a witness to the recent rioting in Berkeley (and as someone who has known the Berkeley left for years) I was dumbfounded by Robert Reich’s bizarre theory that the rioters in fact may have been secret right wingers affiliated with Breitbart:

“There’s rumors that they actually were right-wingers. They were a part of a kind of group that was organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event,” Reich insisted. “So Donald Trump, when he says Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech rights, that’s a complete distortion of the truth.”

“You think it’s a strategy by [Milo Yiannopoulos] or right-wingers?” asked host Don Lemon.

“I wouldn’t bet against it,” Reich said. “I saw these people. They all looked very– almost paramilitary. They were not from the campus. I don’t want to say factually, but I’ve heard there was some relationship here between these people and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News.”

OK with that?

So let’s assume that the rioters were in fact rightist infiltrators who fired incendiary devices at the police, smashed the front of the student union building, vandalized banks, and attacked Starbucks — all in the hope of… well, I guess increasing Breitbart’s web traffic, helping Trump in his first month of office, and boosting the career and book sales of Milo Yiannopoulos. How the rioting and vandalism would do that is beyond me, but for the sake of argument I’m willing to go along with the theory. A friend I respect went along with it too, saying, “I hope they catch some of these people, so we can find out just who they are.”

OK, lets! I’m for the truth, even if that means having to handle the idea of “false flag” right wingers being caught rioting against Milo. I would condemn them as loudly as I would condemn the same tactics if perpetrated by the other side.

Whether aided and abetted by Mr. Reich or not, local media, in the form of sfgate.com and the Berkeley student Daily Californian, did in fact publish photographs of the suspected rioters which had been provided by the campus police. After all, we want these right wingers caught and punished.

Right?

Er, not so fast.

A local activist who works for Berkeley’s Revolution Books has today denounced the Daily Californian for “bow[ing] down to the Trump regime”:

Shame on The Daily Californian for its article ”UCPD asks public for help with investigation for Yiannopoulos demonstration.” The Daily Cal posted pictures of people police want to “investigate” and stated that people should come forward and identify them and send police their own pictures of “recognizable persons committing criminal acts on University property.” The fact that a student newspaper is, by uncritically amplifying and spreading a police bulletin, encouraging students to turn others into the police is disgusting, and it runs counter to the interests of the people and what is right. This needs to be criticized and repudiated.

UC Berkeley students were right to shut down Milo Yiannopoulos — now apparently disowned by the “alt right.” His campus speaking tour was a vile package: the normalizing of white supremacy, xenophobia and misogyny, the drumbeat of a culture corresponding to the ugly America that Donald Trump wants to build and rule.

Has the Daily Cal, which once fought against police repression and became independent in order to fight control by the university,  now become a  helpful tool of police repression and surveillance? Do the editors of this newspaper think it is the role of a student newspaper to aid the police in targeting activists? Should student journalists bow down to the Trump regime by ferreting out “bad hombres” and posting law enforcement pictures of people’s faces, inviting students to identify them and turn them in?

As journalists and major media are being attacked as the “enemy of the American people” for being critical of the repression and fascism of this regime, what will be their answer? Will outlets become police blotters and stenographers for law enforcement and the government by parroting their words, promoting their deeds and lulling the populace into complicity? Well, that did happen in Nazi Germany.

There’s more, of course, and as the local RCP bookstore is just a block away from campus, and as the same organization was heavily involved in the protests, surely they’d have a better idea than most people in the area whether the rioters were in fact right wingers working for Breitbart. So, if they are supporting the rioters (and calling people who want them identified Nazis), what are the implications?

Was Reich wrong? Or is Breitbart running the local communist party?

Inquiring minds want to know!