A Yiannopoulos, Bannon, Trump plot to control American universities? Robert Reich "wouldn't bet against it"

This all comes after a canceled speech from Breitbart's Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley

By Robert Reich
Published February 6, 2017 9:00AM (EST)
 (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via AP, File)
(Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via AP, File)

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

The events at the University of California, Berkeley, Wednesday night have been a boon to Milos Yiannopoulos, of Breitbart News, and to Steve Bannon, formerly head of Breitbart News and now Donald Trump’s consigliere.

As you may know, on Feb. 1 Berkeley gave Yiannopoulos a major forum to spout his racist and misogynistic vitriol. But police had to cancel the talk because about 150 masked agitators threw Molotov cocktails, smashed windows where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak, and threw rocks and fireworks at the police — delivering made-for-TV images of a riot.

According to a promotional Breitbart story that ran before the event, Yiannopoulos was going to “call for the withdrawal of federal grants and the prosecution of university officials who endanger their students with their policies.”

Which is exactly what Trump did via tweet early the next morning: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Thursday night, Yiannopoulos had a friendly interview on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — a show that, according to The Washington Post, has ridden anger at left-wing activism into best-in-class primetime ratings.

Yiannopoulos wasn’t asked about the content of the speech that was shut down. The conversation focused instead on how Berkeley proved the point that the left was ceding its right to federal grants by cracking down on free speech.

That raises the possibility that Yiannopoulos and Breitbart were in cahoots with the agitators, perhaps in order to lay the groundwork for a Trump crackdown on universities and their federal funding.

Thursday night on CNN, I said “I wouldn’t bet against” that possibility. Almost immediately an indignant article appeared in Breitbart News, misleadingly headlined “Robert Reich Lies, Claims Breitbart News Organized Berkeley Riots.”

Hmmm. Connect these dots:

1) Yinnopoulos writes for Breitbart News, which Steve Bannon ran before joining Trump's team.

2) Before Yiannopoulos was set to speak at Berkeley, Breitbart published an article saying that Yiannopoulos will call for the withdrawal of federal grants and the prosecution of university officials who endanger their students with their policies.

3) Berkeley opened its doors to Yiannopoulos, but campus police had to cancel the event because of masked agitators.

4) Hours later, Trump issued a misleading tweet, accusing the university of not allowing free speech and promoting violence against innocent people with different views, and threatening to withhold federal funds.

5) The next night, Yiannopoulos said on Fox News that the incident proves universities like Berkeley — who, he argued, cracks down on free speech — don’t deserve federal grants.

6) That same night, on CNN, I raise the possibility that Yiannopoulos and Breitbart could have been collaborating with the agitators. This generates a belligerent column in Breitbart with a misleading headline calling me a liar for claiming that Breitbart organized the riots.

I don’t want to add to the conspiratorial musings of so many about this very conspiratorial administration, but there may be something worrying going on here.

I wouldn’t bet against it.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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Berkeley Breitbart Donald Trump Milo Yinnopoulos Robertreich.org Steve Bannon