UBC cancels Andy Ngo talk on antifa violence due to violent threats from antifa
Headed into 2020, the University of British Columbia is still struggling to balance free speech with safety concerns posed by antifa-linked groups, who threaten violent protests against speakers they object to on ideological grounds.
The Post Millennial editor-at-large Andy Ngo had his speaking event cancelled at UBC after safety concerns due to potential violent protests from antifa groups. Ngo’s scheduled presentation, ironically titled “Understanding Antifa Violence,” was scheduled to take place on January 29 at UBC’s Robson Square in downtown Vancouver.
Conservative legal advocacy group, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has issued a press release and legal demand letter on behalf of student group The Free Speech Club demanding that UBC reinstate the event.
According to the letter, The Free Speech Club, received a phone call on December 20 from Ron Holton, Chief Risk Officer at UBC, stating “[t]he reason for the cancellation is the concern about the safety and security of our campus community.” The JCCF points out that no specific concern was mentioned.
The press release states, “The Free Speech Club and UBC confirmed the Andy Ngo event booking with a contract on November 25, 2019” and had paid the campus a booking fee.
In the legal letter, the JCCF says that cancelling the event “signals automatic acquiescence to the ‘heckler’s veto,’ which will embolden threats from those who oppose the very notion of free expression.” Citing UBC’s own “Statement on Academic Freedom,” the letter, addressed to UBC President Santa Ono, threatens legal action against the university if the event is not reinstated by January 10, 2020.
Normally, when a speaker’s presence has caused concerns for safety, for either the speaker or attendees, event hosts are asked for an additional security fee. That amount is assessed by the university. The groups organizing protests have never, to public knowledge, been asked to pay security fees. In this case, the event was cancelled with no contingency.
Another recent event at UBC, featuring feminism-critic and professor of literature Janice Fiamengo, was cancelled then rescheduled due to concerns of violence and policing issues.
Information provided to the The Post Millennial indicates that Holton advised The Free Speech Club that UBC is waiting to see how the rescheduled Fiamengo event turns out on January 15 before approving the event with Andy Ngo.
UBC’s public position on free speech regarding controversial speakers was last stated by the Provost in September asserting the principle that “[o]ver hundreds of years, universities have played a central role in providing a forum where ideas can be expressed, debated, and challenged, and where participants can gain insight and greater mutual understanding.”
Ngo has been the victim of violent attacks in the past. Both antifa Vancouver and the UBC group “Students Against Bigotry” have posts on their public Facebook pages encouraging further physical attacks in the form of throwing “concrete milkshakes” at him like the time he was injured in Portland, Oregon.
The SAB group has also stated intentions to try to bar Ngo from entering Canada.
“There is a very twisted irony here, with UBC taking the anti-free-speech side of antifa, and allowing antifa to silence a man whom Antifa previously assaulted,” said John Carpay, president of the JCCF
Angelo Isidorou, director of the Free Speech Club, said he was “shocked and bewildered” by UBC’s actions. The student club has hosted numerous controversial speakers, including Ben Shapiro, without problems in the past.
Andy Ngo commented in the press release that “[t]he appropriate response to violent extremists who threaten access to information in the academy is not to give in to their demands by cancelling the event.” He continued: “As is demonstrated over-and-over elsewhere, appeasing antifa ideologues only emboldens them to make more demands. Their goal is to silence opposition through fear and intimidation.”
UBC’s Chief Risk Officer has not responded to The Post Millennial’s request for comment.
The word “woke” has been bandied around in progressive circles since the early 2010s. Ironically, “woke” has become a pejorative term used to denigrate those who signal their virtue without doing much to advance any progressive cause. Woke individuals are, as the rule (that I just invented) goes, more concerned with making themselves look good and using their platform (or building a platform) to abuse others under the guise of combating social injustice.
None of this has, of course, gone unnoticed by the woke progressives who use the term without any sense of irony whatsoever. In an op-ed for the Guardian, writer Steve Rose opines that the word “woke” has been “weaponized by the right.” But whose fault is that, exactly? It’s certainly not the fault of those tired of being moralized and lectured to that they might repurpose the term to mock those who engage in cancel campaigns against any celebrity or public figure guilty of perceived unwokeness.
Citing the Merriam-Webster, Rose says that the term “woke” refers to anyone “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” And much like the term “political correctness,” the term has come to mean the opposite of what it means—or so he claims.
But is that truly the case? Those who elevate themselves through wokeness have little interest in combating social injustices and simply use it as a shield for their own bigotry, and to shut down dissenting opinions. Their wokeness, if it exists at all, is performative.
This isn’t to say that one can simply go about spouting racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted remarks without pushback from any decent and reasonable person. Decent and reasonable people don’t care about being “woke.” “Woke” individuals, as it were, cultivate their entire personalities around the fight for social justice without much to show for it besides preening at everyone else on Twitter.
Wokeness has become a social status symbol more than anything else, and the “Right,” or the “unwoke,” or whatever you want to call us continue to be reasonable people while rubbing our lack of wokeness in the face of those who rally around the hollow symbol.
Case in point: Guardian writer, Steve Rose, attacks actor Laurence Fox for—you guessed it, unwokeness. He writes:
“Laurence Fox nailed his colours to the latter mast this weekend, doubling down on his defence of the privileged white male on last week’s Question Time to a Sunday Times article under the banner ‘Why I won’t date ‘woke’ women’. Toby Young piled in, applauding how Fox was ‘terrorising the Wokerati’, while the Sun last weekend branded Harry and Meghan ‘the oppressive King and Queen of Woke’.”
Rose argues that rather than simply rejecting the concept of wokeness, detractors of the term, like Fox, only criticize wokeness as “way of claiming victim status for yourself rather than acknowledging that more deserving others hold that status. It has gone from a virtue signal to dog whistle.”
On the contrary, any individual who makes claims to wokeness isn’t so much of a victim as they are a participant in the race for social status. Being unwoke doesn’t give you an entry pass into a separate league of oppression.
Laurence Fox has been outspoken in his lack of wokeness, simply speaking his mind and saying it like it is with no regard for how supposedly offensive it is to not be mindful to those who hold wokeness up as a virtue in and of itself. He isn’t claiming to be a victim—like any decent and reasonable person, he’s rejecting victimhood entirely. And it’s working.
A New York Times book reviewer called herself out as unqualified to review the book she was reviewing, and then said the author shouldn’t have written it. The charge against the author is cultural appropriation, the charge the reviewer levels at herself is the maintenance of the white gaze. The weirdest part? She seems to have liked the book. Lauren Groff wrote about Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt, a novel about mother and son refugees from a violent Mexican drug cartel.
It is frankly mind-boggling to see this in print. It should fill us with hope, not anxiety, that the wealth and breadth of human experience allow us to understand the experience of others. People are not as different as we have conditioned ourselves to believe they are. The most imperialist thing of all is to assume that we can’t understand one another because our backgrounds and skin colours are different. The Civil Rights movement fought against objectification based on skin colour, and now The New York Times and their cadre of anxious writers are bringing it back.
Groff found the narrative to be powerful, notes that she felt afraid for the danger the main characters faced but then states this absurd concern:
“But another, different, fear had also crept in as I was reading: I was sure I was the wrong person to review this book. I could never speak to the accuracy of the book’s representation of Mexican culture or the plights of migrants; I have never been Mexican or a migrant. In contemporary literary circles, there is a serious and legitimate sensitivity to people writing about heritages that are not their own because, at its worst, this practice perpetuates the evils of colonization, stealing the stories of oppressed people for the profit of the dominant. I was further sunk into anxiety when I discovered that, although Cummins does have a personal stake in stories of migration, she herself is neither Mexican nor a migrant.”
American Dirt made The New York Times list for highly anticipated books, but even the author questions her own authority to write the book. In the afterword, per a contrasting review from Parul Seghal, Cummins wrote “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.” Seghal didn’t like the book, because she didn’t think it achieved its aims. That’s fair. What isn’t fair is judging a work of fiction by the colour of the author’s skin.
It is a nauseating inclination to question her own inspiration. The colour of her skin has nothing to do with the story she felt compelled to write. Once she had the idea, should she have shopped it around to writers who were “slightly browner” to see if they wanted to tell it instead? Writers have their own stories that they want to tell. Cummins had this one. She told it. Groff had a review to write. She wrote it, but she questioned the validity of her voice, and the author’s, the entire time.
Groff ties herself up in knots, chastising herself for liking a book she thinks she shouldn’t have written about because her skin colour doesn’t give her the authority to do so. To put that in perspective, a New York Times writer, an author, an intelligent, educated, intellectual person, believes that there is more authority in the perceived experience of her skin colour than in her own voice.
Cummins did exactly what social justice rhetoric would say she ought to do—use her place of privilege to speak of the social ills affecting underrepresented voices in our culture. In using her voice to elevate the plight of Mexican refugees, she brings Groff, for one, a greater understanding of that horror.
If authors can’t call attention to anything other than their own experience, if authors have to colour within the lines of their own skin tone, then their only other option is to stop writing, to give it up, to do something else. But ideology cannot dictate our life choices, and the odds are that if Cummins didn’t write this book, no one else would have. Is there no value in telling the story of a mother and child forced to flee their home under threat of death? The story itself is more essential than who wrote it. And for sure it gave Groff some new perspective, even if she thinks it’s poisoned by her white gaze.
Cultural appropriation is a term best levelled at basic girls and boys in madras bikinis wearing native headdresses and platform Tevas at Coachella, not well-researched novels that give insight to the plight of refugees traversing America’s southern border.
This hand-wringing over whether or not we can think for ourselves or have to think in accordance with a mob mentality that diminishes our intellect in favour of social justice norms has got to stop. An author’s lived experience is not their only palette. Skin colour is not authoritative.
Much of the political dysfunction surrounding the social justice movement is the result of passionate campaigners who rightly identify a problem but then swing to the opposite extreme.
This is the case with ultra-feminists who respond to sexism by hating men, as well as anti-racists who attempt to fight the sad and real history of racism by carping on about “microaggressions.” Perhaps most glaringly, the tendency of activists to vacillate between extremes is on display in the “body positivity” movement, which has, in a visceral reaction to the real problem of cruelty toward overweight people, thrown itself headfirst into science-denial and the glorification of unhealthiness.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the “anti-diet” movement rising to prominence in some woke, left-wing circles.
Take, for instance, the “anti-diet” social club glowingly profiled by The Independent, one of the U.K.’s largest liberal-leaning newspapers. The paper reported (quite positively) on the organization and its founding members, in light of the group planning a “festival” to raise awareness against dieting.
The Independent quoted the club’s founder, Becky Young, as saying: “Diets are still out there, our society is inherently fat phobic and we are all suffering because of it. Diet culture tells you that when you achieve your dream of losing weight you’ll be happy and successful. It sells you a false dream.”
Young continued, saying that society is guilty of “stigmatising fat people” and the “fat experience.” Her organization has amassed 75,000 followers and counting on Instagram, where it boasts to be a “Rebel community fighting diet culture” and promoting “Fat/sex/body activism.” The page’s posts show women, some just slightly overweight and others clearly obese, boasting about their unhealthiness and flaunting health norms, such several posts that explicitly encourage people to “lose hate, not weight.”
This is madness.
Of course, these activists are clearly coming from a good place: No one, especially women, should be shamed or insulted for their body and their weight. And, in particular, sometimes certain gimmick “diets” can be unhealthy or even dangerous. But obesity is still unhealthy, and these activists have crossed the line from “body positivity” to promoting unhealthiness and flouting basic health science.
Obesity literally kills millions every year. It is not “badass” or “fierce” to get diabetes or develop heart disease—it’s deadly.
These particular women are British activists, and the obesity problem is not quite as bad (yet!) in the U.K. as in my home country, the United States. But the American experience shows the perils of glorifying, or at least normalizing, obesity. According to the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control, “Obesity puts individuals at risk for many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes and kidney disease. Obesity costs the U.S. about $147 billion in medical expenses each year.”
So no, being overweight is not “beautiful,” “woke” or “cool.” It’s unhealthy and dangerous. Shaming people for their bodies is wrong, but equally misguided is glorifying a medical condition that’s literally killing people every day.
Of course, some will dismiss these “anti-diet” campaigners as fringe figures, a convenient strawman for those of us who enjoy mocking the excesses of the social justice movement. And it is true that such an embrace of obesity is not exactly a mainstream position, even on the woke left.
But such sentiment is growing. From the internet mob that descended on fitness guru Jillian Michaels for merely declining to glorify pop singer Lizzo’s obesity to the 300-pound “plus-sized” model put on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in 2018, our culture is increasingly glorifying obesity.
This anti-science madness is dangerous, and it must be stopped.
Last October, a well-known Portland antifa militant was killed under mysterious circumstances after leaving a pub popular with far-left extremists. Sean Daniel Kealiher, 23, was killed near the Cider Riot pub after being hit by a car that had been fired upon with live rounds. His friends dragged his body away and did not call the police.
Kealiher’s death immediately rippled throughout Portland and beyond, leading both the far-left and even establishment Democrat leaders to mourn publicly. A GoFundMe for his funeral raised thousands. And while he was lionized in the press as a murdered “anti-fascist activist” and even called a “martyr” by some, an investigation by The Post Millennial can reveal that newly uncovered evidence show he was far more radical than previously reported. In a series of discovered writings, Kealiher urged fellow comrades to commit violent terrorist acts and led training sessions to radicalize other youth.
Before his death, Kealiher was known in the militant anarchist community as “Armeanio Lewis,” one of the many names he also used online. His radical activism goes back to when he was around 13 or 14 during the Occupy Portland demonstrations in 2011. As a minor, Kealiher was filmed being arrested on numerous occasions. The details of juvenile cases are not available to the public.
As previously reported by The Post Millennial, Kealiher was filmed in recent years fighting at left-wing protests and threatening journalists who had cameras at public demonstrations. On numerous occasions, he was also seen travelling with members of the Red and Anarchist Skinheads, or RASH, a violent gang-like group known for brawling with right-wingers at riots. It is unknown if Kealiher was a member of the group. But aside from his known street militantism, The Post Millennial can now report that he also authored extreme literature calling for terrorist acts against schools, law enforcement and the public.
An excerpt from a September 2014 zine by Kealiher titled, “Why Break Windows” reads: “From the simple smashing of windows to the placement of a bomb or the robbing of the bank, our actions are heard and felt rather than ignored and treated as everyday life.”
The zine continues: “The attack is the most beautiful moment an anarchist can undertake. Feeling the adrenaline of rushing to a window with a rock in hand, or the moments before striking a cop with your fist. Planting the bomb, pulling the trigger, shouting f— the police!”
In 2015, an 18-year-old Kealiher tried to stop a police officer from investigating an incident of suspected domestic violence, according to a report by Portland Police. The officer notes that Kealiher physically obstructed the investigation, cursed at him and resisted arrest. The officer says the domestic abuse suspect likely used the distraction to flee. Kealiher was found guilty for interfering with a police officer and sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Two weeks after his death, Kealiher’s extremist zine romanticizing violent extremism was distributed at a memorial potluck in downtown Portland attended by his mother. Several masked individuals acted as security.
Beyond that tract, Kealiher would go on to author more pieces urging explicit terrorist attacks. On his blog, the “Lumpen Prole Distro,” he uses the pseudonym “Armeanio Lewis” and suggests that his writings may have inspired real-world attacks in Portland.
“Shortly after the publishing of this essay, 15 [Aramak] Trucks, the company that supplies school lunches and prison lunches, were sabotaged,” reads the new preface in a November 2014 update to Kealiher’s “Manifesto Against Schools.” The 12-page document continues: “Shortly after that, an entire condo complex was burned to the ground. This fire was the biggest fire seen in Portland, and everything was torched.”
In August 2013, a 46-unit building under construction in northeast Portland was destroyed in a large fire. The flames spread to surrounding apartment buildings, leading to emergency evacuations of residents and further damage. The heat was so intense on the block that cars parked nearby appeared “melted,” according to media reports. Though the fires were among the largest in the city’s history, causing around $6m worth of damage, nobody was injured. An investigation by authorities determined the fire was started through an arson attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a $5,000 cash reward for information at the time. The incident is listed by the Department of Homeland Security as an instance of far-left domestic terrorism.
Beyond the manifesto’s preface, Kealiher explicitly called for others to engage in violent attacks. “It’s time to get off your knees, unclasp your begging hands and pick a weapon, because those on the other side have already done so,” it reads. The “other side” references current society. “My side, hopefully our side, has so many weapons to choose from. Be it the power of a pen, the strength of a rock, or the power of a gun.”
The manifesto continues: “You can craft your own destruction. Be it burning down a school, smashing a banks window … There is so much to destroy, and so much for you to choose.”
Elsewhere on the blog, Kealiher expressed “unapologetic support” for killing law enforcement and destroying buildings with fires. Most of the blog’s essays were written between 2014–15, when Kealiher was 18 and 19 years old.
He also made efforts to export his ideas into real-world training sessions. In December 2013, a 17-year-old Kealiher organized a training event with the intention of introducing minors to extremist anarchist ideas, according to the flyer for the event. He spoke at The Red and Black Cafe, a now-defunct left-wing Portland cafe, using the pseudonym “John Cracklemore.”
Kealiher’s extreme views were also published on various social media platforms. On Reddit, using a different pseudonym, he recounted a time where he says he trained high school students to fight police officers.
Kealiher’s extremism may have eventually landed him under the investigation of federal authorities, however.
In January 2017, Kealiher posted on Facebook that two DHS agents showed up to his mother’s house to try and speak with him. The details of that alleged investigation are unknown. DHS did not respond to The Post Millennial’s request for comment. His mother, Laura Kealiher, declined to comment for the story.
More than three months have passed since Kealiher’s death but Portland Police have not released any new details in their investigation. What is known is that Kealiher was struck by a vehicle following an argument outside the Cider Riot pub. The attorney for Hyatt Eshelman, who was with Kealiher at the time of the incident, says Eshelman pulled out a handgun and fired at the SUV. The vehicle crashed outside the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon, where the driver and passengers fled on foot.
A vagrant who witnessed part of the incident says Eshelman, 26, and another man dragged Kealiher’s body away, leaving a bloody trail. Emergency responders were never called to the scene by those involved. Eshelman has not spoken publicly about the incident himself but his far-left activism is documented. In November 2016, he was arrested at a violent antifa riot in Portland against Trump’s election win. He was charged with one count of failing to obey a police officer, but the charge was subsequently dismissed. He is also a member of the Rum Rebellion, a radical anarchist punk band.
Online, various antifa activists and groups instructed their comrades to scrub their messages with Kealiher and to not cooperate with police in their investigation. Kealiher’s mother has also come out publicly to demand that nobody associated with her son speak to the media.
While his history of extremism online was known only to his comrades, his violent actions offline were well-documented through law enforcement and the press. Despite this, local mainstream Democrat politicians joined various antifa activists to publicly mourn his death. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted: “This is alarming and heartbreaking. Our deepest sympathies go out to family and friends of the victim.”
And on the Sunday night following his death, Kealiher’s comrades responded by vandalizing the Democratic Party of Oregon building with antifa propaganda and spray paint. The graffiti messages encouraged others to kill law enforcement, among other things.
Brad Martin, the executive director for the Democratic Party of Oregon, downplayed the graffiti and expressed support for the vandals at the time. He told KATU: “We know that [pain] expresses itself in a lot of ways, including the graffiti on the building and we understand that. It’s just paint.”
But for Sean Kealiher, vandalism was never “just paint.”
In the final paragraph of his “Manifesto Against Schools,” it reads: “We all die anyway, and we will be miserable somehow and somewhere, so why sit by when you can burn? Why sit in your room, dreading going to school? You need not have to, especially when you can BLOW IT UP OR BURN IT DOWN.”