Please Announce: UCMeP Selects UC Berkeley Spokesman Dan Mogulof as the Top Outstanding Oratorical Leader (TOOL) of the Year
The following is a letter sent this morning (12/19) to UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof from the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP). The letter announces Mr. Mogulof’s selection as the Top Outstanding Oratorical Leader (TOOL) of the Year. The award will be given to Mr. Mogulof by UCMeP representatives at his office (101 Sproul Hall) during a very special ceremony on Friday, January 29 at 11:00AM. UCMeP would like to invite the entire UC community to celebrate this man’s wonderful and inspiring service to the University of California by attending the award ceremony.
Dear Mr. Mogulof,
It is with deep respect and admiration that we here at the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) write to express our gratitude for your masterful performance as UC Berkeley’s Executive Director of Public Affairs. The past months have been trying for all of us here at the University of California. We have seen “radical elements” infiltrate the most hallowed halls of our beloved university. Fanatics have corrupted young and old minds alike with their Bolshevism and dangerous demands to democratize the university’s decision-making processes. These extremists have terrorized us all with “incendiary devices,” militant strikes, fascist spectacles, and “childish” building occupations. Yet in the midst of such threats, you have helped us make sense of the chaos.
As the official spokesman of UC Berkeley, you have been there whenever our administrators, “fearing for their lives” were forced to hide in “undisclosed locations.” You have spoken courageously and eloquently on their behalf, waxing poetically on the value of autocracy during times of emergency. You are always there to answer questions when our leaders refuse to have more pressing business to which they must attend.
Your words have been like a light in darkness, a sherpa in the Himalayas, guiding the UC community and the larger public to conclusions that we simply could not have arrived at without your help. You have taught us not to be fooled by appearances: the face of extremism, you have reminded us repeatedly, is not the one hidden behind the mask of a riot-gear clad police officer wielding a taser in one hand and a truncheon in the other. No, the face of extremism belongs to the unarmed undergraduate who demands her voice be heard and concerns addressed.
You have shown that truth is not a given. That facts are never as concrete as they might seem. And evidence, well, evidence is merely a formality—a pesky obstacle that only gets in the way of powerful people getting what they want.
For all of this and more, sir, UCMeP commends you and is pleased to name you the Top Outstanding Oratorical Leader (TOOL) of 2009. Your unflappable unashamedness, always-for-sale rhetorical talents, and wild imagination are to be applauded. You truly embody everything a TOOL stands for.
As UCMeP’s TOOL of the Year, we recognize that you are not simply an easily replaceable propagandist as some might claim (we’re looking at you, http://moguloflies.wordpress.com/). No, you are a first-rate (and highly paid) rhetorician who has studied the greats: Socrates and Shakespeare, Goebbels and Glenn Beck. You have mastered their secrets and clearly grasp that out of rhetoric’s holy trinity (ethos, logos, and pathos), the strategy of preying on populist emotion will always prevail. Who needs logic or ethics when you can mobilize fear to get your point across?
While you have demonstrated your magisterial oratorical abilities throughout your tenure at UC Berkeley, your skills have been most brilliantly on display in recent weeks. The unquestionable ease with which you routinely and indiscriminately denounce UC Berkeley students (and all those nefarious “non-students”) as criminals, vandals, and/or extremists (sometimes all three at once!) reveals both enviable talent and courage. Even more astounding has been your ability to deftly reverse our naïve notions of cause and effect. To compellingly argue that the early morning raid and arrests of 66 sleeping students in Wheeler Hall on December 11 was actually motivated by the terrorist action that took place later that night outside of Chancellor Birgeneau’s mansion demonstrates a formidable imagination.
UCMeP also commends you for your unwavering commitment to the welfare (sorry to use such an ugly word) of the University of California. Considering your paltry salary of $155,861.55 (http://ucpay.globl.org), it is clear that you cherish UC Berkeley more than the students you regularly vilify in the press. Of course, your love for the university runs deeper than that of the student with a 4.0 GPA (who plans to work for Teach for America after graduation) who you and Governor Schwarzenegger recently defamed as a terrorist.
Now that the District Attorney has inexplicably decided to hold off pressing charges against this student and the seven others arrested during the vicious and well-coordinated arson attack on Chancellor Birgeneau’s home (all due to lack of evidence … psssh), we are proud that you are standing by your previous denunciations, evidence or not. An apology would merely show signs of weakness and demonstrate a wavering resolve. Who needs to apologize for ruining this young man’s reputation when budget cuts make it so that you will not get paid overtime for doing so?
We encourage you to not take your award lightly. Being named UCMeP’s TOOL of the Year comes with high expectations. You have received it not only in recognition of your past achievements, but also your incredible potential. We encourage you to continue finding innovative ways to challenge the students at the University of California. Keep thinking of new words and phrases to defame a movement that so dangerously calls for democracy, equality, diversity, justice, and the end of police violence. We send our most heartfelt congratulations, and are most confident that you will live up to the high standards of being a TOOL.
UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP): http://privatizeucnow.tumblr.com/
Facebook: UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP)
In her December 17th Berkeley Daily Planet article Riya Bhattachargee explains why reporters believed that there was an arson threat to Chancellor Birgeneau’s residence last Friday night, offering that “A statement released by UC Berkeley the following morning said the group, which was made up of about 40 to 70 people, shouted “No justice, no peace,” and “threw incendiary objects at the house, which could have caused a major fire.”” The university’s press release claimed that the marchers’ actions posed a real threat of a major fire, a claim also picked up by Lee in the SF Chronicle article.
Bhattachargee’s article is to an extent a redress of her earlier one, explaining than the situation is more convoluted than originally presented in the deceptively “clear” UC Berkeley press release and in her 12/12 article. She explains that the Northern California ACLU is looking into the arrest of 66 people in Wheeler Hall on Friday morning 12/11, and questioning whether the campus police “are deciding whether to make custodial arrests based on proper facts, and not based on any intent to chill or prevent constitutionally protected expressive activities or to retaliate against demonstrators for their speech.” She also mentions that Professor Daniel Perlstein’s eyewitness account (see below), and his comments that the administration has been the principle perpetrator of violence on the campus.
The article is peppered with Mogulof’s assertions that the UC Berkeley campus welcomes “free speech” and “legitimate dissent” and concludes with Mogulof’s defense of himself. He seems to have caught on that observers have noted the fissures in his PR performance on Saturday, and falls all over himself to resuscitate his credibility to Bhattachargee, mostly by asserting that he has not been lying: “All the suggestions that we have been lying is contrary to all the conversations we have been having with student mediators,” he said. “We want to have a dialogue. We don’t want to shut down dissent, that’s not what we are about.”
However, Mogulof quickly stumbles, not only with subject/verb agreement, but also by using the suspicious phrase “student mediators.” What is a student mediator? The only outreach that we have heard that the administration has been doing is that UCPD officers have requested interviews with students arrested on Friday morning and those whose names were linked to student-issued statements about Friday. By “student mediators,” Mogulof appears to mean “potential stool pigeons,” and we remain quite confused on what grounds that could constitute dialogue. The support for dissent that we have seen: arrests of peaceful student protesters, bad faith negotiations with the Wheeler occupiers as revealed by the SAO report that reports that campus administrators planned to arrest the occupiers all along not in response to the planned concert, criminally inflated charges, and fingers pointed at Sacramento.
Perhaps this last point explains why Governor Schwarzenegger broke the reticence he has maintained about the protests against dismantling public higher education in California to label the perpetrators (and those arrested for being near by) “terrorists” and remark that “California will not tolerate any type of terrorism against any leaders, including educators” (as quoted in the 12/13 SF Chronicle article). Why is the governor especially concerned with protecting leaders such as himself? Could it be that the people are holding UC Berkeley campus administrators accountable for their increasingly embarrassing record of mishandling not just the budget but also campus protests? And that these same administrators have been urging students to direct their outrage at Sacramento. For example, from a November 5th article in the Daily Californian: “We think the energy is best directed at Sacramento,” said UC spokesperson Steve Montiel (who we don’t mean to neglect, but who has been lower profile than Mogulof). “We understand the frustration and anger … we are not happy with the situation either.”
UC Berkeley Professor of Education Daniel Perlstein witnessed the event at the Chancellor’s house on Friday night from his office in an adjacent building. His account below, written as an email response to a message from the Dean of the School of Education about the incident, contradicts the picture painted by Mogulof in many points of fact. He criticizes the administration for so grossly misrepresenting the event to the public. Professor Perlstein calls the incident “counter-productive” and “wrong,” but takes deliberate pains to note that the group to most often escalate violence and close down dialogue on this campus has been the administration itself, concluding that as a result of their actions “the campus’s senior academic leaders now appear to many students dishonest enemies of their education.”
We commend Professor Perlstein for stepping up and speaking out.
Subject: Re: [GSE] finding the right words
From: Daniel Perlstein
Date: Mon, December 14, 2009 11:20 am
To: P. David Pearson
Dear David all the GSE colleagues,
While I genuinely appreciate David’s message, I feel, somewhat guiltily, a
need to respond to it. Where I second David’s message is in the belief
that beyond any wider implications, acts of violence necessarily diminish
the university, discouraging the free exchange of ideas, which ought to be
our defining characteristic. Nevertheless questions of proportion and
degree matter. While all acts of violence diminish the university,
differences in how and how much they do so ought to influence our
responses. And these differences were obscured in David’s message.
With many people having little more than news reports of events at the
chancellor’s residence on which to base their impressions, I realize that
my comments might seem to indicate a lack of common decency or at least an
incredibly bad sense of timing, but as I will try to explain, I believe
that the university administration not only set the stage for a violent
turn in protests by acts which have repeatedly raised tensions and
undermined belief in its good will, but actually engaged in most of the
violence that has occurred.
I write as someone who has been consistently critical of the Berkeley
administration, but also as someone who has worked for decades against
violence, and finally as perhaps the only person on this list who
witnessed any of Friday night’s events. (I was writing letters of
recommendation in my Tolman Hall office, which faces the chancellor’s
In brief, at about 11 PM a group of protesters –lit by perhaps 10
torches- marched past Tolman and up to the chancellor’s residence. They
sounded quite angry. I heard someone call out, “That’s the chancellor’s
house,” and I remember at that time having the impression that it was said
as if people who did not recognize the chancellor’s house and were not
focused on going there. The protesters did not, as the Chronicle reports
that police claimed, surround the residence, nor would it have been
possible for so few to do so. I heard, but did not see what must have
been the planters and window(s?) breaking and almost immediately saw the
protesters fleeing. There may have been police chasing them; I did not see
any. I could not tell if the protesters were fleeing because they did not
wish to be caught or because they did not want to participate in what they
now realized was an escalated form of violence. None of the protesters I
saw fleeing (and I believe I saw most of them) were carrying lit torches.
I did not see anyone arrested, but trees block my view of the front of the
chancellor’s house, so I do not know if the arrests occurred at the time
or later, and whether because of their individual actions or because of
the actions of the group as a whole.
What I do know is that I witnessed enough at variance with university
officials’ accounts as reported in the press to make me suspicious of the
rest of those accounts, even if I had not already been made suspicious by
distortions and inaccuracies in previous administration statements about
recent protests, which have been amply documented elsewhere.
I believe that acts were committed at the chancellor’s house that were not
only counter-productive but also, more important, wrong. And yet those
events were remarkably brief and perhaps spontaneous. Again, I do not
write this to be evasive but rather because even among what we condemn we
need to make judgments, and I believe that sustained, planned violence
demands a different response from that which did not and does not strike
me as sustained and possibly not even as planned. Moreover, it seems to
me that violence by those whose power confers legitimacy on its exercise
requires a stronger response than that by those who lack such power.
There should be a higher standard by which to judge the actions of police
and campus officials than of protesters, many of them –whether students or
not—youthful. (I would also characterize the actions by individual police
outside of Wheeler as brief and perhaps spontaneous. I do not by this
mean to excuse acts of police violence. It seems to me that police have a
professional responsibility to de-escalate a situation, and moreover
spontaneity does not excuse violence.)
The one group so far whose actions –both those that have fostered violence
and those that have constituted in themselves violence– have been neither
brief nor spontaneous is the university administration. Against all kinds
of advice from a range of campus figures, the university administration
has consistently escalated rather than tried to reach out. The decision
to leave it to police to deal with the Wheeler occupation on Nov. 20, to
close the building, to not meet with protesters, to block faculty from
trying to mediate an end to the protest, and to charge the first arrested
protesters with felonies (with felonies (!) for staging a sit-in in two
Wheeler classrooms), the decision to surround Wheeler Hall with riot
police, all reflected decisions made by administrators who had amply time
to do otherwise. The distorted, unsympathetic statements released by
campus leaders days after the protest again followed deliberation and
caused real trauma to many students, including GSE students who described
a seemingly unbridgeable gap coming to separate them from a university
they had loved. And then Friday morning, directly leading up to the
incident at the chancellor’s residence, the arrest and detention of the
students in Wheeler despite what appears to be police permission to be
there and the failure to give a dispersal order, the decision to detain
students at Santa Rita jail (an act the ACLU is investigating as a
possible violation of student’s constitutional rights), was, by its own
admission, a choice the administration made not in the heat of the moment
but after careful planning. (The Friday morning arrests in Wheeler Hall
ended a week-long protest during which academic activities continued
largely uninterrupted. During the week, students had been told by police
that they would be given the opportunity to disperse before police began
making arrests. Students came and went. Early Friday morning police
entered Wheeler and without warning began arresting sleeping students.
The administration has explained that faculty could not be called in as
mediators because it might have undermined the secrecy of the arrest
operation. Because students had their computers and other study materials
confiscated and then were detained for many hours far from campus, they
were put at risk of academic failure. And so, the campus’s senior
academic leaders now appear to many students dishonest enemies of their
education. This premeditated action by campus leaders that did students
real harm does not excuse any violence at the president’s house, but it
does suggest a need to place violence that might have occurred there in
If the university curriculum is to include contentious public matters,
peaceful protest is not antithetical to their exchange but a crucial
component of it. And on no campus has the history of protest done more to
extend the range of ideas exchanged in classrooms than Berkeley. It is
thus all the more discouraging that campus officials have so consistently
escalated tensions and repressed protest rather than seeking a dialogue
with protesters. Repudiating the role of campus leaders in violence does
not absolve protesters of responsibility for their actions, but to avoid
challenging the central role of campus leaders precludes any meaningful
Finally, I started this note because I thought that David’s appeal to
invocations of shared campus values rings increasingly hollow. But David,
to his credit, has at least spoken out. It is discouraging how few
faculty have done so. If shared governance is to mean anything beyond its
formal mechanisms, faculty have an obligation to speak up about
administrative violence that inevitably bears our imprimateur.
Much of the mistaken belief around campus that the people who marched past the Chancellor’s residence attempted to torch the building appears to have stemmed from Henry K. Lee’s 12/13/09 story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Both comments from this article that state that the marchers threw torches at the building and at police officers list Mogulof as the source of information. Mogulof may also have planted the idea that marchers “surrounded the building,” but that might just be an erroneous assumption of the author’s. We cannot tell from the article. Mogulof’s statements:
“Several hurled their torches at the building, said campus spokesman Dan Mogulof.”
“Most of the protesters ran away when police arrived, but some of them threw torches and other objects at officers and patrol cars, Mogulof said.”
We are left to speculate about the source of Mogulof’s information. We are guessing that he was not there at the building or standing by the police officers who according to his story arrived at the scene to be met by a veritable volley of projectiles. Who then did witness these actions? Apparently not even Robert Birgeneau, who was not awakened by the noise outside, but by his wife, also according to Mogulof in Lee: “Birgeneau was sleeping at the time and was awakened by his wife, Mary Catherine, Mogulof said.” According to eyewitness reports, the march scattered almost immediately after reaching the building, and never surrounded it. We wonder if the Chancellor was even out of bed by the time everyone dispersed.
We are by no means the only people to have noticed how Mogulof turns his back on tough questions and smiles while lying:
Riya Bhattacharjee’s Berkeley Planet article “Eight Protesters Arrested After Attack On UC Berkeley Chancellor’s House” ends with a direct and indirect quote from Mogulof: “Mogulof strongly condemned the incident, saying that student activism had taken a “quantum leap,” by endangering the lives of university officials. “We are very lucky that nobody was hurt,” he said.”
With these statements Mogulof creates the impression that the Chancellor and his wife faced a mortal threat on Friday night. Chancellor Birgeneau released a statement about the incident, here as quoted in Mark Anton’s LA Times article: “These are criminals, not activists. The attack at our home was extraordinarily frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely feared for our lives. . . . I urge the community and protesters to find more productive ways to express their points of view. To resort to life-endangering violence is never acceptable.”
We find it very plausible that Chancellor Birgeneau and his wife were afraid when woken up by a group of angry people outside their home–who wouldn’t be?–but are confused why they were afraid for their lives. From all reports, a group of between 40-70 people marched past the building at about 11pm last Friday night and some threw trash, broke flowerpots, and shattered windows. Scary, yes, very scary even, especially for jumpy Chancellor Birgeneau who ordered that the 60+ people sleeping and studying in student-occupied Wheeler Hall on campus be locked in and arrested early that same morning. But attempted murder? Attempted arson, attack on the inhabitants, or burglary? The Chancellor lives in an imposing stone fortress. Dan Perlstein, a professor of Education who witnessed the event while working late in an adjacent office building, notes that marchers arrived haphazardly, stayed briefly, and quickly scattered and that overall “what I do know is that I witnessed enough at variance with university officials’ accounts as reported in the press to make me suspicious of the rest of those accounts” (in an email to his department 12/14/09). While those arrested on suspicion of being associated with the Friday night march have been charged with rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, felony vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer (for a total of 6 felonies), calls to police reported rioting and the photos show property damage.
One thing that is clear is that campus administrators are trying to portray the event in as extreme a light as possible, and are willing to distort the facts to do so. The police have trumped up the charges in many of the arrests made over the past month at protests at UC Berkeley and at other UC campuses. Doing so justifies high bail amounts and longer stints in jail, and garners hysterical press and terrified reactions from readers who imagine attackers on a manhunt. None of these inflated and imaginary charges have stuck, but by the time they have been dropped or amended they have done the expected PR damage and helped to polarize not just the public but protesters on campus. This flagrant misleading of the press is quite intentional and leads us to believe that Mogulof’s mandate from the administration is to create just two categories of protesters on this campus: those they can ignore and those they can criminalize.
While Friday night’s action is being debated on campus and while those more distant attempt to understand what happened, let’s keep some perspective. The only lives threatened appear to be those of the plants whose pots were broken (on the steps in the photo in the L.A. Times story, as is Mogulof). And the only threat on record to the Chancellor’s person, much less his life, seems to have come from Mogulof himself.
Dan Mogulof is an employee of the University of California at Berkeley. Titles we have seen assigned to him include “Executive Director of Public Affairs,” “Executive Director, Strategic Communications,” and often in news reports just “spokesman.” If his job description includes spreading incendiary lies about student protests on campus in an attempt to criminalize all protest and free speech, he is doing a wonderful job. This blog will collect his best efforts, his stumbles, his mumbo jumbo.