The Deadly Legacy of “Progressivism”

by Professor Jack

A year ago a white man was beaten to death in the Berkeley, CA hills by a black man, and the world yawned. Peter Cukor, a 67-year-old business consultant, died when Daniel DeWitt hit him with a flower pot. Cukor had called the Berkeley police for help, but the police did not respond because they were preparing for a march of “occupiers” making their way up Telegraph Avenue from Oakland. My condolences to the Cukor family. 

Daniel DeWitt was a 23-year-old mentally disturbed individual. His mother, Candy DeWitt, says she had been trying for years to get help for him, but she doesn’t know where to turn. The mental health system is broken, she said. “Our system has to change or else this will keep happening.” 

Once we go beyond the personal tragedies, there is enough irony in this story to keep us busy for quite a while. But here’s where I want to go with it. 

The Berkeley hills, a neighborhood I know well, is the quintessential land of the so-called “1%.” It is home to—among others such as Mr. Cukor—the tenured professoriate and managerial echelons of UC Berkeley, a privileged aristocracy accustomed to $300-400K incomes earned mainly from consulting for American corporations, with a little teaching and writing thrown in. This entitled class is also the recipient of much of the federal grant money aimed at the contemporary university, money California taxpayers provide. 

Not all of this money goes to the hard sciences like physics, computer science and solar engineering. The “softer” disciplines—sociology, gender studies, psychology,  linguistics—are on the take as well. This professorial nobility of the humanities, well off but not quite as rich as the real scientists, also live here in the hills. It’s not a stretch to say that much of contemporary progressive social, political and legal theory originates in the art-deco, stucco homes of upland Berkeley, Rockridge, Montclair and Kensington. 

And then this theory flows, so to speak, downhill from there. It flows to West Oakland and Alameda, to Mills College, across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, and up into Marin and Napa. It seeps into the East Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley flatlands, where it is no longer just theory. This stream of progressive effluence has much to do with the birth of the Occupy movement itself, and with the presence in our society of individuals such as Daniel DeWitt, people who would once have been institutionalized except for the intervention of compassionate progressives, expert elites of the Berkeley hills variety. 

And so, in a way, the Frankenstein created by the best and brightest returned to the laboratory where he was spawned. Nobody knows how Daniel DeWitt got up to Grizzly Drive, where he strikes out in rage, but without knowing what he is doing, and kills a businessman.

All the while, down the hill on Telegraph Avenue, another slouching monster of progressive fantasies, the Occupy movement, staggers north and just happens to show up at the same time as the murder in the hills. 

Here’s a thought experiment: If Mitt Romney killed a millworker’s wife, did the Occupy movement kill Peter Cukor?   

A few years ago, when four Oakland police officers were gunned down in a series of shootouts with yet another crazed black man, Victor Davis Hanson commented that the line between the social sophistries of Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and the motivations of the killer were remarkably short. Hanson, an academic in the California system, knows whereof he speaks. 

Yet the progressive academics who bring these kinds of misery into the lives of less affluent Bay Area residents, and now even their own neighbors, sleep soundly in their beds, unaware of the consequences of their ideas just a few doors away.