The Liberal Darling That Wasn’t: UC Berkeley’s Troubled Past

Hosted by

Tony Platt. Credit: Youtube

The University of California at Berkeley is widely considered one of the most progressive and historically transformative universities in not only the United States, but the world. This is printed all over pamphlets written for prospective students and talked about endlessly by tour guides giving people the privilege to walk through such a prestigious site. What isn’t discussed, however, is the other side of that history, the one mired by involvement with the military industrial complex, with the conquest of indigenous lands and with the creation of the greatest mass murder weapon of all time.

Tony Platt, historian, author and former UC Berkeley professor, joins host Robert Scheer on this episode of Scheer Intelligence to discuss these inconvenient truths about one of the sweetheart American institutions of higher education. His book, “The Scandal of Cal: Land Grabs, White Supremacy, and Miseducation at UC Berkeley” dives into the deep and complex relationships a university like Berkeley has with the government, including the concessions and commitments it has to make in order to ensure funding and status.

Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” visually illustrated the means it took to build the atomic bomb and how much funding and support was necessary for such a project. The film paints J. Robert Oppenheimer as the mastermind behind it all, but what it also does is slyly strip away the complicity and responsibility of UC Berkeley in making it all happen.

“[Y]ou could walk through the campus and not know that the university was deeply involved in this extraordinary act, probably the greatest act of mass killing in three days in human history,” Platt said, referring to the creation of the atomic bomb.

This all points to the core idea of a university and what it means to be one. Scheer and Platt dig into this notion, especially given their extensive connections to the school itself and how its perceived identity is a thin veil drawn over a dark history.

“[T]he university has a whole commemorative culture that puts a positive spin on its long history of land, occupation and exploitation of the gravesites of native people and accumulating hundreds of thousands of artifacts from people that were forced to sell them,” Platt said.



Joshua Scheer