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The epithet in my headline (which my mother wouldn’t let me say thus severely curtailing my freedom of speech) is not, surprisingly enough, about Ann Coulter and her recent Canadian adventure. On the contrary, it’s directed at the people who can’t stop carping and fussing about “freedom of speech” and how poor Ann, with her racist, homophobic, vitriol-laced material was “not allowed” to deliver her expected diatribe at the University of Ottawa. (As it turned out, it was she and her people who decided to cancel in Ottawa and her freedom of speech was on ostentious display the next day in Calgary — but we’ll leave it at that.)

But let’s be clear. This is not an issue of freedom of speech. Ann Coulter is perfectly free to stand on any street corner or in any park in Canada and say pretty much whatever she wants to say. Or she could hire a hall or start a newspaper. She could become a pamphleteer or a soapbox orator.

The real problem is that she was invited – and paid – to give a speech at a university which would validate the views of those in her audience who were looking for racist, homophobic, vitriol-laced material. Listening to her would give them permission to leave her event and go back out into the university community, feeling that their noxious views are acceptable. To give a different context to the question that’s been asked this week: Is this the role we want our universities to play? To sanction an event and a speaker that places many of their students in a threatening and dangerous position?

Ann Coulter’s so-called “ideas” should not be ignored, as some people suggest, and they should not be debated, which gives them legitimacy. They — and she — should be scorned and disdained and she should be held up to public scrutiny and called what she is: a vacuous bully, an ignorant boor, a nasty piece of work.

The suggestion that she should be tolerated — or ignored — reminds me of when American radio host Howard Stern was trying to gain a foothold in Canada. People who supported his being licenced by the CRTC kept saying, “If you don’t like him, just turn your radio off,” which, pardon me, is a really stupid thing to say as I’m very unlikely to have Howard Stern on my radio anyway.

But Howard is not playing to me; he’s playing to many of the same people that Ann Coulter plays to except Howard leans a little more heavily toward ferocious misogny and offers great aid and comfort — and advice — to men who abuse women. What good is it going to do if I turn my radio off? And likewise, what good will it do if I ignore Ann Coulter? I’m not their intended audience.

Let’s now hope she’s returned to the land of the free where her commentary is much more mainstream — although I’m told she’s going out of fashion even there — and get back to paying attention to those in our own country who may speak more quietly but who carry just as big a stick and whose aspirations are not so different from the mouthy Ms Coulter.

11 Responses

  1. #1
    Mary DeWolfe 

    As usual, right on, Sharon!!

  2. #2
    Patricia Campkin 

    Way to go, Sharon!!!

  3. I agree that Ann Coulter is a pestilence. However, I believe, as you pointed out, that it is better to allow the lunatic fringe to spew its vitriol in the open. I think it is incredibly stupid for a Canadian university to give her a platform but I don’t think it should be illegal. In situations like this, I think we can leave it to the public, the media, and the marketplace to express their opinions and direct their donations and tuition fees. I do have great faith in the people in a democracy to identify and reject the vicious extremists.

    Considering that we hear that there was a socialist coup d’etat in the US, people here seem to be going about their lives as if they had not had a terrible violation of their freedom to watch children die rammed down their throats. (WE REALLY NEED A PUNCTUATION MARK FOR SARCASM. THAT WAS SARCASM. !?!) Conservatives are the ones who like to make laws that really restrict our freedoms. Be careful you do not give them the excuse that you do too.

  4. #4
    Tim Gill 

    Absolutely bang on! Ignoring her won’t work. She has no shame, so I’m not sure that telling her that she is an ignorant boor will work either, but I’m game for any strategy that doesn’t legitimize her rants.

  5. #5
    Ann Roman 

    Very good … as always!

  6. #6
    Rashida Collins 

    Well said! Thank you. As one of the people on Ann’s “hitlist” so to speak it’s nice to be validated for once … I think it is dangerous to just ignore someone like this.

  7. #7
    Margaret Davis 

    Very well argued, Sharon — you’ve made points that I haven’t heard elsewhere. I also applaud David’s comment about how Conservatives like to make laws that take our freedoms away — something that the neocons of course deny.

  8. #8
    Pat Kipping 

    I believe in freedom of speech but there can often be more power in silence.

    That woman and her spin machine don’t deserve another second of our time or thought.

    Ignoring someone that ignorant is the most powerful thing we can do.

  9. #9
    Robbie Lochead(Pereira)MGH 1964 

    Sharon, we don’t have Ann Coulter in NZ but we do have Paula Bennett. Paula is an MP which means we the taxpayers have to fund her crap! I shall research Ann, you can research Paula who wants to get all unemployed working for one dollar an hour. Apparently there was a ruckus today in her electorate, people wearing red T Shirts saying “Kill Paula Bennett.” Ah, life goes on!

  10. #10
    Susan MacPhee 

    I’m with you and must say though I was very soon tired of the whole dreary so-called debate, I do think it important to be aware of what the “bad guys” are saying. It’s important to keep it in the open where light can be shone on it so it can’t just squirm around the dark and murky spots taking advantage of easy marks.

    Reminded me of a time many years ago when a visiting friend expressed shock that I was reading William F. Buckley. I told him “what am I supposed to do, pretend he doesn’t exist? Knowing the other side is important, they know us, you can be certain.”

    Keep going, Sharon.

  11. #11

    So you are one of the fascists that only believe speech should be allowed for those that you agree with. Why don’t you have the fortitude to ask for a debate with Coulter? What did Ann Coulter say that was wrong? Why is the Islamic community not speaking out against Islamic fundamentalism?

    If the problem with airline security is a result of a certain group, why not target that group for additional security screening? Why do you not oppose addidional scrutiny of men in domestic disputes?

    Go enjoy these freedoms offered by Canada, at the expense of another opinion.

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