Untimely Observations

First They Came For Ann Coulter


Whatever you want to say about Ann Coulter, I like her -- partly because she's funny but mostly because I've always sensed that she's more "one of us" than just about any other mainstream political commentator out there besides Pat Buchanan. I guess I agree with her campus detractors in that way.

Well, Ann was invited by some students at the University of Ottawa to speak on their campus and, as reported by Canada.com, before she embarked on her journey to the Great North, she received an email from the University vice-president and provost, Francois Houle, "warning her that freedom of speech is defined differently in Canada than in the U.S. and that she should take care not to step over the line." When she arrived, Leftist protestors made sure she never got the opportunity to violate any speech codes by protesting wildly and getting her appearance cancelled by the campus police.

Canada.com features some revealing quote from Ann's undergraduate detractors,

Valeriano, a 19-year-old sociology and women's studies student, said later that she was happy Coulter was unable to speak the "hatred" she had planned to.

"On campus, we promise our students a safe and positive space," she said. "And that's not what (Coulter) brings."Outside the hall, Sameena Topan, 26, a conflict studies and human rights major at the U of O, spoke to the Citizen on behalf of a group of protesters."

We have a large group of students that can very clearly outline the difference between discourse and discrimination," Topan said of the protest.

"We wanted to mobilize and make sure that's clear on campus, that there's a line between controversy and discrimination, and Ann Coulter has crossed it. Numerous times."

"We had concerns about (the event) at the beginning, but especially after we saw what happened at the University of Western Ontario, when she called out a Muslim girl there and was saying she needs to take a camel because Muslim people shouldn't fly.

That kind of stuff just reaffirmed everything that we were afraid of and that's when ... we really got worried."

Topan was pleased to hear the students behind her shout, "Hate speech cancelled!" in unison." I think that's great. I think we accomplished what we were here to do, to ensure that we don't have her discriminatory rhetoric on our campus," she said.

Fox.com reports another one saying, "What Ann Coulter is practicing is not free speech, it's hate speech. She's targeted the Jews, she's targeted the Muslims, she's targeted Canadians, homosexuals, women, almost everybody you could imagine."

Putting aside the obvious falsehood of many of these accusations, it's worth focusing in on what these leftists -- what most all leftists who get "conservative" events shut down -- are actually arguing. We're intolerant towards intolerance! Or to borrow a catchphrase from the '68ers, Fascists don't have the right to speak!

My friend Grant Havers has discussed this contradiction at the heart of " liberal tolerance" in a recent piece he wrote on another Canadian controversy, whether the country's universities had the right to be openly Christian.

Seventy-five years ago, the philosopher George Santayana zeroed in on the often contradictory nature of liberalism in this vein when he distinguished between a liberal "method of government" and a liberal "principle of thought." The first calls on all of its citizens to accept only liberalism while rejecting all other rivals to its hegemony; the second "throws the mind open to all alternatives." Santayana implied that this was a classic case of wanting it both ways: if a liberal mode of government expects us all to be liberals, then how can we be allowed to consider all other alternatives to liberalism? "In this way," Santayana wrote, "liberalism as a method of government may end by making liberalism difficult as a method of thought."

Santayana's diagnosis of liberalism's incoherence lies at the heart of the flawed attempt to censor Trinity on the grounds that it insists that all employees sign a Statement of Faith as a condition of their employment. Is it liberal, however, to impose secular liberalism on Canadian universities? If that is the case, then any real attempt at censorship would have to monitor every single university in the nation for its adherence to completely unrestricted inquiry into all fields.

Grant's gesture towards the soft totalitarianism of "tolerance" shouldn't be taken lightly. The kind of society being created by people like Provost Francois Houle -- and all those Conflict Studies and Human Rights majors who want to get jobs at the Office of Institutional Equity when they grow up -- is one in which citizens will be rigorously surveilled for the first signs "reactionary" or "racist" opinions.

"Tolerance" is just another name for forcibly silencing people you don't agree with.