I’ve always despised the conservative commentator Ann Coulter, especially for writing a book that largely made fun of those who accept evolution. In fact, I wrote a satirical piece for the New Republic excoriating her dumb anti-evolution book Godless (my piece, called “Coultergeist“, is free online).
But I’m also for free speech, which trumps (pardon the word) the perceived offensiveness of a speaker’s ideas. So I have big-time objections to the University of California’s canceling of Coulter’s speech at Berekeley planned for April 27—due to, as the Washington Post reports, “safety concerns”:
In a letter to a campus Republican group that invited Coulter to speak [Young America’s Foundation], university officials said Wednesday that they made the decision to cancel Coulter’s appearance after assessing the violence that flared on campus in February, when the same college Republican group invited right-wing provocateur and now-former Breitbart News senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. As the protest and clashes escalated during the Yiannopoulos’ event, some began setting fires, throwing rocks and molotov cocktails and attacking members of the crowd.
That’s ridiculous, for it motivates those who don’t like a speaker to threaten violence: what better way to shut someone down? (It’s worked well for Muslims, of course.) It’s Berkeley’s responsibility to muster enough security to protect Coulter and prevent violence. The WaPo adds this:
Coulter said in an email to The Washington Post on Wednesday that the university had been trying to force her to cancel her speech by “imposing ridiculous demands” on her but that she still agreed “to all of their silly requirements.” She said she believes that her speech “has been unconstitutionally banned” by the “public, taxpayer-supported UC-Berkeley.”
Coulter said the university insisted that her speech take place in the middle of the day, that only students could attend and that the exact venue wouldn’t be announced until the last minute. She said that she agreed with the conditions but that apparently wasn’t good enough.
“They just up and announced that I was prohibited from speaking anyway,” Coulter said, noting that her speech topic was to be immigration, the subject of one of her books. “I feel like the Constitution is important and that taxpayer-supported universities should not be using public funds to violate American citizens’ constitutional rights.”
In this Twitter post she vows to speak anyway. Good for her!
The University said they’ll try to reschedule Coulter’s visit for September, and their decision was made because they consider the safety of students paramount. Again, this just prompts people to threaten the safety of speakers and attendees as a way to censor speech they don’t like.
It’s telling that Robert Reich, a liberal who was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and is now Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at Berkeley, objected to this cancellation on his Facebook page:
h/t: Heather Hastie