Coultergate gets more confusing

When liberals don’t take up the cudgels for free speech, even for odious conservatives like Ann Coulter, we abandon one of our main principles. We also allow conservatives to criticize us as censors, and for them to take the First Amendment moral high ground.  And that’s exactly what’s happening at Berkeley, thanks to the Regressive and Censorious Left.

(Let me assert, though I shouldn’t even have to, that I despise Coulter’s views; see here for proof.)

Ann Coulter was invited to speak at the University of California by the College Republicans. The College canceled her talk because of fears of violence, and offered an alternative date–a date when no students would be in class. That’s unacceptable, and an attempt to stifle her, even if it is to avoid violence. If we cave to those who demand censorship because they fear violence not incited directly by a speaker, then we are allowing the “heckler’s veto”, and every opponent of a speaker’s views will learn to threaten violence. Regardless of how odious a speaker seems, we cannot allow that to happen. Free speech is a principle that cannot be overturned except in the most extreme circumstances, and that’s what the U.S. courts have ruled.

Yesterday the College Republicans rescinded Coulter’s invitation (not a great invitation to begin with) because of those fears of violence, and the Young America’s Foundation, which was defending her, pulled out for the same reason. And so Coulter was forced to cancel her talk.

Note that the Left is largely responsible for this, for they are the ones threatening violence, and the ones who caused that violence when Milo Yiannopoulos was supposed to speak at Berkeley. And the Left is largely responsible for all the de-platforming and rescinded invitations to speak at American Colleges in the last five years. We do ourselves no favors by being so censorious, by threatening violence, or, as two misguided professors just did, by defending the right to censor “hate speech.”

Saying that Coulter is vacuous and hateful is no justification for censorship, as many people are seen that way, and who is to decide which speech is allowable? Were I to criticize the tenets of Islam at London University, I would be censored by the Muslim students, yet I think my arguments are reasonable. The students would call my words hateful and vacuous, as they did when attacking the invitation to Britain’s Ambassador to Israel. Who gets to decide? Nobody, and that’s what the First Amendment is about.

Thus, as we see in two new pieces, the New York Time‘s “In Ann Coulter’s speech battle, signs that conservatives are emboldened“, and lawyer Marc Randazza’s CNN article, “Dear Berkeley: Even Ann Coulter deserves free speech” that a few enlightened liberals are defending Coulter’s right to speak, much as they despise her. Those include not only Randazza, but Bill Maher and Bernie Sanders. As Randazza says:

While all this was going on [the “shutting down” of speakers like Charles Murray, Ben Shapiro, and Milo Yiannopoulos], where was the traditionally-free-speech-friendly moderate Left? The prevailing view was, “If you didn’t say offensive things, you wouldn’t be attacked.” Shame on the Left for tacitly condoning this culture of violent suppression of views it disagrees with.

And praise to Maher and Sanders for standing up against it. I question whether Coulter would do the same for them, but that is not the yardstick by which we measure our commitment to freedom of speech. Standing up for the rights of those who would not do it for us demonstrates your commitment to liberty. We don’t need a First Amendment for speech that neither challenges, nor offends. We need it as a good in itself. And, sometimes that very challenging and offensive speech fosters growth.

. . . When anyone tries to shut down speech with violence, all decent Americans should band together against the violence, regardless of their political “tribe.” Does Berkeley stand for freedom of expression, or is it so captivated by its infectious one-party rule that it cannot possibly stand up for expression that challenges its liberal sensibilities?

Coulter has a right to her views. Just as important, we all have a right to hear her speak.

Those who disagree have a right to oppose her, but to use violence cuts against the principles that our entire Constitution rests upon. The First Amendment stands for principles like those articulated in the case, New York Times v. Sullivan: “Debate on public issues … [should be] … uninhibited, robust, and wide open.”

You may think Coulter’s speech is offensive. I certainly do. I think she is a mental midget and an intellectual snake oil salesman. I do wish she would shut up, dry up, and blow away. But even so, I am outraged that her political discussion must go through an on-again, off-again process because either violent thugs control the streets or effete and weak university presidents and the City of Berkeley lack the spine to defend the First Amendment.

The New York Times piece shows that conservatives, emboldened by how craven the Regressive Leftist opponents of free speech look, are deliberately inviting provocateurs to speak, and they’re even suing Berkeley. And the Left looks bad. Is this what we want? I don’t think so.

Just let the damn conservatives speak! What have you got to lose, really? And if you oppose them, use counterspeech, also a traditional tool of the Left.

If you don’t buy what I’ve said above, listen to this famous defense of free speech by the late and sorely missed Christopher Hitchens:

h/t: Grania

48 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    !

  2. Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’ll repeat it again: freedom of speech is a mutual non-aggression pact, and abrogation of that pact is tantamount to a declaration of war.

    When you understand why you’d fight, with actual violence if necessary, to express that which you most passionately believes must be expressed, then you’ll understand why others will surely fight you, if necessary, to express their own views.

    To the snowflakes: would you put a bullet in Coulter’s brain if that’s what it would take to silence her? If so, would you do so knowing that she would put a bullet in your own brain first if she could? How about knowing that she’s got lots of friends in the NRA who’d be shooting with her at you and your friends?

    Because that’s exactly the path you’re barreling towards at full speed.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Harrison
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      As has been said many times the ultimate folly of equating words to violence is that it legitimizes violence as a response to words.

      • ploubere
        Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Well said.

        • Harrison
          Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          Them’s fightin’ words.

  3. Craw
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I think this is a fair take on the NYT’s editorial reaction

    http://twitchy.com/gregp-3534/2017/04/27/ny-times-to-conservatives-what-did-you-think-would-happen-if-you-wore-that-mini-skirt-to-berkeley/?utm_campaign=twitchywidget

    How low they have sunk.

    • Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      I think that’s exactly wrong. The Times article is criticizing the left and the student protesters. That sentence about conservatives eagerly “putting themselves into volatile situations” is illustrating how predictable and reactionary the students have become. It’s not saying the speakers deserve the abuse; it’s saying that the students are being played…and they’re losing.

      • Craw
        Posted April 27, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Well, let’s look at this:

        ” after the political organizations that invited her rescinded their support over fears of violence. “It’s a sad day for free speech,” she said.

        But across the country, conservatives like her are eagerly throwing themselves into volatile situations like the one in Berkeley”

        Note the ‘But’. Note the idea that going to speak is throwing yourself into a volatile situation. And where is condemnation of the threats that lead to the cancellation? Not there.

        The underlying premise is that — ‘but’ — conservatives are partly to blame for ‘throwing themselves’ (rather than being invited) into a ‘volatile’ situation. Volatile why? Because of threats of violence against them.

        She had to cancel her jog after the rape threats against women who use Berkeley Park. “It’s a sad day for women jogging in America.”
        But across the country, women like her are eagerly throwing themselves into volatile situations like the one in Berkeley Park.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 27, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          I have no doubt whatever that conservative groups are using the situation to their own advantage.

          It’s a situation that shouldn’t occur. The left should not be over-reacting in this way. Basically all they (the right) need to do is issue an invite to some notorious right-wing speaker and sit back and let the left do all their work for them. They (the right) don’t even need to produce a convincing argument because the ‘left’ will have forced them to cancel the meeting. They win by default without even having to put up a case.

          The right would have to be stupid if they didn’t take advantage of it. And they’re not stupid (not in that way, anyway).

          cr

  4. J. Quinton
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    “Ann Coulter was invited to speak at the University of California by the College Republicans. The College canceled her talk because of fears of violence”

    Hmmm… fears of violence… fears of violence… Where have we recently seen this strategy employed before?

  5. Lamar Hankins
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Freedom of speech is a meaningless concept unless it allows someone who offends me to the core to speak their mind without censorship.

  6. Harrison
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    So it turns out that for years many liberals were fairweather fans of free speech. A great thing when we need it, but not so great when people we don’t like are using it.

    And I strongly suspect many conservatives now are doing the same routine. The number of people who are actually for free speech in fair weather or foul seems depressingly small.

    • J. Quinton
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Some liberals were enemies of free speech long before the current campus dust up.

      Do we not remember who claimed it was “Islamophobia” to draw pictures of Mohammad? Who never condemned the Muslims who responded to free speech acts with violence?

      Now they’re employing the same tactics.

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    There was actually an attempt to RE-schudule Coulter on a public plaza that is not owned by UC Berkeley, but that was shut down as well.

    I admit I was tempted to go see her (just to make sure she really exists and isn’t a giant hoax perpetuated by the Illuminati or whatever.)

  8. sensorrhea
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry that reductio-ad-absurdum clowns like Ann Coulter have to be the standard bearers for free speech. I’d rather it be responsible people trying to communicate information that, while politically incorrect, also happens to be true.

    She’s just so hateful and duplicitous. She’ll say anything even if it contradicts what she said moments before.

    (Bill Maher inexplicably said last week that he likes Ann Coulter but he’s never agreed with anything she’s ever said. Hard to square that unless she’s sleeping with him.)

    Anyway, I don’t want to live in a world where Coulter is silenced, but I’d like to live in one in which she is embarrassed to be as horrible as she is capable of being and in which nobody invites hateful idiots to speak on campuses.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      “(Bill Maher inexplicably said last week that he likes Ann Coulter but he’s never agreed with anything she’s ever said. Hard to square that unless she’s sleeping with him.)”

      Thanks for planting that thought in my mind. Please let me know when you have evidence sufficient to warrant making mention of it in the first place.

    • pali
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 4:32 am | Permalink

      “(Bill Maher inexplicably said last week that he likes Ann Coulter but he’s never agreed with anything she’s ever said. Hard to square that unless she’s sleeping with him.)”

      Maher and Coulter have been friends for a very long time, at least since Maher was running Politically Incorrect. I can understand not liking someone because they hold differing views, but I can also understand liking someone despite such. There’s a lot to be gained from being friends with someone you disagree with all the time. At bare minimum it gives you a chance to hone your game, to get a better understanding of where the opposition is coming from, and to remind someone on the other side that your side includes reasonable, friendly people capable of overcoming differences too.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        I have no problem liking someone who has some opposing views, but there are two aspects of the statement I can’t understand.

        1. We’re talking about Anne Coulter, a person who has chosen to be paid to be an absolutely horrible person both in form and content.

        2. He says he’s never agreed with _anything_ she says. Do you have any friends like that? I’m quite liberal but have very close Republican friends. But those friends and I share a lot of values that are deeper than party politics. (In fact they hate Trump because of that.)

  9. eric
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    What happened to the Berkeley Free Speech Club? This issue seems perfect for them. I wish they’d pick up the baton from the conservatives and re-invite her.

    And while I think the administration’s tactic of allowing the speech to go forward only during exam time is despicable, I’d take them up on it. There are 30,000 students at Berkeley. Pick a 250-500 person venue on campus and I’ll bet they can fill it, even during exams.

  10. Randy schenck
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Some people never learn and others cannot be taught. Someone famous probably said this but it sure fits the subject at hand. These leftists who buy into all the censorship must also be yearning for father Joseph Stalin to return and save them from all this free talk. He was quite good at cutting off unwanted speech.

  11. ploubere
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    It’s like that sign at the science march: “I can’t believe I have to march for facts”. In this case, I can’t believe I have to defend free speech to liberals.

  12. darrelle
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The regressive left, resorting to the same primary tactic as good old fashioned terrorists. Use the fear of violence to gain notoriety. And don’t forget to feel justified for doing so.

  13. Tom
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Would be ironic after all this if Ms Coulter was actually going to give a talk on something innocuous. Not only were these students being priggish they were also inventing a script for her.
    If this continues Ms Coulter need not bother to actually attend any University, merely by making an announcement that she might will then induce the students to imagine the whole thing so they can stay at home as well.
    Sorted!

    • Andy Lowry
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Ingeniously efficient!

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I hate Ann Coulter with the heat of the noontime tropical sun — and I, for one, would never consider doing this with her (which is the funniest goddamn satirical melding ever of low-order smut with high-order left-wing cant) — but if some mouth-breathing college Republicans want to go hear her yap, the only reasonable response consistent with the interests of free expression is “knock yourself out, suckers.”

  15. Kevin
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    With so much information available to so many people, these childishly violent protests against speakers are ill-conceived as the only possible mechanism to suffocate an opinion one dislikes.

    There is nothing productive retreating to violent objections and cowardly un-invitations because someone said something that hurts feelings.

    Hitchens gives us perspective. One verse from John and for hundreds of years people are incited to condemn Jews.

    The bible may not be hate speech, but it is delusion and reprehensible ignorance. But even more powerfully, it is an embarrassment. And it is not read enough by Christians.

    In our modern world, uncovering the meanings of religious texts can only make the reader feel shallow and conscious of the disrespect laid at the foundation of faith. This is a power of freedom of speech.

  16. Posted April 27, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid i just can’t get aboard this “free speech” bandwagon, such as it is. Here’s why;

    Although it is essential to let people speak their mind in a Democracy, even be they ax murderers, there will be some people who see that giving credibility to them will always entice a large minority to fall in with their cause.

    Once something is said in an accredited public forum by an “authority” it’s just about 100% certain to be swallowed whole cloth by people who are predisposed to their point of view. There is awesome validation power to giving a misanthrope like Coulter a forum at a Progressive campus. In fact, she can’t lose. If she’s shouted down or in any way challenged she becomes a martyr. If not the silence is taken as at least partial confirmation of her views.

    There are plenty of public forums already available to her that allow her to spout her crap. She’s not being silenced…there’s really no official censorship as such. She’s just being denied certain forums as a matter of those people not wanting to further validate her socially toxic point of view. She can still go on FOX or any number of “news” outlets and to any number of Conservative institutions and colleges and say whatever she pleases.

    I can fully understand, given the events of the last 17 years, why many Liberals feel it’s dangerous to give credibility to ANY Right wing ideology. Starting with the election of G.W. Bush and continuing through the country’s most dysfunctional Republican Congress of all time to the election of the most preposterous President any right-headed person could possibly imagine. What we’re seeing is a backlash against all of this. Liberals are worried and angry…and rightfully so. They feel it’s bad enough these people get to poison the minds of Americans on FOX news, through noxious talk radio and in various social media. They see the Alt-Right winning. Now they have to invite them to present their poison at a Progressive forum?

    For certain, i can commiserate with those wrongly accused of racism and intolerance…i’ve been there myself. It’s absolutely irresponsible to accuse people unfairly. But i have to side with the “Regressive Left” (if they are branded as such) when it comes to letting actual racists and crazies speak at an institution that is supposed to be a bastion for truth and reason.

    • Posted April 27, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Would you let Ben Shapiro speak?

    • Tom
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      “Entice a large minority to fall in with their cause”
      That I understood is the reason for all the hard work put in by all of those standing for any election.
      I believe you may not really understand the political reality Ms Coulter represents.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      For someone who cannot get on the bandwagon as you call it, you sure have a lot to say.

    • BJ
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      So, can you answer Hitchens’ core question: who would you nominate to decide what we can and cannot hear, read, or discuss? Do you know of any person who you believe would be an objective arbiter of such things? Can you give even one example of someone you would trust to decide who is and is not allowed to speak, and what we are all allowed and not allowed to speak about?

      • Posted April 27, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        I would choose Hitchens or someone like him, someone who wouldn’t censor anyone!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 27, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

        Yes, and that question’s been asked since the days of Juvenal.

        • BJ
          Posted April 27, 2017 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

          I know, it’s just that (and I’m sure you’ve noticed this, too), every time someone shows up to say that we should support some sort of censorship, they always completely avoid the questions of who will decide what is censored. They also always avoid the question of what will happen when their ideological opponents inevitably gain power.

          I just like to bring up questions like these every time someone supports censorship/banning certain kinds of speech because it demonstrates that they really haven’t thought it through in any way.

      • Alric
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:40 am | Permalink

        It is disingenuous to argue that you can’t tell that people like Ann Coulter and Milo are not bigoted trolls. They clearly malign groups of people based on their race or gender. I think when it’s obvious, it should be called.

        We already have people that adjudicate laws. Don’t you think we could write down, and figure out what is acceptable speech for a given situation? We could start by censoring speech that maligns a group of people based on race or gender. It is already a law under some circumstances that could be extended to speech.

        • BJ
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 5:40 am | Permalink

          It’s disingenuous? You do know how commonplace it is to call any criticism of left-wing ideology racist or sexist these days, yes? Moreover, it seems you’re suggesting we have some sort of court system decide these things. Who do you think appoints judges? I imagine you know the answer. So, we have conservative judges, liberal judges, middle of the road judges, etc. How are you going to get all those who don’t fully agree with your personal opinions of what is and is not bigoted or trolling to go along with your new proposed rules? And how are you going to ensure that all new judges appointed are those that agree with your rules?

          More importantly, why should any of us agree to your rules or assessments of what is and isn’t bigoted? Is it bigoted to say that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence? Many would say it is, as they would also say drawing a cartoon of Mohammed is. One could come up with nigh-infinity more examples of things that may or may not cross the “bigoted” or “trolling” line for some people, but not others.

          This is why free speech is so important, and what you refuse to understand.

        • GBJames
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 6:32 am | Permalink

          @Alric: I think it would be an interesting exercise for you to think about the speech-limiting rules that Jeff Sessions would enforce if he was put in charge of your speech-limiting panel.

        • Taz
          Posted April 28, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

          There are a lot of left wingers who also malign people based on their race and gender. Are you going to ban them? Or are you going to start picking and choosing which races and genders are protected?

        • Posted April 28, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          It is disingenuous to argue that you can’t tell that people like Ann Coulter and Milo are not bigoted trolls.

          I’d like the chance to confirm that for myself, thank you. If you censor their speech, how can I do that?

          In fact, I find it extremely offensive that some people think my critical thinking abilities are too weak to be exposed to people like Anne Coulter.

          Don’t you think we could write down, and figure out what is acceptable speech for a given situation?

          No, I don’t.

    • Zach
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      There is awesome validation power to giving a misanthrope like Coulter a forum at a Progressive campus.

      Yes, Berkley is a capital-P Progressive campus. Therefore only those with views that are coterminous with the Progressive project should be allowed to speak there.

      Meanwhile, conservatives can have their own Conservative campuses. By all means, let’s divvy up all public speaking spaces so we don’t have any messy ideological overlap. That way no one has to interact with anyone who thinks differently from them, and we can all get along with each other.

      What a perfect solution! I see no way for it to go wrong.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      “… giving credibility to them will always entice a large minority to fall in with their cause.”

      So, as Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest might put it, freedom of speech is fine, just don’t exercise it in front of the servants?

      Who decides which are the “little people” for whom free speech is verboten?

    • chaim
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      I don’t understand your post at all.

      Your point about a “minority” of people simply following her because she is given a place of authority is wrong on so many counts.

      1. If it’s a “minority” then it’s hardly an issue

      2. The phenomenon of people believing something because of authority is something common to all humans of all political believes. That’s why we allow different people to talk so we can get closer to the truth.

      3. She’s not being given a place of authority.

      4. You ignore people who are actually convinced by her arguments, and not because she validates their existing beliefs.

      Your point about her having other platforms is irrelevant to the argument. I’m astounded by your arrogance. YOU don’t get to decide what is and is not important to get discussed. If I want to invite Ann to speak, who are you to tell me otherwise? You also don’t get to decide what is and is not racist for the rest of us.

      Then you play the victim and excuse your fellow bigoted leftists. Pitiful. Yeah that 8 years of Obama must have been so rough on you. You poor thing!

      Do not speak of truth and reason as you are clearly lacking in both.

    • Nick
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      To echo another reply, who would you appoint to decide *for you*, what *you* were allowed to hear? The head of the university? The head of the student body? Gladys from Accounts?

      Perhaps the University should elect an Official Censor. Would you be ok with that?

      If not, then who gets to decide?

    • Alric
      Posted April 28, 2017 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      I’m with you 100% on this one. Conservative hate speech almost has an epidemiological infectious character to it, just like religion.

      • BJ
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 5:43 am | Permalink

        I like how you made the distinction of “conservative” hate speech. Left-wing hate speech is OK in your book; it’s only conservative hate speech about which you’re concerned. Radical feminists that say “kill all men” or that we should reduce the male population to 10% of what it currently is are, I guess, things you don’t really care about.

        Thank goodness we all have the protection of the First Amendment from would-be censors like yourself.

  17. BJ
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    My absolute favorite Hitchens speech. I’ve watched it dozens of times.

    If only he could do a tour of universities in the US and UK now. Could you imagine how ridiculous *he* of all people could make the regressives look?

    We miss you, Hitch, and we lost you just when we started to need you most. The world is so cruel that way (yet another point in favor of the nonexistence of a god).

  18. kelskye
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    “Let me assert, though I shouldn’t even have to”
    Of course you have to do it. This is like saying that you shouldn’t have to say the pledge of allegiance to someone who will take it as a sign you’re a communist.


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