Loose Cannon: The Coulter trap
Wednesday, March 24, 20104 Comments
Civilized and reasoned aren’t in Ann Coulter's repertoire, but she knows exactly how to maximize exposure for her particu
Few people would relish the opportunity to hoist up Ann Coulter as a poster child for free speech.
But thanks to the circus surrounding the right-wing media pundit’s planned appearance at the University Ottawa – scuttled by a protest and concerns for Coulter’s safety – that’s what we got.
There was little question as to the academic value of Coulter’s speech. People got a taste of her “ideas” at the University of Western Ontario on Monday, the day before she was scheduled to appear in Ottawa.
It had all the trademark commentary one expects from an incendiary pundit. Her shtick was so well-worn it was almost comical to watch.
"There are only two things gay men can't do,” Coulter mused on same-sex marriage. “Number one, get married to each other. Number two, throw a baseball without looking like a girl."
Gay marriage? Canadians are so over it, Ann. Gays in our country are too busy excelling in business and politics to learn how to throw properly.
Coulter also said that Muslims barred from air travel should take “flying carpets” instead. A 17-year-old female Muslim student later professed during question period that she didn’t have one.
“Take a camel,” Coulter replied. Wow, those 60’s stereotypes still got zing!
Coulter’s routine is always the same, whether she’s ranting in a book, on FOX News or in person. She insults and antagonizes in a particularly cruel manner while contributing little to political discourse.
Sadly, the most important part of Coulter’s speech – her insistence that liberals use political correctness and intimidation to silence opposing views – was proven correct by her reception at the University of Ottawa.
First came the pre-emptive warning from Vice-president Academic and Provost François Houle, who sent an e-mail reminding Coulter that “our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or "free speech") in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States.”
“I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here,” Houle wrote.
He was careful to add that “what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.”
Judging from his comments, Mr. Houle has never actually heard Ann Coulter speak. Civilized and reasoned aren’t in her repertoire.
She is, however, quite intelligent. She knows exactly how to maximize exposure for her particular brand of smut. That includes playing off the passions of the strong left-wing presence at Canadian universities.
They didn’t disappoint, showing up en masse to disrupt the Ottawa lecture. In the end, Coulter’s bodyguards determined it was unsafe for her to proceed and cancelled the talk. Now there’s talk of a human rights complaint.
And so ends the Coulter saga. A Rush Limbaugh clone in a skirt managed to get herself shut out of a university campus, something that hasn’t happened at Harvard, Yale or any other institution of higher learning she’s visited.
Coulter achieved a masterful performance in the media, without ever opening her mouth. Yet some tried to turn the embarrassing ordeal into a victory for students’ sensitive ears.
“On campus, we promise our students a safe and positive space,” one Ottawa student protester said. “And that’s not what (Coulter) brings.”
If that’s what students at U of O are promised, they’re in for a rude shock on graduation day. In the real world, there are no protections from being offended, insulted or generally subjected to Coulter-style haranguing, nor should there be.
Helped along by student unions, university campuses in this country have become almost womb-like in their desire to maintain harmony at all costs. Generally, that means stifling any political expression to the right of NDP territory. I doubt any conservative figures in the U.S. would pass muster.
We didn’t get to hear Ann Coulter, but she still got her point across.
Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.
The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.