Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I suppose this is one of those posts that needs to be loaded up with disclaimers up front. No, I do not dislike Canada. I lived there as a child, and as an adult I've decided that Canadians are much sturdier than, say, most Europeans. Yes, I enjoy Ann Coulter's speaking and writing. No, I don't agree with everything she has ever said or written. Yes, she is my friend.
Naturally, therefore, I've been enjoying her adventure in the Truth North. Conservative groups have sponsored Ann to speak at several Canadian universities. The provost of one of those august institutions, the University of Ottawa's Francois Houle, saw fit to write a letter to Ann that warned her of possible prosecution if she violates Canada's speech laws. Ann responded by promising to file a complaint with the Canadian human rights commission, which has famously gone after conservatives for expressing opinions about Islam (Ezra Levant, for example, for republishing the "Danish cartoons"). Fire with fire, and all.
As events transpired, a mob of lefty demonstrators physically prevented Ann from speaking and effectively shut down the event. One almost needs to catch one's breath to comprehend it: Canadians, who are usually violent only on the rink and in Afghanistan, invoked the "violence veto" to prevent speech at a university.
Suffice it to say that Ann's column on these events is literally laugh-out-loud funny. It will not help her case before the very self-important human rights commission, but it should because it exposes prior restraints on political speech -- and that is what the provost and the mob imposed -- as nothing other than partisan politics by another means. We will learn a lot about freedom in Canada as this case progresses.
Ann's experience at the U of O echoes a similar case at the University of Iowa more than 40 years ago. The Students for a Democratic Society -- the infamous SDS -- prevented Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein from speaking, again for political reasons. My father, a professor of history at the time, stepped forward to protest Herrnstein's ejection, and in the process taught me and many others an important lesson about freedom of speech. I wrote about it in his eulogy years ago, and so very much wish he were alive to see Ann wage much the same battle almost four decades later.
The men of the U of O have always had, as their primary objective, having sex with one another. No female, American, Canadian or otherwise can be permitted to limit their fudge packing. They are so afraid of the truth!!!
What I read on a blog (unfortunately don't have the link) is that there *weren't* that many protestors, the U of O was just looking for an excuse to shut down her speech. I'm not a big Coulter fan but her treatment was outrageous.
Canada's most valuable export may be comedy, but its chief export is smug self-righteousness.
I watched and interview on FNC yesterday between Megyn Kelly and some Canadian woman named Susan. Susan insisted that there is vibrant free speech in Canada and in the next breath insisted that Ann Coulter was not free to speak her mind. Like the Red Queen, she defined free speech to be whatever she wanted it to be.
> Repetition is a good teacher. The Progressives use that approach every day; they learned the technique from Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels.
It may feel good to demonize your enemies by comparisons with Nazis, but it's a really counter-productive thing to do. It's more of an emotional "F--- you" than any substantial contribution.
If Ann Coulter really was treated this way, then that treatment is absolutely contrary to free society. And those responsible should be exposed as hypocrits, and should be held accountable. Even to the degree of legal action, if that is appropriate.
But comparisons to Nazis do nothing to further that goal. No one is going to take you (or your statement) seriously when you compare some stuffy university idiots to Nazi Germany. A comparison to Nazis *weakens* your claim; it doesn't strengthen it.
I'm not going to play the victim card -- none of my family died in concentration camps, etc. But I have learned a lot about WWII and its causes and effects, and it's really annoying how often people reach for comparisons to Nazi Germany. It's a rhetorical crutch, and when people use it, I know that they generally don't have anything substantial to say, or they would have said it.
If you want to expose these academics for the hypocrits they are, focus on *their* behavior and their claims. And then pointedly demonstrate that their claims don't match their behavior -- they claim to love free speech, and they attack (even physically threaten) a woman who would invoke that right. THAT is the crime here -- not Nazi bogeymen. Nazis are a distraction from the real crime.
I'm not a fan of Ann -- I opened one of her books at random at a book store, and *immediately* saw a comparison to Nazis, and I just rolled my eyes and threw it down. But I would attend a talk, provided none of my money went into her pocket.
He wasn't comparing Canada, or the UofO protestors, to "Nazi Germany". He was talking about methods and approach, and comparing their means of dispute to lessons learned from Goebbels. A much different comparison, and far less sweeping, than you would have it.
By the way, we shouldn't be afraid to learn from history or comparisons to historical figures. Prominent figures from totalitarian regimes have much in common with each other in means of dispute and argumentation, most especially socialist regimes of any 20th century stripe (Nazi to Stalin to Mao, and all in between). I think he was making a valid comparison.
As far as Ann Coulter goes, I generally shy away from absolute certainty in other people, finding the certainty disquieting. She has that quality. Pundits, though, get paid to take positions and defend those positions like the Pennsyvania, NY and Vermont troops defended Cemetary Ridge at Gettysburg: to the last man. She's a typical pundit in that respect, and if it's an acceptable quality in lefties it ought to be equally acceptable in her. But leftists students, true to the lessons advocated by their historical mentors (like Goebbles) weren't having any of it in this instance.
Her more outrageous comments make people uncomfortable, and are probably intended to do so. I presume her goal is to make her audience actually consider a point of view that they normally wouldn't be willing to entertain, especially given the university audience she was addressing. She probably thinks they are so close minded that only something outrageous would penetrate. Just my guess. They've given her a much larger stage now than she would have otherwise had, and the next time a conservative pundit is invited to the UofO they'll have an easier time being heard (I'll bet) thanks to her outrageousness. We should all be thankful for that.
If Ann Coulter really was treated this way, then that treatment is absolutely contrary to free society.
Canada is not a free society by US standards and hasn't been for quite some time.
Their harsh restrictions on free speech and government censorship of media would shock most Americans were they aware of them.
Seriously, sending a letter to Ann Coulter, asking that "while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind." What was he thinking? Agreed, he should know better.
He was talking about methods and approach, and comparing their means of dispute to lessons learned from Goebbels. A much different comparison, and far less sweeping, than you would have it. [...] I think he was making a valid comparison.
Ah, that's true. The more specific the comparison is, the more likely that it actually has some merit -- that it actually means something. Comparisons to Nazis are more common on teh Interwebs than dandelions in my back yard, so it's easy to gloss over the fact that a specific comparison might actually have something to say.
Don Cox writes:
The main person to blame for this nasty episode is Houle. Students are young and easily misled, but he is a senior university officer and should know better.
Exactly. He's intentionally manipulating people, by making them think that they are taking the idealistic "high" position. They think they are suppressing evil -- Ann, or what Ann might say -- and they don't realize that it is the suppression itself that is evil. And now, he has confounded any substantive position that he might take against her, with his cowardly attack on her ability to speak. Nice one, dude.