Ann Coulter in Canada: Of Fire Alarms and Flaming Hyperbole
(Photo: Jimbo Wales, flickr)
After protesters at the University of Ottawa prevented Ann Coulter from giving a speech on Tuesday night, the American conservative writer said it proved the point she came to make – free speech in Canada leaves much to be desired.
Then she said what she really thought of the student protesters who surrounded Marion Hall, making it to unsafe, in the view of her bodyguard, for the pundit to attempt entry.
“The University of Ottawa is really easy to get into, isn’t it?” she said in an interview after the cancelled event. “I never get any trouble at the Ivy League schools. It’s always the bush league schools.”
Ms. Coulter said she has been speaking regularly at university campuses for a decade. While she has certainly been heckled, she said this is the first time an engagement has been cancelled because of protesters.
“This has never, ever, ever happened before – even at the stupidest American university,” she said.
In a short speech, [Ezra] Levant said Tuesday was “an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body, who could not debate Ann Coulter . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation, just like their vice-president did.”
Bollocks. Far from being ‘silenced’, as Levant boldly (and stupidly) contends, Coulter’s profile and her underlying thesis (such as it is) regarding so-called ‘PC’ tyranny have been greatly amplified by her trip to the Great White North (to the point where yours truly, someone who, long ago, pledged to avoid even mentioning the name ‘Ann Coulter’, much less posting about her, is now dutifully chronicling the nauseating twists and turns of Ann’s Excellent Canadian Adventure).
There was actually no physical threat, only heated, emotional outbursts from a crowd that had been whipped up to a frenzy by the inflamed publicity her entourage had stoked.
Coulter should have thanked the students protesting outside Marion Hall. Their performance has raised Coulter’s profile in the US. Media networks that had stopped inviting her to their talk shows are likely swamping her agent with booking requests.
Butbutbut poor Ms. Coulter was unfairly harrangued by an unruly, censorious mob of low-rent ”junior jihadists” (“It’s always the bush league schools”) hell-bent on shouting her down and setting her adrift on an ice flow (buddy).
(Photo: anewsocialcontract, flickr)
Maybe so, but, as Boris @ The Beav contends, perhaps the burning anger purportedly on display Tuesday night was indeed sparked by more than merely Coulter’s trademark deliberate provocation:
There are moments when a bit of incivility is required and acceptable. We’ve seen over the past few years of the Harper government a rise in the policies that support the sort of sentiments that Coulter advocates. The cases Abousfian Abdelrazik, Maher Arar, Omar Khadr, Mohamed Harkat, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the current fiasco with Rights and Democracy, etc etc, all suggest an insidious bent to the Harper government that Ann Coulter simply voices in plain language.
She becomes a symbolic target for the impotent rage that many of us feel toward the Harper regime and its perverse and fascistic fans. There is a link.
And if there was a mob, and it was unruly enough to shut down her little talk, fire alarms and all, then so be it.
This is what happens when bigots and fascists show themselves in public to spew their bile. This is also what happens when the public cannot find civil means (pay attention here, Opposition) of redressing the temperament and actions of a far-right minority government hell-bent on destroying the open liberal democracy that about 60 to 70% of us seem to support and enjoy. We find targets we can actually hit, and we push back.
True enough — still, at a certain point one has to carefully pick one’s battles. And, quite frankly, as dBo noted, this latest incident has only served to increase Coulter’s profile to a level of prominence that she hasn’t enjoyed in years. It would seem this thin line that separates righteous anger from useful idiocy is still being delineated (to the great delight of Coulter and Levant, no doubt):
Rita Valeriano was one of several protesters inside the hall who, with chants of “Coulter go home!” shouted down the International Free Press Society of Canada organizer who was addressing the crowd.
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.
Look, it’s bad enough that three Canadian campuses (including one in my hometown) have afforded a vile bigot like Coulter a stage to perform her trademark powersuit-wingnut vaudeville routine. But are they also contractually obligated to serve her up a heaping bloody plate of steak tar tar on a goddamn silver platter?
I think people like Coulter absolutely exult at the opportunity to put on the veneer of smoking martyr to free speech. Handing her that opportunity on a plate gives a professional rodeo clown far more credibility than she deserves.
Co-sign. DNFTT, kids. Srsly.
Still, my irony bone can’t help but be tickled by the notion that Ann Coulter of all people (in concert with Levant, Canada’s favourite wanna-be wingnut provocateur) might try to gin up a human rights case (to make a Very Important Point About Free Speech, natch) over “restraint, respect and consideration”:
Speaking to students and academics at the University of Western Ontario Monday, Coulter said the e-mail sent to her Friday by Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost of the University of Ottawa, targeted her as a member of an identifiable group and as such, she will be filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging hate speech.
“I’m sure the Human Rights Commission will get to the bottom of it,” Coulter said to loud cheers from the 800-strong audience. “I think I’m the victim of a hate crime here. Either what (Mr. Houle) did was a hate crime, or the whole commission is BS.”
Coulter’s targeting of the University of Ottawa administration and Canada’s Human Rights Commissions came at the end of a half-hour speech that attacked political correctness in the United States and the mainstream media, which she said was uncritical of the Obama administration and unfairly biased against conservatives.
“It’s almost like there is one standard for Conservatives and one completely different one for Liberals,” Coulter told the crowd, which alternated from cheering to booing depending on the topic of discussion, which ranged from gay marriage, illegal immigration to Obama’s health-care bill.
“A word is either offensive or it’s not. In a world of political correctness, all words are banned unless they’re used against conservatives.”
Yeah, Ann Coulter, longtime defender of speech rights (h/t Cliff):
“They’re [Democrats] always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let’s do it. Let’s repress them. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the First Amendment.”
Sweet, delicious irony — who needs heroin to give you that rush, eh?
Am sure Coulter’s basking in her own pseudo-narcotic haze from all the attention she’s receiving (yeah, yeah — I know. Shaddap.)