Hate speech, free speech...or just Ann Coulter?

When American right-wing maven Ann Coulter was shut down in Canada, she resorted to type—she went feral—but the whole incident brings in to focus the fine line between free speech and hate speech

Ann Coulter is one of those right-wing American protagonists most people would not invite into their own home, but there is something fascinating about someone who gets off on her own capacity to be so consistently arrogant, nasty and offensive.

And so, when protesters shut down her speech to the University of Ottawa last night, Coulter’s trade mark razor sharp tongue was ready for action. She went feral. Trouble is, those who pulled the welcome mat from the university only added to her platform. Free speech, perhaps unfortunately, includes the verbiage of the far right, as well as the far left.

Shutting out Coulter gave her more of the attention she so obviously craves…and it managed to combine two of her favourite targets, Muslims and Canadians.

The anti-Coulter focus followed her rantings earlier this week when at the University of Western Ontario she claimed all terrorists are Muslims and they shouldn’t be allowed to fly. When a Muslim student asked her about such comments Coulter told the student if she didn’t have a flying carpet she should take a camel.

On Planet Coulter that little treasure is described as satire. In the real world it is of course ignorant, racist and offensive.

Surprise, surprise it didn’t go down very well in a university environment, let alone a Canadian university environment, and students at the next destination on Coulter’s speaking tour—Ottawa University—decided to block a repeat performance.

Right move because Coulter really doesn’t merit the attention; wrong move because universities should be able to tolerate bigots, even if it sticks in the academic craw. After all there is precious little academia involved in the modus operandi of Coulter and her ilk at Fox News who make millions out of the poor suckers who take seriously their deliberate fear mongering—particularly of Arabs and terrorism. She whips up as her stock and trade blatant racism and ices it all with such arrogance that she is a particularly unattractive package.

Canadians, like Kiwis, live to some extent in the shadows of their larger neighbours. Unfortunately perhaps for Canada, it is physically attached. Coulter seems to be worried about that more than most.

In the past she has openly despised French Canadians, because they speak French, but she’s very happy to acknowledge as neighbours the English speaking Canadians, the cowboys and the right wingers, and she believes the US should take over the ski fields and other things of use that Canada has.

She believes the worst Americans go north to help the Canadian population, and by ‘worst’ she means those who are “draft dodgers” or have refused to fight in Iraq.

She believes Canada is “lucky” to be “allowed” on the same continent as America, and on a clip that was once widely available electronically she told Canadians they were “lucky we (America) didn’t just roll over one night and crush them”.

I know that says more about Coulter’s bed partners than we would really want to know, but truly you could not make up this stuff.

So back to the universities of Canada….

Once denied her speaking platform, this woman scorned is to be avoided.

The Calgary Herald reported her reaction was of course to belittle the University of Ottawa and, by implication, the low level of intelligence required to be accepted there. Tempting to add Coulter to the list of those refused given she didn’t get actually get through the doors either.

Coulter of course resorted, as she tends to do, to reference to her Ivy League status and proclaim that she never had any difficulty with the Ivy League schools listening to her dissertation on free speech, political correctness and the like.

Even the “stupidest American university” hadn’t actually stopped her from speaking.

She referred to the U of O as a “bush league school”. Note that is ‘bush’ with a small ‘b’, which should be a relief to all Canadian universities.

Coulter does not have the mortgage on spite, but surely she should be permitted to be part of the debate, whatever that may be.

By avoiding just the sort of big spectacle of Coulter being banned denies oxygen to her deliberately controversial stance. She may well believe some of the stuff she says. She may not. But by shutting her down she claims the “free speech” moral high ground.

By letting her speak she is better than anyone at making herself look ridiculous to all but those who believe America is indeed the sacred empire to which we should all be grateful for our existence, Obama is evil and not even an American, and gays and the mainstream media are fair game for attack and ridicule. Let her go.

If you truly despise someone like Coulter don’t attend her speeches.

If you have time for a good laugh, google Coulter.