We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Opinion

Ann Coulter's 'Free Speech' Scam

She's the one who denied Canadian students their freedom to criticize her repugnant views.

By Bill Tieleman 30 Mar 2010 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

image atom
Coulter: Double standard.

"They're 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." -- Ann Coulter

God bless the University of Ottawa students who did something in one night that millions of Americans have spent years hoping for -- they shut up Ann Coulter!

But don't call this a "free speech" issue. Coulter -- the ridiculously rabid right-wing American commentator, and federal Conservative Party activist Ezra Levant played the media like a cheap fiddle to make it appear she was muzzled -- not at all.

Coulter and Levant -- not the police, not the University of Ottawa -- cancelled her speaking engagement last week -- not because of a riot, or because violent protesters bashed down the doors -- but because it was a great publicity opportunity.

And most media bought it, hook line and sinker -- reporting that no matter how offensive Coulter's views are, they should be tolerated in a free and democratic society, especially at a university, blah, blah, blah.

What rubbish!

Well played, Ann

I strongly believe in free speech, including from obnoxious and blatantly intolerant people like Coulter and Levant. My blog is full of comments severely criticizing me and others -- and I welcome it.

But I also support the free speech of protestors to express their views -- legally and without violence -- which is exactly what happened.

It was Coulter and Levant who shut down their own event, denying anyone else their free speech right to say Coulter's views are repugnant.

The facts are clear for those who dig deep enough and avoid idiotically simplistic editorials and bad reporting.

But not for the Ottawa Citizen, which could barely contain itself: "The thuggery of student activists is a growing problem at Canadian campuses, but the spectacle at the University of Ottawa was truly a colossal embarrassment, for both the university and the city."

That's based on Levant's own self-serving inaccurate accounts, like this one: "2,000 people right now are pressed against the front doors, pressed against the police, refusing to allow people to come in," Levant said, adding that police and security had advised them it would be "physically dangerous" for Coulter to speak.

Or Coulter's gripping version: "The police called off my speech when the auditorium was surrounded by thousands of rioting liberals -- screaming, blocking the entrance, throwing tables, demanding that my books be burned."

No, the police didn't. No, 2,000 people were not pressed against the doors or the police -- ever.

What Ottawa Police spokesperson Constable Alain Boucher actually said was that they were concerned the venue was too small for the disorganized event, with an estimated 1,500 people inside and out, most waiting patiently to be admitted.

What about the "thousands of rioting liberals" err, protesters outside? "I wouldn't call them rioters. They were people there to voice their concerns," Boucher said.

Another officer estimated there were perhaps 200 protestors at most -- a student account said just 30 to 40.

So, was it a terrible assault on free speech? Or did some opportunistic right wingers convert their poorly-planned event into a cause celebre to sell tickets to other speeches while gaining international headlines for a fading demagogue?

The answer is obvious.

Levant's hypocrisy

As to free speech, consider that the totally hypocritical Levant actually applauded when his federal Conservative government banned an elected British member of parliament from entering Canada to speak!

George Galloway -- an outspoken pro-Palestinian MP whose views are often outlandish and always provocative -- was actually prohibited from entering Canada for a speaking event.

Not by a small group of protestors on one campus but by Canada's government, which strongly defended its ban on the absurd grounds that Galloway was a "threat to national security."

Really? One lone elected British member of parliament? Who was admitted into the United States on the same trip? What total garbage.

But Levant's defence of free speech disappears unless it involves himself or Coulter. When the Conservatives banned Galloway, Levant showed his true colours:

"I don't see this as a free speech issue; I see it as a sovereignty issue -- keeping out an undesirable foreigner who has no right to be here, and who boasts about violating our criminal code. Good riddance," Levant said.

Eek! A pie!

Of course, by not admitting Galloway into Canada, at least the renegade MP didn't have to deal with the sort of terrible threats facing Ann Coulter in Ottawa -- threats made openly on Facebook!

Here's what gruesome plans the Facebook fascists were hatching, according to Levant himself: "Vanessa Alexandra Peterson wrote: 'I wonder what the security would be like. I want to throw rotten veggies and eggs at her evil Barbie mask.' Saif Latif wrote: 'Somebody needs to throw a pie at her during her speech like they did at the University of Arizona.'"

Rotten veggies! Eggs! Even a pie! That's enough to make any gun-loving, military-backing, tough-talking freedom fighter crumble and run!

But let’s compare that to one of Coulter's more thoughtful free speech comments on violence:

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

That would be the convicted and executed right-wing domestic terrorist who blew up a federal government building in Oklahoma City with a truck bomb in 1995, killing 168 innocent people.

But hey, she realized her mistake and apologized: "Of course I regret it. I should have added 'after everyone had left the building except the editors and the reporters.'"

And then there are Coulter's free speech contributions to a tolerant world. Like when she said of Islamic nations: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Lessons learned

To recap, a right-wing American lunatic with a history of opposing free speech, making racist comments and espousing violence shuts down her own event and then blames a handful of student protestors for trying to exercise their right to tell her off.

A Conservative Party activist -- and the event's promoter -- then spins the story to a gullible media who mostly buy his codswallop and spread it around the world.

So whose free speech was really violated? I'd say it was that of the student protestors who were legitimately exercising their rights and are now being denounced for doing so, not the right-wing hypocrites who took advantage of them for their own gain.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Get The Tyee in your inbox

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

How do you like our new home page?

Take this week's poll