Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ann Coulter and Free Speech

The First Amendment, specifically free speech, is taking a beating lately. It is a striking reality of our times that in an era of proliferating free speech delivery systems (the one I'm using right now being unimaginable twenty years ago), the old fashioned, retail variety is getting hammered. Witness the unseemly spectacle unfolding at Berkeley.

Writing a blogpost defending the likes of Ann Coulter is much like kissing your sister, appropriate at times, but highly unsatisfying. In the early days of her ascendancy, I liked her books and even bought a few. She was fresh and provocative and the women had a flair for the biting phrase. She had a swashbuckling style which appealed to the bomb-throwing cynic in me. But, with each passing year she has been transformed into something outlandish, a cartoon character committed to nothing higher than being noticed. Her views have taken on a nastier, more brutish tone, and I have soured on her schtick. Of course, it's possible that she hasn't  changed at all, but rather I have changed over the years. Nevertheless, Ann Coulter has the right to speak at a tax-payer funded institution of alleged higher learning if she is invited.

There are people out there who hold views which I find infuriating and unconscionable. There are people who, when given the chance, disparage my country with the vilest slanders imaginable. According to these sort of people, my country is the focus of evil in the world. America, in their telling is a lying bully, roaming around the world sowing discord. We are responsible for all of the world's problem because of our capitalism, our consumerism, our power. They give us and our 240 year history no credit for anything positive, in fact, have created cottage industries out of revising the history of this nation to turn every good thing we have ever accomplished as a people into something unrecognizable. Diabolical motives are assigned to every positive development. The Founders? Nothing more than rich, slave-holding men with white privilege trying to enrich themselves. The Bill of Rights? An overhyped, veiled attempt to restrict the power of the government. Fighting a Civil War to end slavery? Nothing noble about that, just a bunch of money grubbing oligarchs trying to expand their markets. Democracy? Nothing more than a bourgeois obstacle to be overcome in the long arduous journey towards the utopia which will be the worldwide victory of the Proletariat and the glorious future of Communism.

People who believe these things stand at lecterns every single day in Universities all over this country. Many of them enjoy tenure. No matter how far out of the "mainstream" of contemporary thought they might be, their positions are secure, their right to spread their views unchallenged.

But, somebody invite Ann Coulter to speak to a couple hundred people, and all hell breaks loose.

Here's the thing. When I was in college, occasionally I would have to sit through a lecture given by a Marxist. I would listen. It was uncomfortable. I objected to most of what was said, but I listened. Mostly because I had no choice. I was a captive audience, because he was my Professor. I am aware of no requirement that anyone at Berkeley has to attend Ms. Coulter' speech. If  Angela Davis had been invited to campus when I was there, wild horses couldn't have dragged me to hear her. But, it never would have occurred to me back in 1980 to try to prohibit Angela Davis from speaking. This is what I don't understand about the modern University experience. If someone with whom you disagree gets invited to speak, you have to make an ass out of yourself by shouting him down? What's so liberal about that value? That's just acting like a spoiled child.

Here's my suggestion for the leftist radicals at Berkeley....let the woman speak. Then go back to class and be comforted by the next lecture in your America As Cultural Rapist class.