Thursday, 25 March 2010

Free speech in Canada [updated]

I'm no particular fan of Ann Coulter's. But it's not a great look when Canadian universities consistently cancel talks by conservatives or pro-Israeli speakers because of security threats from the left.
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.

Ms. Valeriano, a 19-year-old sociology and women’s studies student, said later that she was happy Ms. 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.”
Egads. Nothing of the hatred outside the hall then?

Colby Cosh weighs in nicely:
A crowd of columnists, tweeters, talking heads, and bloggers is already preparing to bore you with cynical proclamations that the Ann Coulter fiasco at the University of Ottawa was a “victory” for Coulter, that it was precisely the “martyrdom” she was looking for, and that it was “exactly what she wanted.” I would ask them to consider one question that is usually overlooked even by defenders of freedom of speech: what about the students’ right to hear Ann Coulter, or any other obnoxious political performance artist whose views they might like to entertain? Did they win too? Did they get exactly what they wanted? If we rebranded freedom to speech as the freedom to hear, as Robin Hanson has proposed, would the real nature of the harm be clearer?

When conservative students connect the dots and figure out that they too can assemble mobs and pull fire alarms—heaven forbid that there should ever be two sides to such undignified situationist power contests; the worst people are guaranteed to win no matter what—will we all greet that development with a dismissive sigh? (Would the Nazi metaphors stay locked in the drawer for very long?) One is tempted to compile a list of upcoming Canadian campus events featuring leftist speakers who have ever expressed a view objectionable to somebody or other. There must surely be about fifty of these a week, even if you don’t count ordinary scheduled classes. Ann Coulter’s safety is yours and mine. To which I feel I can only add: “Duh”.
I totally would have expected this at Concordia University, where a certificate of insanity from your local psychiatrist seems necessary for enrollment; I'm a bit surprised that it was the University of Ottawa this time.

Update: At least one UoO student is sensibly embarrassed about this.

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