March 25, 2010

"Free" Speech and "Positive Spaces" in Canada

Monique Chartier

A rowdy crowd (notice that, in the interest of avoiding "hate" speech, I didn't say "mob") succeeded in preventing Ann Coulter from speaking at the University of Ottawa Tuesday evening. Is it too obvious, by the way, to point out the irony that "hatred", the offense that Ann Coulter is purportedly guilty of, was not lacking on the part of those who so vigorously opposed her speech? Perhaps, if he is finished instructing Ms. Coulter as to what she can and cannot say, University of Ottawa Vice-President François Houle can clarify under what circumstances hatred and hate speech are acceptable.

But the gem of the story from the Ottawa Citizen is in bold.

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.

First of all, there's the incongruity of the stated goal of a "safe and positive" campus with the "welcome" given to Ann Coulter, which seemed neither positive nor particularly safe. Secondly, should this even be a goal for a university? Ms. Valeriano's description conveys an unhealthy cross between Sesame Street and Stepford Town. Sesame Street is fine for children. But isn't it better for young adults to begin learning that the world is not always a safe and positive place? Further, and perhaps most importantly, what is being filtered out to achieve that goal?

Minimally, for one evening, it appears that speech was filtered. Under that circumstance, "safe and positive" can quickly restrict learning and even free thinking. This would be counter-productive, to say no worse, for an institution of higher learning.

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I would hope that the people who invited Coulter to speak would do the same to every left-leaning speaker that was brought to campus. I understand that Canada is not the United States and doesn't use our free speech laws, but I would hope that Canadians believe in similar ideals. If you don't want to hear what she has to say, then don't go listen to her. Some people wanted to hear what she had to say, so let them.

And why didn't the University prevent the protesters from disrupting the speech, as I'm guessing they would from protesters against a more liberal speaker?

Posted by: Patrick at March 26, 2010 7:55 AM

Yawn.....who cares about this horrible woman? You are acting like she is somehow part of the actual political dialog in this country, as opposed to being a comedian and entertainer who gets highly paid for being a a-hole.

If they don't want Ann or Howard Stern speaking at their school, they have a right to protest....just like the tea party.

Tell me, did they have signs with guns on them and dressing her up as a witch doctor?

Posted by: Stuart at March 26, 2010 9:07 AM

As opposed to our resident Leftists who are paid nothing for being 'holes.

Coulter has a number of advantages over them:

1. Except when she is obviously going over the top on purpose for satire, everything she says is factually correct.

2. She is genuinely funny.

3. Her humor is based on exposing the contradictions between Liberals' preaching and their behavior.

Lefty humor is limited to mere name calling and lying - it is bitter, but not funny.

Posted by: BobN at March 26, 2010 10:32 AM

Do they have a right to protest? I frequently hear about the "rights" people have when speaking about incidents in other countries. Maybe Canada has all the same rights as we do in America, but its pretty assumptive.

And don't students also have a right to have her on campus? Why do the protesters get to shout her down and waste all that time and money for the students who do care.

Agreed that she's an entertainer, not much more. But is that right if say Bon Jovi comes to campus to play a concert and a group doesn't want him there and shows up with louder speakers and "shouts" down the band? Does that make sense? Or Jon Stewart? Or Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann? It's ridiculous that anyone gets shouted down. If you want to protest, stand outside the building and walk in circles holding signs. Don't go in to the event and disrupt it, whether it's liberal, conservative or tea party. It's just a matter of class.

Posted by: Patrick at March 26, 2010 10:35 AM

First, my take on Ann Coulter. I regard her as a comedian whose humor I find refreshing. I also think she is getting a little old for miniskirts.

That said, let's look a little closer to home. Has there been any permanent stain on Brown's honor resulting from the destruction of the college paper containing an ad which the student's didn't approve of? Was any serious action ever taken?

I am hesitant to criticize foreign universities while our own house is in disorder.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 26, 2010 1:24 PM

This is precisely the kind of reaction Adam's Apple Annie tries to gin up from her side. It's called being hoisted up by your own petard.
To borrow from one of Ann's greatest hits, she'll just ask al-Qaida to fly its next plane into Canadian dorms.

Posted by: rhody at March 26, 2010 5:30 PM

Nah,better into a Berkeley or Brown faculty conference.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 26, 2010 6:02 PM

Well, back in my day the beatles sung "if you go carrying picture of Chairman Mao, then you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow!"......

I'd say the same thing about this scary stickface! If she is your type - good luck, my friends!

If she was the last man on earth I still would not either laugh at his jokes know, I wouldn't attempt to remake the world from our babies....better to let humans die out and start again from the ooze.

Posted by: Stuart at March 26, 2010 11:11 PM

So,what Stuart is saying is....she's nearly as bad as rachel madcow.
Laura Ingraham is actually much more sensible than Coulter,but that isn't the point here.Why is Coulter so objectionable when soft headed academics "invite" death row cop-killer Abu Mummia Jamal to give a commencement?

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 27, 2010 6:32 AM