Ann Coulter and Freedom of Speech

Welcome back!
Well after weeks of travel back and forth across the continent, I finally got what I had proudly said I had avoided all winter......a cold! A ba-ad one at that. I am here in beautiful Saskatchewan in the middle of a two-day seminar surviving on cough drops, cough syrup and various concoctions from the mini-bar. That's the last time I dare to tempt the fates!

I'm sure many of you have read about the brouhaha over American polemicist Ann Coulter's cancelled speech at the University of Ottawa. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. So I penned this little piece of satire which was published Wednesday in the Ottawa Citizen:

For most of my life, I have been fascinated about the issue of limits of free speech. Perhaps it's my Irish background.  Combine it with the culture of 'political correctness' on our university campuses and you have a volatile issue for sure. I actually felt somewhat sorry for the university's vice president who escalated the issue by sending his email to Ms. Coulter cautioning her about Canada's approach to free speech. If you looked up the phrase  'PR disaster' that missive would pop right up. A quick read of it would pretty well tell you why it was destined to backfire:

When I was at university, one of the values that was central to my generation was contained in this famous line attributed (wrongly as it turns out) to Voltaire:
"I disapprove of what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Sadly, that value has been replaced by:
"I disagree with what you have to say, and I will fight with all I have to prevent you from saying it."

How did that happen?


  1. Hi Barry. I think "that" happened when Anne Coulter started confusing freedom of speech with freedom to debase people with pre-adolescent insults. Use a camel? Please.

    I like it when people say outrageous things that challenge my fondly held beliefs and prejudices. Someone like David Warren does that kind of thing very well; he ticks me off, but there is often a grain of truth in what he says. Coulter seems to comes at things with a grain of meanness. There is a difference.

    Unfortunately, the vp of the U of Ottawa didn't realize that, in sending a letter to Ms. Coulter, he was placing himself way out of his league and right into the jaws of his adversary. (There you go: two metaphors for the price of one. :-)

    - Paul

  2. Barry, I am no fan of Anne Coulter; but had U. of O. let her speak, she would have come, laid her egg and nothing would most likely have happened and some people might have even learned that some people are way out on the left and the right. Denying that they exist does not make them go away.
    Perhaps in future an invitation from U. of. O. to a speaker might read as follows:
    Dear Sir/Madam we would like to invite you to speak on our campus because we would like to hear what you have to say as long as you say what we like to hear. If you don't say what we want to hear we don't want to hear what you have to say - and please NO bullshit because we are Canadians! Or as noted by University of British Columbia Professor Alan Richardson – in Performing Bullshit and the Post-Sincere Condition (in Chapter 6 Gary L. Hardcastle and George A. Reisch, 2006, Bullshit and Philosophy – guaranteed to get perfect results every time, Open Court, Chicago):"No, Sir(Madam), I(we) cannot have been rude to you: I(we) am(are) Canadian."