Thursday, March 25, 2010

Universities Can Tell Ann Coulter to Shut Up without Canada Becoming a Police State

Ann Coulter should certainly be allowed to speak freely, if only to demonstrate the ridiculousness of her opinions. And the official position should respect the public enough to differentiate for themselves between her shameless shit-disturbance and legitimate political discourse. And it has! Coulter spoke, insulted ethnic minorities and offended everyone unfortunate enough to wander into her sphere of toxicity. Then she got a letter asking her to watch her mouth. There is a significant difference between politely cautioning someone about the state of the law and "threatening someone with criminal prosecution". (The Vice Provost of the University of Ottawa does not have a say in who is and who is not prosecuted.)

Greenwald, however, is under the mistaken impression that what he calls "Canada's intrinsically subjective 'hate speech' laws" are responsible for this situation. He makes no mention of the Charter, nor this country's robust protections for political speech, instead equating a university official's letter with Big Brother-style thought policing.

Canadians' evident distaste for Ann Coulter has nothing to do with our laws, and everything to do with our advanced civil society. We're not a police state, we just don't countenance the pathetic infotainment that passes for political commentary in the United States. Unlike in America, our newscasters are more than babysitters waving shiny toys to keep us distracted between Cialis commercials. We're much the better for it. We allow political expression of all stripes, pushing social and political discussions to their logical limits in precisely the style of liberty John Stuart Mill envisioned. We just don't allow inflammatory hate speech. As a result we seem to have less hate.

Greenwald's main error is his conviction that all speech is of equal value. It is not. In a country as diverse as this one, verbal attacks on visible minorities serve no legitimate purpose, and are prohibited. This is not an arbitrary or draconian law, it's a progressive one. We have simply elevated the cliché of shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre to the national level. No sane country allows any person to say anything at any time. Such extremist libertarianism leads to real disasters, not to mention the Hobbesian breakdown of society. The theoretical underpinnings behind the cliché are the same as those which justify limiting hate speech against vulnerable groups.

Ultimately, Ann Coulter, abhorrent though she is, does not pass the threshold for hate speech. She would not be prosecuted in this country for the simple reason that she is not taken seriously enough to warrant such official sanction. But that doesn't mean a respected university must ignore public outcry and let this hateful woman take up valuable campus real estate to spew her self-aggrandizing filth.

Limiting Ann Coulter's exposure is a valuable public service. It's not evidence of our Canadian closed-mindedness. It's a demonstration of our good taste.

1 comment:

Ryan Marr said...

Did you have the hypertext links in mind while you were writing or did you go back after and add them?

Also, this article isn't to gather publicity for some kind of approaching Ken for treasurer campaign is it?

Because if it is you have my vote!