I was going to put up another chapter of the history of the Church in Toronto, (yeah yeah, no one cares. I'm writing it anyway) when recent news events inspired a different post. I will instead post about Ann Coulter cancelling her scheduled talk at University of Ottawa last night, after protests by about 2,000 'threatening' students.
First, let me say I don't much care for Coulter. I find her neither a gifted writer nor a deep thinker. She dismisses complicated problems with an oversimple stroke of her clumsy pen. Her writing style leaves me cold. She uses easy targets and blithe statements to score easy points against her enemies. I remember reading a few of her posts, and every one of them, no matter what the ostensible topic, contained a jab at Ted Kennedy and his drinking, rather like Old Cato ending every public statement with "And furthermore, I say Carthage must be destroyed!" only "And furthermore, I say Ted Kennedy is a drunk!" In other words, rather than argument she gave cant, cheap shots, and glibness. In addition, she has in the past made several rather petty remarks about my homeland, so I am not inclined to care for her much. All of this is a way of saying I would not bother myself to cross the road to go to a free talk of hers.
That being said, I am appalled that once again the paladins of tolerance came out in the name of tolerance and shut down someone with whom they disagree, doing it, I repeat, in the name of tolerance. Irony is lost on academics. Incidentally, they just gift wrapped and hand delivered to her a metric ton of material about the left and more fodder for her glib attacks on my home.
In my wasted time in academia, I had many, many, many encounters with the Left. They were everywhere, and I even flirted with the Left for a time. From experience I say the academic left has a huge, gaping blindspot: they so sincerely believe themselves to be absolutely right, it is a complete mystery to them that any educated person could ever possibly disagree with them. Their reaction to anyone who thinks differently than themselves is, at first, confusion and disbelief. How is it possible, they think, for someone to be so blindingly wrong?
It is this blindspot which makes them so unaware of their own irony. It could be seen several years ago, when Parliament was to have a free vote on the subject of Same Sex Marriage, (free vote meaning the members of Parliament were free to vote according to conscience and not according to party lines), and the leader of the NDP (New Democratic Party, or our Left Party. Conversely, the No Democratic Party, as shall be seen) declared the free vote did not extend to his party, and his party would vote as a bloc in the name of freedom, rights and democracy. It can be seen here, when in the name of tolerance the students and some staff at U of O shut down someone with whom they disagreed.
They are sincere in their beliefs, which makes them so dangerous. They believe they are not stepping on anyone's rights when they attempt to pass their laws limiting speech or action, because they are only enacting laws against that which should not be done. In their opinion, they did not step upon free speech last night, because, in their opinion, the person who was to speak should not have been speaking in the first place.
What convenient fools. Whatever happened to the old left? Who still remembers the darling of the Left, Voltaire, and his famous dictum: "I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death over your right to say it?" A University was once a place where ideas were encountered and debated freely. Had the students attended her speech and fiercely debated her ideas with her, I may have applauded them for acting in the tradition of academic freedom. Instead they shut her down, and turned their university from a place where new ideas are encountered to, a place for the propagation of ideas, to a place of propaganda, and the silencing of voices not currently acceptable. Then they declared victory for freedom and tolerance. I don't agree with Coulter, but I believe the best response, the most intelligent response, is to debate her ideas, not try and silence those ideas altogether, and in so doing give her a ton of free advertising and time on the news and commentary on blogs such as this. Congratulations, U of O. We are all a little dumber for your actions last night.