Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coulter, Free Speech, and a whole lot of nonsense.

While most of the damage is done, I'd like to think that Canadian, on the whole, are well capable of learning from this sort of mistake.

To that end, I've been wondering why nobody seems to be talking about the difference between inviting someone such as Anne Coulter to a debate, and inviting them to simply speak. Even with an attached Q&A period, there are vast differences between the two.

I simply adore a good debate. I'm not much of a debater myself (although some would argue that), but I have long enjoyed the formal format of the debate and it's ability to both allow for ideas to be expressed, and, moments later, allow for those same ideas to be questioned. A good debate might be considered to be one of the highest forms of human communications.

What baffles me is when an organization or institution seems to forget all about such a format and blithely invites contentious speakers under the general heading (and I simplify greatly) "We believe in Free Speech". Well, so do I, but I wouldn't want Coulter speaking to my kids without reasoned opposition at the same time. Nor would I want someone from the extreme left having the same access, again, without reasoned opposition from the other side. And that means a debate.

I cannot help but think that if organizers or officials had taken some time and energy to invite Coulter to a proper debate, the host institutions, their students and faculty, and citizens alike would have been glued to the proceedings. Some to see if Coulter would hold her own, some to see if her arguments would fall apart, some just to enjoy the spectacle. But the need for protest would have been largely, and appropriately, negated.

It is important for all of us to hear the voices of left, right, and centre. Sometime it's more important still to hear, or at least be aware of the voices that fall more to the extremes, as to think that these voices don't have followers is to be unbelievably naive. How better to understand the scope of belief systems operating on the continent than to hear those voices out... and hear them challenged at the same time.

When we do as we have done, we invite the systems in place to fail. We invite the protest, we invite the shrieking from the soapbox. And now, what was really a couple of hundred protester has turned into two thousand protesters threatening with "rocks and sticks". A little planning and wisdom could have showed Coulter for what she is. Instead, we handed the right-wing a couple boxes of ammunition. And more ammunition is the last thing the right-wing needs.

To close, I'll invite you to view a little bit of Coulter...  Enjoy.

And here's an interesting bit:

Really, you can find whatever you need about Anne Coulter with a quick Google or YouTube search. You don't need a speech at a University.