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March 30th 2010 print

Bill Muehlenberg

War against free speech

The radicals of the secular left seem to prefer coercive police states to genuine debate and a genuine exchange of ideas. That is their idea of tolerance and open-mindedness.

This site has documented numerous examples of the secular left squelching freedom of speech for anyone it deems to be politically incorrect. Indeed, whole books have been written on how the censorship and suppression of freedom occurs routinely in the Western world, especially in our universities.

The intriguing thing of course is that those who are doing all the heavy-handed Gestapo tactics are the ones who mouth off so much about tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness. But we all know that all this talk is just that – so much talk. They do not have the slightest tolerance for anyone who dares to disagree with their radical agenda.

Anyone who dares to hold a contrary view is deemed to be subhuman, and must be censored at all costs. Indeed, they have forfeited their right to freedom of speech according to secular left, and must be prevented from having a public hearing.

I recall seeing at a Melbourne university a few years ago a large poster which stated, ‘Prevent Hanson from speaking’. It referred to a speech which Pauline Hanson was meant to deliver there. Academia of course was once known as a place of free inquiry and open expression.

Today the academy is all about the stifling promotion of Political Correctness and the censorship of alternative viewpoints. There are countless examples of this that one can point to. One quite recent example has to do with American conservative Ann Coulter.

She was supposed to give a talk at the University of Ottawa. However it never happened. You see, all the ones who shout about tolerance the loudest showed their true colours. Their real tolerance came to the fore, and she was not able to give her lecture.

One media report says this about the incident:

A spokesman for the organizers said Coulter was advised against appearing after about 2,000 ‘threatening’ students crowded the entrance to Marion Hall, posing a security threat.

As one conservative spokesperson said,

It would be physically dangerous for Ann Coulter to proceed with this event. This is an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation."

The report continues,

A protest organizer, international studies student Mike Fancie, said he was pleased they were able to stop Coulter from speaking. ‘What Ann Coulter is practicing is not free speech, it’s hate speech,’ he said. ‘She’s targeted the Jews, she’s targeted the Muslims, she’s targeted Canadians, homosexuals, women, almost everybody you could imagine’.

Well there you have it. If you want to silence the opposition from speaking, simply label their ideas “hate speech” and that’s the end of it. Have concerns about the radical homosexual agenda? Well, that’s hate speech. Think that militant Islam might be a cause of concern? That’s hate speech as well.

The irony of all this is that while the University of Ottawa is quite happy to prevent someone like Coulter from speaking, they are quite happy to embrace enemies of free speech like Fidel Castro. As Humberto Fontova explains, they seem to have quite different ideas about freedom over there:

In his cautionary letter to Ann Coulter before her recently scheduled speech at the University of Ottawa, the institutions’ provost, Francois Houle, explained that: ‘Our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or ‘free speech’) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States’.

Ann Coulter offers some commentary on this sad debacle:

Since arriving in Canada I’ve been accused of thought crimes, threatened with criminal prosecution for speeches I hadn’t yet given, and denounced on the floor of the Parliament (which was nice because that one was on my ‘bucket list’). Posters advertising my speech have been officially banned, while posters denouncing me are plastered all over the University of Ottawa campus. Elected officials have been prohibited from attending my speeches. Also, the local clothing stores are fresh out of brown shirts. Welcome to Canada!

She mentions that provost Houle sent her a letter “in advance of my visit in order to recommend that I familiarize myself with Canada’s criminal laws regarding hate speech. This marks the first time I’ve ever gotten hate mail for something I might do in the future.”

She continues,

What other speakers get a warning not to promote hatred? Did Francois A. Houle send a similarly worded letter to Israel-hater Omar Barghouti before he spoke last year at U of Ottawa? … How about Angela Davis, Communist Party member and former Black Panther who spoke at the University of Zero just last month? Or do only conservatives get letters admonishing them to be civil? Or – my suspicion – is it only conservative women who fuel Francois’ rage?

I’m sure Canada’s Human Rights Commission will get to the bottom of Francois’ strange warning to me, inasmuch as I will be filing a complaint with that august body, so I expect they will be reviewing every letter the university has sent to other speakers prior to their speeches to see if any of them were threatened with criminal prosecution.

Indeed, lefties can come and go quite freely on campuses around the West.

By contrast, conservative speakers are regularly subjected to violent attacks on college campuses. Bill Kristol, Pat Buchanan, David Horowitz and I have all been the targets of infamous campus attacks. That’s why the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute (a sponsor of my Canada speeches) and the Young America’s Foundation (a sponsor of many of my college speeches) don’t send conservatives to college campuses without a bodyguard.

She describes how free speech operates in Canada:

The police called off my speech when the auditorium was surrounded by thousands of rioting liberals – screaming, blocking the entrance, throwing tables, demanding that my books be burned, and finally setting off the fire alarm. Sadly, I missed the book burning because I never made it to the building.

Coulter concludes:

If a university official’s letter accusing a speaker of having a proclivity to commit speech crimes before she’s given the speech – which then leads to Facebook postings demanding that Ann Coulter be hurt, a massive riot and a police-ordered cancellation of the speech – is not hate speech, then there is no such thing as hate speech. Either Francois goes to jail or the Human Rights Commission is a hoax and a fraud.

I recently shared a platform with Australian writer Hal Colebatch at an overseas conference. He was speaking of the steady decline of the West, especially as witnessed in the UK. He catalogued one PC atrocity after another. Yet one questioner in the audience asked why all this was such a big deal.

Colebatch offered this trenchant reply: “It’s either civilisation or barbarism”. Quite so. What was played out at the University of Ottawa and hundreds of similar places is nothing but the descent into barbarism. Enraged mobs threatening speakers and stifling free speech is indeed the end of civilisation.

It is also the end of freedom and the end of democracy. But the radicals of the secular left do not seem to mind. It seems they prefer coercive police states to genuine debate and a genuine exchange of ideas. That is their idea of tolerance and open-mindedness.