The Canadian Independent

Duck the debate and lose, Win the debate and win

Posted in Blogs & Bloggers, Ontario, Politics by dave on March 21, 2010

The president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa has barred a volunteer organizer from putting up posters advertising the upcoming appearance of American right-wing columnist and political commentator Ann Coulter.

She is to talk about political correctness, media bias and freedom of speech Tuesday night at Marion Hall as part of a Canadian lecture tour. Canadian conservative political activist Ezra Levant will also speak at the event and introduce Coulter.

“The federation does not support Ann Coulter speaking on our campus,” said student president Seamus Wolfe. “We’re trying to work with the administration to see if we can ask her to do her speaking event somewhere else.”

This is becoming more and more common at University campuses in Canada. Student unions which are obviously leftwing in composition trying to duck debates about controversial topics (Abortion, global warming) and with controversial people (Ann Coulter.) So in order to duck these debates, they remove funding, support and “student space” for groups interested in those topics, and speakers they disapprove of.

I think this is well within their rights. I don’t think it is horrible attack on free speech that some people always like to make these issues out to be. This is an issue to be parsed by property rights, because in a free society, thats how we determine who has authority over what. The student union owns a student union building (often called “student space”), it has money that it can give out to people if it chooses, and can choose not to.

If the student union says that you can’t put up posters in their building, and that they’re not going to give your group or speaker any money, thats not a violation of free speech. Thats not a violation of free speech anymore than if I asked you not to host a meeting of the transsexual NDP caucus in my livingroom. Thats just individuals exercising the right to control their own property.

However, from a strategic standpoint, this kind of strategy is stupid. It takes an otherwise minor event and turns it into a huge struggle. It focuses media and internet attention on the issue. And it makes it look like the left is scared to have a debate. Its a strategy that makes the left look weak.

“There is an interesting line between what is free speech and what is hate speech,” he said. “As difficult as it is to navigate that boundary, Ann Coulter has a history of hate speech and we wouldn’t invite somebody who spreads hate to come to our campus.”

If it is true that Ann Coulter is hateful and awful and stupid, then it should be very easy to have the debate and win it, rather than trying to duck the debate, and in the eyes of public opinion, lose it.

This isn’t the first university that this has happened with on this issue:

via fivefeetoffury

via strictlyright