|At least they don't reproduce|
Ann Coulter vs. Berkeley, Round 2 - She refuses to speak when university says it would be safe and insists she will appear this week. Milo Yiannopoulos says he's coming back in the fall (Inside Higher Ed link): The fight over whether and when Ann Coulter will speak at the University of California, Berkeley, did not end with the university's invitation to her to speak there May 2.
Before that invitation was extended, the university had said it could not allow campus Republican groups to host her talk April 27 because of security concerns, and that she would have to wait until the fall semester. Amid charges that it was denying Coulter a platform due to her views (charges Berkeley officials repeatedly denied), officials regrouped and said they had found a location on campus where she could appear with security assured, on May 2.
But the fight is not over. Coulter is vowing to show up Thursday. And she's suggesting that she will sue Berkeley for insisting that she appear May 2 instead. The university, meanwhile, is accusing Coulter and her campus fans of distorting free speech principles, and putting the safety of Coulter and any who might attend her talk in danger.
Further, the university is arguing that a commitment to free speech does not mean that it has to agree to let Coulter appear at any time or any place -- and that its objections to her plans have nothing to do with her political views.
A letter from a lawyer representing Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation -- two groups seeking to bring Coulter to campus -- says that May 2 is an inappropriate date because it comes during the study period after classes end and before final exams. This date was selected, the letter says, to depress attendance and because Coulter will no longer be in the area to give a talk.
Further, the letter accuses Berkeley of a pattern of "similar silencing" of guest appearances of conservative thinkers. It cites the planned appearance of former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos in February, which the letter says was "canceled at the last minute on the pretext of being unable to provide adequate security."
Berkeley officials defended the right of Yiannopoulos to appear (amid considerable criticism from campus groups for not blocking him from appearing). The university called off the event as it was about to start, as noncampus groups engaged in violent protest and vandalism while student groups engaged in nonviolent protest.
In a letter back to the conservative groups' lawyer, Berkeley defended its actions. The Berkeley letter said that the campus groups bringing in Coulter signed contracts with her before conferring with the university about security issues. When Berkeley learned of the invitation, officials were concerned because of the violence that accompanied the Yiannopoulos visit to campus, and violent clashes among protesters in the city of Berkeley more recently. The university rejected the April 27 event based on "mounting intelligence that some of the same groups that previously engaged in local violent action also intended violence at the Coulter event."
Further, the university said that -- when security issues are involved -- student organizations don't have an absolute right to host events whenever they want. "Student organizations’ access to event venues on campus is subject to the availability of venues of appropriate size and the ability of the university to provide adequate security," the letter said. "Security risks of each event are evaluated independently. Differences in the management of event security have nothing to do with the university’s agreement or disagreement with the opinions of the speakers, but are based entirely on [the police department's] assessment of the security risks and the measures needed to minimize them."
Finally, the university said that it is untrue to say that Berkeley hasn't worked to allow conservative student groups to hold events, even those requiring security. "This semester, UC Berkeley has dedicated more resources -- in the form of staff time, administrative attention, police resources and cash outlay -- to facilitating BCR's [Berkeley College Republicans'] expressive activities than have been devoted to any other student group in memory. Dedicated staff and administrators have spent countless hours, including during weekends and vacations, working to enable BCR’s planned events and to maximize the possibility that those events can occur safely for the participants, the speakers, our students and others in our campus community."
|Must be allergies|
Whatever happens with Coulter this week, Berkeley appears likely to continue to be the focus of debates over free speech and security.
Speakers known for their inflammatory statements -- and for attracting both violent and peaceful protests -- are vying to visit the campus. Since Yiannopoulos tried to speak on campus in February, he has gone from a conservative hero to (in some circles) a conservative embarrassment. In February videos circulated in which Yiannopoulos appeared to defend sex between boys as young as 13 and older men.
Yiannopoulos has since said that his views were distorted and that he was talking about older teenagers, and that he opposes the sexual abuse of children. But the Conservative Political Action Conference withdrew an invitation for him to speak there, and Yiannopoulos all of a sudden became someone not just opposed by many campus groups for his rhetoric, but by conservatives as well.
But Friday, Yiannopoulos on Facebook announced his plans to return to Berkeley.
"I am planning a huge multiday event called Milo's Free Speech Week in Berkeley later this year. We will hold talks and rallies and throw massive parties, all in the name of free expression and the First Amendment," he wrote. "Free speech has never been more under threat in America -- especially at the supposed home of the free speech movement. I will bring activists, writers, artists, politicians, YouTubers, veterans and drag queens from across the ideological spectrum to lecture, march and party.
"Milo's Free Speech Week will include events on the UC Berkeley campus. We will stand united against the 'progressive' Left … Free speech belongs to everyone -- not just the spoiled brats of the academy … Each day will be dedicated to a different enemy of free speech, including feminism, Black Lives Matter and Islam. If UC Berkeley does not actively assist us in the planning and execution of this event, we will extend festivities to an entire month. We will establish a tent city on Sproul Plaza protesting the university's total dereliction of its duty and encourage students at other universities to follow suit."
So let’s not make Ann Coulter into a free speech martyr just yet because the University of California, Berkeley switched her speech dates from this coming Thursday, April 27, to a time and place that could assure her safety. That would be May 2.
Instead of being flattered that there are some people concerned for her personal well-being, Coulter’s not going to have it. In addition, the more she complains, the more it comes off as a less-than-fine whine.
There is good reason for the switched dates. Some people were actually thinking nice things about Coulter and showing concern, which is more than most of the public would. However, such is the price one pays for living life as the ever-provocative right-wing media persona of one’s own creation. She’s Bill O’Reilly in a dress. And I’m sure she’s upset to not be considered for his replacement. She’ll just have to make her noise elsewhere.
As I’ve long said, colleges and universities don’t have a “free speech” problem. They have a “how to present provocative speakers” problem.
And Berkeley has actually come up with a good compromise after it originally cancelled Coulter’s April 27 appearance.
Berkeley’s solution — a different date and a safer venue — actually makes common sense.
Of course, everyone seems to have a dog in this fight, from the Berkeley College Republicans that sent her the initial invitation, as well as the national conservative group, the Young America’s Foundation (which incidentally reported as footing the vast part of Coulter’s $20,000 speaking fee). And everyone is threatening legal action.
However, university spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the school was on solid legal grounds and spoke about putting public safety first.
“We are concerned about (Coulter’s) disregard for the assessment and recommendations of law enforcement professionals whose primary focus is the safety and well-being of our students and other members of our campus community,” Mogulof told the Washington Post.
I suppose a right-wing, pro-gun fanatic like Coulter would say we’d all be safer if everyone just showed up with their own guns. As I write the sentence, the notion is ludicrous.
However, I would like to see how much concerned she would have for her safety at a right-to-carry school like the University of Texas at Austin.
Instead, Coulter is all too willing to put herself up on a stake as if she were the First Amendment’s St. Joan. The symbolism is more appealing than anything.
Coulter’s part of the showbiz realm of politics, which Donald Trump has exploited to the extreme. More than actually speaking to the crowd, Coulter gets her jollies from the process of getting to the podium. The news generated from being cancelled, then offered a substitute venue, and then rejecting that and threatening legal action, does more for Coulter than actually giving the speech.
Whatever she was going to say would not be considered news. Rejecting a substitute venue makes Coulter news.
What gets lost in all the posturing is the real problem of adequate public safety at events that draw large numbers of outsiders — and potential disrupters.
The school’s solution made sense. Hold it during day hours when the dark of night is not an ally to protestors. And have it during a break period. Fewer students, sure, but those students who desperately want to meet Coulter will be there. And those who don’t will be away. Such a move also lowers the net potential liability to actual university community members. And the ones who want to see her and show up will be adequately protected by university cops.
A fair compromise. Personally, I would have had it while class was in session during the day. In a classroom, students who did want to ask questions and challenge Coulter could do so.
But again, that’s not really what Coulter or the young conservatives are interested in. It’s not about the public discourse. It’s all about the public show, and exploiting the legacy of Berkeley, the great public university that has its symbolic legacy of protest and free speech. And now they have a week’s work of buildup before any speech or discourse occurs.
Coulter gets much pub. And likely will get to keep a chunk of her $20,000 fee whether she speaks or not.
If she’s really interested in free speech, let’s see her volunteer to show up at a class. Forget the fee. Go to a lecture hall and teach without portfolio. (What does Coulter know compared to say Robert Reich, the former Clinton labor secretary who teaches there?) Talk for a while and take questions. Make it a class, not a rhetorical circus for media attention. Act like a scholar with something to say, instead of a blonde mannequin with something to sell — books, an image, a right-wing viewpoint. Let’s see if she actually belongs up there with the best professors speaking to the students of arguably America’s finest public university.
Who knows what will happen this week?
But if Coulter wants to keep playing free-speech saint, I’d settle for her showing up unannounced on Bancroft and Telegraph during the day with a bullhorn next to the mobile falafel stand. Let’s see who draws more — Coulter or the chickpea balls.