I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The "Tolerance" Warriors

Ann Coulter tried to give a speech yesterday at the University of Connecticut but had to stop 15 minutes into it because certain student groups attended the speech with the sole purpose of heckling her and, as intended, prevented her from speaking:

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter gave up trying to finish a speech at the University of Connecticut on Wednesday night when boos and jeers from the audience became overwhelming. Coulter cut off the talk after 15 minutes and instead held a half-hour question-and-answer session. . . .

Coulter's appearance prompted protests from several groups, including Students Against Hate and the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center. They criticized her for spreading a message of hate and intolerance.

Nearly 100 students gathered inside the Student Union for a rally against Coulter. About a half-dozen people held protest signs outside the auditorium.

Is it a sign of stupidity or just pathological self-absorption that these students (and so many others like them) can, with an apparently straight face, proclaim themselves to be the Standard-Bearers of "Tolerance" and then, under that same banner, engage in thug tactics to prevent speakers with different points of view from expressing those views?

I heard Ann Coulter a few weeks ago on television cackling and prattling on about how conservative speakers cannot visit college campuses these days without substantial security in tow. Sadly, that seems to be the case, as these sorts of incidents are not uncommon.

Why would anyone possibly think that using a form of force to prevent conservative speakers from speaking accomplishes anything other than allowing the "protesters" to vent petulant emotions and make themselves feel morally superior? These are just cheap, empty gestures by a bunch of coddled, self-important college students who want some of that 1960s protest glory without any of the work or substance.

Other than giving the "protesters" some sort of juvenile and undeserved sensation of self-satisfaction, all it does is make Coulter and her viewpoints appear more formidable and allows her supporters to claim, not without justification, that her opponents are unable to refute her views and therefore have to resort to trying to silence her.

Most of the crap that Ann Coulter spews is designed to get attention and often borders on the cartoonish. It's not exactly hard to refute. The "tolerance" warriors would be much better served actually doing the work to refute it rather than assuming that their views are so unchallengeably true and righteous that they need not refute anything and, instead, are bestowed with the right to coercively prevent divergent views from being aired.

Coulter has plenty of venues in which she can express her ideas. Thus, beyond being a despicable and quite intolerant objective to suppress her viewpoints, it is impossible to do so. So if one were really bothered by the things she says, refuting and discrediting those ideas would be a productive enterprise. Attending her speeches and screeching like a bunch of hungry children in need of a nap does nothing other than help Coulter do what she wants more than anything to do -- get attention and depict liberals as being devoid of substance, authoritarian and intolerant.

If nothing else, for the sake of their own dignity, if the tolerance warriors are going to continue to prevent people from expressing different views, they really ought to stop simultaneously pretending that they are defending "tolerance." The hypocrisy of that claim is too transparent for anyone other than them not to notice.

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