Free speech is at the core of the United States’ foundation. Protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, free speech allows Americans to share their diverse opinions without fear of restraint or censorship. Stopping controversial figures from speaking on college campuses restricts conversations that should not be swept aside.
Ann Coulter has awful opinions. As a social and political commentator, writer, syndicated columnist and lawyer on the far right, Coulter does not hesitate to make her racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and elitist beliefs known. There are a lot of absurd quotes that can be attributed to Coulter, but here are some of the most notable:
"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."
If those comments are not sufficient in demonstrating her exclusive ideology, she also wrote an entire book, In Trump We Trust, in which she pledged her support for Donald Trump as president– a candidate who based his campaign on making America “great” (read: great for straight, white, wealthy, Christian men) again.
In April 2017, Berkeley College Republicans and Young America's Foundation at the University of California, Berkeley, planned to have Ann Coulter speak on campus. However, after concerns that a violent protest may have erupted started to arise if she spoke, YAF withdrew their support and sponsorship for the speech, UC Berkeley attempted to postpone the speech and Coulter ultimately decided to refrain from speaking altogether. According to Coulter’s Twitter, she deemed the situation as a “dark day for free speech in America” and Berkeley as a “radical thuggish institution.”
Even if Coulter has opposing viewpoints from some Cal students, she nevertheless should have been able to speak. College campuses, especially UC Berkeley, are extremely susceptible to the “liberal bubble”– living in a politically-homogeneous environment– and often forget that some may hold viewpoints other than their own. By discouraging Coulter from speaking on campus, Berkeley effectually prevented creating a much-needed dialogue in a time where Democrats and Republicans are more divided than ever. Yes, Coulter is an extremely problematic political figure; her beliefs attempt to invalidate the humanity of nearly every marginalized group of people, and she is basically the living nightmare of anyone fighting for equal rights. However, preventing her from speaking conceals the fact that we still live in an America in which people who hold these kinds of beliefs exist (take a look at our government’s current administration). Coulter is going to offend Berkeley students, and people in general, with what she says, but how can we progress as a nation if we are not even acknowledging that these problematic perspectives are present (especially the far-right)? Hearing opposing perspectives opens the doors to dialogue, and how can we unite as a nation without communication?
Ideally, Coulter should have been able to exercise her First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and Cal students should have been able to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. UC Berkeley was wise to prioritize the safety of its campus and students over allowing a political commentator to speak – but students should not be violently protesting in the first place. The left, myself included, is (understandably) fed up with the current state of our country under President Trump. Both major parties are generally frustrated when the president is a member of the opposite party, but Trump is an exceptional case because of his outsider reputation and hostile rhetoric which has disillusioned even members of the right. Democrats are allowed to feel outraged– being passionate is better than being passive– but violence is unproductive in this type of situation because it jeopardizes people’s health and well-being with only a slim chance that it would actually enact some sort of change. In the words of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”
If I went to hear Coulter speak, I would be shaking my head in disagreement with approximately 99 percent of the comments she made. I would even consider peacefully protesting the event. But if I try to prevent her from speaking, then I am pulling an “Ann Coulter” by pretending that certain groups don’t exist.