This evening, Ann Coulter will grace us with her presence in an event co-sponsored by the College Republicans and the Lecture Fund. Whether she’s calling Presidential candidates faggots or comparing Barack Obama’s memoir to Mein Kampf, Coulter is as shrill and hateful as conservative Republicans get. The Lecture Fund’s decision to host her is an egregious mistake that should outrage everyone.
The Lecture Fund is a great resource that enables student organizations to host a wide variety of speakers that would otherwise be impossible to book. And as such an invaluable resource, the services that the Lecture Fund provides should be equally accessible to every student organization, regardless of political perspective.
For this reason, the Lecture Fund’s decisions should not be misconstrued as implicit endorsements of a speaker’s point of view. Whenever the Lecture Fund or a collaborating organization decides to host a certain speaker, however, they are identifying someone who is worthy of speaking to a University community. Imagine a student arm of the Ku Klux Klan existed on campus and their leaders got in touch with the Lecture Fund about bringing David Duke to campus. That idea would get shot down not out of disrespect for the Ku Klux Klan’s free speech rights but because racist, white supremacist rhetoric is unintelligible and has no place at a University.
Indeed, I come at this controversy with respect for Coulter’s first amendment right to say whatever she wants. Elevating her hatred to the platform she’ll speak on tomorrow, however, is an entirely different matter. When I first visited campus on my GAAP weekend as a high school senior, I remember a presentation Father Maher gave about Georgetown’s commitment to a rigorous, liberal education. He poignantly spoke about the “quality of the conversation” on a diverse campus that continues a proud intellectual tradition.
Do Ann Coulter and her hateful ad hominems enhance the “quality of the conversation?” Before we even begin to answer that question, however, let’s think about the plethora of other conservative commentators who can undoubtedly address the issues of our time with more seriousness than Coulter. From more traditional conservatives like George Will to avowed neo-conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, there are plenty of right-wing voices who speak and write with the kind of seriousness that is notably absent from Coulter. For the sake of giving voice to a legitimate conservative voice that is worthy of speaking at a University, Coulter should not be coming when you consider the alternatives.
Unfortunately, Ann Coulter is coming and it is my sincere hope that the organizers of this event will at least allow us to challenge Coulter’s ugliness during the Q & A. Two springs ago, the Lecture Fund hosted Karl Rove and held a Q & A that completely disregarded dissenting perspectives in the Republican operatives Q & A session. During his presentation, Rove made some startling statements that included a disgraceful defense of the Bush Administration’s response to Katrina and the admission that his greatest regret of the Bush Presidency was not defending his boss more strongly during the Iraq War (to hell with the thousands of poor New Orleanians I refused to rescue, my boss’s honor was more important). Instead of providing students with a forum to challenge Rove’s startling presentation, the Q & A was nothing more than lovefest for one of those most disgraceful figures in our contemporary politics.
If we are not afforded with an opportunity to challenge Coulter, I would hope that attendees of tomorrow’s event give Coulter the same kind of treatment that some students gave General Petraeus when he spoke two springs ago. That idiotic display of disrespect for a distinguished General was disgusting but would be entirely appropriate for an unchallenged bigot like Coulter. Hopefully, the Lecture Fund has learned its lessons from Karl Rove’s visit and today’s event will not come to that. Regardless, every non-sympathizer of Coulter who attends tomorrow’s event should come prepared to challenge her hate, regardless of the Lecture Fund’s respect for dissent.