The Sad Message of Ann Coulter and Berkeley

ann-coulterThere’s been an ongoing situation with a woman named Ann Coulter who was invited to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. The lesson to be learned is that those who promulgate violence can sometimes win. It’s an important lesson to learn for those of us who preach tolerance and the peaceful exchange of ideas.

The reason Coulter eventually had to cancel her speech was because of the threat of violence. That threat largely comes from two ideologically motivated groups that don’t much care about Coulter or whose side she represents. They want violence and travel around the country looking to instigate it.

I’m a Libertarian and well acquainted with these two groups.

One is the Anarchists. Some of them call themselves Libertarian and I get to read their anti-government, anti-globalization nonsense on websites I frequent. They are angry, irrational, and extremely violent. You can spot them in a crowd wearing black with a stylized A symbol somewhere on their clothes.

The second is the White Nationalists. I’m familiar with them because they post racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic comments on Libertarian websites hoping to find those of a like mind. They are angry, irrational, and extremely violent. You can spot them in a crowd wearing a swastika on their clothes.

They are spoiling for the fight because it gets them publicity. They get to be on the news and they love battling each other. They find locations where their counterparts are protesting and immediately instigate a brawl. They have goggles and other equipment designed to defeat police suppression. They avoid carrying weapons and firearms knowing law enforcement officers will simply gun them down.

Between them they are far outnumbered by the rational and reasonable; however, they make up for it with violent fervor. There are plenty of people on the both sides who might not agree with Coulter, or a speaker from the other side, but are more than willing to promote civil discourse.

It’s important for those people to come together and sponsor talks from speakers like Coulter. Not just from one side but from both. The extreme right and left, frankly I don’t think there’s much difference between the two, benefit from the breakdown of civility. The losers are the moderates, those willing to listen and compromise.

The violent-prone extremes hope to bait us moderates into combat. They yell terrible things and posture angrily, hoping for a reply that will allow them to unleash their rage. And, of course, they love seeing their supposed opposites protesting nearby. The violence they desire is all but ensured.

The bad news is that Coulter eventually cancelled her speech because the moderates that invited her in the first place realized the lunatics on both sides were hoping to use the event to engage in violence.

Berkeley itself tried to accommodate the speech by moving it to a place better controlled by law enforcement officers. That was an excellent step forward by the University but it was not enough.

In order to stop the march of violence promoted by the extremes, people on opposite sides of the debate must come together. Those who oppose Coulter should try to make arrangements for her to speak safely at Berkeley. Those ideologically in line with Coulter should invite someone from the other side to speak as their guest.

Work together to promote civil discourse, engage in a dialectic with those opposed to us, band together against violence. These are the ways forward. These are the methods required to defeat the irrational and violent.

It is extraordinarily important to defeat those who promulgate rage and violence as a political means. Understand that rage and violence can win. Act accordingly.

Tom Liberman

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