As an MSU student, I was saddened to receive an email encouraging students to attend a speech from conservative political pundit Ann Coulter on campus. While I am a vocal supporter of the First Amendment to the Constitution, I wholly believe that speaking free from governmental oppression does not mean everyone deserves the privilege of having a platform to speak on. Those who repeatedly abuse this platform don’t deserve to be handed one wherever they go.
Coulter’s career stands on the bedrock of hateful rhetoric. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Coulter frequently spouted Islamophobic remarks against all Muslims, as can be seen in her columns from that time where she advocates killing civilians and converting the rest to Christianity in return. Coulter famously opposes gay marriage among a long list of other anti-LGBTQ sentiments she holds, via her public Twitter account. Not only does she oppose mass immigration — Coulter said on “Real America with Jorge Ramos” that she considers Mexican culture, among others, to be “deficient” compared to American — Coulter also subscribes to the white genocide theory, according to her own website, as she believes the true racism in America is anti-white. To give a full account of the 20+ years of hate Coulter has spouted from one end of America to the other defeats my purpose and simply proves a waste of time. You can read more in her books Adios, America; Demonic: How the Liberal is Endangering America and Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama, among many others.
The advertisement I saw for students to come hear Coulter speak lists her as “an accomplished lawyer, public speaker and author.” Nowhere do the words homophobe, Islamophobe, anti-Semite or xenophobe appear. The email also encourages “we firmly believe everyone can find value in this event.”
I certainly don’t want to attack my peers who composed this email, but I must ask: what of my classmates in the LGBTQ community, our Muslim peers and our relatives of Mexican immigrants, whose very existence Coulter view as an affront to her person? Do they have something educational and important to learn from someone who wishes them to suffer? I’m a straight white man living in the Midwest, about as majority as someone can get, but even my existence offends Coulter simply for calling myself a liberal. Should I have read her book How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) before eagerly listening along? What am I to learn from someone who as recently as three months ago wrote a column calling teachers “anti-white” for educating their students on critical race theory?
MSU isn’t the first college to house Coulter. In 2018, she took the stage at the University of Colorado, prompting a walkout from students after xenophobic remarks. “Now that we have just adults in the room, I can really cut loose,” she said, according to Daily Camera. Coulter’s 2019 speech at UC Berkeley, a college she once called “a radical thuggish institution” on Twitter, discussed her distaste of mass-immigration. This led to a protest of over a thousand according to UC Berkeley’s student paper, The Daily Californian. To quote Aly Badran, a University of Colorado student who walked out of one of Coulter’s presentations, “there was nothing in the talk that was fruitful for us to learn from. We did come in with an open mind.”
This campus prides itself on its public affairs mission, imploring students to act not only as learners at MSU, but as productive citizens as well. It’s one of my favorite aspects of this university. But when two of the three foundational pillars of this mission are ethical leadership and cultural competence, why should someone whose beliefs stand antithetical to both get an invite to speak on campus? Should the same expectations of following this public affairs mission not be extended to guest speakers as well as students?
I’m a student of MSU. I hear what students say to and about each other when they think no one is listening, or, in some cases, when they know that people are and simply don’t care. One doesn’t have to go far on a campus of this size to hear blatant homophobic or racist remarks against other students.
I am a user of the anonymous forum YikYak, and platforms like that certainly show you that these beliefs of pure hatred aren’t dormant in our student body. While our campus simply can’t stop students from thinking or often even saying these hateful comments, they can draw a line in the sand and choose to stop the further spreading of this rhetoric themselves. In my eyes, giving Coulter this platform not only avoids drawing this line but lands squarely on the side of hate.
Some may call this “cancel culture” or some other buzzword meant to detract from the problem at hand, but being held accountable and being silenced exist on different planes. I’m not a university official, and I don’t decide who does and doesn’t get a voice on this campus. I am, however, a student of MSU, a friend to our diverse student body and someone who hates seeing bullies get told their cruelty is a respectable difference of opinion.
Freedom of speech is one of the most important tenets of this country. Likewise, the right for college students to educate themselves and listen to public speakers, whether they share their opinions or not, remains incredibly important. At the same time, there exist things in life that are right and wrong.
Hate speech and the willful spread of misinformation are wrong. Giving someone a platform to practice both on young, impressionable minds is wrong. Well-intentioned or not, “informative” or not, giving Coulter a platform on this campus is a statement that hate speech is OK and that it deserves to be heard. I simply see no lens through which you can view that as anything but morally wrong.
Follow Casey Loving on Twitter, @CaseyMLoving
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