It's really sad that in 2012, one of the few places in the country that is supposed to be a bastion of open thinking and the exchange of ideas has become the exact opposite. This past week, the Fordham University College Republicans extended an invite to conservative columnist Ann Coulter to come speak at their university. Coulter, while always controversial, is a multiple-time bestselling author and a regular on the college speaking circuit.
It took only a matter of hours for the Fordham University administration and other student organizations to convince the college Republicans to back down and cancel their invite. University President Joseph M. McShane released a statement saying that while he could not force the student body to cancel their invitation, saying that he was severely disappointed would be a "tremendous understatement."
That statement also says how student groups are allowed and even encouraged to invite speakers who will showcase diverse and even unpopular points of view. Yeah, right.
The fact that the College Republicans folded like a cheap lawn chair so quickly is utterly pathetic. Now, many conservatives going to college know what it's like to be outnumbered 30 to 1. It's not fun. Liberals constantly roll their eyes whenever young Republicans complain about the bias on college campuses, because of course they do not see it. Hard to see forest when you're one of the trees.
The mafia should take note. Apparently there is no need to strong-arm anyone anymore. All it takes is a Facebook page and a petition at change.org.
What's the whole point of this free speech thing if we're not going to use it? Newsflash, people: Freedom of speech was guaranteed not just to protect speech that is popular or fun. There is no point in protecting speech that no one will ever have a problem with. If no one ever said anything that never caused a stir, there wouldn't be much point.
A few decades ago, a generation of free-spirited liberals descended upon college campuses, raising ideas, starting protests and giving speeches against things that were considered the norm. A few things have happened over the past few decades. Those liberals have grown up. Many of them stayed on the campus. Now that they are the super majority, they seem to have forgotten the importance of saying something that may not be popular, but nevertheless is important.
However, as fun as it is, I'm not here to beat up a bunch of politically correct college liberals. I'm here to beat up on the cowardly College Republicans, who caved in faster than Michael Moore on a diet.
The College Republicans at Fordham, instead of backpedaling to pressure from other groups, should have maybe taken a moment to remind their fellow students and administrators that colleges are supposed to be welcoming to all schools of thought.
Perhaps they could have reminded them that while people like Ann Coulter sometimes say things that other people find offensive, it is protected speech. When said on radio or television, it is protected speech not only by the First Amendment to the Constitution, but by the FCC as well.
According to the TheFreeDictionary.com, the definition of "liberal" is someone who is "Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry." Well, thank god that's still true at college campuses like Fordham. You can say whatever you want to say and invite anyone to speak that you wish .... as long as it doesn't conflict with anyone else's views.
These sniveling little poltroons may want to remind people that while Coulter has said things that are critical of other religions, ideologies and cultures, she has never once gone up to a microphone and bellowed out a call to arms. She has never said "Let's start a race war!" That would be hateful, and incendiary. However, she's never done that.
The Fordham University College Republicans should have reminded those who had a problem with Coulter's appearance about some of the other speakers that have been allowed on college campuses to speak before. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, Michael Moore, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Cindy Sheehan, and Kamau Kambon have all spoken at colleges before, often saying some very harsh things. (Kambon in particular had a little gem about the reasons to kill all white people.) They could also have discussed the fact that several universities have employed people far more inflammatory than Coulter.
Coulter may be brash and inflammatory, but she is also a brilliant attorney, a syndicated columnist and the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers. Coulter is a self-described polemicist, and is quite good at it. She knows exactly how to get a reaction out of people to highlight her point, much like the aforementioned Mr. Moore.
After that, the sniveling College Republicans might have mustered up enough courage to realize that they were within the right. Even if Coulter was not their first choice (The ever-safe and boring George Will was), they should have realized that they were not breaking any rules. Perhaps they didn't like the idea of facing several hundred protesting students. Maybe they wanted to keep getting invited to all of the really cool parties on campus.
Finally, the College Republicans should have taken a moment to tell people that they do not have a right to not be offended. No one is so blessed in this life that they will never have to worry about hearing something they do not like. It does not matter if they are man or a woman. It does not matter if they are an ethnic minority. You are going to hear things in life you don't like. At the end of the day, if people do not like what is being said on radio or television, they can turn the dial. If they do not like something someone might say in a speech, they can stay in their dorms.
These cowardly lions could have asked for those outraged at their decision to take up a full page ad in the college newspaper admitting once and for all that they want the liberal champions to be able to say what the conservative ones cannot. Why not? Just ask them to admit they want a double standard! Naw, that'd take some guts.
If these students are not willing to take a little heat and stick up for what they supposedly believe in, then they should disband their group. While they're at it, they might as well apply duct tape to their mouths and join the opposition. If you're going to go with the path of least resistance, why not go the whole nine yards?
The Founding Fathers knew that freedom of speech was perhaps the most precious and valuable freedom that one can ever possess. If a group of college kids aren't going to have the gonads to stand up for it, then what is the point of it? Those at Fordham University, including the college president, should be ashamed of themselves. However, it's not something totally unexpected. The College Republicans at Fordham however, should feel even worse.
There is no point in anyone joining their group or supporting them ever again if they are not going to have the courage to stand up for the basic rights that we are all supposed to enjoy. You can't cave in every time some special interest group gets pissed off. You will never stop capitulating. Ever.
Coulter would have given her speech to those who supported her as well as those that had the courage to hear someone with a differing viewpoint. There would have been some protests the day of, but by the next week, no one would have cared.
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." - Abraham Lincoln