Please, remember that Twitter is not a platform for intelligent debate. It is all about the emotions, not ideas.
Twitter is not an appropriate platform for debate – political or otherwise. The character limitation does not allow for proper communication, particularly on topics that are highly nuanced by their nature. It is a wonderful medium for sharing trivial observations, memes, or links to something longer. Engaging in debate is not worthwhile, though.
I am saying this because I made the mistake of not ignoring a statement on something I had written on my personal site. It was a complaint, suggesting that I had narrowly escaped blaming Ann Coulter for negative treatment she has received from UC Berkeley in the same way some have blamed rape victims. My offending rant definitely did suggest something that should be obvious – Coulter is highly interested in publicity in this endeavor, and is not insane enough to think that she would have any hope of swaying anyone on the Berkeley campus no matter what she says or does. I brought into question her motives for going there in the first place, and pointed out that she was not offering anything of academic value by making an appearance.
Because it was on my personal website, I didn’t delve deeply into this. It was just a rant, and admittedly was written out of annoyance and a basic desire to just get it out of my head. Therefore, I didn’t say anything about another provocateur from a relatively distant past – Morton Downey, Jr. – which honestly would place this entire situation in a better context. Mort took his show on the road, hitting college campuses with his “in your face” brand of politics, as a straight up form of entertainment. That was back in the days when political incorrectness was still permitted in comedy and entertainment, and people paid good money to see it. Back then, Coulter might have been classed with Mort, and considered an entertainer on the college circuit. That’s not the case today, and her purpose now is merely to speak in what she possibly considers a quasi-academic manner. My rant pointed out that she isn’t doing that – she’s being a female version of Mort in a time when that kind of talk is not considered entertaining by many.
My contention that this is not about free speech, dissent on campus, or anything laudable like that is because we’re (hopefully) all aware that for Coulter, this isn’t about pushing ideas – this is about putting herself in the spotlight and money in her pocket. As Mort taught us in the 80s, not everyone who speaks on political topics in the public eye has the intent to spark meaningful debate. Some just get out there to throw gasoline on existing fires, and Coulter is one of them. Since the problem on Berkeley campus is that the students have no idea how to deal with political debate in an adult fashion, having Coulter on campus is a terrible idea. That observation is about her personally, and has nothing to do with silencing her right to speak. If Coulter had established that she was capable of toning herself down so she could speak to a sophomoric audience without having them degenerate into an infantile mob, I wouldn’t have said anything. She hasn’t.
The problem that conservatives continually point out is that college campuses today are generally opposed to allowing dissenting views to be heard, considered, debated, respected, etc. They are right, but sending someone like Ann Coulter onto campus does not rectify the situation. It is no secret that the political right in America has been failing miserably at messaging. Coulter is the wrong messenger, offering the wrong message in context with Berkeley. If this is the best that the right has to offer when it comes to promoting an environment of civil discourse and debate on campus, they may as well resign themselves to being pigeon-holed as crass, ignorant, and bigoted rakes who are incapable of defending their positions in anywhere close to a level-headed or intelligent manner. That’s what is seen daily on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. It’s also counter-productive for conservative students and activists who are working daily to end the one-sided nature of education in our colleges.
My point that has obviously been totally lost in the limited-character-vitriol is that there is a very negative stereotype out there for the conservatives, Ann Coulter is the embodiment of it, and therefore, any appearance she makes on a notoriously liberal college campus will only benefit her. It will not help the conservative movement. It will not help to ease the problem with conservative views being silenced on campus. It will not make the conservative students feel that they can speak freely in the classroom. It will not become an illustration for lawmakers to show that introducing conservative views on campus is a good thing.
I could go on, but I won’t. It should be abundantly clear at this point that the knee-jerk reactions of people on Twitter to my initial observations were not aimed at Coulter’s right to speak freely. I am pointing out that she is concerned with her own career, not the conservative movement, when it comes to forcing herself on Berkeley campus. Coulter is the stereotype in their eyes, so she’s just adding to their list of reasons why no one should ever take conservative politics and philosophy seriously. If we have reached the point where the “intelligentsia” of the conservative movement is well-represented by Coulter, we’ve got far larger problems to address.