Contrary to the impression given by Mr. Rock’s comments in this video, there was no interaction with the organizers of the event, nor was any effort made to work with the organizers in a way that would ensure the event could proceed in a safe manner. At no point preceding the event were those on campus who were organizing themselves against her speech, reprimanded or told that U of Ottawa would respect Ms Coulter’s right to freedom of speech. Instead, they were encouraged and emboldened by the administration to ramp up their opposition including seeking assistance from outside groups who would likely share their anti-liberty views. How else were they to interpret Francois Houle’s infamous letter that Mr. Rock has now acknowledged was approved by him and represented the views of the entire administration at the University of Ottawa?
Receiving a phone call the day before the event telling us that if we did not hire and pay for additional security the event would be canceled, is not exactly a pro-active demonstration of U of Ottawa’s commitment to free speech. It was simply another ineffective attempt at damage control once things had already been allowed to spin out of control.
Contrast this to the experience at the University of Western Ontario where those who had threatened to interfere with the event were reminded of the University’s commitment to freedom of speech and told that they should not interfere in any way with Ms Coulter’s right to speak or the rights of those who wished to hear her.
While his own view of Ms Coulter and how he came to form it is irrelevant, we challenge Mr. Rock to prove that he undertook any kind of effort to read Ms Coulter’s work on his own, rather than allowing himself to be informed by other people’s opinions or distortions of Ms Coulter’s work. It is not difficult to discern Mr. Rock’s own political bias in his sneering dismissal of Fox News as he attempts to get a laugh from his ideological soul mates in the room.
That, Mr. Rock, is your first problem. Even in your attempt to convince people that you do not allow your own personal biases to interfere with your commitment to free speech, you can’t help but reveal yourself. Your second glaring error is your apparent belief that freedom of speech is something that can be agreed upon by consensus. The idea that U of Ottawa will develop policy on free speech that reflects a ‘collective view’ is embarrassing and further demonstrates that at Ottawa U, the weasels are guarding the hen house.
A lesson from Freedom of Speech 101: “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like”. Noam Chomsky