Ezra Levant, the self described expert on free speech in Canada, is Outraged! over the cancelation of Ann Coulter‘s scheduled Tuesday appearance at the University of Ottawa.
Levant’s been busy on twitter, Facebook, TV and radio, desperately trying to sell the public his version of events and paint himself and Coulter as hapless victims of ‘left wing censorship.’ Take, for example, the conversation between Levant and Rob Breakenridge, just hours after the event was cancelled:
Levant: “It’s been a terrible night for our reputation as a freedom loving nation . The University of Ottawa, which is one of two of the Universities in our Nation’s capital, with the cameras of the world rolling, showed that when it comes to freedom of speech for controversial views, for dissenting views, there is no room in Canadian academia, or at least at the University of Ottawa, and it was an embarrassing night. It was an international embarrassment and frankly it’s contrary to our Canadian values. In Canada, we believe in freedom of speech even for views that we don’t like, but at U of O, they had a more closed minded approach that I think is a great shame”
Breakenridge: “You know, I mean it’s unbelievable. Just out of curiosity, I know the University of Ottawa is one of the campuses that holds this odious Israeli Apartheid week each year. You can go look at the speakers who spoke this year, the speakers who spoke last year; there’s some pretty radical and nasty anti Israel folks being brought into speak at the University. The student establishment’s OK with that. Even the pro Israel students are OK. They understand free speech. It’s unbelievable what happens when someone shows up who politically incorrect or who’s views run afoul of this student establishment, we saw tonight.”
Levant: “You’re right. I was there I was in the room. We had hired so many private security guards because the University insisted that we do at our own expense, where as when left wing speakers come in they are never asked to pay for their own security, and yet with all the private security and all the police, the police made the determination that 2000 people outside who had whipped each other up on facebook saying lets bring thing to throw at her, let’s tar and feather her, the police made a decision that is was dangerous, it was unsafe to proceed with the event and that the public and the speaker were at risk of physical jeopardy, and I want to ask you listeners Rob, does that sound like Canada to you?
“…Here at the University of Ottawa, the vice president set a totally different tone he sent a letter basically to Ann Coulter that if she dared attend, she was at risk of being charged with a crime, and while all these young cuffs looked to the vice president said ‘oh you set the tone, so it’s OK to try and keep a speaker off campus, so it;s OK to make subtle threats’ and they got the message and they did exactly what that vice president did, the basically followed his instructions they added a degree of menace to it…if I was a University of Ottawa alumnus tonight I’d be deeply ashamed of my school.”
Breakenridge: “Yeah, we’ll it’s an embarrassment for this school, it’s an embarrassment as you say in many ways for this Country. Now from what I’ve read, I read of tables being knocked over, I read of fire alarms being pulled, I mean everything they could resort to to stop this from happening. Now what were you seeing? what did you hear about?”
Levant: “…We were inside, we were a little bit worried, we knew that security had called the event off, we knew that it was unsafe for ann coulter but we did not make that announcement for some period of time until we could confirm that we had a safe way out, there was about 150 people in the room at that time so we didn’t want to cause a panic by letting them know that the violent protestors had blocked the front doors, I mean that’s not something you announce to 150 people so we just sort of waited…”
“But you know, In a way Rob, let me look at the silver lining here, the purpose of this free speech tour sponsored by the international free press society, was to demonstrate what freedom of speech looks like in action, and it’s ironic that it took an american commentator to expose the weaknesses in Canada’s free speech. And although it’s terrible that the speech was cancelled and that the threat of violence is unacceptable, in a way it proved our whole point that when it comes to freedom of speech, that Canada has fallen a long way down…It’s not just that they destroyed Ann Coulter’s right to speak, it’s that they destroyed 450 Canadians right to listen.”
“Maybe some people would agree with her, maybe some people would disagree with her. But they’ll never have that right to make up their own mind because a bunch of thugs shut the whole thing down, that is so un canadian, and for that to happen with smiling face of Francois Houle, the vice president beaming over everything, is disgusting…Let’s show that Calgary cares about freedom, even if Ottawa doesn’t. I think we can prove on Thursday that Alberta and Calgary are strong and free we’re not like Ottawa, rotting and censorious.”
It’s a shame that Levant doesn’t share the same dedication to accuracy as he does to freedom of speech; Perhaps he wouldn’t come across as such a blatant liar. The fact is that the entire fiasco was likely pre planned to drum up publicity for Thursday’s event in Calgary, and give Levant and Coulter a reason to file a frivolous complaint with the Canadian Human Right Commission they so despise. Even the ‘Coulter in Canada’ website has been updated with the screaming banner ‘Cancelled – Free Speech Suppressed‘ across the Ottawa event.
From the urgent and utter hysteria coming from the Coulter and Levant camp, you’d assume they must have been legitimately wronged. In this instance, however, the facts simply don’t support their arguments.
Just as he did in the radio interview, Levant claimed on twitter that “Cops advised that proceeding with Coulter event in face of protesters would be dangerous to her and the crowd…Police officer tonight at Coulter event, faced with 2,000 screaming protesters, ‘we cannot guarantee her safety.’…Sgt. Dan Beauchamp on shutting down Coulter event: ‘it’s a public safety issue.'”
Every one of these assertions is utter nonsense.
The CBC’s Kady O’Mally reports that “it was not the police who ‘shut it down.’ I spoke with Ottawa Police Services media relations officer Alain Boucher this morning, and he told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was HER security team that made the decision to call off the event. ‘We gave her options’ — including, he said, to ‘find a bigger venue’ — but “they opted to cancel … It’s not up to the Ottawa police to make that decision.”
O’Mally also debunks the claim of ‘2000 screaming protesters,’ noting that “the number of protesters (has) been variously estimated between a few dozen to 200,” an attendee asserting that “at no time was there any evidence of physical threat. To the extent that there were safety issues, it was because you had 600 people coming out for a talk and the organizers had absolutely no logistical plan to handle it. People annoyed like they get annoyed waiting to get into a jammed hockey game. But no ‘threat’ environment.”
It’s ironic that an event purported to be about free speech and media bias, had barred media from entering the venue. The statement Levant gave to the semi filled auditorium before they evacuated, chastising the University of Ottawa for ‘censorship,’ adding “a fish rots from the head down,” is also rather comical. In essence, Levant is chastising himself, Coulter, and the Conservatives who organized the event; After all they are the ones who ultimately nixed the event, censoring themselves in the process.
No matter how vile or inflammatory she is, Coulter has every right to speak in Canada; One doesn’t have to be intelligent or credible in order to run their mouth, as demonstrated by the existence of Fox News Channel (where Coulter is a frequent contributor.)
I personally welcome the opportunity for Coulter to share her ‘wisdom’ with Canadians, if only to demonstrate just how ignorant she truly is.
Cross-posted at rabble.ca