“Thousands of years ago the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light. But he left them a gift they had not conceived, and he lifted darkness off the earth. Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators, the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed. Every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid – but they won. No creator was prompted by a desire to please his brothers. His brothers hated the gift he offered. His truth was his only motive.”
— Excerpt from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (Howard Roark’s closing statement in his own defense.) 1
First, let me say that this is not a defense of Ann Coulter. As far as I’m concerned, she needs no defending. And if she ever did, she’d be able to acquit herself quite well. On the other hand, if you are looking for any semblance of objectivity here, stop reading. I freely admit my bias. This is instead a kind of open love letter to Ann: an offering of homage to someone whom, for reasons I expand upon below, I hold in very high regard. I can only hope she reads it!
Now, I could gush all day about Ann’s charming ebullience, her rapier wit, her gifted erudition, her unapologetic boldness, her sexy blonde mane, or the immense joy I get at seeing how she afflicts liberals with apoplectic fear and rage. But I find that this unique woman possesses one quality above all others for which I truly admire her. That quality is her love of the truth. You see Ann, believe it or not, is a moral person. She lives by a moral code — her own principles and sense of right and wrong as rooted in her Christian values — to which she steadfastly adheres no matter what the consequences. And among the tenets of that moral code, she champions speaking the truth above all. In other words, I believe that her truth is her only motive.
Ann speaks the truth openly and unreservedly and, yes, sometimes even offensively. I am not going to recount here all of the controversial statements made by Ann Coulter. (Remember, I’m biased.) Besides, they are widely known. And if you are not aware of them, a ten second Google search will satisfy your curiosity (the liberal blogosphere is all agog about even her most casual remarks.) Regarding these controversial statements, most people simply dismiss them or relegate them to hyperbole, satire, or just bad jokes. A few of us view these comments in their context and see the larger point being made. The rest are liberals. These comments are Ann’s signature rhetorical devices and, while sometimes they are indeed over the top, one cannot say they are unoriginal, and they almost always make a big impression. As General George S. Patton once said when asked why he used profanity while addressing his troops: “When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember.” 2
Of course, it has reached the point now where no matter what Ann says she gets herself in trouble with liberals and progressives. In fact, she doesn’t even have to say anything anymore. The mere prospect of her speaking is enough to make them all aflutter. The most recent incident was the “welcome” she received by the students and administration at that world renowned institution of higher learning, the University of Ottawa. To make a long story short, Ann was prevented from speaking at the school after the school’s provost sent an email warning her to watch what she says as certain speech may run afoul of Canadian “hate speech” laws. The obvious innuendo being that Ann is incapable of opening her mouth without potentially saying something tantamount to a crime! Needless to say, this touched off a firestorm and an on campus student protest ensued (a protest against Ann, not the provost) which created a dangerous environment and caused Ann’s security detail (yes, she needs that now) to call the whole thing off. For the full story, click here:
The attitude among liberal and progressive opponents to Ann Coulter’s right to speak is best summed up in their own words. When interviewed, University of Ottawa student protest organizer Mike Fancie stated he was pleased that they kept Ann from speaking. “What Ann Coulter is practicing is not free speech, its hate speech,” he said. “She’s targeted the Jews, she’s targeted the Muslims, she’s targeted Canadians, homosexuals, women, almost everybody you could imagine.” (Source: The Boston Herald) Well, if according to this genius “she’s targeted … everybody,” including groups on either side of a particular debate, then she can’t really be said to be targeting anyone, can she? It is this kind of aggressive stupidity that Ann comes up against almost every time she speaks in public. But worse than that, it is political correctness run amuck. It is liberal-progressive oversensitivity codified into absurd laws and rules and enforced by academicians and apparatchiks like the University of Ottawa administrator. The sick irony, though, is that they do so in the name of tolerance. Only in their Orwellian world could suppressing freedom of speech and expression be viewed as “tolerant.”
The face of liberal tolerance: A University of Ottawa student protester
Liberal rules regarding hate speech and free speech raise all kinds of subjective questions: Precisely what is hate speech? What is appropriate speech? When is speech offensive? When is it not? Which groups can you offend and which can you not? Is no group or individual at any time ever deserving of offensive speech? What about child rapists and murderers? What about terrorists? What about racists, adulterers and sleazy politicians? What about liars in general? Are all of these exempt from being the target of offensive speech as well? And if not all, then which are and which aren’t? What about the bogeymen of liberals: conservative speakers and commentators? Is there also a prohibition on speaking offensively to or about them? It would appear that there is not! I guess targeting conservatives, like Ann, is a-okay with liberals and progressives because they level their hate-filled rants and offensive slurs against her all the time. Apparently when Ann is the object, it is open season on hate. All of this points out the absurdity and insidious evil of liberal and progressive “rules” when it comes to what can and cannot be speech. Lies and corruption are the tools of the collective: they are the means by which it pushes around the individual and stifles any free thought or expression that does not fit into their agenda of political correctness. The status quo of political correctness and moral relativism are phenomena that have become entrenched in modern American culture, much to our great misfortune. Ann attacks and roots out this liberal hypocrisy wherever she finds it: whether it be in academia, the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, or Hollywood. She tears away at the façade of their lies and reveals the faulty edifice underneath. With a truth as hard as steel, she exposes their hypocrisy for what it is, and they hate her for it. Speaking truth to power, I think is what it is called, and it has become, in a way, her mission.
But one needs to ask, why does Ann even bother with all this? What is her motivation? Liberals assign a variety of motives: she is vile and malicious and can’t help herself; she is pure evil; she is a natural-born hater; she is only doing this to boost her book sales; etc. They lean on these rationalizations because they refuse to accept that anybody of her obvious intelligence would actually believe the outrageous things she says. They are so arrogant (or perhaps insecure) in their belief that they are right, that they are convinced there must be some ulterior motive.
Ann has only one motivation: she actually believes what she says. And she says what she believes, no matter how offensive. The truth trumps polite conversation. Of course, Ann pays for this truth in the frightful extreme. She endures insults, scorn, contempt, even threats, and like Howard Roark, Ayn Rand’s hero in The Fountainhead, outright hatred for causing the entire foundation of their corrupted structure to shake. As in Rand’s novel, they would destroy her. They would burn her at the stake with the very fire she’s introduced, if they could. But therein lies the beauty of speaking the truth, it will always triumph over falsehood. Some might say her enemies always fall into her trap, but really it is not a trap at all, it is the truth: the logic of truth which will always unmask a lie. In the end, the status quo of the corrupt liberal collective is beaten. The individual of vision wins.
But if indeed this is Ann’s motive and mission, is truth-telling really necessary even when it offends to the point of provoking hatred and fear? I don’t think anyone would openly admit that it is better not to know the truth (though it would seem that for many, willful ignorance is truly bliss.) But what about the truth that offends? Is that really necessary?
It is truth, in all its forms and expressions that advances the human condition. Truth in speech, art, music, poetry, literature, truth in invention and truth in creation of any kind has been the foundation stone upon which all else: cultures, societies, economies, governments and entire civilizations are built. This is also the case when truth offends. The truth is always opposed when it confronts men and women, governments and institutions, whose “principles” are warped and corrupted by lies and hypocrisy. In these circumstances, truth is essential to the advancement of the human condition – not just when it offends, but because it offends.
The world as we know it today didn’t just come about over night. Down through the ages, the broadening of views, ideas and perspectives and the shifting of paradigms in the religious, political, economic, scientific, social and cultural spheres all took place only because someone said something or did something or created something that offended the status quo. In this country alone, the improvement of the human condition for blacks, women and other minority groups would never have happened unless someone ticked off somebody else. Indeed, the country itself would never have come to exist unless a courageous few spoke certain truths that were an affront to a mighty many. In all these instances, the offensive nature of truth was not just coincidental, it was essential. 3
At the end of Ayn Rand’s novel, the architect hero Howard Roark prevails. He stands atop the steel framework of his creation, admired by the woman who has finally come to see the true meaning of his spirit. His truth — the truth of one individual’s vision — wins out over the hypocrisy of the collective. Whether or not Ann Coulter shall ultimately prevail, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure: that quality of unabashed truth-telling is a rare and wonderful thing in this world, and it is why I love Ann. You see, I am a recovering idealist who wakes up every day looking for an honest man. Unlike Diogenes the Cynic, I do believe that at long last I have found one; only she’s a woman.
Diogenes Sitting in His Tub, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860)
Fn. 1: See the Comments section to this post for a video clip of the entire Howard Roark speech from the film, The Fountainhead.
Fn. 2: For a fuller version of the Patton quote: “When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag … As for the types of comments I make, sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence.”
Fn. 3: Of course, none of this is to suggest that all truthful speech need be offensive or that just because speech is offensive it is truthful. On the contrary, there is plenty of offensive speech that is just plain offensive.