Even Ann Coulter has the right to free expression

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t care whether it’s Fidel Castro’s favorite band playing in downtown Miami or a viperous harridan speaking at Berkeley. The right to free expression is either secured for all or it’s guaranteed to none.

Look, I’m the guy who once called her a “viperous harridan,” OK?

That was 11 years ago in this space. I described her as such after she savaged four widows whose husbands died in the Sept. 11 attacks, denouncing them as “witches” and “broads” who were “enjoying their husbands’ deaths.”

So I don’t need to be convinced that Ann Coulter is a bad person. But for as much as readers with whom I have been sparring on Twitter the last few days might wish otherwise, her character is not the issue here.

“Here” meaning last week’s standoff between the abrasive conservative pundit and the University of California, Berkeley. As you may know, Coulter was invited to speak on the famously liberal campus, but UCB first restricted the time of day she could do so, then tried to persuade her to switch to a day when classes are suspended as students study for finals. When Coulter refused, the school canceled the event.

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Berkeley, you should know, has been the site of recent political street fighting. A February riot, orchestrated by about 100 black-clad punks, caused $100,000 in damage and succeeded in preventing an appearance by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. UCB said there was a credible threat of a repeat performance if Coulter spoke.

She had vowed to show up anyhow and appear, if need be, in Sproul Plaza, an open public concourse that was, not incidentally, the 1964 birthplace of the free-speech movement. Wednesday, under pressure from UCB, the two conservative groups that were sponsoring her visit rescinded the invitation, and Coulter said she would not come.

Many of my more liberal Twitter followers,…

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