Conservative author and pundit Ann Coulter is certainly used to controversy, but even she must be shaking her head at the antics of University of Ottawa President and former Liberal Cabinet Minister Allan Rock.
Canadian Press has obtained excerpts from an email exchange between Mr. Rock and Francois Houle, the university’s provost. They make clear that Mr. Rock was the guiding force behind Mr Houle’s now-infamous letter to Ms. Coulter warning her not to run afoul of Canada’s hate laws when she was invited to speak at the campus last March.
“Ann Coulter is a mean-spirited, small-minded, foul-mouthed poltroon,” Rock wrote to Houle in a March 18 email. “She is ‘the loud mouth that bespeaks the vacant mind’.”
“She is an ill-informed and deeply offensive shill for a profoundly shallow and ignorant view of the world. She is a malignancy on the body politic. She is a disgrace to the broadcasting industry and a leading example of the dramatic decline in the quality of public discourse in recent times.”
At the same time, he argued, “we should not take any steps to interfere with her plans to speak next week on our campus.”
Instead, Rock advised Houle he should write to Coulter informing her of the different rules surrounding free speech in Canada compared with those in the United States.
“You, Francois, as Provost, should write immediately to Coulter informing her of our domestic laws. … You should urge her to respect that Canadian tradition as she enjoys the privilege of her visit.”
After seeing a copy of the final email to Coulter, Rock praised Houle: “Quel excellent message! Merci et felicitations. I am sure she has never been dressed down so elegantly in her life!”
Most disturbing is not Mr. Rock’s point of view – he is entitled to his opinion, however small-minded and mean-spirited it may be.It is his attempt to curb Ms. Coulter’s “foul mouth” by means of Mr. Houle’s missive that raises serious questions about his capacity as president of a university.
Universities are not political parties, where messages are massaged, controlled and spin-doctored. They are (supposedly) places of free inquiry where dissent is not only tolerated, but welcomed and encouraged.
Mr. Rock’s view of “Canadian tradition” raises the question of what kind of tradition he wishes to impart to the students of Ottawa U:the Liberal line of state multiculturalism, political correctness and anti-Americanism? Mr. Rock’sdisdain for Ms. Coulter, and his attempt to muzzle her, however “elegant”, speaks volumes about the attitudes of Canadian elites towards those who disagree with them.It is the same attitude displayed by critics ofthe new SUN TV who fear that the purity of Canadian debate and thought will be polluted by actual controversy and debate.
Worse yet is that Mr. Rockfudged when initially questioned about the letter. He stated that “it was sent with my knowledge” – when the truth is it was sent at his instigation. When it blew up into a controversy, he let Mr. Houle take the brunt of the heat. Talk about the boss hiding behind his staff.
And while there was some faint hope of redemption, asMr. Rockapparently wanted to invite Ms. Coulter back after her speech got cancelled due to a protest (if Bill Blair had been in charge of security there, maybe she would have got to the stage…), that evaporated too, whenhe was talked out of it by advisors.
Oh well. I’m sure Ms. Coulter is not losing any sleep over the incident. To paraphrase her comments when she was here, “take a moose, Allan Rock.”