Stikkel: Self-censorship limits public’s access to ideas; Ann Coulter’s critics ignore her valid arguments

Ann Coulter’s upcoming visit on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Gifford Auditorium will surely draw fire.

Coulter is an author, columnist and political commentator who mixes political arguments with occasional jokes and satire. Sure, she has a habit of name-calling and joking about certain public figures’ unfortunate deaths, but even her death jokes are appropriate because they follow satirically from pre-existing, death-related comments, usually.

More importantly, the validity and soundness of her arguments do not depend on any of this. Whether she refers to President Barack Obama as “Obama” or “the jug-eared lunkhead in the White House” makes no difference in terms of argumentation.

In other words, for a given Coulter argument, if her premises logically lead to a conclusion, then her conclusion is valid, regardless of what she calls the people in the premises.

Her critics disapprove anyway.

Fordham President Father Joseph McShane says, “Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative — more heat than light — and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.”

McShane’s dishonest message is aimed squarely at the uninformed.

Regarding The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the constitutionality of outlawing discrimination by private businesses, Coulter said, “As a conservative and especially in my generation, I’m just against race discrimination. After reading through the history of civil rights in this country, you become so enraged at the Democrats. I wouldn’t care that it was a violation of the constitution.”

In people, heat and light are positive sum. Coulter has plenty of both.

To make it appear otherwise, Coulter’s critics extract her satirical comments from context, portray her quick-witted retorts to hecklers as unprovoked, and ignore every substantive argument she has ever made to create — for nefarious, political purposes — a fictional, dislikable person.

Her critics are aspiring thought police. They demonize Coulter to squelch her voice. They call for self-censorship with a political agenda, which is an affront to political freedom.

Self-censorship limits the public’s access to ideas; rejecting censorship is freedom. Coulter’s freedom to speak preserves everyone else’s freedom to access ideas. If she is free to publicly speak, people have two options: attend or ignore. If she is censored, people have no options because someone else chose for them.

In general, aspiring thought police take it upon themselves to decide for everyone else what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Syracuse University students do not require thought police, and we refuse to have them.

Michael Stikkel is a junior computer engineering major and MBA candidate in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at


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