Ann Coulter has been undeservedly hailed a valiant heroine for the Battle at Berkeley, yet her perceived defiance of leftist mobs and censoring administrators was not really at all courageous.
In fact, Coulter never expected or intended to give a speech at Berkeley! It was all a clever ruse and publicity stunt. Bravado, not bravery, marked Coulter’s Berkeley bluff.
After successfully portraying herself as a courageous free speech warrior – having gotten exactly what she wanted: publicity and a new image – Coulter did not give what would have been a truly “free” (no honorarium) speech in what she herself insisted was the “safest place on earth” for her.
Before getting into details, let’s recall that Berkeley has justifiably been almost universally condemned (except by some on the far left) for not allowing Coulter to speak. Nevertheless, Coulter is not the courageous heroine she would have you believe her to be.
Coulter’s Last Stand
I gave Ann an Alamo Award in 1997 for her unquestioned courage – at that time – in speaking truth to power, at the risk of losing her livelihood. At Berkeley, Coulter risked nothing whatsoever. Indeed, regardless of the outcome, Coulter expected to gain that which she sought: publicity and an image of being a heroic-martyr.
This epic battle of wills pitting liberty lovers against academic censors saturated national news coverage. Coulter’s gambit was actually just a PR stunt from the very beginning. And it worked.
Her #BerkeleyBound mission perfectly suited her purposes. Whether or not she spoke, she won. If she spoke, she was heroic; if not, she was a courageous martyr. Win-win.
The Washington Post reported: “In a classic case of ‘heads I win, tails you lose,’ conservative provocateur Ann Coulter emerged from last week’s events at the University of California at Berkeley as a free-speech martyr.”
Coulter couldn’t lose. That was the plan from the start. It was all braggadocio and bravado, a marketing ploy explicitly designed to reinvigorate her reputation and career.
Lauded as the courageous conservative facing down Berkley rioters and university censors, the truth is otherwise: Coulter never intended to speak at Berkeley.
“Pranav Jandhyala, who founded [YAF’s] UC Berkeley chapter,” “acknowledged that it was now clear that Coulter’s intention wasn’t to engage in any real dialogue, but to prove her own point.”
Of course, YAF also wanted to use the entire scenario to promote itself and highlight the rampant trampling of the First Amendment on college campuses (and elsewhere).
Everything Coulter says or does accrues to Coulter’s benefit. That which she seeks most of all is glory. She became addicted to fame and power in late 1997 and she has never recovered from that pathology.
Coulter generated a tremendous amount of positive media coverage with her Berkeley kerfuffle, far more than during her last book tour. She gloried in her glory on The View.
Milking the situation for all it was worth, Coulter told KTVU that she was better than Milo Yiannopoulos: “I’m not even Milo. I mean, for Pete’s sake, I’m a twelve-time New York Times’ bestselling author.” (Actually, she’s only a ten-time bestselling author, as even McInnes admitted at Berkeley.)
Coulter also likened herself to heroic figures in the past: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Winston Churchill!
She boasted to Tucker Carlson: “By the way, I am giving the speech. What are they going to do, arrest me? They can put me in the Birmingham jail.” (King would have rejected both Coulter’s racial paradigm and anti-Christian behavior.)
The host on KTVU asked Coulter the most pertinent question imaginable: “Some people would say, ‘Ann Coulter is all about Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter wants to promote Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter wants to come here – and she’s gonna come here on Thursday – and she’s gonna be a rabble-rouser and she’s gonna try to incite people.’”
Usually in situations like this, Coulter reverts to using Jesus as her model of civil disobedience (upturning tables in temple, brood of vipers speech) to justify her own vitriol. On this occasion, she argued, “Winston Churchill was promoting himself with that ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech.”
Then she stridently claimed, “The idea that I’m trying to get publicity off of this event could not be further from the truth on the facts.”
Here’s the actual timeline of events according to Coulter and her speech sponsors:
BridgeUSA and YAF sponsored Coulter’s speech. She knew – given riots at Milo Yiannopoulos’ event in February – that she wouldn’t be giving her speech. The university and/or rioters would surely shut it down.
Berkeley placed ever-demanding restrictions on Coulter’s speech. She insisted that YAF concede to every single demand. Coulter could not quit. She had to wait – and wait patiently she did (because she knew it was inevitable) – for Berkeley to cancel, making her a martyr. She told Tucker Carlson, “Well, they changed the rules every ten minutes. I kept agreeing to all of their conditions – they were hoping I would cancel.”
In this high-stakes game of chicken, Berkeley flinched. Berkeley caved and cancelled her speech, enabling Coulter to play the heroic victim of institutional censorship and mob rule.
Under intense media and political pressure, Berkeley offered an alternative date, which Coulter refused, keeping the pressure on Berkeley. Her sponsors filed lawsuits.
Coulter demanded her original speaking slot, insisted she would speak, and suggested she would speak in Sproul Plaza, if need be.
Berkeley announced that it could not ensure the safety of the speaker and attendees. Then YAF folded. Coulter wrote, “We were on [the] cusp of victory and YAF backed down, refused to seek a court order or allow the College Republicans to request a court order. It’s a sad day for free speech.”
Coulter’s sponsors caved. Coulter was incensed. Why? She wanted Berkeley to cave and herself be vindicated as a heroine. Instead, she would have to speak outdoors, something she did not want to do.
In the end, Gavin McInnes, her good friend and latest knight in shining armor, gave Coulter’s extremely-short speech on her behalf in Sproul Plaza. Coulter was there, in Berkeley, but not at that peaceful event. Afterward, she joined McInnes and supporters for drinks at George and Walt’s.
To KTVU, Coulter vowed: “I was invited to give a speech. I have a contract to give a speech. I’m giving a speech.” To the Hollywood Reporter, Coulter swore, “Yes, it was officially banned, but they can’t stop me. I’m an American. I have constitutional rights.”
Just the night before, Coulter told Sean Hannity: “I do think it is possible that the Berkeley campus will be the safest place on the face of the earth because so many people are flying in to defend me.”
At the airport, Coulter said, “Safest place on earth for me, but these cowards! Who has a better idea of what the campus is gonna be like than the person who’s going there as opposed to the moron sitting in Washington?”
So – both the day before and the afternoon of “the speech” – Coulter declared Berkeley “the safest place on earth for me,” yet she assigned her speech to McInnes! She gave him that assignment the day before the speech, which she emailed to him.
Coulter is there, but does not speak herself?
Gavin McInnes tweeted the day before the speech: “The @AnnCoulter event in Berkeley is NOT canceled. I will be speaking tomorrow with @Lauren_Southern @FaithGoldy @BrittPettibone #POYB.”
Two days earlier, Coulter tweeted: “Nice day for an outdoor speech at Berkeley,” implying she would give her speech in the plaza, if necessary. Coulter told AP, “I have my flights, so I thought I might stroll around the graveyard of the First Amendment.”
Five days later, Coulter told Lou Dobbs, “I would have preferred to have spoken.”
Coulter regularly advertises upcoming speeches on her website as soon as she has them booked. She never advertised her Berkeley speech on her own website – even though YAF did on theirs – complete with date, time, and location. Why?
She never intended to speak. It was all a charade. She wanted credit for courage without being courageous. She knew Berkeley would give in.
Nothing changed between Milo and Ann and the results were wholly predictable – and expected.
If Coulter really planned on speaking, then she must have prepared an astonishing speech. Indeed, Coulter boasted to Carlson that it would be “a searingly brilliant speech on immigration.”
McInnes said, “Ann sent me her speech,” and then he read it, breaking in with his own running commentary. Coulter’s actual speech was less than four minutes and contained nothing new, except for her comparison of immigrants to rat feces (contained in the lead paragraph). It contained zero references to Berkeley.
Hardly “searingly brilliant.”
Coulter told Carlson that her speech was about enforcement of existing immigration laws. Her speech – given by McInnes – never addressed that issue.
Earlier that week, Coulter said she would be updating her speech. Pretty good gig, $20,000 for a four-minute speech.
McInnes introduced her speech, saying, “Ann was betrayed. She was censored. They put all the legal onus upon her so that if someone gets hurt tonight, it would have been on her head. Now it’s on my head.”
If it was so dangerous that Coulter couldn’t give her speech, why did she have McInnes risk his life – and the lives of those in the audience – to do so on her behalf?
But what did she say shortly before McInnes gave her speech? “Safest place on earth for me, but these cowards!”
Yet, Coulter wasn’t about to nail her 95 Theses on Berkeley’s wall. She let her friend do it for her, while she took all the credit.
The non-partisan BridgeUSA and conservative Young America’s Foundation co-sponsored Coulter’s speech. [Both YAF and BridgeUSA were non-responsive to my interview requests.]
The founder of BridgeUSA explained why his organization co-sponsored Coulter’s speech – “to facilitate dialogue between political opposites.” Ironically, he wrote: “Free speech isn’t about provocation, violence, publicity stunts, selling books or testing limits” – precisely what Coulter does on a regular basis.
Further, BridgeUSA “refuse[s] to invoke the right to free speech to inflame, attack and generate publicity” – exactly the modus operandi Coulter has embraced for the past two decades.
He added, “instigating controversy for publicity does not fix a broken system,” yet BridgeUSA sponsored a self-proclaimed provocateur and polemicist to do just that. How well would David Duke be received by the Black Panthers?
At CPAC 2002, Coulter posited the notion that she should keep going further and further right to draw the culture and the left toward her. Shortly thereafter, Coulter coined a series of “rules” for talking to a liberal: being as outrageous as you can be to inflame them. No reconciliation there.
Alheli Picazo writes, “People like Coulter and Yiannopoulos aren’t brought to campus to contribute substance – hearing either speak for a few minutes quickly puts lie to claims of their brilliance. They are skilled antagonists who can reliably incite backlash from a perceived enemy.”
It is unclear why Coulter is the best spokesman for YAF on anything, even immigration (the purported topic of the series of speeches spearheaded by BridgeUSA).
YAF has 100 speakers on its roster. Only five speakers are listed for immigration; Coulter is not among them. Were none of the actual “experts” on immigration available?
Moreover, only eight YAF speakers require an honorarium of $20K or more. Surely YAF could have selected a better representative of conservatism for less money.
YAF previously sponsored Milo Yiannopoulos, who isn’t even listed on its roster. Coulter claimed she is not like Yiannopoulos, yet they are both leaders of the Alt-Right and share an Alt-Right worldview. Is YAF in agreement with those views?
One YAF tweet was particularly confusing: “At no time was there ever a space or lecture time confirmed for Ann Coulter to speak.” Yet YAF’s event page listed the location, date, and time as 110 Sprout Hall from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on 4/27/17. What really happened?
Would it be fair to say that YAF chose both Yiannopoulos and Coulter to generate controversy, anticipating a backlash which would then highlight the thuggish behavior on the Left and their threats to the First Amendment?
Conservative heroine Ann Coulter has proven herself a cowardly fraud. The free speech battle at Berkeley was merely a publicity stunt for this polemicist and provocateur.
As noted above, Coulter exhibited genuine courage in 1996-97. Hence her Alamo Award.
Since then, Coulter has gotten edgier and edgier while simultaneously abandoning her principles and ideals. In doing so, Coulter has actually embraced her fears. Now she is desperately grasping for the glory she once had and which increasingly eludes her.
What she fears most is facing the truth about the person she has become. Moreover, Coulter fears that she is beyond redemption, so why not continue on her downward path. (Ann, My Redeemer Lives, and so does yours!)
Ann Coulter isn’t a voice for freedom or free speech. Ann Coulter is a voice for Ann Coulter.
[#NeverTrump: Coulter’s Alt-Right Utopia examines the origins, worldview, and impact of the Alt-Right movement. It is now available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2fzA9Mr.]