Lest anyone get the wrong idea from the headline of this article, make no mistake: I think Bernie Sanders is a nut. This is the same man, remember, who so loved the Soviet Union that he actually spent his honeymoon there. He’s also a self-avowed socialist whose policy prescriptions lie somewhere between Angela Davis and Che Guevara on the political spectrum, and seems to have invented Fifty Shades fan fiction long before there was a Fifty Shades.
But, when it comes to matters of free speech, Crazy Bernie actually has his noggin screwed on straight. Speaking with the Huffington Post, he weighed in on the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter and her upcoming speech at Berkeley, which the university had wanted to reschedule to a time better suited to late-nite informercials because they had “concerns” about “security”. To his credit, Bernie was having none of it, and said that free speech shouldn’t be subject to a rioter’s veto:
I don’t like this. I don’t like it. Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.
Let’s set aside the notion that Bernie Sanders calling anyone “off the wall” is a lot like Anthony Weiner telling Kim Kardashian that she might be sharing a bit too much on Instragram. We give praise here when praise is due, and in this observation Bernie is absolutely correct. Moreover, given the kind of climate we’re in, for him to take such a stand is brave and commendable.
To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness. If you can’t ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?
What are you afraid of ― her ideas? Ask her the hard questions. Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.
Can I get an amen? Well said, Bernie! Have you ever considered going on tour with Mark Steyn?
Anyway, even though he doesn’t understand the first thing about economics, Bernie seems to have a pretty decent grasp of the First Amendment (at least until you get him going about Citizens United–but that’s an argument for another day). Contrast that with serial bloviator Howard Dean, who decided to dish on Ann Coulter and proved yet again that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt:
Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment. https://t.co/DOct3xcLoY
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 21, 2017
Hey, Howard–I guess this means they should have hauled you away that time you said, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.” Let me know if need any money for bail, pal.
Luckily for Dean, I don’t think he needs to worry about Donald Trump sending the goon squad to collect him, because–unlike Bernie Sanders–he is spectacularly wrong about what the First Amendment protects. That includes the stuff he doesn’t like, such as when Ann Coulter says something incendiary, and the stuff he does, like when he suggested that George W.Bush might have known about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
Or, as a wise editor at the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten once wrote, “Free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no but.”
Thanks, for defending it, Bernie. Howard, you can go away now.