We’re not sure anyone is getting exactly what they bargained for in Ann Coulter’s visit to Modesto on Friday night.
Those who invited her – the Republican central committees of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties – knew she is intensely controversial. Her viper-tongued criticism of all things liberal is well known, but perhaps they weren’t as aware of her attacks on Mexican immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Pope Francis and others.
Regardless, it’s fair to say they didn’t bargain for the backlash. About 20 people confronted the all-Republican Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and many more have written letters to the editor.
Though an unnamed benefactor agreed to pay her $25,000 plus expenses, Republicans didn’t exactly get a bargain price, either. Shortly after agreeing to come to Modesto, Coulter booked an event in Berkeley for $5,000 less. It’s that event that has caused an ongoing uproar.
In the weeks since booking UC Berkeley, there was an unrelated confrontation between groups of white supremacists and self-described anti-fascists. On April 15, a man who began attending CSU Stanislaus following four years in prison punched a woman in the face and knocked her to the ground.
Fearful Coulter’s event would attract similar idiotic antagonists, the university canceled her show. When cries of censorship ensued, officials backtracked and offered her a different (but unacceptable) date. Tuesday night, she said she’d speak on Sproul Plaza if no location was provided.
By Wednesday morning, Coulter had reconsidered. After a sponsoring organization pulled its support out of fear for student members, she told the New York Times the Thursday engagement was off.
That leaves Modesto in an interesting situation.
It was her Berkeley show – not Modesto’s – that had drawn all the national attention. If there were to be “fireworks” surrounding Coulter’s California visit, all Modesto would see was the smoke. We were the second act, the cool-down, the afterthought.
If her Berkeley show remains canceled, that could change. Those who planned to protest there might come here. We support the right of all citizens to speak their minds – including Coulter and the anti-fascists. We do not, however, condone violence.
If visitors to our community become violent, Modesto law enforcement is well prepared to deal with it; we trust MPD officers will do their jobs with the professionalism they’ve always shown.
Meanwhile, most of those in Modesto who became angry when Coulter’s visit was announced a month ago have taken a different tack. Instead of planning protests, two groups have scheduled counter-events to raise money – managing to find a bargain in this basement.
Several Republicans have told us they, too, found a bargain – all the “free publicity” surrounding Coulter’s visit meant they were able to bank the money earmarked for advertising.
In our previous editorial, The Bee did not say Coulter should be kept from speaking; we wrote of our disappointment that someone so polarizing had been invited into our community.
If there is a response from her or others, it’s only fair we hear it. So we’ve bought a ticket.
Paying to hear abuse is no bargain; but neither is refusing to support our rights to speak.