This bridge has a troll. And nothing good can come of trying to cross it.
On April 27, right-wing “polemicist” Ann Coulter will come to speak on campus about illegal immigration as part of a three-part series hosted by newly founded campus club bridgeCal.
Why this club thought Coulter was a reputable source to speak on an immigration is beyond us. With her past incendiary remarks toward Muslims, Mexicans and many other communities of color, Coulter has shown an unwillingness to partake in intellectual discourse. Simply put, she would astonish us if she sparked meaningful dialogue on campus.
But beyond that, bringing a controversial troll onto campus hoping to “bridge the divide” among political ideologies seems like a familiar attempt to “create a dialogue” — the same misguided rhetoric used by Berkeley College Republicans when they invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus in February. We all know how that ended.
In intent, bridgeCal’s invitation of a conservative, liberal and libertarian speaker onto campus to speak about illegal immigration is noble. But that members of BCR and bridgeCal elected to invite Coulter to represent conservative thought on campus reflects poorly on them — especially in comparison to the speaker who was invited to represent a liberal perspective, Maria Echaveste, the policy and program development director at the UC Berkeley School of Law and deputy White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration. Echaveste’s experience as an academic and in policy work puts her in stark contrast with Coulter, whose only qualification is stirring the pot.
BridgeCal’s parent organization, bridgeUSA, has described itself as a movement where “intellectualism meets empathy,” according to its website. Why, then, did they invite Coulter, who possesses neither of those qualities, to speak on campus? If bridgeUSA’s goal is to heal the “poisonous atmosphere plaguing civic discourse in this country,” then why does it not consider Coulter’s rhetoric as poisonous?
When members of bridgeCal spoke to our Editorial Board, they admitted that Coulter would likely not change anybody’s minds on campus and that much of her provocative comments in the past were to publicize her own book.
They have put a burden on the Berkeley community to show up for the Q&A portion. If Coulter’s past responses to Q&A portion are any indicator — for example, when she told a Muslim student to “take a camel” — then a productive discussion is not happening come April 27.
Perhaps if this speaking event had been formatted as a debate — where a moderator would facilitate a discussion to challenge ideas between a liberal speaker and Coulter — rather than a platform for rambling, uninterrupted hateful rhetoric, then this event could have been more interesting to watch. Instead, we will see unfold the same mistakes and subsequent absolution of guilt and responsibility from the parties that invited her onto campus.