NPR's new morning talk show -- out of D.C. station WAMU-FM -- is called 1A, for the First Amendment. So it would be embarrassing if the show came out against freedom of speech. On Wednesday, the show devoted an hour to Ann Coulter's canceled speech at the University of California in Berkeley. Host Joshua Johnson defended free speech, but the guests and social-media messages tilted toward the Left.
Johnson asked leftist professor Angus Johnston of the City University of New York: "But isn’t teaching students how to debate the Ann Coulters of the world part of the function of a university, I mean, it’s kind of like, you know, ‘You have to take Defense Against the Dark Arts to graduate’?"''
So controversial conservatives on campus are like the evil enemies of Harry Potter and his Hogwarts cohorts. The NPR host liked the analogy so much he repeated it later in the hour. Professor Johnston shot back by comparing Coulter & Co. to defenders of slavery:
ANGUS JOHNSTON: In the spirit of defending against the dark arts, one of my favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts professors in American history is Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist. And he said at one point that “at a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed.” That what you needed to fight against slavery was “biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke.” So I think the idea that debate and dialogue and discussion is how you defeat evil is one that, I don’t know, I kind of want to see people’s work to suggest that’s how you win.
The NPR program also included University of Chicago professor Jeffrey Stone and from the right, Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Stone complained that tried to shut down Coulter only made Coulter more famous, and Professor Johnston stuck to his "shut up the evil fascist speakers" boilerplate.
Johnson also tilted the conversation left when he read e-mails from listeners. Joshua argued: "Colleges shouldn’t book inflammatory pundits as legitimate thinkers in the first place. If Ann Coulter is revealing some new opinion or study or book she wants to debate, fine. But she’s just going to spew the same vitriol we’ve all heard from her already. Is speech being limited? Or are the students of Berkeley just shutting down unnecessary hate?"
He also read a message from Renee on the show's Facebook page (editing out the words in brackets as he read it out loud): "I don't think colleges [and universities] have an obligation to promote hate speech. Let's be very clear, Coulter isn't a conservative and "provocateur" [is still too kind]- she says outrageous things to incite anger and sell her brand. [Coulter packages hate, blame, and anger and ties it up with a pretty bow.] She's not looking to have an exchange of ideas or an open and honest dialogue - which is what colleges and universities should promote."
That's odd. It sounds like the liberals who are not looking for an open and honest dialogue.
For a brief contrast, he read a tweet from a Steven: "Do we really need to keep these progressive PC babies safe from an Ann Coulter speech? They’re in college. Don’t protest just vote.”
Johnson, who's black and openly gay, also played a long audio file from Mark at the University of New Hampshire, who insisted that the "black and queer" voices are the "true minority," so their speech should be promoted, as opposed to the white, straight majority.