Is what Coulter spews actually "hate speech", directed at Muslims and at anyone unfortunate enough to be considered a "liberal" by the universe's grand arbiter in such matters (Ann Coulter)?
I don't know. Maybe. Probably not. It's certainly offensive - but when Ann talks about liberals, she's talking about ALL Canadians, really. I mean, Rob Anders would be considered at MOST a liberal Republican in the U.S. - Most of the "scary, right-wing Tories" (as classified by our country's left) would probably fit best in the Democratic Party down south, and be victims of Ann's wrath. Everyone to the left of them (most of Canada's 35 Million citizens) would be hardly worthy of Ann's sneering derision. Heck, she even looks down on the former independent candidate for Calgary-Egmont.
As far as the "free speech" issue goes, what it boils down to is this: If Ann Coulter isn't inciting hatred (I don't think she is), then she's free to be as ignorant and wrong as she chooses.
My understanding is that this is a freedom that Ann exercises with great aplomb, as often as possible.
So she's got a lot of practice exercising her freedom to be ignorant, wrong, and untruthful.
People who have a problem with her opinions and mistruths also have an inalienable freedom - that of plugging their ears, staying home, ignoring what she says, or going to watch the Hitmen play at the Saddledome. I'd suggest they try any of those options, rather than denying Ann her right to come off as an intolerant, bigoted, small-minded idiot. (I'm not saying Ann IS those things - that'd be a personal attack, something she'd never lower herself to. I'm just saying she comes OFF that way)
I DID want to weigh in, though, on exactly what the big issue with Ann seems to be: Who IS this person, this polarizing figure?
Well, I'm going to answer that question with a question.
You know why I always loved and respected George Carlin? It wasn't because I agreed with everything he said - far from it. Some of it was downright offensive. But when Carlin WAS saying offensive things, he was also offering intelligent insight, logic, rational analysis of the issues at hand... and he knew what he wanted to say next, and after that, and after that... Carlin was a foul-mouthed, sacrilegious, take-no-prisoners, unapologetic, nihilistic philosopher for the 2nd half of the 20th century.
He made you think "what a jerk!" - and then, later, "but he DID have a point..."
Compare Carlin, then, to Michael Richards - who, you ask? Cosmo Kramer, from Seinfeld. When he realized his career had effectively died with the show that made him famous, Richards' increasing desperation to recapture the attention he so craved led him to the stage, where - after several failed attempts to parlay his fame into lucrative gigs and big audiences, he went to the last, desperate ploy in the "get attention playbook" - there's no such thing as bad publicity. He went onto a stage, with a live microphone in hand, and started spewing vile, racial vitriol in an effort to get noticed.
He got noticed - and then buried.
Richards failed in his attempt to get noticed as a reinvented, edgy comic because when the cameras turned to him, and he started his racial ranting - he had nowhere to go. It wasn't part of a routine. It wasn't something he could later wrap-up on the same stage to show us the folly of racist thinking, or that - as Carlin famously pointed out in what was arguably the crown jewel of his life's work - "there are no bad words... bad thoughts, bad intentions, and WORDS...". It was just a shocking statement, for shock's value, and with no foresight put into it, and no exit strategy. Richards wanted people to notice him, but wasn't forward-thinking enough to know that he'd have to have somewhere to carry the thought to turn it from ignorant outburst to a fully realized thought that added to the conversation or taught his audience something. He was Jerry Springer, without the Final Thought. "Entertainment" for the most base of our impulses, without any higher motive. People walked away thinking "what a jerk!" - and that was all.
Ann Coulter is the Michael Richards of American political discourse. A one-trick pony who lost her meal ticket when Bill Clinton left office, so she now says shallow and shocking things, whether she believes them or not, about liberals and religious minorities to get attention. And she's getting it, and the paycheques and notoriety that come with it.
She's the political equivalent of Vince McMahon, writing scripts featuring necrophelia on a pro wrestling show, hopeful of shocking someone enough to get mainstream media coverage.
Her ignorant, shallow and offensive act is a rash on the public civic consciousness.
The best thing we can do is to ignore her, take a shot of rationalism, stop scratching, and hope she'll go away when we stop feeding her apparent egomania.