Monday, September 24, 2007

Why Letting the Iranian President Speak at Columbia University Was Wrong

A very good friend of mine, who is probably the smartest person I know, thinks that letting Ahmadinejad the President of Iran speak this past week at Columbia University was an exercise in free speech. Sadly it was not. It was merely a platform for a blithering idiot’s ruminations. Lee Bollinger the president of the university did, however, do the world a “solid” and put Mahmood in his place -calling him to his face a “petty dictator”. Well, now that I think about it, Lee only said he “Exhibit[ed] signs” of a “petty dictator”. So the president of Columbia didn’t have the huevos to actually call him a dictator. Nice. But I digress.

My good friend a graduate of Barnard College (a part of Columbia University) insists that this forum we provided for Ahmadinejad and the students of Columbia was an exercise in freedom. Free speech and all that. She insists that there is a right to be heard. This is why she is wrong:

1. First and for most there is NO RIGHT to be heard. There is a right to speak freely. But nowhere in the Constitution does it guarantee the right to make others listen or as an extension provide a forum so others can be heard. Over and over on the day of the “forum” I heard countless pseudo-intellectuals call for the “right to be heard”. Sorry. But our laws do not compel others to listen. It only compels them to let you speak if you so chose.

2. Apparently, according to my friend the genius (she also has a Masters degree in International Relations and is attending NYU law school), the constitution sometimes refers to citizens and sometimes to “people” and when it refers to “people” it could mean every person in the world. So, in that light, we try to behave towards others as we behave towards ourselves and extend our constitutional protections as a standard of treatment to the rest of the world. (Gitmo excluded!) So the United States should protect Almondjoy – I mean Ahmadinejad’s right to speak. And…we do. There is a fantastic place where many people from all over the world can hear Mahmood ruminate. It is called the United Nations. Where we are a member and will fight with blood and treasure to protect Mahmood’s, Hugo Chavez’s and any other low-life’s right to speak and waste valuable time that could be spent rooting out corruption at the UN.

3. Another argument is that Mahmood’s appearance would lift the level of debate at Columbia. Well, that is Columbia’s problem if debate is at such a poor level. I personally don’t need the appearance of a terrorist backing, homosexual murdering, woman stoning, genocide threatening “petty dictator” to lift my level of debate. What we do need to lift that level is something other than ultra-liberal education that gives too much credence to relativist and deconstructionist theories and not enough to the benefits of values and principles and what adherence to values and principles can bring about when it is married to a healthy, but limited, dose of relativism and deconstruction. If you don’t know what I mean by “relativist and deconstructionist” principles think of both as the science of NEVER deciding whether to fish-or-cut-bait or poop-or-get-off-the-pot! Mahmood doesn’t raise the level of debate. He lowers it to some ambiguous denominator that does not accomplish a damn thing. (Pardon my Farsi.) Listening to him go on and on about how Iran loves freedom and how Iran loves women made me sick.

4. Finally, there is no value in anything Ahmadinejad has to say because he has proven himself either stupid or “provocative” as Lee Bollinger pointed out. Anyone who denies the existence of the Holocaust is not worthy of academic challenge. Perhaps laboratory study -but I am quite sure that this forum was not billed as a chance to see a monkey in a cage, rather it was billed as an academic exercise that gave Ahmadinejad some sense of equality or peer-status to the rest of Columbia University. There was no “exchange” at Columbia University. Nothing was gleaned from Mahmood that couldn’t have been gleaned otherwise and Mahmood I promise you took nothing away except more contempt for the United States.

So sorry to Columbia University, you are not only wrong but you have actually worked to lessen the thing you have tried to protect (free speech) by letting a propagandist and by all accounts a terrorist have a venue to try to equivocate his countries deeds and rhetoric via obfuscation and pseudo-logic.

Having said all of this and having counseled with my before mentioned dear and wise friend one extraordinary thing did happen because of this incident. My friend, a liberal, gave “props” to our President for his magnanimous view of the Ahmadinejad/Columbia University situation. She also directed me to the US Supreme Court decision of the Texas v. Johnson flag-burning case in which Justice Louis Brandeis was quoted in a 1927 opinion:

"To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."

So here it is today that I expose the evil and invite each of you to do the same. Let your voices drown out the voice of Mahmood Ahmadinejad and all those like him.

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