Ahmedinejad at Columbia

AT symposium
Thomas Lifson writes:

I was sorry that the invitation was extended, but once it was out there I restrained myself from calling on Columbia to withdraw it. That would have handed a propaganda victory of sorts to him and put the good guys on the side of shutting down speech. The damage was done by the invitation.

I didn't expect much, but I hoped in some remote corner of my mind for something like Bollinger's introduction, which raised important questions. The questions asked him during his talks were also mostly good.

The underlying problem I have with the whole exercise is that Ahmedinejad's audience back home, and throughout the Muslim world, will most likely interpret the applause they hear for him and the respectability conferred by the platform extended to him as victories. Many will never see the awkward moments.

Good for Bollinger in setting it up the way he did. But on a net basis, I don't think this was a good day for the cause of freedom in Iran.

[In case anyone cares, in the name of full disclosure I should admit that I was a visiting associate professor of economics at Columbia's Graduate School of International Affairs for two years. Long before Bollinger.]

Kyle-Anne Shiver writes:

Stupid by any other name -- still stupid

When respected American University professors roll out the red carpet for a heinous tyrant, there is only one word for it to anyone with even a single grain of common sense:  STUPID.  The President of Columbia can call his actions anything he wants, but it won't change a thing.  Even a fourth-grader knows that indulging a liar only encourages him to go further and further in his audacity. 

I'm sitting in my living room forcing myself to listen to the eerily calm, innocent-sounding - nearly genteel - ravings of a dastardly monster, as he explains from an American University podium that the historicity of the Holocaust should be examined from different perspectives.  He is informing the students and faculty members that there is no such thing as "absolute truth," only "perspectives on the truth."  He asserts than not even in the science of physics is there "perfect truth."

I hope he has arranged to meet with George Soros while he is in New York, because his view of truth is in perfect accord with the billionaire's own.  Perhaps they can amiably chat over their divergent "perspectives," and thus avoid the imprisoning of any more of Mr. Soros' Open Society employees in Iran.  Heck, they even agree on the Iraq War.  They'll have a swell friendship, don't you know.

My question to Columbia's grand intellectuals is simple.  Why on earth would you deign to listen, and give great attention, to a man who tells you up front that he does not give truth any sort of value?  He tells you there is no such thing as truth, and then you listen to him as though you will somehow shame him into telling the truth. 

This type of gullibility gives a whole new meaning to the requirement placed upon literary fiction:  "the willing suspension of disbelief."   

Towards the end of the little president's speech, he is making a formal invitation to the President of Columbia University and a group of students to come to Iran and experience his gracious hospitality.  I sincerely hope they will take him up on it.  The sooner the better.  They can play a role in Iran similar to the one played by Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War.  Let them go and shake the hands of those who arm and support the men who kill the soldiers dying to protect them and their free-speech podiums.

Only fools give such credence to swine.

Andrew Sumereau writes:
 
As I graduate of Columbia (Class of '82) I have more than a passing interest in the controversy.

The episode reminds me of a story told by William F. Buckley in his book Up from Liberalism (Stein & Day, 1959) at the expense of Eleanor Roosevelt.

"Some years ago, after Mrs. Roosevelt had written a column likening McCarthyism to Hitlerism, I suggested on a television program that symbolic of the sluggishness of liberal-directed anti-communism was the fact that should Eleanor Roosevelt happen upon Senator McCarthy at a cocktail party she would probably refuse to shake hands with him, whereas she would almost certainly shake hands with Vishinsly's hand at the same party. (Andrei Vishinsky's was then head of the Soviet delegation in New York.)
That Columbia was foolhardy in making such an invitation is, I think, self-evident.

But I must admit some sympathy for the cause of openness. And a continuing contempt for the muddle-headed jingo-ism of some of my conservative compatriots.

If such an evil man is prohibited from speaking because of moral, realpolitik, or military considerations it must be stated why. And what it is that distinguishes him from other evil men. For we are very tolerant of evil men when it has suited us. As is proper in the realm of grown-up diplomacy.

We have not always reeled from the thought of working with evil men. Remember, "Uncle Joe" Stalin was much admired by FDR and I think there is no question but that he would have been welcome to speak at Columbia in the forties.

We are living in an age of drift and tendency. Political correctness without borders.

What is the distinctive feature in this debate? It is, pathetically, unclear, or rather unclarified by our foreign policy.

Consider. What is our rationale for prohibiting the speech of Iran's President? Would the head of Communist China be prohibited from speaking here? How about Mugabe? Putin? Castro?

Has Congress declared war on Iran? If not. Why not?

I am not arguing the cause of free speech for despots and murderers, I am suggesting that such dilemmas stem from a lack of consistency in our approach to the world. And that we, as a nation need to define our position, and take a coherent consistent stand.

Let us not permit the delegation of our foreign policy to the likes of Mr. Bollinger.

Cliff Thier writes:

At this very moment, the government in Iran has completed the editing process on Ahmadinejad's

"triumphant speech to the rapt audience at one of America's most prestigious universities. There the students and faculty showed their solidarity with the Iranian people by their repeated applause of Iran's President."
Cue video of Ahmadinejad smiling from the lectern, audio of thunderous applause as he denounces Jews, the myth of the Holocaust and the Great Satan. A standing ovation when he promises to eliminate Israel.

Placards extolling the Iranian Revolution are everywhere in the crowd when Ahmadinejad leaves Columbia surrounded by well-wishers. A translated video clip of Columbia President Lee Bollinger pledging Columbia's help in removing the "Zionist entity from the face of the earth" is then played.

Cut to commercials.

Joesph Crowley writes:

A Win-Loss For The Little Dictator
The only ones applauding Ahmadinejad's convoluted propaganda today were BDS sufferers and/or anti-Semites - likely one and the same individuals. In a pre-new-media world the whole thing would've been a win-win for the Little Dictator but his meaningless blather and non-answers to Bollinger's surprise dressing down, not to mention his idiotic declaration of "no gays in Iran", will surely generate a net loss for him and his puppeteers. After all, what self-respecting liberal/progressive (boy, talk about oxymorons!) could look themselves in the mirror and say "I guess it's possible there are no homosexuals in Iran."
John Gridley writes:

The invitation by Columbia to Ahmedenijad had nothing at  all to do with free speech or the free-exchange of ideas.  The right of free speech does not give anyone (1) a right to effective speech or (2) a right to any particular forum.  The right involved here is Columbia University's right of freedom of association.  It has chosen to associate itself, its history, and its membership in the Ivy League with an intellectually dishonest historical moron and anti-Semitic bigot, who is in charge of a totalitarian fascist regime.  No one can be faulted for observing that birds of a feather flock together.  People of good will and intellectual honesty will rightly shun Columbia for its choice of associates.
Thomas Lifson writes:

I was sorry that the invitation was extended, but once it was out there I restrained myself from calling on Columbia to withdraw it. That would have handed a propaganda victory of sorts to him and put the good guys on the side of shutting down speech. The damage was done by the invitation.

I didn't expect much, but I hoped in some remote corner of my mind for something like Bollinger's introduction, which raised important questions. The questions asked him during his talks were also mostly good.

The underlying problem I have with the whole exercise is that Ahmedinejad's audience back home, and throughout the Muslim world, will most likely interpret the applause they hear for him and the respectability conferred by the platform extended to him as victories. Many will never see the awkward moments.

Good for Bollinger in setting it up the way he did. But on a net basis, I don't think this was a good day for the cause of freedom in Iran.

[In case anyone cares, in the name of full disclosure I should admit that I was a visiting associate professor of economics at Columbia's Graduate School of International Affairs for two years. Long before Bollinger.]

Kyle-Anne Shiver writes:

Stupid by any other name -- still stupid

When respected American University professors roll out the red carpet for a heinous tyrant, there is only one word for it to anyone with even a single grain of common sense:  STUPID.  The President of Columbia can call his actions anything he wants, but it won't change a thing.  Even a fourth-grader knows that indulging a liar only encourages him to go further and further in his audacity. 

I'm sitting in my living room forcing myself to listen to the eerily calm, innocent-sounding - nearly genteel - ravings of a dastardly monster, as he explains from an American University podium that the historicity of the Holocaust should be examined from different perspectives.  He is informing the students and faculty members that there is no such thing as "absolute truth," only "perspectives on the truth."  He asserts than not even in the science of physics is there "perfect truth."

I hope he has arranged to meet with George Soros while he is in New York, because his view of truth is in perfect accord with the billionaire's own.  Perhaps they can amiably chat over their divergent "perspectives," and thus avoid the imprisoning of any more of Mr. Soros' Open Society employees in Iran.  Heck, they even agree on the Iraq War.  They'll have a swell friendship, don't you know.

My question to Columbia's grand intellectuals is simple.  Why on earth would you deign to listen, and give great attention, to a man who tells you up front that he does not give truth any sort of value?  He tells you there is no such thing as truth, and then you listen to him as though you will somehow shame him into telling the truth. 

This type of gullibility gives a whole new meaning to the requirement placed upon literary fiction:  "the willing suspension of disbelief."   

Towards the end of the little president's speech, he is making a formal invitation to the President of Columbia University and a group of students to come to Iran and experience his gracious hospitality.  I sincerely hope they will take him up on it.  The sooner the better.  They can play a role in Iran similar to the one played by Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War.  Let them go and shake the hands of those who arm and support the men who kill the soldiers dying to protect them and their free-speech podiums.

Only fools give such credence to swine.

Andrew Sumereau writes:
 
As I graduate of Columbia (Class of '82) I have more than a passing interest in the controversy.

The episode reminds me of a story told by William F. Buckley in his book Up from Liberalism (Stein & Day, 1959) at the expense of Eleanor Roosevelt.

"Some years ago, after Mrs. Roosevelt had written a column likening McCarthyism to Hitlerism, I suggested on a television program that symbolic of the sluggishness of liberal-directed anti-communism was the fact that should Eleanor Roosevelt happen upon Senator McCarthy at a cocktail party she would probably refuse to shake hands with him, whereas she would almost certainly shake hands with Vishinsly's hand at the same party. (Andrei Vishinsky's was then head of the Soviet delegation in New York.)
That Columbia was foolhardy in making such an invitation is, I think, self-evident.

But I must admit some sympathy for the cause of openness. And a continuing contempt for the muddle-headed jingo-ism of some of my conservative compatriots.

If such an evil man is prohibited from speaking because of moral, realpolitik, or military considerations it must be stated why. And what it is that distinguishes him from other evil men. For we are very tolerant of evil men when it has suited us. As is proper in the realm of grown-up diplomacy.

We have not always reeled from the thought of working with evil men. Remember, "Uncle Joe" Stalin was much admired by FDR and I think there is no question but that he would have been welcome to speak at Columbia in the forties.

We are living in an age of drift and tendency. Political correctness without borders.

What is the distinctive feature in this debate? It is, pathetically, unclear, or rather unclarified by our foreign policy.

Consider. What is our rationale for prohibiting the speech of Iran's President? Would the head of Communist China be prohibited from speaking here? How about Mugabe? Putin? Castro?

Has Congress declared war on Iran? If not. Why not?

I am not arguing the cause of free speech for despots and murderers, I am suggesting that such dilemmas stem from a lack of consistency in our approach to the world. And that we, as a nation need to define our position, and take a coherent consistent stand.

Let us not permit the delegation of our foreign policy to the likes of Mr. Bollinger.

Cliff Thier writes:

At this very moment, the government in Iran has completed the editing process on Ahmadinejad's

"triumphant speech to the rapt audience at one of America's most prestigious universities. There the students and faculty showed their solidarity with the Iranian people by their repeated applause of Iran's President."
Cue video of Ahmadinejad smiling from the lectern, audio of thunderous applause as he denounces Jews, the myth of the Holocaust and the Great Satan. A standing ovation when he promises to eliminate Israel.

Placards extolling the Iranian Revolution are everywhere in the crowd when Ahmadinejad leaves Columbia surrounded by well-wishers. A translated video clip of Columbia President Lee Bollinger pledging Columbia's help in removing the "Zionist entity from the face of the earth" is then played.

Cut to commercials.

Joesph Crowley writes:

A Win-Loss For The Little Dictator
The only ones applauding Ahmadinejad's convoluted propaganda today were BDS sufferers and/or anti-Semites - likely one and the same individuals. In a pre-new-media world the whole thing would've been a win-win for the Little Dictator but his meaningless blather and non-answers to Bollinger's surprise dressing down, not to mention his idiotic declaration of "no gays in Iran", will surely generate a net loss for him and his puppeteers. After all, what self-respecting liberal/progressive (boy, talk about oxymorons!) could look themselves in the mirror and say "I guess it's possible there are no homosexuals in Iran."
John Gridley writes:

The invitation by Columbia to Ahmedenijad had nothing at  all to do with free speech or the free-exchange of ideas.  The right of free speech does not give anyone (1) a right to effective speech or (2) a right to any particular forum.  The right involved here is Columbia University's right of freedom of association.  It has chosen to associate itself, its history, and its membership in the Ivy League with an intellectually dishonest historical moron and anti-Semitic bigot, who is in charge of a totalitarian fascist regime.  No one can be faulted for observing that birds of a feather flock together.  People of good will and intellectual honesty will rightly shun Columbia for its choice of associates.