You know what I hate most about Ahmadinejad? His name. At least when Qaddafi was the world’s main madman, you could spell his name any old way, and no one could say you were wrong. Ahmadinejad you have to keep looking up. My blogging time is precious. I don’t want to have to waste any of it researching facts.
So anyway, Ahmad spoke at Columbia, and said a few things. Do I think he should have been allowed to speak? Not really. I believe in free speech, but that doesn’t mean you can deliver your oration from my front lawn. (If you volunteer to mow it first, then… we’ll talk.)
A while back, some organization or another was placing ads in college newspapers, claiming that the Holocaust didn’t happen. Every paper’s editorial staff was thrown into a handwringing tizzy — should we allow the ad? Should we not allow the ad? I never understood what the problem was. It’s your paper. You don’t like the ad, don’t run it. But wouldn’t that make us, like, censors? We’d be no better than The Man! Do you run every letter to the editor? Do you think you’re “censoring” the ones that don’t make it? That author can print ’em up on a photocopying machine and hand them out on the quad.
If you don’t like the anti-Semitic ad, wad it up and throw it in the trash. End of story. And if you don’t like the anti-Semitic Iranian leader, same deal. Just because he wants to speak somewhere doesn’t mean you have to give him a platform.
Now, if Columbia’s mission statement included the presentation of diverse and controversial views, then I could see Ahmad fitting into the lineup. But Columbia, and many other schools, have a difficult time with opinions to the right of Noam Chomsky. The ROTC is currently banned from the Columbia campus, for instance, and when the anti-immigrant Minutemen gave a speech, they were shouted down by violent protestors. Yet this Holocaust-denying, homosexual-murdering, repressive tyrant is embraced and given thoughtful consideration? Well, that’s your perogative, Columbia. But: Ew.
That said, if you’re going to invite such a character to your campus, try to show a little class. I disagree with the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, using his introduction time to attack Ahmadinejad. If he indeed felt that Ahmad is “a petty and cruel dictator,” “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated,” and “lacking in intellectual courage,” then why give him this forum in the first place? Since you did, suck it up and introduce the guy right. You can attack him afterwards.
Thankfully, Ahmad didn’t use his time in the spotlight particularly well. The major points we’ll take away from Ahmad’s speech are 1) The reiteration that the Holocaust might have happened, but maybe didn’t, we’ll never really know, it’s all a big confusing mystery, and 2) There are no homosexuals in Iran. In other words, he largely came across as a nutjob.
Final point: I think Ahmad should have been allowed to visit Ground Zero, and lay a wreath there. The only thing is, right before he got there, he would have had to answer this simple question: “Who committed the 9/11 attacks?” If he equivocated, or spread the blame to the United States, or said anything other than some variant of “nineteen religion-crazed Islamic fundamentalists,” the NYPD would then kick his ass the heck out of there. I’d buy tickets to that.