Could Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Columbia University be a Good Thing?by Stephen Littau
NEW YORK – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced sharp criticism Monday about his opinions on women, gays, Israel, nuclear weapons and the Holocaust in an appearance at Columbia University, where protesters lined the streets bearing signs reading, “Hitler Lives.”
Inside a crowded lecture hall, the university president issued blistering introductory remarks. Ahmadinejad exhibits “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” declared Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who questioned the Iranian leader’s record on human rights and his statements that the Holocaust was a myth.
Ahmadinejad bristled at Bollinger’s comments, calling the introduction “an insult to the knowledge of the audience here.”
At first I was not that fond of the idea of such an evil man visiting an American college campus. Why should we give him the platform? We give him the platform for a couple of reasons: the American people and the free world hear his words and those words are challenged in a free society. In American soil, Ahmadinejad can only condemn Lee Bollinger and other dissenters with words rather than torture or death. On American soil, Ahmadinejad’s words can be challenged. When the despot says that there are no homosexuals in Iran, the audience can laugh and mock him and there isn’t one damn thing he can do about it!
The only one insulting the knowledge of the audience at Columbia University, the American people, and the free world is you, Ahmadinejad. You vile, cruel, evil, sick, man! I’m not afraid of your words. I laugh at them.
Free speech is perhaps America’s greatest strength. One would only imagine what would have happened to Mr. Bollinger had he called the Iranian despot a “petty and cruel dictator” in Iran.
Contrast this with what is common in America. We criticize our leaders on a daily basis. Sometimes the criticism isn’t even particularly intelligent. Just the other day a student at Colorado State University wrote a particularly intelligent, concise, four-word editorial in the Rocky Mountain Collegian: “Taser this. FUCK BUSH.”
While it is true that the author of this brilliant opinion piece may be fired from the paper (the paper lost $30,000 in advertising within hours of the article’s publication), he does not have to worry about being thrown in prison or executed for criticizing the president. Rather than the government taking action the free market does the job.*
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University is a shining example to the world that we support free speech even if we despise the speech. Who knows, maybe the Iranian people who yearn for freedom will be emboldened by this?
Now as for the idea of this animal visiting ground zero…
*Don’t tell me his First Amendment rights are being violated if he is fired from the paper. The First Amendment only prevents government from censorship; not private actors such as the school newspaper.