Cowboys, and Nothing More
Vol: 72 Issue: 29 Saturday, September 29, 2007
The Ahmadinejad visit to Columbia University has revived that whole free-speech/hate-speech debate, with many folks switching sides for just this occasion. Even the most liberal among us were wondering if we ve taken this free speech thing too far.
Nobody is exactly sure what the American version of free speech actually means anymore. The working definition, so far as I can tell, is that ‘free speech’ is anything liberals agree with, and ‘hate speech’ is anything that conservatives agree with.
A good rule of thumb for me personally is this. If I agree with it, it probably falls into one of the red zone areas of banned speech. If it makes me so mad I want to throw something at my TV, then it is probably free speech.
Ahmadinejad’s invitation to address the students and faculty at Columbia University is an example of ‘free speech’, as I understand its definition, for the 21st century.
Columbia University invited Ahamdinejad to speak with Columbia s faculty knowing full well that the invitation itself would improve Ahmadinejad’s image at home, strengthen his regime and weaken its opposition.
Columbia s faculty knew that Iranian state-run TV would edit and endlessly loop any segments that portrayed Ahmadinejad favorably, so Bollinger s scathing introduction was largely symbolic and aimed at American audiences only.
These are among the best and brightest professors and academics in America, so ignorance is no excuse. They knew the invitation would be used by an enemy of the United States to harm American interests.
But they extended it anyway, defending the decision with high and noble-sounding arguments about free speech, higher education, critical thinking, and so forth.
The faculty knew that Ahamdinejad would evade the questions he didn t want to answer, filibuster with anti-American speeches and slogans, make the usual anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist threats, and exhort his listeners to embrace Islam.
Ahmadinejad even managed to do a little public gay-bashing, replying to a question about executing homosexuals by slyly noting that there are no homosexuals in Iran, eliciting laughter from the audience.
To summarize, Columbia invited the leader of a foreign, self-avowed enemy government currently engaged in combat against US forces to preach treason and sedition against America to its students, bash gays, promote genocide against the Jews, threaten America with war, and proselytize for his religion.
All under the banner of freedom of speech.
Promoting a speech exhorting treason or sedition against the United States is a crime under the US Code. Columbia’s faculty knew they were flying in the face of the spirit of the law, but they also knew they’d never be prosecuted under its letter.
Given that Columbia has a history department, it seems reasonable to assume they had some sense of the historical reasons why treason and anti-sedition laws exist in the first place.
Ahmadinejad’s suggestive reply to the question about executions of homosexuals with the flat statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran would, if made by an American speaker, fall under both current and pending federal hate crimes legislation.
Exhorting the university students to convert to Islam from a public podium on a public university is a violation of the Supreme Court s interpretation of the 1st Amendment that prohibits religious speech on public grounds.
If one were to pick apart every element of Ahmadinejad s speech, one would find that he was afforded a freedom of speech that not even American citizens can claim.
All under the banner of ‘freedom of speech’ — for some. As long as you aren’t pro-military, pro-immigration enforcement, pro-American, pro-life, pro-traditional cultural or family values or, (especially!) pro-Christianity.
Columbia defines that kind of talk as ‘hate speech’.
As expected, Ahmadinejad s visit scored him big points back home. Iran s domestic audience saw their leader give stirring speeches to standing ovations from Columbia s students.
Iranians didn t hear the questions that Columbia was so proud of, but they did hear ABOUT them.
Iran published a letter of protest it sent to Columbia University protesting the hateful and impolite words used by Columbia President Lee Bollinger, assailing Bollinger s “ignorance of the principle of hosting the president of Iran, a country of great civilization and a 7000-year history, and posing a series of mock questions for Bollinger.
Among them was this one: “Why did the U.S. media exert pressure on you to cancel President Ahmadinejad’s lecture…and why did the U.S. TV networks broadcast programs for several days against the Iranian president and…not allow him to respond to the allegations? Does this not run counter to freedom of expression?”
Iran s population didn t hear Columbia’s questions they only heard those parts of the speech that Iran s government wanted them to hear — and the standing ovations given their president by Columbia’s student body.
Iranians didn t hear the students laughing AT Ahmadinejad when he claimed there were no homosexuals in Iran — they heard them laughing WITH their president, obviously having a great time despite popular opposition to his visit.
And what Iranian, either for or against Iran’s mullocracy, would not enjoy the irony of their leadership lecturing America on the principles of free speech? Ahmadinejad couldn t BUY this kind of positive publicity, and it could not have come for him at a better time.
Over in Iran, he is telling his people that America is divided over what to do about Iran’s nuclear program. America s government and media are anti-Islam and anti-Iran, but America s people really, really like him.
Just listen to that applause! Just listen to that laughter! And just look at what hypocrites the Americans are when it comes to freedom of speech!
The university only invited President Ahmadinejad at the behest of the Americans and the Zionists to insult him, but look at how well he was received by the students. (That resonates among Iran s dissident student population and 70% Iran s population is under thirty.)
You see? America isn t what you think it is. You re better off with the government you have.
I ve used the term useful idiots in the past, and have been roundly criticized as being not very Christ-like for my harshness. I didn t invent the term Lenin did.
(Jesus used more Christ-like terms, like ‘vipers’ and ‘hypocrites’ and ‘extortioners’ to describe the useful idiots of the enemy in His day)
But I ve never seen a more perfect example of useful idiocy in action than the demonstration provided by Lee Bollinger and the Columbia faculty.
The Columbia University invitation and its predictable outcome was a major counter-strike against US efforts to destabilize Ahmadinejad s government as an alternative to war.
Columbia’s Useful Idiot Squad didn t decrease the likelihood of war with Iran instead, its’ efforts increased the probability exponentially.
Columbia s faculty had every reason to expect this exact outcome when they decided to extend the invitation. And it isn t like they don t have a political science department and any freshman student could have forecast the political damage merely extending the invitation itself would cause.
Here s how the Associated Press characterized it:
“Bollinger’s sardonic comments reflected a blatant disregard for the tradition of hospitality revered in the Middle East.” As a result, the university president’s remarks might end up “deflect[ing] some of the U.S. criticism he got for issuing the invitation to the Iranian president,” but his strongly worded comments “could also backfire by drawing sympathy for Ahmadinejad, even in quarters where he would normally be sharply criticized.”
Ahmadinejad turned Bollinger s harshly worded introduction into propaganda highlighting American hypocrisy when it comes to its own principles.
He used the predictable exuberance of youth to elicit for himself (and his cause) standing ovations, and used the laughter and applause from his audience as fodder back home for bolstering the image and stature of his government.
The same AP report also noted that Bollinger s gift to Ahmadinejad had already begun to pay dividends, quoting an Iranian student who told the AP; The meeting and their approach showed that Americans, even in a cultural position, are cowboys and nothing more.”
Columbia University defended inviting Ahmadinejad by saying that if this were 1937, we d have invited Hitler.
If Columbia 1937’s faculty had shared Columbia 2007’s sense of logic and American patriotism, Columbia 2007’s faculty would be teaching all their classes in German today.