Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad and Rumsfeldt

Two controversies about academic freedom, each centering on individuals who are most assuredly enemies of freedom in one way or another. Rumsfeldt's appointment as a fellow at the Hoover Institute has generated a teapot tempest of protest at Stanford, and I am proud of the righteous outrage at Columbia's inviting the disgusting Ahmadinejad to speak today.

That said, I have to go with letting them speak. What do liberals gain by arguing for the censorship of conservatives who are going to be heard anyway. Now we certainly don't have to play a low-bore neo-con as Scott Pelley did last night in his 60 Minute's interview in the tin-pot's garden in Tehran. The questions were hectoring, and had no more content than the current dubya-ite campaign to pin something ... anything ... on Iran as a diversion for the military and political failure in Iraq. Where were the questions about democracy, about personal freedom, about the wave of brutal executions, the repression of minorities? No. Like this question, which Ahmadinejad interrupted: "At the moment, our two countries may very well be walking down the road to war. How do you convince President Bush, how do you convince other nations in the West . . . . " What the hell does "walking down the road to war" mean? This sort of pandering to the Bushies actually hands the high ground to the fascist.

I thought Pelley caved to Bushism when he had an opportunity to expose the depth of Iranian depravity.

Now if I were Columbia University, no way would I invite that tiny tin-pot to speak. But that doesn't mean that they do not have the right to do so. And, sure enough Columbia President Lee Bollinger had the guts to call Ahmadinejad a "cruel dictator" to his face. Maybe that's why they did it ... to show the Scott Pelley's of the world how you confront evil from the vantage point of truth. The appearance gave protesters a focus that undermined the Iranian regime's purposes in sending their stringer to New York. It gave Ahmadinejad an opportunity to lie out loud about homosexuals ... that they do not have them in Iran ... a lie that has been told about us time and again to justify killing or imprisoning us. (I remember a good friend of mine in high school sagely averring that there were no Jewish homosexuals ... that was 1970, and I am sure she does not remember it, so I have thoroughly forgiven her.) If there are none, you slimy bastard, who the hell is that you are hanging from the end of crane in your glorious capital city. Check out the the Iranian Queer Organization for a brutal story or a young gay male couple flogged for holding a private party.

Yes, it is galling to have to look at that creep. But opposing his speaking plays to his conceits.

And it certainly will be galling to know that Rumsfeldt will be padding around an office in the Hoover Tower. That said, let him defend himself ... expose him to the questioners and the protesters. Liberals have no stake in censorship other than to end it. This guy is the proximate author of the worst military disaster in American history. I think it is amazing that he has the khutzpah to show his face in public. Let him show it. We got the facts.

Addendum: I just watched Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia, on Anderson Cooper's 360 ... a quiet, solid defense of free speech. This man is a hero! If you're going to believe in free speech, you can't pick which speech will be more free. You have to answer the free speech of bigots and murderers with the free speech of truth and liberty.