Sunday, September 23, 2007

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Speaks at Columbia University

 
Tomorrow President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran will speak at Columbia University. There are some who argue that universities should not invite controversial speakers. There are some who argue that Iran is the "enemy"—a member of the axis of evil—and once an enemy has been identified, and vilified, you must never allow them to speak in their own defense. It's especially horrible, according to these people, to allow a publicly-funded university to sponsor such a person.

Those people are dead wrong. Fortunately, the President of Columbia University has the gumption to stand up to those who would destroy the universities and free society [President Bollinger's Statement About President Ahmadinejad's Scheduled Appearance].
I would like to add a few comments on the principles that underlie this event. Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas—to understand the world as it is and as it might be. To fulfill this mission we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes. Necessarily, on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs many, most or even all of us will find offensive and even odious. We trust our community, including our students, to be fully capable of dealing with these occasions, through the powers of dialogue and reason.

I would also like to invoke a major theme in the development of freedom of speech as a central value in our society. It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.

That such a forum could not take place on a university campus in Iran today sharpens the point of what we do here. To commit oneself to a life—and a civil society—prepared to examine critically all ideas arises from a deep faith in the myriad benefits of a long-term process of meeting bad beliefs with better beliefs and hateful words with wiser words. That faith in freedom has always been and remains today our nation’s most potent weapon against repressive regimes everywhere in the world. This is America at its best.
If you don't understand this then you don't understand anything about the purpose of a university and the importance of listening to the other side.

61 comments :

  1. Muslims Against Sharia condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the decision of Columbia University to provide a speaking venue for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Apparently letting Akbar Rafsanjani speak at the National Cathedral was not the height of American Dhimmitude, because providing a venue for the world's foremost anti-Semite, whose proclaimed goal is the destruction of the USA and Israel, definitely takes the cake. What is surprising is that we don't hear any complaints from Columbia alumni who should be ashamed of their silence.

    More on the subject: Why Does Columbia host Ahmadinejad?

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  2. Is there no regime, past or present, for which you would not welcome the hosting of its leading representative at a US or Canadian university?

    The Iranians are a great people who have contributed mightily to human progress in many fields of knowledge. Many Iranian citizens spontaneously demonstrated in sympathy with the victims of September 11.

    The regime that oppresses the Iranian people is another matter entirely. The murder of a Canadian journalist is just one example of its totalitarian brutality.

    Tupaia

    MacLean's
    October 24, 2006
    The terror of Tehran: How can Canada bring Saeed Mortazavi to trial for the Kazemi murder?
    LUIZA CH. SAVAGE

    "(I)n June 2003, when he (Saeed Mortazavi) added Montreal photojournalist Zahra Kazemi to his roster of victims, he created a rare opening for accountability -- if the Harper government, unlike its predecessors, makes good on its threats to seize it.

    Unlike Bouzari, Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian who spent time as Mortazavi's "guest" in 2003, didn't live to tell about it. After Mortazavi had her arrested for taking pictures of a vigil outside Evin prison, she endured three days of interrogations, some of which were personally overseen by Mortazavi himself. She emerged from prison with massive bruises, a broken nose, broken fingers, crushed toes and nails, pelvic damage indicative of a "very brutal rape," a fractured skull, and brain injuries from which she eventually died. But Mortazavi is now fair game: our Criminal Code gives Canadian courts jurisdiction to prosecute torturers even if the torture occurred outside Canada. ...

    This past June, the Harper government talked tough about moving against Mortazavi. Foreign Minister Peter MacKay had arrived in Geneva for a meeting of the newly formed United Nations Human Rights Council. To the disgust of many participants, Mortazavi was in attendance. Tipped off that the Iranian would travel home through Frankfurt, and pressured by Iranian expats, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MacKay announced that they had asked German authorities to arrest him. Harper went so far as to say he wanted Mortazavi tried for "war crimes." ...

    (There is) no confirmation as to whether the government has asked the RCMP to gather the evidence that could lay the basis for any charges against Mortazavi. Admittedly, it's not an easy task: Iran refused to release Kazemi's body. But if anyone in Canada has the tools to begin this process, it's the RCMP, Terry says. In July, (Kazemi's son) Hashemi filed a civil suit in Quebec against Mortazavi and other officials, seeking $17 million in damages."

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  3. how do i get my posts to be as wide as yours are?

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  4. I suppose that Prof. Moran would have no problem with a Canadian university inviting Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot to address the student body. I bet that Prof. Moran would object to a Canadian university inviting George W. Bush to give a talk.

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  5. To skeptic4u: His posts are wide because he copied and pasted his message.

    I do not think Ahmadinejad will volunteer anything new in his speech that he has not already said previously. If you accept the premise that his ideas to date are rhetorical and advance his political agenda, and if you find his political agenda to be overwhelmingly intellectually irrelevant and morally repugnant, then it unnecessary to listen to him. The same principle applies to creationism, no?

    That said, the idea of academic freedom is very compelling. Thus the University of Toronto should, in the spirit of scholarship and intellectual debate, sponsor creationists, alternative medicine proponents, racists, homophobes and other kooks who wish to disseminate their widely rebutted and tired ideas at a credible venue.

    N.B. to the other replies: emotional arguments don't really address Larry's point, that it's wrong for one to refuse to listen to people previously judged wrong. I agree with this, as should all of you. However, the correct rebuttal is to question whether such people bring new ideas. If not, I believe it's entirely appropriate for a university to refuse to give credence to extremely wrong ideas. Capitulating entirely to academic freedom and free speech is to be intellectually irresponsible.

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  6. Ahmadinejad has already had a chance to defend himself, Larry. His reaction was, among other things, to host a conference of Holocaust-deniers. He also openly advocates an apocalyptic form of Islam, whose adherents believe in Armageddon and actively work to bring it about.

    Are you really so far gone into your denial of right and wrong that you will "listen to the side" of an anti-semite, terrorist supporter, Holocaust denier, and murderous religious fanatic?

    Sadly, I must conclude that the answer is 'yes.' I may or may not continue watching this blog for your ideas on evolution, but on topics political, you have nothing to say that any decent human being could possibly find worth hearing.

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  7. slc says,

    I suppose that Prof. Moran would have no problem with a Canadian university inviting Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot to address the student body.

    That's right.

    I'm especially worried when the only thing I hear is the vilification of the leader of another country in preparation for making war. I'm not saying that Ahmadinejad is a saint, I'm saying that I worry when everyone's mind is so made up that they don't even want to hear the other side. Didn't we just go through this five years ago?

    What in the world is everyone so afraid of?

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  8. Dunbar says,

    If you accept the premise that his ideas to date are rhetorical and advance his political agenda, and if you find his political agenda to be overwhelmingly intellectually irrelevant and morally repugnant, then it unnecessary to listen to him.

    I've never listened to him, have you? If I were in New York I'd go to hear him speak at Columbia so I could judge for myself instead of taking the word of others who may or may not have their own agenda.

    The same principle applies to creationism, no?

    Yes. I'd love to invite Michael Behe to Toronto and I'd love to hear Francis Collins defend his particular version of creationism.

    However, the correct rebuttal is to question whether such people bring new ideas. If not, I believe it's entirely appropriate for a university to refuse to give credence to extremely wrong ideas. Capitulating entirely to academic freedom and free speech is to be intellectually irresponsible.

    I agree with this. There are some cases where it's a wast of time to listen to real kooks. However, I can't see that applying to the leader of another country, especially if we're contemplating going to war with that country. In that case I think we should make extraordinary attempts to listen. Many lives are at stake.

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  9. Larry Moran: "I'm especially worried when the only thing I hear is the vilification of the leader of another country in preparation for making war."

    I understand your position, but many people across the political spectrum are outspoken about the truth about the Burmese junta, the Sudanese regime (an ally of Iran, incidentally), Zimbabwe's Mugabe, and nobody thinks that the US is preparing for war against them. (Well, the UK and US have threatened the Sudanese regime. In that case, ought the "Save Darfur" demonstrations be ended? Should nobody have condemned Milosevic in the years and months prior to Spring 1999?) We shouldn't inhibit candor about a regime - whether good or bad - based on political expedience or speculation. That's arguably politically motivated framing. (I recall that some who were outspoken against the Taliban suddenly changed tune after 9/11 because they were afraid of being perceived as encouraging a war.)

    It's not a matter of free speech. Everyone in the West is free to access Ahmadinejad's speeches and other public statements, interviews, etc. It's whether a highly ranked university wants to confer its prestige on such a figure. Not too long ago, naive college newspaper editors were cowed into giving space to op-eds and ads by Holocaust deniers in the name of free speech. The principle of free speech doesn't guarantee a certain caliber and visibility of forum.

    If your position is an absolutist one - that any leader, no matter what organization or regime they represent, should be accorded the rare honor of a first tier university forum, that's at least consistent (but it certainly isn't mine). However, that's different than a position based on geopolitical projections.

    Tupaia

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  10. In addition to his current positions advocating the destruction of Israel, the direct support of Hizbollah, and his denial of the Holocaust, some Americans recall that Ahmadinejad himself personally participated in the kidnapping and imprisonment of the American embassy hostages in 1979 -- forcibly violating the "diplomatic" privileges which he now intends to use.

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  11. I've never listened to him, have you? If I were in New York I'd go to hear him speak at Columbia so I could judge for myself instead of taking the word of others who may or may not have their own agenda.
    There are many media for the transmission of information besides personal experience. Many of them are very reliable, perhaps even more reliable. For instance, Ahmadinejad may try to conceal his true views while speaking at Columbia, but I could probably find translated transcripts of his speeches in Iran. I understand how quality of information can be significant (re: Iraq) but in the case of Ahmadinejad, he has not tried to hide his views. I don't find it hard to believe he's a bad person.

    Although, I just read the President of CU's statement, and it sounds somewhat interesting because it sounds like it will be very tough for Ahmadinejad. I would love to be a fly on that wall. Even if it lends some credibility to Ahmadinejad, it would be nice to tell him that he's wrong (presumably, unless he says something new).

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  12. I think it is interesting to know what he has to say, specially considering his country seems a probable candidate for being invaded. Even if he does rule over a totalitarian regime. It's not like the west+israel have not murdered and violated human rights, BTW, .

    Countries that already have A-Bombs (ike Pakistan) seem much less likely to be invaded. By the way WTF is going on in Pakistan?

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  13. I'm pretty absolutist on free speech, so I'm inclined to allow this racist, illiberal cretin speak. No doubt he'll tailor his message to a certain extent for a western audience (frame it if you will!), but if Colombia want him to speak then they should be allowed.

    What I do find particularly contemptible, is the attitude of the Columbia Coalition Against the War. This group don't want people to protest against Ahmadinejad because supposedly this provides tacit support for an attack on Iran. Pathetic:

    There are other means for engagement with Iran than war, and other means for disagreement with Ahmadinejad than the planned protest. We call on those who do not support a war with Iran to be wary of the vilification of Ahmadinejad, to avoid Monday's rally, and to express vocally their opposition to military intervention.

    http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/columbia220907.html

    Personally, speaking as a liberal, I'd quite like to protest against the leader of a regime that pours acid over homosexuals. They are setting up a spineless false dichotomy and contributing to the argument that certain leftist/liberals side with Islamists, simply because they are anti-American.

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  14. Re Larry Moran

    I note that Prof. Moran was rather silent as to whether he would object to a Canadian University inviting George W. bush to give a presentation. I assume, based on his lack of objection to inviting the other three degenerates, that he would have none.

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  15. Obviously Bollinger has a forthright attitude towards the institution of free speech, which those who "condemn" his university doesn't care to read or discuss.

    While I like Bollinger's attitude I'm not so sure that not closing down an avenue for free speech in some manner implies endorsement since other avenues takes such unwarranted action. And of course we have the kneejerk reactions from those who doesn't get the "free" in free speech.

    Hmm. From this I can conclude that I should take these problems as a reason to support Bollingers stance, and that it is the only reasonable one for keeping the institution. I guess I will have to effectively be an "absolutist" together with SteveF and Larry.

    It is an important institution internally, and probably externally as well. For example of the latter I'm reminded of Nelson Mandela's world wide travels and speeches 1992-1994 before the first free (universal suffrage) elections which put a pressure on the regime and probably forcefully communicated his agenda to the electorate. Not a decisive example unfortunately, but I doubt such exist.

    Regarding creationism, it isn't so simple. Individual creationists should be free to communicate their ideas. But creationism is an anti-science socio-political movement which agenda is to destroy the very science a university is pledged to uphold.

    I think it is fairly clear that you wouldn't want your university to rent out locales for creationism meetings, or your university employees to discuss with creationists at such meeting in the name of the university. That isn't about giving free speech a place, that is about creos wanting to put the university's name on their public relations material.

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  16. I don't think it's a big deal. I mean it's not like they invited a war criminnal like George Bush there to speak.

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  17. slc asks,

    I note that Prof. Moran was rather silent as to whether he would object to a Canadian University inviting George W. bush to give a presentation. I assume, based on his lack of objection to inviting the other three degenerates, that he would have none.

    I assumed it was a (stupid) rhetorical question. I have no objection to Bush speaking on my campus. I'd probably go to hear him. Of course I would also participate in demonstrations expressing disagreement with Bush's policy in the Middle East just as I would participate in demonstrations against anyone else I disagreed with. That doesn't mean I would prevent them from speaking.

    Many of you seem to have trouble distinguishing between disagreement with someone and hearing them out. It seems to me that you have made up your minds that there's no point in entering into a dialogue with Ahmadinejad because you already know everything you need to know.

    I find this conclusions astonishing. It's why the Cuban situation has never been resolved, it's why nobody believed Saddam Hussein when he said Iraq didn't have WMD, and it's why relations with China were so bad before Nixon visited China in 1972.

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  18. I think it is fairly clear that you wouldn't want your university to rent out locales for creationism meetings, or your university employees to discuss with creationists at such meeting in the name of the university.

    Two comments.

    1. I want my university to invite creationists on to the campus. I'm in favor of "teaching the controversy." That's does not mean I can't make fun of them while they are on campus.

    2. Nobody "speaks for the university." That's the whole point. Universities are not supposed to have positions on these things. Instead, they act as places where all ideas can be discussed and debated.

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  19. This part:

    It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas.

    And that old possibly-by-Voltaire thing about disagreeing but defending to the death the right to say it.

    If I listen to a person say something, that does NOT mean I agree with that something.

    How is this not obvious?

    The best possible weapon to use to refute Ahmadinejad's words are his words themselves. If you disagree with Ahmadinejad, then the best possible event at which to express your disagreement is immediately after he makes a speech.

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  20. You certainly know how to get people hot under the collar Larry and land yourself in some hot (or at least warmish) water at the same time.

    I’m not for absolute freedom; its contradictory – freedom can be used to dismantle freedom.

    With this in mind should Ahmadinejad be allowed to speak at Columbia? I think it’s clear that Ahmadinejad is very much opposed to the kind of freedoms that he himself is ready to exploit in this case. On balance, however, I feel that this meeting doesn’t compromise our own political and religious freedoms and it could present a protest opportunity or even (although unlikely) help promote some mutual understanding.

    Should anti-evolutionists be given a platform at universities? My first feeling is that yes they should. Although I don’t agree with their position I think their case is arguable and presents some useful challenges. (if you want to hone your ideas consider the arguments of those who oppose them). If the bastions of reason apply a censorial veto it creates the wrong impression. Feeding the persecution and apocalyptic complex of some religious people with censorship inflates their view of themselves (I’m a theist and so have plenty of anecdotal evidence of that)

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  21. President Bush agrees with Larry Moran:

    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8RS0A5O0&show_article=1

    "President Bush said Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia "speaks volumes about really the greatness of America."

    He told Fox News Channel that if Bollinger considers Ahmadinejad's visit an educational experience for Columbia students, "I guess it's OK with me.""

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  22. Here is an up-to-the-minute reportage from the "objective" NY Times about framing, framing, framing of Iranian President Ahmadinejad at Columbia.

    Columbia's pretentious president, Lee Bollinger; a trained forked tongue framer, cross examines his honored guest speaker, Ahmadinejad, as only a genuine truth seeking scholar can.

    Bollinger followed to perfection the PHONY AND COMPLETELY DISCREDITED SPIN AND FRAME about wiping Israel off the peeyar toilet. Attorney Bollinger is holding his trump card about Ahmadinejad killing those incubator babies for later scholarly objective discussions.

    No mention, of course, about the recent public demands to have the U.S. BOMB IRAN and ruthlessly murder Iranians by Israel Firsters, Joe Lieberman, Norman Podhorentz, Irving Kristol, and Daniel Pipes.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/24/protests-at-columbia-over-iran-leaders-speech/

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  23. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." (Often incorrectly attribute to Voltaire)

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  24. Larry, when I read your original post about Bollinger, I smelled a rat. Your selected quotation by Bollinger is a powerful endorsement of academic freedom. Who could disagree?

    But if one looks at Bollinger's entire statement, his bias is as naked as his proposed spin and "leading" questions. It is any propagandist's old scam of asking the wrong questions. When did you stop beating your wife?

    Nisbet has been giving us lessons for months.

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  25. Here is an inescapably important part of the "set up" by trained lawyer Bollinger.

    I also wanted to be sure the Iranians understood that I would myself introduce the event with a series of sharp challenges to the president on issues including:

    * the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust;
    * his public call for the destruction of the State of Israel;
    * his reported support for international terrorism that targets innocent civilians and American troops;
    * Iran's pursuit of nuclear ambitions in opposition to international sanction;
    * his government's widely documented suppression of civil society and particularly of women's rights; and
    * his government's imprisoning of journalists and scholars, including one of Columbia’s own alumni, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh (see President Bollinger's statement on Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh's release).

    You can learn more about propaganda and its development here;
    http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goebmain.htm

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  26. Here is an "objective" Associated Press "news release" from a few minutes ago.

    Exercising his legal acumen and impeccable reasoning, Columbia University president Bollinger framed Iranian President Ahmadinejad as "a petty and cruel dictator."

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070924/ap_on_re_us/iran_us

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  27. Gerald Spezio continues his obsessive rants against Framing. The questions by Bollinger are perfectly legitimate ones (I'd still ask the first one, despite the denials that this is what Admadinejad actually meant).

    (waits in anticipation of Goebbels comment)

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  28. How do you deal with "a peety and cruel dictator?"

    1 Frame a pre-emptive war based on anything (any bull will do) that you learned in framing studies.

    2.Bomb the living piss out of the cruel dictator's country with sophisticated weaponry. Turn his whole country into rubble.

    3. Murder as many of the innocent people that the cruel dictator was dictating to - ending the dictator's dictating, period.

    4. Hang the petty dictator before he can reveal the "petty details" about Rumsfeld and the engineering of the cruel dictator's attack on Iran in 1980.

    5.Never mention that Iran hasn't attacked anybody in 200 years. That would be terrible framing. Just leave it out - it's a frame.

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  29. I want my university to invite creationists on to the campus.

    That is different. And of course it could be advantageous for analysts to observe the current socio-political movement and its players directly. As for the science content, I don't see that the same energy is spent on other pseudosciences like astrology or dowsing.

    I'm specifically opposed to their renting conference locales at universities to support false pretenses. (And there are plenty of other neutral conference locales for anyone to rent.)

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  30. The strange thing about all the Ahmadinejad hooha is that he's really just a clown who occupies a vestigial figurehead office in his country's bizarre governmental structure and has essentially zero input on actual Iranian government policy (which is bad enough without him, of course.)

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  31. Re gerald Spezio

    Well, the murdering rapist Amadinejad has at least one admirer, namely Mr. Spezio.

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  32. Hahaha. Not everything that comes from Bush's mouth can be a stupidity or a lie. He actually capitalized the event; I think I'd never seen him slam-dunk like that before, hahahaha.

    The same is true for Ahmadinejad. Fortunately, he did not insist on the non-existence of the holocaust; He did say though "what does this have to do with palestinians?". It reminds us that nazism and jew-hatred originated as a domestic problem expanding within the western world.
    The west has many jew-haters even today. The very holocaust-denialism hypotheses Ahmadinejad found so insightful were written first by western people.

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  33. I’m not for absolute freedom; its contradictory – freedom can be used to dismantle freedom.

    I don't think anyone was arguing for absolute freedom of speech. Obviously, most people would accept basic restrictions such as no slander/libel, no yelling fire in a crowded movie house, etc. However, the expression of honest opinions and viewpoints should always be allowed. There is no reason to fear someone's position so greatly that rather than argue with them, we censor them.

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  34. Here's a particularly insightful comment from Mr Ahmadinejad:

    "We don't have homosexuals" in Iran. "I don't know who told you we had it," he said.

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/09/24/us.iran/index.html

    At first I laughed; this is simply a ridiculous statement. But then I got to thinking, hey maybe it's true, maybe they've finally gotten round to hanging/stoning/acid washing the remaining homosexuals.

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  35. I wonder how many of these anti-Ahmadinejad speech posters are with Campus Watch, the group that tries to censor and intimidate anyone on campuses that disagree with their political agenda?

    Suppose Ahmadinejad is all of these things, "an anti-semite, terrorist supporter, Holocaust denier, and murderous religious fanatic?"

    That doesn't in advance discredit what he might say about specific topics. Such vituperation is just an ad hominem pre-judgement. Listen to what he has to say and then reply to that.

    Unfortunately, Bollinger also pre-judged Ahmadinejad and had severe words for him even before he spoke. He should have given his comments after the speech.

    "Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began his speech at Columbia University by saying that criticism from University President Lee Bollinger was an insult to the audience. Bollinger had told Ahmadinejad he exhibits "all the signs of a petty, cruel dictator.""

    As to "murderous religious fanatic" and "terrorist supporter", that could apply to George Bush, so should he not be allowed to speak?

    Bush could also be called a "petty, cruel dictator wannabe". There is nothing wrong with creationists or priests speaking at a public venue on a campus just as long as it isn't classroom teaching.

    Ahmadinejad is not being invited to a classroom, but simply to give a public speech. I am sure that there will be a lot to criticize in it at the end.

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  36. Here's my outrage: Why didn't he graciously thank Dear Leader Dubya for getting rid of Iran's 2 most fearsome enemies: The Taliban and Saddam Hussein?
    I'm no Emily Post, but how very rude. Especially when ya consider the massive cost to America in terms of treasure and blood. It is if Iran can't look a gift horse in the mouth and appreciate the path that has been cleared for them. America, with the steadfast and omnipotent Dubya in command, has managed to do for the Persians and their mullahs what Iraq and Saddam could never accomplish despite war after war.
    Guess we shouldn't hold out much hope for thank you cards, eh?

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  37. Stevef says,

    At first I laughed; this is simply a ridiculous statement. But then I got to thinking, hey maybe it's true, maybe they've finally gotten round to hanging/stoning/acid washing the remaining homosexuals.

    If you laughed then you're as bad as the people in the audience. Ahmadinejad may be lots of things but he isn't stupid. Clearly what he was saying, via a translator, was that there is no openly gay community in Iran like there is in the USA. He does not mean that there are no gays in Iran.

    In other words, Iran has "successfully" suppressed homosexuals just like most Christian fundamentalists would like to do in the USA. I'm not defending Ahmadinejad's opinions of gays and (gasp!) lesbians but I'm am trying harder than you to understand them.

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  38. Precision with language is part of what science always tries to do. Indeed, that is why many of us who respect and try to practice science in our everyday lives find the framing nonsense so offensive.

    Playing and spinning the homosexual card against Ahmadinejad was another exercise in childish and obvious distortion masquerading as news.

    Lee Bollinger's conduct makes a mockery of academic discussion.

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  39. Larry said:

    If you laughed then you're as bad as the people in the audience. Ahmadinejad may be lots of things but he isn't stupid. Clearly what he was saying, via a translator, was that there is no openly gay community in Iran like there is in the USA. He does not mean that there are no gays in Iran.

    I'm not sure in what way the people in the audience (all of them, one of them, 10 of them?) were bad. That aside, it's absolutely not clear to me that Ahmadinejad was saying that there is no gay community in Iran. I don't know what basis you have for being so confident. It's certainly the case that loony religionists around the world deny the existence of homosexuality (or more specifically homosexuality in their country - it's quite common in Africa for example) and a plain reading of the translation would suggest that the Iranian presdient is one of them.

    In other words, Iran has "successfully" suppressed homosexuals just like most Christian fundamentalists would like to do in the USA. I'm not defending Ahmadinejad's opinions of gays and (gasp!) lesbians but I'm am trying harder than you to understand them.

    I'm sorry Larry, in what way are you trying harder than me to understand them? Thats looks like a baseless assertion to me. I'm happy for Ahmadinejad to speak, just like you and I'd be particularly delighted to hear outpourings of liberalism from him. However, a distinction between no homosexuals and suppression of homosexuals is hardly a great sign of Enlightenment values. Indeed, this kind of semantic argument is hardly decent evidence that you are considering these issues in considerably more depth than I am.

    The simple fact of the matter though, is that he is a throughly illiberal, fundamentalist bigot. He's anti-gay, a Holocaust denier, helps supress the rights of women etc etc. In short, a nasty piece of work.

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  40. Gerald said:
    Precision with language is part of what science always tries to do. Indeed, that is why many of us who respect and try to practice science in our everyday lives find the framing nonsense so offensive.

    Ok but irrelevant

    Playing and spinning the homosexual card against Ahmadinejad was another exercise in childish and obvious distortion masquerading as news.

    Lee Bollinger's conduct makes a mockery of academic discussion.


    Quite frankly I have no idea what you are going on about. Bollinger asked a series of perfectly legitimate questions. Pointing out that the Iranian regime has an illiberal attitude towards homosexuals is not childish and obvious distortion, it's fact. moreover, it's entirely acceptable to ask him why he holds such noxious views.

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  41. stevef, "Quite frankly I have no idea what you are going on about. Bollinger asked a series of perfectly legitimate questions."

    No he didn't. He invited Ahmadinejad to speak and then before the speech he goes into a critical rant. It is hardly dignified.

    Imagine that Bollinger had invited Israeli war criminal Olmert to speak and then launched a tirade against him for his killing a thousand Lebanese.

    The usual PC crowd would be outraged.

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  42. Ned,

    Bollinger could ask those questions of Olmert as far as I'm concerned. I'd like to hear him answer. His questions of Ahmadinejad are entirely legitimate, irrespective of when he said them or the degree to which he was "dignified". I agree, however, that it would have been more appropriate to raise these issues at the end.

    PS; I'd argue that the PC crowd would be the ones more likely to quiz Olmert, with PC generally being more closely associated with left/liberalism, which tends to be more critical of Israel.

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  43. Despicable and cowardly war mongering Zionists with Israeli/American dual citizenship have openly and publicly called for the U.S.to pre-emptively attack and BOMB Iran. The accusations and charges against Iran are false (read false).

    These Israel First "intellectuals" want the U.S. to murder (read murder) innocent Iranian people, including Iranian children of both sexes who have varied preferences for sweet pies, cakes, and stuffed animals.

    Let's keep our eyes on the ball.

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  44. I do not favor bombing Iran.

    However, I must note what a vacuous anti-Zionist propagandist gerald spezio is.

    Let's also keep in mind that Iran's client terrorist organization Hezbollah has murdered innocent Lebanese people, including Lebanese children of both sexes who have varied preferences for sweet pies, cakes, and stuffed animals. And Argentine people (Buenos Aires 1994), including Argentine children of both sexes who have varied preferences for sweet pies, cakes, and stuffed animals.

    And in its conflict with Fatah, Iran's sponsored terrorist Hamas has murdered Palestinian people, including Palestinian children of both sexes who have varied preferences for sweet pies, cakes, and stuffed animals.

    And the theocratic state of Iran has murdered Iranian people (homosexuals, dissidents, academics, students, "immoral" women), including Iranian children of both sexes who have varied preferences for sweet pies, cakes, and stuffed animals.

    There are those who are only moved to passionately condemn the United States and Israel, and are silent, indifferent, or meek when it comes to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamist theocracy of Iran.

    Tupaia

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  45. Let me also note that many allegedly pro-Muslim progressives didn't say one peep when untold numbers of Afghan Muslims were being burned and buried alive by the Soviet army and denied Milosevic's crimes against Muslims, including the Srebrenica massacre.

    Why? Because the US was opposed to the USSR and Milosevic. (Arafat, the USSR's client, did not oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And Milosevic's anti-Muslim ideology did not extend to his ally Saddam. It gets complicated.) Conditional moral outrage. Not pro-Muslim or pro-peace, but solely anti-US.

    Tupaia

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  46. Israelis like tupaia always like to change the subject when one talks about Israeli crimes against humanity.

    They seem to have a book of standardized responses much like mormons or JW's in talking about jesus.

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  47. ned: "Israelis like tupaia always like to change the subject when one talks about Israeli crimes against humanity."

    You mean how spezio changed the subject from the crimes of the Iranian theocratic regime to Israel and the Israel lobby?

    Your assumption that I am Israeli tells me what I need to know about you.

    Tupaia

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  48. Is this the same gerald spezio who sarcastically wrote:

    "Hilarious and Obama’s “debate about Darfur was NOT designed to keep the schmuckery out of touch with Israeli genocide."

    And:

    "According to Kurtzman, we should pay more attention to the Congo, Darfur, and all sub-Saharan Africa. Most importantly, we had better get our lights focused on someplace else lest people keep paying too much “attention” to daily Israeli atrocities."

    http://lilarajiva.wordpress.com/2007/07/23/noah-feldman-on-tradition-and-modernity-among-conservative-jews/

    Is that right, gerald spezio - is the Save Darfur movement just a cynical and manipulative ploy by the Israel Lobby to distract attention from Israeli crimes?

    Tupaia

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  49. Despicable and cowardly war mongering Zionists with Israeli/American dual citizenship have openly and publicly called for the U.S.to pre-emptively attack and BOMB Iran. The accusations and charges against Iran are false (read false).

    There are accusations against Iran that are most certainly not false. Bollinger listed a number of them.

    These Israel First "intellectuals" want the U.S. to murder (read murder) innocent Iranian people, including Iranian children of both sexes who have varied preferences for sweet pies, cakes, and stuffed animals.

    I'm starting to think that this is an elaborate satirical hoax. This sounds like something from The Day Today (basically a sharper version of the Daily Show, for US readers).

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  50. stevef, do you think Ahmadinejad was saying there are no gays at all in Iraq or was he saying that there is no large openly gay community like in the USA?

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  51. I just watched Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations. To me he looks like a buffoon and an idiot. I can't imagine that there are many people in Iran who are going to follow him.

    He's a clown. We can ignore him from now on. I wish people would stop trying to make him into a martyr.

    Some of his positions, like the elimination of the state of Israel, are widely shared by people in the Middle East. It doesn't do us any good to dismiss that position out of hand just because we're on the other side. We need to engage the people of the Muslim world and convince them that Israel should exist. Otherwise, we're being just as fanatical as them.

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  52. Larry, Ahmadinejad has never called for the elimination of the state of Israel. There is absolutely no evidence that he has ever said anything about eliminating the state of Israel.

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  53. Some sources and commentary on what Ahmadinejad has said about Israel.

    Christopher Hitchens (Incidentally, Hitchens endorsed the books of Israel Shahak, an extreme anti-Zionist.)
    http://www.slate.com/id/2140947/

    Iranian Amir Taheri
    http://www.freemuslims.org/news/article.php?article=1028

    democratic socialist Jeff Weintraub
    http://jeffweintraub.blogspot.com/2006/09/what-ahmadinejad-means-once-again.html

    Tupaia

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  54. Thanks for the links, Tupaia. It's important to keep in mind what Ahmadinejad actually said and not what people like to think he said.

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  55. Way to go people! Allow free speech only to people you agree with. Are you retarded or something? So what, you think free speech is there only to allow you to state your prefered beverage? It is there precisely because of people like you: people who want to shut up the opposition.

    We have a saying in French: if you want to drown your dog, just say it's got the rabies. If a group wants to silence another, you can bet they'll have "good reasons" to do so. Do you know how many Christians would actually like to silence us Atheists because we represent "immorality", "depravation" and "crime"? Aren't those reasons good enough? They're certainly good enough for them!

    Someone once said, "if you try and deprive someone of their freedom to express themselves, don't be surprised when later on someone tries to silence you!"

    Larry, maybe you should remove the posts of the anti democracy people just to show them how it feels to be silenced. After all, they are threatening democracy by their very own opinions, no?

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  56. Larry said:

    do you think Ahmadinejad was saying there are no gays at all in Iraq or was he saying that there is no large openly gay community like in the USA?

    Well (from the quotes I've seen), a plain reading of his words would suggest this. I acknowledge that your interpretation could be correct, but I don't think it's clear (as you suggested earlier) that he was referring to suppression and not simply absence. Moreover, this is semantic, simply because either interpretation is utterly grotesque.

    I just watched Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations. To me he looks like a buffoon and an idiot. I can't imagine that there are many people in Iran who are going to follow him.

    He's a clown. We can ignore him from now on. I wish people would stop trying to make him into a martyr.


    Well, people did vote for him and so presumably people were prepared to follow him. As I recall, he was mostly elected on populist economic grounds, rather than social views. That aside, I do think it's reasonable to point out that he has a number of pretty horrid viewpoints.


    Some of his positions, like the elimination of the state of Israel, are widely shared by people in the Middle East. It doesn't do us any good to dismiss that position out of hand just because we're on the other side. We need to engage the people of the Muslim world and convince them that Israel should exist. Otherwise, we're being just as fanatical as them.


    I entirely agree with this. I'm all for engagement with the Muslim world and I'm all for honest attempts to understand the differences in opinion that exist. However, I believe that this should be done whilst roubustly standing by our hard won values. Moreover, this engagement should primarily be aimed at the moderate majority, rather than pandering to the extremist minority. This is actually an ongoing debate over here in the UK, where for years the governments first port of call in the Muslim community was unelected "spokespersons" who were invariably extremist in nature.

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  57. I can't imagine that there are many people in Iran who are going to follow him.

    That is exactly correct. Even his conservative supporters are publicly disenchanted with him. And the president in the peculiar Iranian theocratic system has virtually zero actual power anyway. (While rabidly off the wall on international affairs, Ahmadinejad is actually an economic reformer- which was a big part of his electoral appeal- and the real powers that be, from Khameini on down, have allowed him to do absolutely nothing on that front since their own economic oxen would be gored).

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  58. Here's some more information on homosexuality in Iran. Homosexuality is considered sinful and is criminalized, transsexualism is considered an illness and treated surgically.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2177277,00.html

    "Maryam Khatoon Molkara, leader of the country's main transsexual organisation, said some of those undergoing operations were gay rather than out-and-out transsexuals. "In Iran, transsexuals are part of the homosexual family. Is it possible that a phenomenon exists in the world but not in Iran?""

    Tupaia

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  59. Here is the entire text of President Ahmadinejad's speech to the UN. Much of the speech is about "science."

    http://www.countercurrents.org/nejad270907.htm

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  60. This addresses what Ahmadinejad actually meant about there being no gay people in Iran:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/julianborger/story/0,,2177545,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=12

    "An Iranian-American journalist asked him to clarify his extraordinary claim on Monday that there were no gay people in Iran, pointing out, "I know a few myself."

    "Seriously? I don't know any," the president replied, in apparent surprise. "Give me some addresses so we're able to go to visit them and learn about them."

    Given that sodomy is a crime punishable by death in Iran, it was a particular chilling offer."

    Tupaia

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  61. Columbia University claims they are America’s best and brightest?

    Did you see the way they applauded Ahmadenijad?

    They are just a bunch of filthy Little Eichmanns.

    It is too bad that Cho Seung-hui didn’t go to Columbia University!

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