Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia: Three Principles

Every once in a while I agree with just the way an event is unfolding.

About Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University:

1. As a professor who could invite Ahmadinejad to any one of a number of classes at Fordham University, I would not. Although I think it is indeed very valuable to confront world leaders with delusions head-on, and allow students to do the same, I think this value would be offset by the propaganda advantage Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would derive from addressing any class or gathering in America. Such an address and the response it drew could easily be edited to make the Iranian President look good to his supporters back home and around the world.

2. Nonetheless, I think other professors and universities are entitled to reach their own different decisions on this difficult issue. Therefore, I support Columbia University's right to invite Ahmadinejad. Part of the zest and real freedom of American life is that individual professors and universities can make their own decisions in such matters. We would be living in a much poorer place, intellectually, if all classrooms and universities were the same.

3. But I also support the right of Columbia University students, alumni, and indeed any and all Americans to protest Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia. This is all part of that same democratic process of a free, open society - and it distinguishes us from the type of closed society Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sits at the top of in Iran.

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