Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Republican Misstep

Well, well. U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California (gasp! MY state) is trying to push forward legislation that would penalize Columbia University for inviting Iranian Preznit Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at that college this week. Specifically, he wishes to prohibit Federal grants or contracts being given to the college, 'cause, apparently, he thinks giving Ahmadinejad a forum to express his views was a bad, bad thing. (Never mind that Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, rebuked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rather soundly in his introductory remarks, which made for one of the rudest and oddest introductions to a speaker I've ever heard. "This man's a real nutjob! Ladies and gents, I give you ... Crazymeister Mahmoud! Hear him and cringe! Hear him and boo! Hear him and laugh! Step right up and see the crazy Iranian!" Kinda like that.)

But here's what Rep. Hunter has to say:
“By hosting President Ahmadinejad, Columbia University openly insulted the thousands of servicemen and women serving in Iraq, many of whom are direct targets of the munitions that he is sending across the border,” Hunter said. “This insult is compounded by the fact that Columbia University dissolved its Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program and continues to openly protest the presence of military recruiters on campus. It is troubling to see that a university such as Columbia, with a reputation as one of America’s leading universities, is more receptive to America’s adversaries than it is to the military that protects its right to free speech and assembly.”

Hullo, Reppie Hunter? Um. Because Columbia U. allowed Ahmadinejad to speak, we free American citizens got to hear him and take the measure of the man for ourselves. Trust me, he didn't come off that well: he's smug, patronizing, a religious zealot, clearly wears blinders, and is a twister-of-the-truth. It was refreshing to reach this conclusion for myself,say, rather than having to blindly take the present Administration's word for it.

George W. Bush himself had no problems with Ahmadinejad being allowed to speak, nor even being allowed into our country.

A final point, Mr. Representative: You can only be a defender of free speech (as you seem to claim to be) if you are willing to defend the right of someone to say something to which you are vehemently opposed. By suggesting Columbia overstepped by allowing the man a say, you apparently want us to have the freedom to hear only speech that you agree with. So who is really kicking sand in the faces of our soldiers?


Spokane Al said...

I do agree with you on Representative Hunter’s legislation. I also thought the university president’s intro was kind of strange as well.

That said, Lee Bollinger seems a bit disingenuous. He preaches free speech but then, as your post stated, refuses to allow the ROTC on his campus. Then in his speech he talks about our brave military and goes on to say that a number of Columbia graduates are fighting for our freedom.

Columbia University also recently refused to allow the co-founder of the right wing Minuteman Project to talk without being driven off the stage.

A bit more free speech for both sides of the perspective would be welcome from this university and probably many others, as opposed to my perspective (for what it is worth) that they tend to pull out the free speech card when it best suits them.

Joyce said...

Wait a minute. Are you saying that Columbia's not having an ROTC program on campus is denying ROTC freedom of speech? That's absurd. That's like saying an institution that doesn't have, say, a nursing major, is denying nurses freedom of speech. They're two entirely different things. A man being invited onto campus to give a speech which people can choose to attend or not attend is not the same thing as a university hosting an entire program of study (in this case, pre-military as it were, akin to pre-law, pre-med, etc). Universities absolutely may choose what programs they wish to offer, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of speech. That's a total red herring.

The Minuteman issue I haven't read anything about, but you yourself say he was giving a speech on campus. That tells me the University gave the man a forum. I don't think the University can control the audience's response to him, though. If he was being so booed, ridiculed, and heckled that he was removed (perhaps for his own safety), you may by all means criticize the audience for being a bunch of jerks, but the university has not denied the man freedom of speech.

Who's the one really pulling out the "free speech card" here, Al? Doesn't sound like Columbia to me.

Spokane Al said...

I don't think a comparison of ROTC vs a nursing program is valid.

And as the Minuteman speaker attempted to speak the audience rushed the stage, took over the mike and drove him off of it.

Spokane Al said...

The other difference that I see, is that the ROTC program was cancelled because of purely political views by the university - it really had nothing to do with whether or not to offer this particular discipline via traditional metrics. If the measurement was from the perspective that you laid out in your comment response, I would agree with your position. But, Joyce, I truly do not believe that was the case here. That is why I consider it a free speech issue.

Joyce said...

Well, it doesn't have to do with SPEECH, so I wouldn't label it as such myself, although you may be right that the University got rid of the ROTC program for political reasons. That I couldn't tell you. My own college didn't have an ROTC program, but it probably was due to lack of space for one and, perhaps, because it was a Methodist College that may have seen a military program's mission to be at odds with a private religious institution's.

I do agree it's appalling that the audience rushed the stage and grabbed the speaker's mike away from him. Reflects pretty poorly on their manners. Of course, it may not have been Columbia Univ. students since the general public is pretty much always invited to these campus public speakers series. Could've been some immigrant group from New York City, who knows. There are any number of groups here in California who believe the Minutemen to be motivated by racism.

But it's true, in any case, that you can't have a free exchange of ideas if one side is muzzled.