Ahmadinejad May Be Evil, but Bollinger is Irritating

About Columbia. Is it just me or did Bollinger seem arrogant on a grand order? In the first place, he assumes the right to free speech rests upon Columbia’s platform. This confusion often is voiced in academic surroundings – not supporting a particular kind of art or scholarship or speech is not censoring it – despite the artist’s or scholar’s or speaker’s belief they deserve support; this only has weight in a world in which all art or scholarship or speech is cleared through and supported by the government. Then, there is the irony of Bollinger’s position in relation to army recruiting and the Minutemen.

Of course, Bollinger’s guest is responsible for ieds that have killed American soldiers and for hostage-taking. Anyone with a minimal sense of solidarity with the “us” our soldiers represent would hesitate before inviting such a man to speak in such a forum. He is not muzzled. He has his own forums – in his nation, at the United Nations. But he is no more an appropriate guest speaker than does Lynne Stewart belong on a panel discussing legal ethics. (As Reynolds observes, who could make this stuff up.)

But Bollinger chose to invite him to stand on that stage. While the college president may have seen himself as speaking truth to power (a phrase I’ve grown to mistrust), the tradition and conventions of our society (as well as those of the Middle East) recognize that the host has the power – this is his court. An introductory speech that says “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator” is inappropriate – that there is a good deal of truth in Bollinger’s statements does not mean he is the appropriate carrier of that message. A clearly defined debate would, of course, clarify the positions. The conventions of a referee and two battling positions has arisen because it, too, is appropriate. Bollinger’s speech provoked no debate. And the truth is that Ahmadinejad is at once more and less dangerous than such a description might imply. His role in his country, the motivating forces that drive him are ones Bollinger does not confront. Nor was this the forum for that.

His “hard line” attempted to “frame” the speech, but makes us suspect Bollinger’s motives – a debate is give and take, free speech is not encouraged by a “frame.” He wanted to “manage” a situation, but this was preening egocentricism, full of cliches and a false consciousness betrayed in his conclusion:

I am only a professor, who is also a university president. And today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better. Thank you. (Cheers, extended applause.)

The Bollingers of the world do not do the evil the Ahmadinejads do. They have none of the fanaticism described in the book review noted above; they have none of the terrorists’ blindered passion. This is petty egoism, petty cya so donors won’t become all that enraged. He demonstrates a lost ability to pierce to why we feel a solidarity with our nation’s soldiers, why the man in front of him makes choices that appall Bollinger. Men (and women) like this have squandered the respect their positions should draw from us – squandered it through ambiguities, dishonesty with us and, one suspects, with themselves.

10 thoughts on “Ahmadinejad May Be Evil, but Bollinger is Irritating”

  1. I imagine that with all the critical comments made just before the arrival of Mr. Evil, the college president felt it necessary to both invite him and to denounce him too. Always play it safe and have it two ways. On the othe hand, better irritating than Evil? How many profs, administrators can you think of who are equally annoying?

  2. Bollinger does something really stupid by inviting Ahmadinnerjacket, then looks like a jackass by berating him. A new definition of a lose-lose proposition.

    As expected, Iran’s media edited out criticism of Ahmedinijad By Walid Phares

    Et voila, as expected, the Iranian official media edited out the stories about the Ahmedinijad visit to Columbia University. President Bollinger’s “harsh” questions were deleted and the Iranian President’s quotes lionized.

    As I told Fox News and a number of radio shows, the Columbia fiasco will be mainly about weakening the resolve of the Iranian people, who would be made to believe that their leader was well-received by the largest democracy on earth, and that no one in the international community is critical of the Mullahs’ man.

    A very bad choice by Columbia University which will help the authoritarians to accentuate the oppression of their civil society.”

  3. Churchill, Thatcher, Reagan, Roosevelt, and a good portion of the Washington/Jefferson crowd are spinning wondering why we had him on our soil and didn’t put a bullet in him…

  4. [trolling deleted by admin]

    Bush II used a similar tactic back when his popularity allowed it. His rapidly widening unpopularity abroad was spun as a sign that he didn’t take any BS from corrupt foreigners, not as a slight against his legitimacy. He appointed people like John Bolton to the U.N. and nominated Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank, gleefully giving globalists the finger. His base constituency ate it up like corn flakes and there’s no reason to believe Iranian conservatives are much different.

    [trolling deleted by admin]

  5. But, of course. Curse him for trying to exert presidential prerogatives like appointing the UN ambassador for the United States. Who does he think he is?

  6. But he is no more an appropriate guest speaker than does Lynne Stewart belong on a panel discussing legal ethics.

    This, alone, tells me you know absolutely nothing about legal ethics.

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