Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free speech or highbrow rubbernecking?

Stefan Beck at Armavirumque decries the increasingly absurd "free speech" justification for inviting people like Ahmadinejad to speak at colleges and universities:

If Donald Rumsfeld is the professor everyone hates because he’s a tough grader, Mr. Ahmadinejad is a walking gut course. One could debate Mr. Rumsfeld on a million points, but Mr. Ahmadinejad is the question that has already been answered to everyone’s satisfaction. There is no possibility of moving Israel to Alaska: It’s not worth “dialoguing” about. We know there are homosexuals in Iran, just as we know there aren’t unicorns there: Why “confront” this view? Just look at the triviality of the student response to Ahmadinejad’s presence to see that none of this is really about thinking, less so about acting. It’s about the frisson of the bizarre—a real live madman!—which, sadly, is all that can be said about so much of today’s academic experience.


Blogger Madman of Chu said...

"Come see a Real Live Madman"

That could be the tag line to promote all my courses.

October 24, 2007 9:42 AM  
Blogger stewdog said...

Can we move Alaska to Israel?

October 24, 2007 10:01 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Oh great. Now you've all gotten this song stuck in my head.

October 24, 2007 11:09 AM  
Blogger Madman of Chu said...

I realise I have already "glibbed out" on this one, but I will try to interject this serious point. I would generally support Columbia's right to invite Ahmedinejad, though I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about the ultimate wisdom or integrity of those who made this decision. I would also generally agree with Beck that A. is, in absolute terms, more a spectacle than anything else. However, in relative terms the event did have "free speech" implications and consequences. These are only apparent, however, if one broadens the scope of the relative context beyond that of the US. We here in the US take free speech so much for granted that A.'s ravings have little significance. That was not the case in Iran, however. The New York Times ran a very interesting OpEd in which it translated a number of Iranian blogs responding to news coverage of A.'s Columbia appearance. The vast majority of them (granted, this may reflect the selection of the NY Times editors more than an objective statistical reality) read the event as an index of how much more free, open, and tolerant the political culture of the US is than that of Iran.

October 24, 2007 1:26 PM  
Blogger Madman of Chu said...

P.S. Jeff, the Tubes rock. Be thankful you don't have a Cyndi Lauper song like "True Colors" stuck in your head.

October 24, 2007 1:39 PM  
Blogger stewdog said...

Columbia is pretty much free to do just about anything it wants that is legal.
"Free Speech" is really the first amendment restricting govenment suppression of speech.
Academia has a bad name with those on the right side of the aisle. This sorry episode did nothing to enhance the reputation. Columbia exercised its freedom to be a bunch of idiots, first of all by inviting this louse and then treating him like the vermin that he is.
If I was a rich man (. . .all day long I'd. . .but I digress) I would fund a conservative chair at every major university so that students get another side of things.

October 24, 2007 2:36 PM  

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