Lee Bollinger was right! Now what?
It was educational to see Ahmadinejad speak at Columbia. What I learned from it:
--A good portion of the audience at the speech, judging by their applause, evidently thought Ahmadinejad was just great as sliced goatcheese. So perhaps Bollinger learned that he has his work cut out for him in educating these in-house admirers of a lying terrorist-dictator. It is clear that more faculty and students at Columbia need to learn how to maintain an open mind appropriate to true academic scholarship, to research to find facts and verify statements, to read widely and become informed about current and past events, and to learn how to parse arguments and detect baloney. Perhaps most of those who applauded will never learn that from Columbia University or anywhere else. But if even one person had his or her eyes opened a bit by Ahmadinejad's exceedingly strange performance--if just one person realized how inappropriate his presence was in the halls of academia--that could be considered a silver lining to yesterday's dark cloud.
--We all learned there are no homosexuals in Iran and Ahmadinejad doesn't know where we got this! I think maybe this qualifies as politically incorrect hate speech on an American campus. This may come as a educational surprise to some who might have otherwise thought the A-man a cool dude for being so out there and sticking it to the man.
--We learned Lee Bollinger was actually sincere when he talked about providing a platform for rigorous challenging of odious views, since he did have enough spine to challenge Ahmadinejad's views in his presence, to the point of being insulting. That sincerity and gall count in his favor as a man. But I agree with what Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News last night: that Ahmadinejad was right in pointing out that in his country hospitality dictates that guests are not treated so rudely; Bollinger should not have treated an invited guest that way, and no "hard challenges" could redeem or mask the fact that Bollinger's true mistake was in inviting Ahmadinejad to speak in the first place. I think Bollinger was talking tough to try to redeem face as a reasonable guy, and not lose alumni donations, an extremely serious concern for Columbia resulting from all of this.
--We learned there are enough wide-awake people in New York City and elsewhere, including on the Columbia campus and faculty, to make this entire event a hotly-contested issue. That's encouraging. And we learned the internet offers grand and glorious spreading coverage of all aspects of this kind of circus event. Better and better. The softball Q&A that Ahmadinejad sidestepped in the lecture hall is nothing compared to the discussions (with footnotes and links) going on in the global blogosphere. And that is educational.
Now, as one commenter says, "Will the Minutemen be allowed on campus now?" Or Larry Summers or Donald Rumsfield or Norman Podhoretz or Robert Spencer? And will they get the same respectful attention from the audience and security from the university that the Iranian liar ("I am a Muslim, I cannot tell a lie") got when they air their views?
I think the next question to be answered is, what has Bollinger learned? And what have the alumni learned? I want to hear more about that.
Final note: The websites of Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and others can educate us on 'Muslims who cannot tell a lie.' How many in the audience knew what "taqiyya," "kitman," and "Tu-Quoque" are? Did they recognize they were watching these techniques in action? What do Lee Bollinger and Columbia University plan to do next to educate the world and their students about these issues?
UPDATE: Ha! They are Muslims, they cannot tell a lie: the standing ovation that never happened (via the Drudge Report).
Curious: Columbia University, too ashamed or scared to be associated with Ahmadinejad, blacks out logos and covers up its brand? (via Instapundit).
UPDATE: From Breath of the Beast to Lee Bollinger:
You, sir, are also a useful idiot. ...When you invite a genocidal despot into your University you are inviting death, repression and intolerance into your home. There are no sharp remarks that will take the stench out of the walls.Has Bollinger heard this? Does he understand it? What does he think now that he's gone through this educational experience?