Tuesday, September 25, 2007

BBC World Service - Updated

I'm on the BBC World Service at 1 pm Eastern Time talking about regulation of Holocaust Denial in Europe (and its non-regulation in the U.S.).

Update: Well that was a bit of a bust. The BBC technicians couldn't patch in for much of the hour, so I ended up joining only the tail end of the conversation. We didn't get to the question above but instead talked about whether it was appropriate for President Bollinger to introduce President Ahmadinejad by calling attention to his flaws. I said that Bollinger was in a difficult position because:
1) He himself had not extended the invitation and (I'm guessing) probably would not have done so were it just up to him;
2) But he appropriately did not want to interfere with the autonomy of Dean Coatsworth;
3) And given the high profile nature of the event it was inevitably going to be seen as a Columbia event (rather than merely a SIPA event);
4) So he was obligated to say something;
5) But a merely polite "Heeeeeere's Mahmoud" would have not put enough distance between them;
6) And accordingly, he gave a kind of preemptive rebuttal.
I agree with those people (including Ahmadinejad himself!) who said that it's a bit odd, even rude, to invite a speaker and then say what an evil jackass the speaker is by way of introduction, but this account misses the fact that Bollinger did not himself invite the speaker.

--Mike Dorf

14 comments:

No Exit said...

Who cares if Bollinger didn't invite the speaker?

It was rude and reflects poorly on the University.

Benjam said...

bollinger was a complete embarassment, not only in terms of the ad hominem attacks but also in terms of his very poor understanding of iran.

ahmadinejad is NOT a dictator. he was "elected" which means he is either a democratically elected leader or, as most suspect, a puppet/front-man for a dictatorship/oligarchy. either way, the man is not a dictator by any real definitiion.

columbia tries to stand for the value of dialogue and bollinger decides to shill for the administration. very ugly.

Octopus Grigori said...

What was Bollinger supposed to do? The Speaker of the New York State Assembly, among others, is threatening to punish him and Columbia for their brazen attempt to hear things Sheldon Silver and his friends don't agree with.

Columbia was already suspect (see, e.g., the David Project, Campus Watch, et al.), and now they've gone too far.

Welcome to America, everyone. We believe in free and open dialogue, and debate. Sort of. With limits, of course. There have to be limits. And things you shouldn't say. Or hear. And legislators may punish you. But besides that, totally free.

Sally said...

Funny, Heeere's Mahmoud! Thanks for the laugh.

I feel sorry for Bollinger. He's taking incredible heat everywhere and what could the guy do? He's the Chancellor, he had to play host for a guest speaker of this importance. And if he had played nice, done the usual polite introduction he would have been hammered and as it is he's getting blasted for being rude and criticizing the guy.

Totally a no win situation for Bollinger. I don't know the guy, maybe he's a weasel but it doesn't seem as if he deserves this kind of piling on.

Anyway, maybe you could post what you had to say, or would have said, about the non-regulation of Holocaust Denial here in the US.

Tam said...

Bollinger knows what Ahmadinejad's nominal position is. He actually said, "Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."

I, for one, thought Bollinger's remarks were fantastic. Even if Ahmadinejad is a guest, what's wrong with inviting someone to speak at your school who has views that are, in a word, crazy, and confronting them about it without sugarcoating things?

Why does valuing freedom of speech require treating everything everyone has to say as equally meritorious, or even potentially so?

Free speech means having the right to say whatever you want, not having the right to have others agree with whatever you say. That Ahmadinejad was provided a forum to speak, notwithstanding our society's revulsion to his views, as expressed by Bollinger, only demonstrates the strength of our commitment to free speech.

As a matter of social etiquette, it was a little awkward, no doubt. Even rude. But so what? Maybe it's right to be rude sometimes. Maybe this country wouldn't be in the position it's in if people would start calling a claim like "John Kerry voted 500 times for tax increases" (that's not a direct quote) for what it is: a lie. But no, critiquing someone by calling them a liar would be rude and reflect poorly on the critic's character, and would be an ad hominem attack.

These days, for some reason, it's not the underlying injustice that matters. The only thing that seems to count is that we remain oh so ever polite in our response.

Excuse me, but could you not pass me the Grey Poupon?

Sobek said...

"I agree with those people (including Ahmadinejad himself!) who said that it's a bit odd, even rude, to invite a speaker and then say what an evil jackass the speaker is by way of introduction, but this account misses the fact that Bollinger did not himself invite the speaker."

It also misses the fact that Ahmadinejad is, in fact, an evil jackass.

Sobek said...

No exit said: "It was rude and reflects poorly on the University."

Inviting a barbarous, genocidal thugs reflects poorly on the university. But as you seem to be something of a fan of barbarous, genocidal thugs, I imagine you'll disagree.

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