September 25, 2007

Columbia's Spectacle

An excellent article about lofty ideas and their place in the real world (see below). Before that, however, here are some questions and reality-checks for those patting themselves on the back today and proclaiming yesterday's spectacle at Columbia University a victory for freedom of speech:

Who and what was this spectacle for?

* For the world, to show them the wonders of our democracy? Reality-check: Our friends in the world know it and our enemies couldn't care less about it.

* For the ignorant and uninformed, to show them that Iran's president is a liar and a genocidal maniac? Reality-check: Nice idea, except it assumes the ignorant and uninformed have the knowledge and information to recognize a lie when they hear one.

* For us, to prove to ourselves that we're an open-minded and enlightened society? Reality-check: this incessant need to prove who and how good we are, is a clear indication of our insecurity and lack of understanding about what we stand for. There's a big difference between being open-minded and being blissfully ignorant.

* For others, to showcase our willingness to listen and dialogue with even the most heinous of world rulers? Reality-check: Noble-sounding but myopic and self-centered. It ignores those who live under the repressive rule of this heinous individual, demoralizes and undermines their efforts to fight for the very freedoms we insist on showcasing, and shows freedom-fighters around the world that America is an unreliable ally that affords repressive rulers the same freedoms it affords those who fight for such freedoms.

High-minded and lofty ideals of freedom are wonderful, but of little value when implemented at the expense of those they're designed to protect.

The Wall Street Journal  |  September 25, 2007

Columbia's Conceit
Exactly what would it have accomplished to "engage in a debate" with Hitler?

By Bret Stephens

On Saturday John Coatsworth, acting dean of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, made the remark that "if Hitler were in the United States and . . . if he were willing to engage in a debate and a discussion to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him." This was by way of defending the university's decision to host a speech yesterday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

An old rule of thumb in debate tournaments is that the first one to say "Hitler" loses. But say what you will about Mr. Coatsworth's comment... more here.


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