Monday, September 24, 2007

Oh troubled times!

I know that you will not all agree with me on this one, but frankly, I am embarrassed by what I just heard on NPR as I sat doing my homework.

Columbia University, one of the foremost universities in this great nation, invites Iranian president Ahmadinejad to speak. I don't really have a serious problem with this action in and of itself. He wouldn't be my first choice. In fact, given the tremendous number of amazing speakers and wonderful minds out there, I suspect he would be one of my last choices. But then, I'm not in charge, so there.

What I find so horrifically offensive are Columbia President Lee Bollinger's pre-speech remarks, including (but certainly not limited to) calling the president "a petty and cruel dictator" to the thrilled and delighted applause and cheering of the collegiate audience.

This is too easy, too much like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, shouldn't students and administrators at one of the most celebrated universities in the country be willing to try a little harder?

Why don't they have a speaker like the Israel prime minister Ehud Olmert come visit? Then Bollinger could ask about the destruction of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure (not to mention the 50 mile long oil slick) inflicted upon Lebanon last year in a very real, very avoidable attack masquerading as a war.

Maybe Columbia could invite Robert Mugabe next, and ask some questions about how he has governed Zimbabwe into the ground (but not until calling him a white-hating tyrant). That would be intellectually stimulating.

I just think this sort of bait-and-switching is intellectually lazy. I mean, if Bollinger needs to feel smug and superior, I happen to know that New York is full of cribs with babies in them, babies with some delicious, easy to steal candy.

That's right. I just think that this promotes ham-handed, overly biased, self-righteous pretend-academic laziness. And quite frankly, I like thinking critically. Critical thinking appears to be a precious commodity here in the "feel good" generation of faux empowerment and self-help junkies. The heckling of a universally disliked dictator (speaking by invitation) does nothing to promote freedom of speech, and even less to stimulate critical thought.

I'm just disgusted.


Anonymous said...

I find your take on this quite interesting. Of course you are right. I can't help but think that Bollinger's introduction will be worth millions in donations. More to the point, I was actually quite suprised that Ahmadinejad was invited to speak in the first place. I would be quite interested to know how many alumni complaints greeted the announcement of the Iranian President coming to Columbia to speak in the first place. One would think however that Columbia University's endowment is large enough to support free speach and open dialogue. I'm probably a bit naive however. I have to get around to geting a blogger id. In the meantime I remain,

Nancy Adams said...

WOW Frances - this is intense, even for me! Your moniker "Rocking the Boat" may be a bit understated!

Rock on!

ruminations said...

Glad to have you back on the blog after such a long hiatus.

A stupid university president gave our enemy a forum to express himself. Ahmadinejad made a fool of himself and didn't need the insulting intro. I wish I were an alumnus so I could withdraw my support of the school.

Francy-Pants said...

Hey DOG, agreed across the board! I don't know that Iran is our enemy...yet. I hope not, they are a LOT more powerful than Iraq ever was. Ahmadinejad doesn't even have any real power, that's the part that I find really funny. He did make an absolute ass of himself, as well. Sadly, our own fearless leader has not done a much better job in public presentation!