Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented a speech at Columbia University on Monday, September 24th in which he speculated on:
1.) The possibility of the Holocaust having not occurred.
2.) Iranian women being "the freest in the world."3.) Gay people not existing in Iran.
4.) Why scientists should consider the possibility that the moon is actually made not actually of blue cheese, but feta. (Okay, this claim I made up but compared to the other shit coming out of this guy's mouth this statement would've fit right in.)
His appearance at the school was a sort of primer for the speech he gave on Tuesday to the United Nations in which he declared the issue of Iran's nuclear research "closed".
Sure, everyone can agree that freedom of speech is a good thing. It's great! But when people think that they're being forced to extend this right to dictators with well documented pasts of committing crimes against humanity, their feelings can quickly change.The college president, Lee Bollinger prefaced Ahmadinejad by saying, "It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices." He also cited the quotable expression about how free speech is "an experiment, as all life is an experiment." and apologized in advance for any suffering that giving this speaker a public forum would cause.
He finished on this subject, "In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the American idea of free speech."
Bollinger furthered the introduction by condemning the government of Iran for unjust imprisonment, public executions, and other violations of human rights.
I think free speech can transcend politics. I think that debate in all forms is usually a good thing and I really think Columbia's prez eloquently expressed this--His thoughts on freedom of speech were the best I've ever heard in my life.