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« Hostilities Resumed? A manageable Irritant? Canny Pragmatists? | Main | Darfur Watch: SA/AU aid and abet Sudanese regime »

September 26, 2007


Joel Pollak

It's easy to oppose Bollinger on Ahmedinejad and support him on Israel. The problem is that most groups have accepted the definition of both as "free speech" issues. Freedom of speech is a protection individuals enjoy against the interference of government. No one's speech would have been restricted if Columbia, a private university, had refused to give Ahmedinejad, a head of state, a platform. Not even the passive free speech right of Columbia students to hear Ahmedinejad's views would have been abridged; these are widely available already. In contrast, calling on a university to boycott academics from Israel is a clear example of unfair and arbitrary discrimination. On the basis of the argument that academic freedom must be mutually reciprocal, one could easily say that Bollinger was wrong on Iran and right on Israel.

Daniel Greenberg

I disagree with Joel's point. Iran's mission to the UN submitted a request to Bollinger that Ahmadinejad be allowed to speak at Columbia, and consequently, Bollinger extended the invitation. If he denied it, he WOULD BE preventing students from hearing what the President of Iran had to say.

On the other issue, the British Boycott, as I understand it, is not a government sponsored initiative. They, like Columbia, are a private institution with the right to chose and to restrict who they deal with.

There are much stronger arguments to be made against Bollinger, but this one does not stand.

Joel Pollak

I see. So if I asked Columbia if I could give a speech on their campus, and they said no, they'd be denying my freedom of speech? Or that of Columbia students?

And the British boycott (thankfully, now defeated), would have been a violation of Britain's anti-discrimination laws, as the British union concluded after consulting with its lawyers.


It's patently silly to assert there's no right or wrong in the realm of so called free speech. Why not have a neo confederate give us a speech about all the good things to come from slavery. Or perhaps a child molester extoling the virtues of child rape. Any why not a wife beater discussing the divine right of that too? The academic theoretical unlimited 'free speech' advocates are fools. No the simple fact is that racists and fools don't drop from the sky. They've already found a receptive audience and fertile ground which already gave them free license to prattle and screech.

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