Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

I'm watching Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's blistering "introduction" of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. For those that believed this was going to be some kind of propaganda coup for Iran, they were mistaken.

This is exactly why we have cultural and academic diplomacy, even with the bad guys.

MORE: Here.

EVEN MORE: I may have spoken too soon. Ahmadinejad likely scored some points with his own song and dance number.

My own frustration with trying to read the guy usually stems from trying to fit his comments into the appropriate cultural context. For example, the "we don't have gays in Iran, like you do here" comment. To my Joe Six-pack American ears there are three ways to read that statement: Ahmadinejad is either (1.) in denial, (2.) lying, or (3.) is extremely, and perhaps willfully, ignorant. But my eternal 13 year-old reminds me that there's a fourth way of reading that statement: "You Americans are totally gay. You're a decadent, effeminate, limp-wristed society and we're not afraid of you." That kind of message would likely play well in some parts of the Middle East (just like a similarly absurd jingoistic comment would in some places here in America).

So, I'm going to ask for an extension on this one before I make up my mind as to who really "won" or pass final judgment on what the right thing to have done was.

MORE YET: I'm still flummoxed, so I went looking for how the Columbia speech was interpreted by others and found a variety of responses from ridiculous pandering (really, I can't stand Duncan Hunter) to perhaps hypocritical:

Bill O'Reilly and other cable pundits derided Columbia University for extending an invite to Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but that didn't stop all three cable news networks from carrying the speech uninterrupted.

to the Dude, you call this a big deal?:

SO Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earned well-deserved laughter for saying that there are no gays in Iran, and otherwise faced direct and consistently tough questioning from Columbia University's president, Lee Bollinger—so much so that he couldn't resist saying he was a little indignant at his treatment. Meanwhile, however, just outside the campus grounds, protestors (who could not hear the speech) chanted "shame on Columbia!" and "shame on Bollinger!"

Given the result, does anyone still think that Iran's president was "honoured" with his invite to the august Ivy League institution? Or can we now revert to the traditional American belief that the best way to manage odious and idiotic beliefs is the harsh light of day?

to the huh?:

But I wonder: would Columbia ever invite a right-wing extremist with the same views as Ahmadinejad on women, gays, Israel and the Holocaust? Or do you have to be a brown-skinned, terrorist-enabling, nuclear-proliferating, certifiable nut-job to get the invite?

(Isn't Ahmadinejad a right-wing nut, just one from another country?)

to the absurd:

Rough, but real, quote from translation from Ahmedinajad's speech:

Let me tell you a joke. I think these leaders, that are building nuclear bombs...they are retarded.

He'll be here all week. Try the veal.

I now give up.

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