A View From The Handbasket

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Providing the Petard
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:02 AM
It's been amusing, if frustrating, to watch the parade of hand-wringing talking heads proclaiming, "In the name of freedom, we must not allow Ahmadinejad to speak!"

At the risk of stating the obvious, allowing someone to speak simply opens their ideas to scrutiny. A confident and free society will let anyone speak, a fearful and tyrannic society will shut down speech. Columbia University and other organizations had the opportunity to put Iran's president's ideas to the test in a way that would never happen in his own country -- how could anyone interested in objective reality turn that down?

And the result spoke for itself. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post writes:

"For hundreds of years, we've lived in friendship and brotherhood with the people of Iraq," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the National Press Club yesterday.

That's true -- as long as you don't count the little unpleasantness of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when a million people died, some by poison gas. And you'd also have to overlook 500 years of fighting during the Ottoman Empire.

But never mind that: Ahmadinejad was on a roll.

"Our people are the freest people in the world," said the man whose government executes dissidents, jails academics and stones people to death.

"The freest women in the world are women in Iran," he continued, neglecting to mention that Iranian law treats a woman as half of a man.

"In our country," judged the man who shuts down newspapers and imprisons journalists, "freedom is flowing at its highest level."

And if you believe that, he has a peaceful civilian nuclear program he wants to sell you.

Much of officialdom spent yesterday condemning Columbia University for hosting the Iranian leader while he visits the United Nations this week. There were similar protests outside the National Press Building in Washington, where reporters gathered to question Ahmadinejad in a videoconference. "Don't give him any press!" shouted one woman.

But that objection misses a crucial point: Without listening to Ahmadinejad, how can the world appreciate how truly nutty he is?

"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country," he informed the Columbia audience.

I'm finding it hard to see how letting Ahmadinejad put his collection of opaque answers, facile taunts and self-evident falsehoods on public display enhanced his stature in any way.

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