Columbia University’s Selective First Amendment Affinity

September 24, 2007

Over an avalanche of protests, New York’s Columbia University invited Iran’s Holocaust denying dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. That any American institution would furnish a propaganda platform for this murderous thug is symptomatic of staggering ignorance about our enemies in this global war on terror.

Self-congratulatory liberals, like Columbia’s President Lee Bollinger, actually see the university’s hosting of Ahmadinejad as a cause to celebrate — advancing free speech and diverse viewpoints — as opposed to something that must be reluctantly tolerated.

What will it take to wake people up to the reality that this tyrant is every bit as pernicious as Osama bin Laden? Then again, many would probably jump to offer bin Laden a forum, as well. After all, they believe both have legitimate grievances against U.S. policy.

Columbia history professor Kenneth T. Jackson said New York has more than a legal duty to accommodate controversial figures from abroad. “It’s a moral obligation as a great city,” said Jackson. “New York’s record is one of toleration of difference.”

Doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Well, I’m not rejoicing over this wrongheaded decision to turn over a major university megaphone to Ahmadinejad to help him “teach Americans about the world.”

We have no legal duty to accommodate the despot behind many, perhaps most, of the improvised explosive devices killing our soldiers in Iraq. The U.S. Constitution is not a global guarantor of civil rights. It does not protect the speech of foreign dictators. It was not written to safeguard al Qaeda’s rights or its sensibilities.

Even if the First Amendment did apply, it wouldn’t oblige us to provide rhetorical weapons, ammunition and delivery systems to our sworn ideological enemies in this deadly war of ideas. Ideas have consequences, and the promotion of deadly ones can have deadly consequences.

Some leftist media types are afflicted with this bizarre notion that their journalistic integrity requires them to strive for neutrality between the United States and her enemies. Remember CNN anchor Bernard Shaw professing such nonsense when refusing to be debriefed during Gulf War I?

Nor do we have a “moral obligation” to enable terrorists to kill us, destroy our nation and promote a worldwide caliphate. There’s no ethical requirement that we prop up a sadistic egomaniac who has threatened to dispatch 40,000 suicide bombers throughout the civilized world and who is rattling his saber against this country amid chants from his indoctrinated, crazed subjects calling for “death to America.”

There’s also a larger point involved here that certain First Amendment charlatans choose to ignore. Contrary to their claims, there is nothing we can learn from Ahmadinejad that we don’t already know — at least not in this forum.

He’s made quite clear who he is and what he stands for. He is an enemy of civilization who runs the nation the State Department has identified as the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world today.

He is not here to debate or be persuaded. He doesn’t seek dialogue or a give- and-take of ideas — unless you want to humor him with an openness to his suggestion that 9/11 was an inside government job. He is not here to argue his case for Iran’s nuclear proliferation, which he denies with the chutzpah and finesse of a Goebbels or Stalin.

He is an incorrigible believer in Islamic world conquest whose ideology makes him impervious to reason, negotiation, diplomacy or compromise. He’s here to promote his propaganda and to recruit those amoral enough in our media to spread it and those gullible enough in our population to swallow it. The only thing that will dissuade him is force or credible threats to use it.

Besides, there are plenty of people in this country who are protected by the First Amendment who are more than willing to promote Ahmadinejad’s ideas. Indeed, it seems many on the left derive some kind of perverse pleasure seeing Ahmadinejad taunting President Bush and his policies. Figuratively speaking, you can’t help but wonder whether for some of them, it’s not as much about promoting the First Amendment right to burn the flag as it is their delight in watching the flag burn.

Why else would comment posters on the liberal Daily Kos blog say they have a crush on this dictator? Why else would the mainstream media have marveled at his rambling, incoherent insulting letters to President Bush — giving them and his warped ideas a shameful degree of credence?

If Columbia were serious about its openness to all ideas, it wouldn’t have revoked its speaking invitation to the Minuteman Project’s Jim Gilchrest.

Sadly, liberal academia’s simulated love affair with the First Amendment and so-called tolerance for diverse viewpoints just goes one way.