As I'm writing this, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is preparing to speak at Columbia University in New York amid the obvious protests. CNN reported from the protest sites - there were some clever signs, like one of A-Train with his limbs shaped like a swastika, and a red line through the whole thing. That one is my favorite so far.
Those of you who read my blog regularly know I have no problem with protests - I've even been known to indulge on occasion. What I do have a problem with is the habit of many on the right to cast blame on the host - in this case, Columbia - for inviting someone with highly objectionable/dangerous views to speak. This position was taken by Henry Kissinger and Newt Gingrich (admittedly two people with whom I rarely agree). The latter claimed that Columbia was "lending its prestige" to Ahmadinejad. How ridiculous is that? Does Gingrich think that someone will refer to A-Train as "that dude that spoke at Columbia that one time"? Or that someone will say, "you know, he thinks the Holocaust is bogus, he wants to eliminate Israel, and he supports terrorism, but he spoke at Columbia, so it's all cool"? No. No one will say that. One capital derectalization for Gingrich, please.
My point is this - protest all you want. In fact, if I were in NYC, I'd probably be there with you. But don't prevent A-Train from speaking, and don't criticize the host for letting him speak. A beneficial free exchange of ideas requires that we allow all points of view to be voiced, even if they are utterly repulsive. Besides, don't we want our point of view to be given a voice and listened to seriously in other countries? Why should we deny others the same courtesy here?
It's refreshing to see other people I rarely agree with, in this case Zbiginew "I'd Like To Buy A Vowel" Brzezinski and Sen. Chuck Hagel, voice support for Columbia for letting a ridiculous yet undeniably important person speak at their university. It proves that you don't have to be a dedicated civil liberties junkie to understand the value of the unfettered exchange of ideas.
And personally, I think that President Bush should have invited A-Train for a state visit to the corner of 14th SW and Independence in Washington (not telling him that this is the site of the U.S. Holocaust museum/memorial). I don't think anyone can go through that museum and still be a denier...