25 September 2007

What happened to the free exchange of ideas

As I'm sure everyone's heard by now, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a talk at New York's Columbia University. I'm also sure that if you know that, you know about the protesters. I understand why the talk was controversial, but should it have been? Should Ahmadinejad, a known holocaust denier and violent opposer of Israel, been allowed to talk to American students?

In my opinion, yes. He should have the right to speak to the public, whether or not his comments or beliefs are controversial. The university also should be able to invite anyone they like to give a speech to the students. After all, it really is educational. If I'd been a student at Columbia, I definitely would of gone. In my Intro to Political Science class yesterday, my professor asked us if we would of allowed Adolf Hitler the same opportunity. And my answer is still the same: yes. The free exchange of ideas is very important educationally and politically. By allowing these people to present themselves and their ideas in a democratic context gives the American people a chance to expose themselves to other opinions and cultures. It's very important that we never close our minds to anything.

I want to say a few other things here, stuff that I talked about in my Active Citizenship class this morning. The first thing is something my teacher first brought up: the man who introduced Ahmadinejad made a point of insulting him. Ms. Guise (my prof) made a great point when she likened this to inviting someone to your house and then ripping them apart. I understand that most Americans disagree with Ahmadinejad's postitions, but should we be that mean to him? Also, I heard someone interviewed on the news say that New Yorkers should make it their priority to make his time in this country miserable. What does that say about America? It certainly makes it easy to see why so many people in the world despise us.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Calvin Jones said...

Facinating talk on economics by Paul Krugman here (and i mean that i was half joking about microeconomics):


But in response to the blog post:

On this i think we agree, however there is a further point beyond freedom of speech: i don't think that 'that guy whose name i cant spell' can be compared to hitler.

This is a difficult conversation with americans as all of your media (that i have seen) is aligned against this man and that has to have some effect. From my point of view it is like iran part 2.

If this is framed as an issue of nucelar weapons and law then three points are worth making:

1. Nations without nucelar weapons are allowed to develop nuclear energy according to the non proliferation treaty (NPT) this is what they got out of signing.

2. The US and UK, and Israel (not far from Iran and recently bombing Syria!)all have an obligation to get rid of there nuclear weapons. The US is developing new nuclear weapons, the UK is building new nuclears submarines. We are in violation of the NPT.

3. Europe had negotiatied with Iran to ensure a supply of Uranium without the need (and therefore ability) to refine. This would have solved the nuclear bomb issue but the europeans couldnt persuade the US to this.

It seems quite clear that this is not about nuclear weapons but warmongering.