Ahmadinejad at Columbia

Hey, did you guys know that the president of Iran was in New York yesterday? Crazy but true. I know, I know-- you'd think it would have gotten more press coverage. But you know who was looking out for us? You guessed it-- Bill O'Reilly. In order to bring you the "fair and balanced" side of this story, I'm now sitting down, swallowing that little bit of vomit that rises in my throat everytime I think of Bill O'Reilly, and am offering commentary on his commentary from last night's Talking Points Memo. You're welcome.

Okay. First, a commercial for the University of Phoenix featuring what looks like a naked (or at least topless) woman, lying on her stomach. Uh... 'kay.

Okay! Here we go!

"A terrorist killer was given a forum by that ultra-liberal university today."

Ouch.

"Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia denounced [surprise/emphasis O'Reilly's] him and his country. Bollinger cited human rights abuses committed by Iran as well as Ahmadinejad's fascist ideology."

Well... that sounds sensible. Ahmadinejad's a bad guy, after all. I bet Bill O'Reilly's going to compliment Bollinger for standing up to the guy and calling him a jerk to his face, right?

"Bollinger did this because he knows he's in trouble."

Oh.

"That many Americans believe that Bollinger himself is a villain."

Who? How many people even know who Lee Bollinger is, really?

"That's because the president touts freedom of speech, but took weak action against the Columbia students who threatened the leader of the Minutemen, you may remember that."

Oh, Christ. That again.

"And Bollinger has supported the banning of ROTC on campus. Does that sound like freedom of speech to you?"

Well... no. But it also doesn't sound like an ice cream scoop, a chicken salad sandwich, or a Noel Coward song. These things aren't really related; a better comparison would be if you tried to say that Bollinger tried to ban all mention of the military on campus.

"When Ahmadinejad took the stage he denied any and all wrongdoing-- as he always does-- blaming all terrorism... on the U.S.A. All in all a tremendous academic experience, right?"

Get it? Because "intellectuals" (which, along with "academic," is a pejorative in O'Reilly-land) hate America and think that Norman Rockwell and Abraham Lincoln are responsible for all of the evil in the world.

"On the fascist website DailyKos..."

Again, Bill-- leftwingers can be Communists, but not fascists. We can-- and should-- criticize some of the people who post to the DailyKos, but you can't just change the definition of the word fascist the way you can change the definition of the words academic and intellectual. And by "can't," I mean of course you're gonna, 'cause you're an idiot and your viewers are idiots who will nod their heads and mutely agree with the nonsense you spew out, despite the fact that you're demonstrably wrong.

[Edit-- okay, yeah-- George Orwell says-- correctly-- that the word "fascist" is now practically meaningless, which would suggest that O'Reilly's free to use it however he would like. Although I want to point out that using meaningless words is a pretty poor rhetorical strategy, and that O'Reilly's still an idiot]

"... there's a poll asking 'Who is a better president-- Bush or the Iranian?' About 40% of the Kos loons picked Ahmadinejad."

While I think that Bush is probably a better president than Ahmadinejad (in the sense that, I guess, denying the Holocaust is probably worse than denying global warming, evolution, the effects of a disasterous economic policy, and ones own culpability in the illegal attack and occupation of a sovereign nation), I can understand why some Kos readers might disagree with me. Bush has been a disaster for the United States; most Kos readers are from the United States. They feel the impact of Bush's presidency more profoundly than they do Ahmadinejad's, so he seems like the worse president. I'm sure if Ahmadinejad had played a role in the administration's non-response to Hurricane Katrina, his poll numbers over at the DailyKos would be way down.

You can watch the whole thing here. Perhaps what's most amazing about O'Reilly's coverage of this story, though, is that he missed out on the big news coming out of this speech-- Iran doesn't have gay people! For real, yo. Ahmadinejad actually said that. Go to the link and watch the video. And pay close attention to the derisive laughter that greets this claim.

Bollinger and Columbia university were right to allow Ahmadinejad on campus to speak. As the AAUP says: "Revulsion at ideas or fear of them is understandable, but ideas are best answered with thought and conversation, not with censorship. That is nowhere more true than at a college or university. Education will not be well served if only bland speakers with uncontroversial views are invited to campus. The costs—to education, to academic freedom, to the social good—are virtually always higher when an invited speaker is silenced rather than allowed to speak."

And, what's more, Ahmadinejad's claim about "no gays in Iran" allows the world to see just what a fool he is-- frankly, this is more powerful than any heartfelt attempt at discrediting or censoring him could ever be. As E.B. White famously wrote, "People are, if anything, more touchy about being thought silly than they are about being thought unjust." I suspect that Columbia's commitment to free speech and academic freedom will be much more effective in making the world a better place than O'Reilly's call for censorship and silence.

And by the way... did anybody else get the idea last night that, if Iran doesn't have gay people, maybe the anti-gay people in our country could just move there? I mean, that would be kinda awesome, right? They could have their country, we'd have ours. I know, I know... Iran is a Muslim country, and American hatemongers identify themselves as Christian. But since they don't really identify themselves with Christ's message of peace and love for their neighbors, I should think switching to another religion would be pretty easy. And, look-- on the offhand chance that there is a gay Iranian hiding out in a closet in downtown Tehran... Make you deal. If Iran takes Jim Naugle, then that gay Iranian can come and sleep on our futon until he can get himself settled in the U.S.

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