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Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Selective Outrage of Lee Bollinger

Well, what did you make of the way Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University introduced President Ahmadinejad on Tuesday?

No, I didn't think too much of it either.

As Khaled Diab writes on the Guardian's Comment is Free website:
"No matter what Bollinger's personal feelings are on Ahmadinejad's ridiculous, insulting and ambiguous stance on the Holocaust and the Iranian regime's human rights record, he broke both the basic rules of decorum and free debate in a disgraceful fashion. A moderator introducing a debate should, as his function suggests, project a semblance of impartiality and give the speakers a chance to express their views, leaving the audience to decide for themselves."

It is to Ahmadinejad's credit that he didn't just walk off after such a disgraceful intro: even the Jerusalem Post, hardly a pro-Ahmadinejad organ, said that Bollinger's introduction set the scene not for a debate, but for a trial.

There may be those of you out there who think the Columbia President is a brave man of principle, who introduced Ahmadinejad in the way he did out of personal conviction. But as the Guardian commenter 'neo conned' points out, Bollinger is man
who can be rather selective in his outrage.

This is how Bollinger introduced the military dictator of Pakistan, who harbours and finances the Taliban and signs peace deals with al-Qai'da:

"President Musharraf is a leader of global importance and his contribution to Pakistan's economic turnaround and the international fight against terror remain remarkable - it is rare that we have a leader of his stature at campus."

Unlike Ahmadinejad, Musharraf really is a dictator. And unlike Ahmadinejad he's been financing and harbouring the Taliban and also doing deals with al-Qai-da. But this evidently doesn't seem to bother our oh-so-principled Columbia President too much.


Steven said...


My sentiments precisely.

Lee Bollinger acted extremely discourteously towards Ahmedinejad. His introduction was a disgrace and the President of Iran displayed tremendous magnanimity in not walking off the stage. But Bollinger, as someone pointed out, dare not risk the financial security of Columbia.

Despite the rehearsed insinuations, Bollinger would never dare to open a speech by George Bush in similar fashion, eg.

“Mr. Bush, you have been invited to this university to express views that are repugnant not only to the majority of students and academics of this institution of higher learning, but to the vast majority of the world. You exhibit the traits of a liar and a warmonger who has brought tremendous suffering to millions of people in the Middle East and beyond, a suffering to which you appear utterly oblivious. Nor do you appear to learn from your errors, normally a sign of basic intelligence amongst humans. Furthermore, you mangle the English language, get your facts (especially geography) wrong with alarming frequency and have plunged America into a financial, military and moral abyss. Now you will have the opportunity to confront an audience that has not been hand picked by your advisors and I wish you luck”

Yeah right.

Anthony said...

I agree Neil. I watched the introduction with a mixture od incredulity and disgust. The so-called free speech agenda in the good 'ole US of A obviously carries a small printed addendum, that free speech is only free when the Pres agrees with it.

It made a rather pathetic figure, who had limited power, and will in all probability be gone in a couple of years, seem like a victim.

Pathetic, but in accordance with what I have some to expect from the 'democratic' USA