Columbia conservative alumni speak out against Ahmadinejad visit

(Futher comments were added Monday night.)

This is an e-mail from Ron Lewenberg of the Columbia Conservative Alumni Association:

On Monday, September 24, Columbia University will host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In so doing, the university is extending not a courtesy, but continuing a policy of anti-Israeli and anti-American leftist nihilism under the guise of academic freedom. The Columbia Conservative Alumni Association supports true academic freedom and free speech. Academic Freedom entails having a true range of beliefs allowed, not just those of the center left, far left, and whoever else hates America and the West. Free Speech involves not only accepting the right of a disdainful speaker to come, but also for students and interested parties to peacefully voice their discontent. Given President Ahmadinejhad’s statements calling for the destruction of both the US and Israel, Iran’s proxy war against the US and our allies, Iran’s support for Islamist terrorism, and Iran’s continued nuclear program we question the wisdom and moral value of giving this man a forum at Columbia, not the right of President Bollinger to invite him.

Unfortunately, free speech and academic freedom are not so well enshrined at Columbia as absolute rules, but are often excuses for a leftist agenda. For the university, free speech consists of

- Attempting to hide the sources of funding for a professorship donors named for Edward Said, an intransigent opponent of peace with or the existence of Israel. The sources were later shown to be a questionable Saudi trust, and the government of the United Arab Emirates.

- Supporting professors who target Jewish or Zionist students and then covering up the matter with stacked investigatory committee and then lying to the press about the findings.

- Demanding that no one pay attention to the academic and factual failings of Nadia Abu El Haj’s book, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, or even seeing if she can speak and read the prerequisite languages when deciding whether she should receive tenure.

- Having fewer than 20 open conservative, libertarian or Republican professors despite having a faculty of over 3,000.

This is no surprise given, university president and self-proclaimed “First Amendment Scholar”, Lee Bollinger’s record or enforcing an unconstitutional leftist speech code as dean of the University of Michigan Law School.

The current administration at Columbia has no problem inviting President Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of the US and one of our allies, whose special forces work with Islamist radicals in Iraq to kill Americans, and whose personal role in the suicide bombing of a Marine’s Barracks in Beirut in 1983, which killed 243 Americans, is still an open question. However, this same administration ignored the vote of a majority of Columbia students to recognize the ROTC at Columbia. Evidently the university administration and trustees believe that the special academic and even physical training of future US military officers has no merit, but giving a stage to a man who sees to the death of American soldiers is laudatory if the proper questions are asked.

If President Bollinger truly believes in “academic freedom as a central value to our society” perhaps he can start by bringing in conservative speakers and looking for a politically diverse faculty, rather than just liberals, leftists, and now Islamists who wish to destroy America. A good place to start would be to invite Jim Gilchrist to come speak. Last October, Jim Gilchrest and other speakers from the Minutemen Project were effectively silenced, when Columbia security, despite being well provided for, failed to take simple precautions to stop leftists from storming the stage. This last week, the Columbia Political Union invited Jim Gilchrest to return, only to cancel the appearance the next day. President Bollinger should step in soon not only to rectify past wrongs, but also to show that those who love America also have a place at Columbia. Otherwise academic freedom and free speech are merely pretenses, no less transparent than claims of a peaceful nuclear program by Iran.

Ron Lewenberg
Columbia Conservative Alumni Association

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LA writes:

Mr. Lewenberg is appealing for diversity and free speech. He doesn’t directly attack Columbia’s invitation to Johnnie (my nickname for the Iranian president), but only asks that along with leftists and enemies of the United States being allowed to speak, conservatives and patriots should also be allowed to speak. My own approach would be different. I think the invitation to Johnny is an outrage in itself. I don’t believe in a liberal balance between enemies of the United States (in this case, an enemy of humanity) and non-enemies of the United States. I don’t think enemies of this country should be honored guests at an American university.

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Mark P. writes:

You wrote:

“Mr. Lewenberg is appealing for diversity and free speech.”

There you have it. The problem in a nutshell. The “conservatives” fully oppose the substantive result of a procedural policy while praising the procedure that produces the result in the first place. Why does he imagine that creating “balance” will somehow counteract what Johnnie does and says?

Ron Lewenberg writes:

Thank you for posting the statement.

I believe that you misunderstood the statement. We very much oppose the invitation, but not the right of the university to do so.

“Given President Ahmadinejhad’s statements calling for the destruction of both the US and Israel, Iran’s proxy war against the US and our allies, Iran’s support for Islamist terrorism, and Iran’s continued nuclear program we question the wisdom and moral value of giving this man a forum at Columbia, not the right of President Bollinger to invite him.”

The invitation is an outrage. Nonetheless, we have a difficult time securing conservative speakers, so calling for censorship, no matter how warrented, is untenable.

That said, we also pointed out the hypocracy at Columbia and of Bollinger’s case. We will not let this go and neither will the country.

Bollinger managed to whitewash the MELAC controversy. He will have a harder time now.

LA replies:

Obviously, I never questioned the right—meaning the legal right—of the university to invite Johnnie. At the same time, as Mr. Lewenberg says here, though I don’t think he said so in the official statement, the invitation is an outrage.

I understand the campus conservatives’ position of weakness and that I may be asking a lot of them. But—and I recognize that my view here is a minority one—I think their message is made weaker when it is put in terms of diversity and balance, rather than of who is a fit guest at the university. This would require defining a range of opinions that are suitable to being heard at the university, and opinions that fall outside that range. Johnnie is in the former, Jim Gilchrist in the latter. I think we conservatives should base our positions on objective standards, not on an abstract liberal equality of rights of all possible parties.

Thus, I would put the argument something like this:

“There is a very large range of speakers who are suitable to be heard at the university. An enemy of our country, a Holocaust denier, a person who has pledged to destroy the state of Israel with nuclear weapons, a national leader who has sent innumerable terrorists to kill our forces in Iraq and innocent people in Iraq, is not such a person. Yet he is invited to speak. Meanwhile, perfectly legitimate speakers, such as lawful activists against illegal immigration, have been treated shamefully and closed out. This inversion of civilized standards, in which a declared enemy of humanity is invited to speak, while people practicing normal American politics are treated as pariahs and excluded, must stop.”

Thucydides writes:

The invitation to Iranian President Ahmadinejad to visit Columbia as a “distinguished lecturer” is a perfect piece of liberal fatuousness. Given their sentimental faith in the essential goodness of man, liberals imagine that there is no such thing as evil. If there is conflict, it must be due to a misunderstanding of some kind. If people act viciously, it must be because they have suffered some injustice, and are temporarily out of sorts. Given this faith, there is no such thing as implacable animosity. Conflict only represents a failure to have reasonable discussions. There is no such thing as an enemy.

To more sensible people not committed to this absurd faith, there comes a time in human affairs when matters have gone beyond the possibility of resolution, when differences are too great to warrant any belief in the possibility of their resolution through talk. That time certainly has come when your enemy is killing your people. In these circumstances, palaver is simply a sign of weakness and stupidity on your own part. That fools like Bollinger are in charge of our universities and cultural institutions is evidence of how sick our culture is. [LA replies: I don’t think Bollinger is a fool; I think he is a bad man.]

The question is why liberals cling to such an absurd faith. It is probably because in an era in which belief in an ultimate moral order to the universe is in eclipse, it is simply too frightening, and too constraining to fatuous utopian dreams of redesigning society on some rational plan, to acknowledge that, as Kant put it, “out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing very straight can ever be made.”

Justin T. writes:

I’m so sick of Columbia University’s idiotic students and administrators attempting to defend their morally indefensible positions on Ahmadinejad by citing “free speech.” Columbia University has no free speech, and neither do any of its Ivy League brethren. If they cared about “free speech,” then they would not have kicked the ROTC program off of their campus back in 1969. They still have not allowed ROTC back on campus, for reasons entirely different from the reason they kicked it off in the first place. In 1969, they do so to appease leftist militants and anti-American professors. Today they do not allow them on campus because oppose the federal government’s advocacy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy itself developed by one of their favorite liberals, Bill Clinton. This university lives and breathes by double-standards; one standard for leftists and anti-American nuts, and another standard for conservatives and patriots. Shame on them.

My disgust is even greater due to the fact that I’m an ROTC graduate, and I am constantly hearing liberals whine about how they are under-represented in the military. I’ve finally had to face the simple fact: liberals do not want more representation in the military, because if they did they’d simply have to volunteer in greater numbers. No, what they want is the destruction of the military, which is why they latch on to news stories discussing declines in levels of recruitment and support the Ivy League’s opposition to ROTC. And when they discuss the under-representation of liberals in the military, what they are really calling for is a purge, at which point their goals will be complete.

I’m glad there aren’t more liberals in the military. If there were, we wouldn’t have the greatest military in the world; all we’d have is a bunch of whiny unionized metrosexual pacifist vegetarians on government welfare.

At which point our fall would be only a matter of time.

Charles G. writes:

I see no inconsistency here. Most American institutions have been forthright enemies of this nation for many decades. In this particular case, they are merely demonstrating (again) their consistency of purpose. It is, as you say, sheer nihilism. Hatred for its own sake. Perhaps they hope to destroy the country in order to rebuild and fashion their utopia from a new foundation. Or perhaps they’re just bored and have little else to do but think and act in a reflexively leftist manner.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 23, 2007 05:37 PM | Send

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