|Did Iranian President Ahmadinejad deserve to be invited to speak at Columbia? No. In fact, resoundingly, no. Not even in the face of those who invoke freedom of speech as an unconditional right of the sort attributed to Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Furthermore, no, not according to any notion of intellectual and academic freedom.
Look at it this way. How much of a book is it necessary to read? Obviously, read just enough to know you don't need to read any more. If an author makes a fool of himself in the preface, not even page one is required reading.
Ahmadinejad made a fool of himself well before page one. In Iran he undermined the basic requirements of society, some of which he would now invoke to allow himself to speak. Freedom of speech does not exist in Iran. Don?t pretend that it does. Don?t pretend that allowing him to speak at Columbia stands apart from his actions in Iran.
Ahmedinejad is extended freedom of speech in America. He can stand on a street corner and speak his piece without fear he will be arrested for it. However, Columbia is not obliged to offer him a platform doe his doublespeak. Let him find his own.
Columbia?s president, Lee Bollinger, put the best face on a a bad selection by itemizing some of Ahmadinejad's crimes against society but, ironically enough, that section of the presentation was jammed on Iranian television. Freedom of speech does not require promoting those who undermine it. We believe in both the freedom to speak out and the freedom to refuse to provide a platform for those who oppose freedom of speech.