Monday, September 24, 2007

What Exactly Is Free Speech?

I must admit every time I see a photograph of this man my skin crawls. It is something about the way he smiles. It seems so full of malice yet his words are as slick as a greased pig. He is a very dangerous man.

That being said, I found the debate on Fox News Sunday regarding his visit of interest. Juan Williams and Bill Crystal had opposing views as to whether a university with the stature of Columbia should have invited him to address the students. Crystal, a Jew, felt it was an outrage considering what the man represents; especially his denial of the the holocaust and his belief that Israel should not be allowed to exist. Williams contended this is a country of free speech and let's show we are not afraid to hear what he has to say and have healthy debate.

The segment ended with no clear cut opinion.

The whole furor got me to thinking about what we are subjected to in this country in the name of free speech. Most recently of course is the Don Imus case for the unwise use of "street" slang in referring to the Rutgers girls basketball team. Considering what emanates daily from the air waves he got a bad rap. No pun intended.

Talk radio has its share of both right and left wing hate mongers and truth benders. Mark Levine on the right and Randi Rhodes on the left are prime examples of the extremes. Then too we have television's Bill O'Reilly and the written word's Ann Coulter.

We tolerate all of them under the guise of "free speech". Whether or not Ahmadinejad should have been invited to speak at Columbia seems to me to be the "freedom of choice"; the freedom of a university to invite whoever they think might add to the intellectual aspects of learning.

Had the decision been mine I think I would not have wanted to give this man any more of a platform than the one for which he came, a speech at the UN. On the other hand, hearing him in person, being able to watch him and hear him in context seems to me a valuable experience. Too much of our news comes to us in abbreviated "sound bites". One can only guess what has been omitted.

The dynamic of watching him speak before an audience for whom the speech was not intended was interesting. He was speaking for the benefit of Iranians in Iran far more than to enlighten Columbia's students.

Once again he has been able to maneuver himself into a position to use us as a propaganda tool aimed at his own people. I wonder if he realizes it's a pretty good one for us too. Freedom of speech.

1 comment:

Bill McCrory said...

Sometimes despots are not quite as goofy as their press agents would have them appear to be. Based on what Fidel Castro said for many years when he proclaimed the "heroism" and "devotion to the revolution" of people who hijacked planes to Cuba, one would think he supported the practice. He did not. Every time a hijacked US airliner flew low on final into Havana, the Cuban cane cutters saw a gleaming example of US freedom and capitalism. Castro's dialogue was for show. The hijackers were first flaunted in front of the press as "heroes of the revolution", then they were shipped off to the Isle of Pines to shovel bat guano for the rest of their lives.

Unlike Castro, Ahmadinejad is waaaaay off the goofy scale. He is likely to become a vital statistic sooner rather than later. Not everyone in Iran wants to go to war with Israel and the US.