Atlantis Alumni

Monday, September 24, 2007

Columbia, Free Speech And The Iranian Dictator

Should Columbia University allow Mr. Ahmadinejad to speak? The University takes the classic free speech position that institutions of higher learning must be platforms for the free exchange of ideas. It's tough to swallow sometimes. It's an absolutist argument. When you veer away from the absolutist free speech position and make an exception, say by excluding Ahmadinejad, you then open yourself up to the possibility that the next person denied the opportunity to speak somehwere might be someone you like. However, where I think this absolutist free speech "slippery slope" argument fails, at least in a free society, is that democratic mechanisms combined with ethical considerations can be brought to bear on the selection of those candidates entitled to a forum. They would even allow Hitler to speak, Columbia says. I would not, nor would most reasonable people. Let's see how the dialogue goes between students and faculty and the Iranian dictator. I know that if I were at Columbia I would be protesting.


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