Much ado has been made about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit and speech engagement at Columbia University this past week. Local talking heads (or, as the case may be, disembodied voices) have damned the university's decision to even allow the president to appear and address the body of students, professors, lay people, and activists. In light of this man's worse-than-questionable politicking, despicable human rights record, not to mention his flat-out insanity that seems to stem from a certain inexcusable degree of stubborn ignorance, I can't say I blame their sentiments.
Protesters, consisting of members from various gay, feminist, and human rights organizations, gathered outside of the university to decry the event as well. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson couldn't make it, as they were down in Jena attempting to siphon some PR from another issue. But that's another story.
Like I said, Ahmadinejad's appearance was protested on its very basis. But, the president of Columbia U. was thinking farther ahead than those who congregated outside to protest. You see, he knows very well the power of free speech in this country...both its ability to build up, and to destroy. In a very obvious way, one that was tragically missed by various pundits, this event achieved the former for us, and the latter for Iran's president.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad let loose with some aburdist gems, such as questioning the occurrence of the Holocaust, and stating that "there are no homosexuals in Iran," the latter of which drew some combined ire and laughter from the packed auditorium.
My point is this: whether or not this was the sole objective of Columbia in allowing him to come here, they in effect gave him permission to come over and act like a complete fool. Good for us, at least in terms of entertainment value.