Well, now that the whole tempest in a university auditorium thing is over, we can finally see why so many right wing idiots–and so many media pundits–seemed so freaked out about Columbia’s invitation to let Ahmadinijad speak at their forum.
And yes, I’m probably going to spell his name wrong throughout.
After listening to his rather reasoned series of speeches at Columbia and the UN, and his interview with 60 minutes, we should now be aware what those fears of the power of Ahmadinijad’s voice are not based on:
1. Holocaust Denial Its obviously not the figure-head leader’s statements concerning the holocaust. I don’t condemn or defend Ahmadinjad’s statemetns–as many Arabs seem to feel they have to–but I would only add that while Arabs were certainly not in any way involved with the pogroms in Europe of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century or the Nazi and Italian holocausts, and though Palestine was one of the only places where Jews were welcomed during the latter events, Arabs and Muslims seem to be the only people these days who are expected to take responsibility for those events.
2. 9-11 Its certainly not any kind of association with 9-11. This fundamentally racist nonsequitur propigated by pundits and politicians is meant to hoodwink those who don’t (or won’t) know the difference between the Taliban and the Iranian government, which are about as friendly as cats and dogs. There are few public figures who want to go deeper into the debate than commenting that Ahmadinijad’s desire to visit Ground Zero was an “insult’ to the American people. There just isn’t anything there linking Iran to that event. On the contrary, Iran was quite neighborly in aiding the US to follow its bliss in Afghanistan after 9-11.
3. Views on Homosexuality I think I must have been sleeping when Republicans and right wing demagogues accepted Homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. Ahmadinijad’s belief that there are no Iranian homosexuals (Freddie Mercury, hello) is not so different than that of our own Christian president and his evangelical mullahs. To them, homosexuality is a spiritual disease that can be cured; thus there are no homosexuals, only people with homosexualism.
4. Human Rights And its certainly not Iran’s quashing of human rights. Many of our friends in the region and elsewhere–Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, etc.–regularly deny human rights in equally egregious fashion, and on the US dime. China’s record of human rights abuse is literally beyond belief, but they remain a trading partner in good standing–in fact, our economy would collapse over night without them. And yes they have nuclear weapons.
No, none of these.
The answer for the fear of Ahmajinidad’s oratory is simple and telling. Media pundits and right wing demagogues are so used to not having to back up any of their assertions about Iran, have grown so lazy about the reputation they have built up around Ahmadinijad, that they literally are defenseless when faced with an opponent who is not afraid of being smeared with the “pro-Iranian” (and thus anti-semitic) brush.
Just check out this exchange, one of many with perhaps the dumbest man ever to walk the Columbia campus, Columbia President Lee Bolinger:
American discourse has become so coarsened by the “debate” format–Hannity and Colmes, O’Reilly Factor, etc.–that many have forgotten exactly the reality alluded to by Ahmenijidad. There is a paucity of yes, no out there, and rhetoric gets us no where except into endless wars like the one in Iraq, Iran’s neighbor. One of the most salient things about this reality is that one of the only person who’s ever had the uninterrupted opportunity to say that on national television is the spokesperson for an oppressive state with no freedom of speech.
One last thing. I usually hate Chris Matthews. The guy talks about politics like a tipsy tailgater at a football game. But three cheers for him, anywho on this issue. He was perhaps the only person on national television who provided any context at all to our now decades long conflict with the people of Iran–referring to the CIA backed deposing of Mossadegh in the 50’s, the backing of petty dictator Shah Palevi, and the US unquenchable thirst for Iranian oil.