Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The range of acceptable opinion

The NYT published 10 letters about Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia. In all of them, the only reasons anyone comes up with for why inviting the leader might have been a bad idea are that a) there are more important Iranian leaders, and b) he did not receive a warm enough welcome. Not one suggests that the invite was a transparent publicity move, aimed more at getting people riled up than at promoting dialogue, or that inviting people who espouse nonsensical views to speak at a university is, at the very least, questionable. Also, none of the letters praise Ahmadinejad's views. None of the letter-writers suggest that gays do not exist, or that the Holocaust is just a myth, or that Israel must be gotten rid of. Yet in comments to the NYT articles on his visit, many readers clearly feel either a) that it was wrong to invite him, or b) that the man speaks the truth. Instead what we get from the Times are a few letters about Bush being bad and about how we're obviously going to be dragged into a war with Iran next; one letter about how it is "Orientalism" to insult someone who encourages human rights violations in a far-off land (even if many 'authentic' Iranians are also upset!); and a letter from a refugee from Nazi Germany so high-minded that she thinks it's great that an America school would host a Holocaust-denier, but unfortunate that he was not treated better. Good liberals all of them. No one speaking up for the 'intolerant' crowd protesting his visit, nor anyone showing just how well-received he was in some quarters.

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