Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

September 24, 2007

My immediate After-Reaction to Ahmadinejad at Columbia

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:10 pm

I just finished watching the question and answer session. I had been conflicted about the Columbia invitation to the Iranian Holocaust denier and wannabe genocidaire. Is it better to experience evil–and its forked tongue spokesman first hand–even if it means legitimating him to a certain extent?

But the shock to me was not the evasive quality of his talk, but the applause afterward.

Major enthuaistic applause. That is something that I will never forget, alas.

Ahmadinejad was just being his lying, deceiving self. The applause of the Columbia audience showed them (the ones who clapped) to be useful idiots, moral idiots, complacent about Hitlerism’s contemporary embodiment. Unequipped by a history to understand how Hitler lied and deceived the West about his benign intentions until the very first shots were fired and the first Poles and Jews murdered. Not only the audience, but Columbia’s history department should be deeply ashamed.


  1. I couldn’t agree more. Please be aware that these students are applauding a man who is representative and singly responsible for not only calling for “Death to America”, but actually carrying it out on the peers of this generation.

    Uber-pathetic and disgusting. Be back later, gotta vomit now.

    Comment by Shannon Harvey — September 24, 2007 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

  2. Now we know how it felt to watch Hitler’s rise in the 1930s.

    Comment by Martin Gidron — September 25, 2007 @ 12:16 am | Reply

  3. Dear Sir,
    To me, your slanted opinion cannot be changed. Mine however, has been.
    I recall the Barbara Walters interview in which he handled himself quite nicely, even after a very salty dress-down from her.

    The moral of the story is this: The USA has won. Give the little guy a chance. He’s a victim of outdated and oppressive tradition, as much as Gorbachev was in his term.
    Maybe, just maybe, a little good ‘ol tolerance might go a long way.
    Try to think outside of the box!

    Thank you for not hiding your opinion–with which I disagree–behind anonymity.

    I guess I have to repeat it every now and then, but for the benefit of others who are afraid to stand behind their opinions with their names: I don’t feel obligated to post anonymous and/or bigoted comments.

    In regard to your comment, I have to say I’m astonished that a Barbara Walters interview with a man who murders political and religious dissidents, writers, poets, homosexuals, ethnic minorities, could change your mind. That’s a little too far “outside the box” for me. “Give the little guy a chance” to continue murdering? Homicidal maniacs tend to be liars about their crimes so I would suggest re assessing whether to believe everything he said to Babs and look at the well established facts of his murderous record.

    Comment by chuck furrer — September 25, 2007 @ 9:18 am | Reply

  4. Major enthusiatic applause: I see it not as support or acceptance of any ideology but as excitement to be in the presence of a controversial figure, or perhaps, just feeling elated by the fact of managing entry to the event.

    Comment by UL — September 25, 2007 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  5. Ahmadinejad is dangerous as he is a proponent of extreme islamic beliefs. He hates Israel and the U.S.A. This will not change. As for his allowance to visit on American soil, I thought the government had stricter guidelines for letting terrorists and their sponsers inside our country??!! 9/11 seems to have faded from memory so quickly and people today have the attention span of a gnat!! For those sad, misinformed, and ignorant individuals clapping at Columbia—this is another example of the demise of our educational system creating fools who esteem themselves much more than necessary and who’s learning is minimal & limited at best.

    Comment by jeana — September 25, 2007 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  6. Yes, the applause was discouraging but I sincerely hope that the invitation extended to Ahmadinejad is the first of many such moves made with him and people like him. The sun can’t do its work unless we remove the rock and Lee Bollinger did a great job lifting the rock.

    It wasn’t a major victory but I do think it helped more than it hurt and it was truly reassuring to see Bollinger lay it down so straight.

    It’s also good for us to see just how naive some of our fellow country men are. Better to know the depth of our collective ignorance now then find it out when it’s too late. Clearly, there’s much more work to be done.

    Comment by Thomas Guerra — September 25, 2007 @ 11:51 am | Reply

  7. They send their children to learn, it’s evident, by the applause they need it. The Dean would be best served in the future if the allumni cut off funding.

    Comment by Jack Hartley — September 25, 2007 @ 12:20 pm | Reply

  8. If you invite someone to your home you owe them respect and politeness. If you are not ready to grant that – why invite them? In desert society, even an enemy is protected when in your home. All of the arab and Iranian world were watching the goings on in New York yesterday and even though many may deplore the man and his words, they were sure to be insulted at our behavior. You don’t introduce a speaker with insults. The Pres. of Columbia made a very good beginning to his introduction and then ruined it with a personal attack on the speaker. I was shocked at this behavior and thought it counter productive; counter to the free speech and exchange of ideas that a university forum is supposed to represent. Though I abhor many of his ideas and having lived in Iran and worked in Irak and knowing his words about women, human rights and free speech to be totally untrue, I
    am sure that our style of reception given to the elected president of Iran will, once again, give the people of that region a negative impression of our values.
    We may not agree with him, but we need to know and understand him if we are to be able to normalize and stabilize our own position in the area. We must not forget that he is the elected president and their electoral process in no more flawed than our own. Posturing, insulting, and screaming make us no better than what we see on the other side. Perhaps learning to listen, to lower the decibels of hate and “evil” would be helpful to both sides to try to find common solutions. We know he lies. Don’t we?

    With all due respect, it’s not the lies (all politicians lie) it’s the murders, the ones already committed agasint dissidents and the “non existent” homosexuals, etc. etc. You seem highly exercised by bad manners, relatively untroubled by murders. In that you do a disservice to the good people of the Middle East who we must credit with the moral discrimination to know which is worse. Would you have invited a Klan leader who murdered Civil Rights workers and demanded respectful attention and good manners for a racist murderer so that we could hear his white supremacist “views”?

    Comment by gwenael guillou — September 25, 2007 @ 1:36 pm | Reply


    Comment by PTTEITEL — September 25, 2007 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

  10. I just finished watching what I assume amounts to the entire speech on youtube.

    I would say that no one applauded Ahmadinejad in response to his comments about the Holocaust. Rather, the moderator was applauded when he directly challenged the president for not answering the first question about it.

    He did get applause at the end of the speech, but I submit to you that if you want to talk about what ideas the audience was supporting with their applause, you should look at what comments actually got applause during the speech.

    I think that the audience approved of Ahmadinejad calling supporters of nuclear weapons retarded (clearly a Bush jibe that people respond well to) or his calls for peace or his invitation to Columbia faculty to speak at any university they want in Iran. And beyond what he actually said, a “fuck Bush” mentality is almost certainly behind more of the applause than any acceptance of Holocaust denial.

    And to be clear, I’m not defending Ahmadinejad at all. His crimes seem to be clear and his rhetoric is avoidant and vague to the point of meaninglessness. But I do think that your conflation of the audience’s applause with support of his Holocaust denial seems unfair and simplistic.

    Thank you for being willing to put your name behind your disagreements.

    I’m getting tired of anonymous commenters complaining I don’t post their words when they’re afraid of standing behind them.I put my name behind my opinions, why are you guys so afraid?

    (And to the commenter obsessed about the allegedly wonderful condition of the Jews in Persia I suggest you read the work of Roya Hakakian Journey to the Land of No for instance; she grew up in Iran during the revolution of 1979 and was originally a supporter–and those of the scholar Dr. Andrew Bostom whose history of that subject is fairly definitive and grim.

    As for the comment above, I have to say that the logic of it seems to me that you’re willing to excuse applauding a murderer (not just a Holocaust denier) as long as he has a “fuck Bush” attitude. If he killed your family would you still excuse the applause at the end? I tend to think of it from the point of view of the families of Iranian dissidents M.A. and his fascist secret police murdered.

    Comment by Dan Mack — September 25, 2007 @ 6:39 pm | Reply

  11. I agree with Thomas Guerra that the event did more good than harm. Ahmadinejad was laughed and jeered for stating that there were no homosexuals in Iran. He refused to affirmatively acknowledge the historical fact of the existence of the Holocaust, although he meekly said “I am not saying it didn’t happen.”

    Dean Coatsworth (the interviewer) was willing to unequivocally state “yes” to Ahmadinejad’s question of whether the plight of the Palestinians was an important international issue, but Ahmadinejad refused to say whether or not he sought the destruction of the State of Israel. In fact, I thought the most enthusastic applause came when Dean Coatsworth said to Ahmaddinejad that he thought the audience would appreciate a straight forward answer to his question.

    I disagree with those who applauded Ahmadinejad, but I did not think the applause sounded that enthusiastic. I was more disappointed with the students that I heard interviewed on NPR who criticized Bollinger for being rude to the Iranian President as if Bollinger’s first obligation was to manners rather than to truth. I would characterize the applause that Ahmadinejad received as polite – probably a symptom of our culture that sometimes confuses respecting another’s right to express his or her view with being tolerant of almost any view, no nmatter how repugnant.

    Comment by Bob Maruca — September 25, 2007 @ 10:24 pm | Reply

  12. chuck furrer wrote, “…Give the little guy a chance.” Here’s the problem with such a “live and let live” philosophical approach. When two consenting, reasonable and rational adults can agree to disagree and still share a glass of wine at the table of understanding, then your theory works wonders and I agree with you. But, when we give a platform to a known tyrant and we choose to remain silent in an effort to allow the little man his say, we commend by way of silence. This is dangerous in a world where the mass media markets itself by “giving the customers what they want.” And, the market of “want” has a grasp of history that begins at their birth! Allowing this little man his say assumes the audience has mastery of world history and this audience can make critical judgments about the course we are on relative the past courses we have taken. At what point do we recognize that people with evil intent are using the freedoms we offer to broaden their own agenda of oppression? Max

    Comment by Charles Maxwell — September 26, 2007 @ 10:07 am | Reply

  13. Ahmadinejad didn’t really say anything. He talked a lot. Blustered and filibustered about the importance of scholarly thought and advancements in science. It was all rhetoric with absolutely no substance. I’ll give him this though; the man could probably talk anyones ears off. The majority of even roughly educated westerners, if given a transcript, even an edited version, could see right through his colorful words to the nothingness they contain. I can visualize thousands of people scratching their heads and saying “what the h–l was he just talking about?!”. I wonder if the people of Iran would say the same thing?

    Comment by Sean Morgan — September 26, 2007 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

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