Home / Lee C. Bollinger: Free Speech Hypocrite

Lee C. Bollinger: Free Speech Hypocrite

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Lee C. Bollinger is receiving praise from academia and the media for his commitment to free speech by allowing Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University.

In defending his decision to allow Ahmadinejad to address the university Bollinger said, "I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can, that this is the right thing to do and, indeed, it is required by existing norms of free speech, the American university, and Columbia itself."

Bollinger then went on to exercise his own First Amendment rights and blasted Ahmadinejad as a "petty and cruel dictator" and pointing out Iran’s cruel treatment of its own citizens, support of terrorism, and Ahmadinejad’s denial of the holocaust and desire to wipe Israel off the map.

Bollinger might have received kudos from this columnist for his commitment to free speech at Columbia if he wasn’t such a hypocrite about allowing other controversial speakers to speak on campus.

Last October, the founder of the Minutemen, Jim Gilchrest, was invited to speak at Columbia and was attacked and forced off the stage by student protesters soon after his speech began. After the riot, did Bollinger give a similar free speech pep talk and remind students that an environment should exists on campus that should promote the open exchange of ideas? Not at all. Instead, as columnist John Leo noted,

Mr. Bollinger…might have shown a commitment to free speech by inviting the men back, introducing them himself and providing enough security to prevent more censorship by riot. But he didn't.

Instead, he let months go by before imposing a mild non-punishment on the unnamed perpetrators.

Gilchrest was invited back this year by The Columbia Political Union (CPU), a non-partisan campus group, but that invitation was rescinded after the group decided not to go forward with the event due to concerns of students

The CPU told the Associated Press that they hoped to have him and others who were part of the incident last October together to engage in a civil discussion but that they "could not effectively accomplish the goals we had hoped it might."

Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar, was once again quiet on the matter.

This columnist isn’t a supporter of Ahmadinejad or Gilchrest but someone who believes a free and open dialogue should exist in our public colleges and universities. Invited speakers should be able to deliver their message without the worry of having their speech interrupted or canceled by a bunch of student thugs.

If Bollinger is going to let the President of Iran speak, no matter how much he may disagree with the speaker’s point of view, surely he should embrace such freedom for other invited speakers and be at the forefront of giving Gilchrest the same opportunity.

In his introductory remarks Monday Bollinger said,

In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counter-productive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the American idea of free speech.

This columnist calls on Bollinger to prove his commitment to free speech and not “retreat from engagement with ideas” he and others at Columbia may dislike and fear and invite Gilchrest to speak and provide him a safe environment in which to do so.

It’s easy to give a verbal commitment to freedom and liberty but quite another to back up one’s words with actions. Seeing how Bolllinger past actions regardubg free speech have been rather cowardly, this columnist don’t expect to see Gilchrest on campus any time soon.

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About Abel Keogh

  • Zedd


    I am more than sure that you are not interested in that topic.

    The truth is that technology has evolved over time. “We” have not made the strides that we have without the input, knowledge and major contributions of various other people of the world.

    YES oil wells were discovered in that region first. Marco Polo made notes of their existence in the 13th century. Why belittle that notion? What are you jocking for?

    YES we do suppress other people from being able to compete on the world’s stage.

    YES we require people to tow the line or else they will be cut off and impoverished (a la Zimbabwe).

    Your assertions suggest our ability to progress based solely on our capability and rightness. We play a ruthless chess game. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not race does matter. It matters to the extent that it is ingrained in all of our collective unconscious.

    I am trying to illuminate how this phenomenon impacts our planet TODAY so that we cease to ignore it; So that the unintentional racist structure can end and human potential is truly explored and our evolution will result in what humanity can accomplish unencumbered.

  • Dan

    Zed, I’m not interested in getting bogged down in your racial obsession.

    I will say though that one area of unintentional exploitation by free democracies is the migration of the best and brightest scientists, who flee from madhat dictatorships and authoritarian, orwellian, socialist regimes. No matter what their racial stripe.

  • Zedd

    “Thankfully, they’re not smart enough, yet.”

    ….White fantacies as they threaten nations with obliteration if they attempt to progress beyond them.

  • Dan

    To say that people of the middle east were “well aware” of their oil resources and “knew how to get at their oil” is laughable.

    Nearly all of modern oil drilling and refining technologies have been invented and developed by American companies.

    Not to mention the multitude of invention and ingenuity that gives oil value, and creates the market.

    Sure, Arabs could gather up some oil that was bubbling up near the surface, and find some marginal use for it. To say they used their oil in a “nearly sustainable non-polluting way for hundreds of years” is pure liberal kook fantasy.

    It’s akin to how some mythologize about native americans being solemn caretakers of mother earths resources when in reality they would do things like stampede herds of buffalo off of cliff’s, only to cut away a fraction of the most desirable meats, leaving the rest to rot.

    Exploitation of mid-easterners by US technical know-how? Preposterous. It is quite simply the opposite.

    Now they’re using our gift of previously unnattainable economic prosperity to build nuclear capabilities and meld barbarism with technology. Thankfully, they’re not smart enough, yet, to pull off a nuclear feat we accomplished in 1945.

  • Clavos

    MR and piano man:

    Neither of you seem to notice how I wrote that sentence, to wit:

    “More like tens of thousands,…most of whom are Arabs, including the enormous Saud family and the Bin Ladens.”

    That does NOT sya that there are tens of thousands of Sauds and Bin Ladens; it says that there are tens of thousands of Arabs receiving the wealth from the oil, and that they include (but are not limited to) those two families.

    The Sauds, for example, distribute (after taking their billions off the top) much of the wealth to the people of Saudi Arabia, who actually number over 27 million.

    And counting all the multiple wives and dozens of offspring of each Saudi prince, there are at least thousands of family, if not tens of thousands.

  • the_piano_man

    Now as I re-read Clavos’ statement it is sort of ambiguous. Yes, many U.S. stockholders are wealthy, by world standards. However, the DuPonts, and others like them do hold most of the world’s wealth, but wealth is relative. For the average world citizen (if there is such a thing as “average”) who struggles just to find clean water to drink every day, Americans with incomes of 30,000 dollars per year are fantastically wealthy beyond wildest dreams. Perspective is everything. Maybe there are tens of thousands of U.S. stockholders who are wealthy oil company stockholders along with millions of other U.S. stockholders, but the “millions of other U.S.” oil company stockholders are nowhere near as wealthy as the (supposed) top 10,000 some of which may be of Middle Eastern (I use the term “Middle Eastern” so those whose main source of reading material is severely limited will understand who I am referring to) ethnicity or citizenship; but I doubt that there are actually tens of thousands of the Saud Family who are multi-billionaires as Clavos seems to imply. Still my statement of hundreds may have been off. . .

  • the_piano_man

    Thank you for clarifying some of my statements. Yes it probably is more like tens of thousands, and millions of U.S. oil company stockholders. However, in a world of over 6 billion people that is a very small percentage. No wonder there is resentment and violence in todays world.

  • moonraven

    The Saud family and Bin Ladens are hardly tens of thousands.

    Clavos implies that Arabs multiply at the speed of light because they are not white.

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

  • Clavos

    “(for those who are geographically challenged; the word Persia refers to part of the Middle East)”

    Westerners called it Persia. Those who live there have always called it Iran, even when it was much larger than it is today.

    “Most of the “oil money” has gone to oil companies and a few hundred filthy rich aristocrats.”

    More like tens of thousands (not counting the millions of US oil company stockholders), most of whom are Arabs, including the enormous Saud family and the Bin Ladens.

  • the_piano_man

    While one of our prominent educators is busy with the sophomoric insulting of a diplomat from the Middle East, let’s set the record straight about oil:

    We (the U.S.) were not the first group of people in the world to discover, drill for, and use oil. The Chinese had drilled oil wells 800 feet deep over 2200 years ago. The native people of this continent (North America) were aware of petroleum and used it at times. The first person to “refine” crude oil was Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakarīya al-Rāzi, a Persian 9 century chemist. (for those who are geographically challenged; the word Persia refers to part of the Middle East) This information can be found in Wikipedia. But don’t take Wikipedia’s word for it, they have many references to scholarly articles and books on most of their pages. The Streets of Baghdad were paved with tar over 900 years before the U.S. became a “nation state”. The people of the Middle East were well aware of their oil resources and used them in a nearly sustainable non-polluting way for hundreds of years, until the western nations invaded their homeland and started to exploit the resources that were already being used. The only thing we (western civilization) really “gave” the people of the Middle East was a cultural and economic slap in the face. The people of the Middle East already knew how to get at their oil. We used our technology to exploit that knowledge, and then claimed ownership. Most of the “oil money” has gone to oil companies and a few hundred filthy rich aristocrats. But hey, don’t take my word for it, any uncensored public library will have many volumes of writings regarding this part of history.

  • moonraven

    I am sickened by anything and everything that has to do with the US.

  • Zedd

    Folks, we are comparing the President of a large, ancient and highly historically relevant nation to some kook. This article is mute.

    I was more offended by Lee C. Bollinger’s comments, as they were quite rude and childish. He was under pressure because many groups were offended by him having Ahmadinejad on his campus, an also childish reaction. He came up with that bullying tactic in order to remain “IN”… embarrassing is what that was.

    I was sickened by the headlines “The Evil Has Landed”. We would pretend to be far beyond the “tow the line” journalism if such a heading was in some Middle Eastern publication. We would arrogantly assume that they were pawns of the state. Our assumed superior state allows us, as hundreds of Iraqis lie dead by our cause, to call others evil and treacherous. We party on polluting the planet as people drown in floods and others starve in droughts. We eagerly and casually buy our SUVs, Hummers better yet, declaring the evil that others do, daring to count the deaths of Americans ONLY in this travesty of a war that we were too fat, lazy, self righteous and dumb to stop.

  • bliffle

    Good point, Rita.

    I don’t know if Bollinger is a hypocrite. He looks more like a consistently rude person. He invites someone to speak and then assures that they are abused someway, even if he has to do it himself.

    From whom did HE take hospitality lessons? Atreus?

  • If Bollinger genuinely believes is upholding democratic rights why he didn’t invite the Burmese dignitary gracing the UN general assembly.

    Can he even name the leader of Burma’s military junta? Can he put his finger on the map to show where Burma is? Perhaps not, since he is less passionate against the authoritarian practices of military dictators but far more prejudiced about elected representatives of far-cultured and much civilized people.

  • Dan

    Yeah, discovering their oil for them, showing them how to get it out of the ground, and paying them way too much for it, is “exploitation” beyond belief.

    Ahmadinejad, besides needing a bolo tie and cartoon sombrero to complete that goofy look of his, should concern himself not with perceived “damage” done to his country. But the real damage that might be headed his way.

  • moonraven

    Folks yell FIRE here all the time on BC.

    Nobody gives a shit.

  • the_piano_man

    Some say president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is lying to us? And Mr. Bollinger referred to him as a “dictator”. Really now? We (The U.S.) are by no means totally blameless when it comes to nasty things like imperialism, racism, genocide (remember the millions of native Americans who were slaughtered in “our” country) and supporting dictatorships; and furthermore, our own presidents, both Democrat and Republican, have lied to us more than once. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dictator? Excuse me, but we (the U.S.) supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (the Shah of Iran), a dictator, and Saddam Hussein, a dictator, and have interfered in the affairs of these two person’s regions ever since the discovery of oil in that part of the world. Since then we have exploited the people of that region and disrupted their culture in many ways, including but not limited to, “drawing” boundaries for “them” and “naming” their countries for “them”. As a nation we need to deal with this very seriously and recognize the damage we have done to the people of this area. Anyone in a University, particularly anyone in a position of authority in a University, should be acutely aware of this entire situation – this should be a given as cultural studies are now a required part of most all reputable undergraduate programs in the U.S. . The president of Columbia University has shown his ignorance by confirming to the people of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nation that he is indeed just like what they probably expected of a prominent American: disrespectful, ignorant of other cultures, and hypocritical. . . congratulations dude; you just put your foot in your mouth big-time. . . I’ll bet you would yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater because its your “free speech right”. Give me a break.

    Iran may have dangerous potential and/or intentions but treating its president as if he has been tried, convicted and sentenced is not a wise thing to do as we ironically act as though we are a collective immaculate world morality judge, monitor and self appointed enforcer.

  • moonraven

    [Gratuitous vulgarity deleted by Comments Editor]

    Bollinger is a rude, insufferable boor–in the best gringo tradition of rude, insufferable boors–of which there are many disgusting examples posting here: Nalle, Lumpy, JOM, Dan, Clavos, and a long jerkoff line of etceteras. [Gratuitous vulgarity deleted by Comments Editor]

  • Dan

    That’s right Dave. And because Bollinger didn’t do that, or hold the violent leftist brownshirts accountable for their actions, that’s how we know that Gilcrest’s group isn’t racist or conspiracy nuts, and are only dangerous to the advancement of deceitful liberal dogma.

  • You’re right. Bollinger should have introduced Gilchrest just like he did Ahmadinejad, announcing to the world that Gilchrest and his followers are racists, conspiracy nuts and generally dangerous to society.


  • There are a few differences between the circumstances of Gilchrest’s appearance and Ahmadinejad’s – not the least of which is that there would have been an international incident if the university had allowed the president of a sovereign nation to be manhandled off the stage by students. I’m pretty sure Bollinger wouldn’t want Columbia to be remembered as the place where World War Three began…