A lot of people are wondering why Lee Bollinger, having invited Ahmadinejad to Columbia, then turned around and attacked him. Certainly, in the initial exchange between the two, it was Ahmadinejad who came off sounding more intelligent and reasonable when he politely expressed bewilderment that he would be invited into a forum, only to have his host attack him out of the gate. And Bollinger sounded almost delusional when he later expounded on his deep and abiding commitment to free speech and open forums for communication. This is the man, after all, who is head of an educational institution that bars the ROTC entirely and that allowed his students to chase the Minutemen of the campus stage. Clearly, whatever happened with Ahmadinejad has nothing to do with free speech.
Some might think he was taking to heart the Left wing trope about “speaking truth to power.” But that wasn’t what was happening either. Ahmadinejad, threatening though he might be to his own people, is no threat to Bollinger. That is, Bollinger was not taking a brave and principled stand by attacking a tyrant where he lives.
What I think was really happening was that Bollinger was having a Jerry Springer moment. If you think about it, the whole set-up had every hallmark of the old Jerry Springer show: the outspoken host, the distasteful guest, the cheering and jeering crowd. I’m only surprised that, halfway through, some woman didn’t storm on the stage, call Ahmadinejad a “disgusting slut” and throw a chair at him, to audience applause.
Bollinger has no interest in free speech. He has no interest in world politics. He has no interest in justice, morality, humanity and decency. Instead, he’s looking down the line to a new sinecure when this boondoggle ends, and it’s one that involves a TV studio, a microphone, and some chairs that aren’t bolted to the ground.