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What WFB Did


Steve, I find the introductory paragraph explaining the circumstances of that WFB address particularly interesting. Buckley refused an invitation from Yale to participate in a lecture series that included a communist functionary. But he did agree to appear at Yale to participate in a debate over whether the invitation to Gus Hall ought to be withdrawn. So in effect, WFB used the invitation to Hall as an occasion to force a right/left debate at Yale about the meaning of communism and the meaning of free speech. As I noted in my post, I agree that the invitation to Ahmadinejad was a mistake. My point instead is that the huge right/left public debate we’ve had in the media since the invitation is the equivalent of the real and legitimate debate that William F. Buckley forced onto Yale in 1962. I think Ahmadinejad’s position is worse today than it was before he came to Columbia. But I think the reason for that is because conservatives, following in the footsteps of Buckley, forced a debate over the meaning of Iran and the meaning of free speech onto the academic left.


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