Phi Beta Cons

The Columbia Suicide Pact

Roger Kimball on Columbia, its president Lee Bollinger, and its distinguished visiting lecturer Ahmadinejad:

President Bollinger’s sophomoric conception of free speech is precisely the sort of supine intellectualism that, if consistently embraced, would make free speech impossible. President Bollinger primly lectures us that “It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas,” etc. But he is quite wrong about that. By providing a madman like Ahmadinejad with a platform at Columbia University, President Bollinger has in effect welcomed him into the community of candid reasoners. He has granted him a patent of legitimacy that no amount of “dialogue and reason” can dissipate. In this case, “listening” is indeed tantamount to an endorsement. It reduces free speech to a species of political capitulation and renders dialogue indistinguishable from a suicide pact.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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