Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sykes' hypocrisy on free speech continues

Remember back in September, when the world was going to end because Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad was going to speak at Columbia University?

Charlie Sykes was in the vanguard of those who denounced the university for inviting Ahmadenijad, saying how it reflected the lefty principles of the Ivory Tower, blah, blah, blah. It was going to be a great propaganda victory for "I'm a nut job" to speak at an American university.

So the Brawler had to look wryly upon Sykes' outrage over two UW-M student groups demanding the university cancel the speech of one Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist -- allegedly -- who's now a Christian fundamentalist. He travels the country talking about the evils of terrorism and anti-Semitism. Which is fine. But he doesn't stop there. He also argues that the West Bank belongs to Israel and that the notion of a Palestinian state is insane. He supports extrajudicial assassinations of Israel's enemies. He's also associated with a web site that denounces Islam. And he's supported by a variety of groups whose view of Islam is comparable to that of the great Texas Hold Em Blogger.

In short, he's provocative and he takes positions and makes statements that are deeply insulting to Muslims and Palestinians (actions not unlike, I dunno, parodying the last supper).

Given the tenor of the times, the Brawler is not surprised that the groups (a Muslim student group and a Palestinian student group) acted the way it did.

That said, the Brawler agrees with Sykes: Let Shoebat speak. If you don't like what he's saying, challenge it. If he says something foolish, make him look foolish. That, actually, may be a more effective way of marginalizing him than showing him the outrage that he so clearly wants to inspire (and that Sykes wouldn't mind stoking).

However, the Brawler wishes Sykes would give up his "champion of free speech" mantle because it's more than a little ragged and funky. Please stop talking about how you're a champion of the free and unfettered exchange of ideas. Because you're not. If you were, you wouldn't have beaten up on Columbia for having Ahmadenijad speak.

No, he didn't call for the speech to be cancelled -- but beating up an institution for trying to be a forum for debate amounts to the same thing.

Our Republic hosted Soviet leaders at the height of the Cold War and survived. And it managed to do the same with Ahmadenijad.

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