Missing the Point
The Iranian President Ahmadinajibajab visited Columbia University yesterday. After taking heaps of criticism for extending the Iranian President the invitation to speak, Columbia University President Lee Bolinger responded by verbally flaming his guest in the opening remarks, accusing him of behaving like a petty dictator, saying his arguments appealed only to the illiterate and the ignorant, and calling him ridiculous. I was vaguely reminded of Apollo Creed’s verbal mistreatment of Ivan Drago in the press conference before their exhibition bout. In both cases the foreigners were treated with a breathtaking lack of class.
Am I a fan of Ahmadinabingabang? No I am not and if you think I am then you’re entirely missing the point. The visit from the Iranian President was a golden opportunity for Americans to making inroads into the hearts and minds of the Iranian people. Far from being a monolothic demographic’o evil, Iran is home to a restive subpopulace who are dissatisfied with the decades old Islamic Iranian Revolution. In California Review’s interview with Azadeh Moaveni, hot Persian author of “Lipstick Jihaad”, Kelly Hartog writes:
Moaveni had access to the world of young people who flaunted the regimeâ€™s oppressive rules. Young men and women, forbidden to socialize in public, meet in private at high class and daring â€œmixedâ€? parties where the girls are dressed to the nines in tight mini skirts and way too much makeup.
Moaveni writes of a country so obsessed with the West and with their views guided by American television that they genuinely believe â€œall guys should act like Carson Daly, and that girls in the United States wore tight, revealing clothes at all times.â€?
If there is to be an Iranian counter-revolution to shake up the hardliner fuddy-duddies of Iran, these are the people we should be trying to reach. Rather than acting like a dick to the Iranian President (which doubtlessly made Columbia President feel good but will certainly be used by the Iranian media to drum up anti-American sentiment among those we should be trying to reach), President Bolinger should have made the same points about Iran’s human rights issues but conducted himself with class expressing profound and genuine concern for the Iranian people. THAT would have been an effective means to an end rather than flaming out which is entirely an end unto itself.
For President Boliniger to use this opportunity to make a personal attack against the Iranian President was a waste. It’s not like Ahmaneebamistercrab is gonna come away from this and say “Hey, I really am a ridiculous person who acts like a petty dictator, from now on I’m gonna be a good guy.” Yeah right. The Columbia President’s remarks should have been directed with a wider audience in mind. And that would be how you win the hearts and minds. Not by inviting someone to dinner and then flicking mashed potatoes on him.