Freedom of Speech … Little Bit of Double Standard?

Earlier this month, former president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, went on a five-city speaking tour of the NE United States.  He was invited to speak at the Washington National Cathedral, at Harvard’s Kennedy Law School, at the University of Virginia, and in other rather prestigious venues.  Some lauded his coming as a shining example of the openness of US society — a gem in the crown of democracy.  Others, like MA Governor Mitt Romney were less excited, claiming that (especially so close to the anniversary of 9/11) someone like Khatami should not be welcomed with open arms the way he was.  And (in Romney’s mind) he certainly shouldn’t be afforded police escorts and other status symbols on tax payers’ dollars.

Just a few days ago, the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited the US as well, speaking at the United Nations, as well as at Columbia and Georgetown Universities and others.  As is typical, many liberals were all for it, and many conservatives weren’t.

Bill O’Reilly has weighed in on this topic several times over the last few weeks on both radio and television.  I bring him up because, as usual, I mostly agree with his views.  His basic point is that this is a tough call.  We’re a free and open society, and we all want it to remain that way.  As such, we’re obligated to let people express themselves, even when we aren’t going to like what they have to say.  However, there is a certain level of respect accorded someone when they are invited to speak at Harvard University, for example.  I’m not sure that every psychopath in the world should be granted that level of respect, even if he was once the president of a country.  Even still, both O’Reilly and I agree that you have to let him come.

But here are a few things that I believe Mr. O’Reilly (and others) are overlooking, which I feel are pretty important…

1) Harvard and other universities have a double standard.  The same people screaming that Khatami and Ahmadinejad absolutely must be given any forum they want to say any thing they want, are the same people who would say that Christians should never be given a forum in public schools or in government.  They’re the same people who would claim that President Bush’s faith disqualifies him from serious debate on many things, because he’s in a sense tainted by it.  They would denegrate all day long the Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Buchanan’s and Jim Dobson’s of the world (not that I necessarily agree with them either, but that’s not the point) as being reactionary.  The same group that would insist everyone give the presidents of Iran a fair hearing would call these other guys names all day long, belittle them at every turn, and try to make them appear incapable of a rational contribution to the debate.  Or leave religion out of it and focus on politics, places like Harvard or Georgetown (in my view) feel far less likely to invite George Bush or Condoleeza Rice or Bill Bennett to speak than Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro.  This is wrong and hypocritical, and it needs to be said.  It means that it isn’t really the “free and open marketplace of ideas” that some claim so venhemently that it is.

2) The press routinely does not cover presentations by the likes of Khatami and Ahmadinejad fairly.  Over and over again, guys like this are afforded every benefit of the doubt in the national media, where someone like Bill O’Reilly or President Bush are always assumed to be radical reactionaries, war mongers, homophobes, etc.  It’s not balanced.  And because it isn’t, it makes the question of whether or not to invite Khatami and Ahmadinejad on five-city speaking tours a hard one.

So, what’s my point?  It’s not that we don’t invite them.  Even after all this, I think we have to.  What I want to change is how easy it is / how accepting we are.  They should be invited, they should be escorted and protected (on Harvard’s nickel, not the taxpayer’s), and then they should be grilled within an inch of their lives about the horrible things they’ve done and are continuing to do.  They should be exposed as liars and sociopaths.  When they get to Harvard (or wherever else), they should be given a chance to say their piece, and then face a whole panel of people who call them out on all manner of fascist extremism that has gone on in Iran. 

Why is their society not free and open?  Why are people persecuted if they aren’t Muslims?  Why are women considered less than men?  Why are they funding and training terrorists?  Why won’t them play ball with the UN over nuclear weapons?  Why are they so viciously anti-American and anti-Israel?  On and on.

The university is not just about the open and free exchange of ideas, it’s about truth and knowledge and learning and wisdom.  Not everyone who would come and speak has these in equal measure.  In other words, not every idea has the same value as every other.  And if we don’t recognize that as a nation (and soon), then the danger we face in this war could overwhelm us.

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Christ. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long journey, learning to swim with the current of God's love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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12 Responses to Freedom of Speech … Little Bit of Double Standard?

  1. Keith Miller says:

    So what’s new? The media and universities have been liberal hot beds for quite some time. We also have been living in a nation of reverse discrimination my entire lifetime. It’s fashionable to discriminate against the masses so it looks like we care about the little guy.

    After all, we don’t want to be accused of being intolerant by the intolerant.

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  2. Brad Bull says:

    “They should be invited, they should be escorted and protected (on Harvard’s nickel, not the taxpayer’s), and then they should be grilled within an inch of their lives about the horrible things they’ve done and are continuing to do.”

    Why do you assume he wasn’t? A 30 second google found the following

    “Harvard College Democrats call on Mohammad Khatami to apologize
    for human rights abuses and to denounce recent actions by his
    successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his speech at Harvard
    University on Sunday.”

    (Responding to a question from the audience about bin Laden, Khatami said he had two problems with the al Qaeda leader behind the attacks. “First, because of the crimes he conducts,” he said, “and second because he conducts them in the name of Islam, the religion which is a harbinger of peace and justice.” Khatami was met by protesters when he arrived at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Many angrily called on him to stand up for human rights.)

    It goes on and on.

    ” The same group that would insist everyone give the presidents of Iran a fair hearing would call these other guys names all day long, belittle them at every turn, and try to make them appear incapable of a rational contribution to the debate. ” I am continually amazed by your lack of respect and broad generalizations of those who have differing viewpoints. I am sure you can find examples of people who would do this, but to paint that brush across all liberals is pretty unjustified.

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  3. Jeff Block says:

    You’re the only one that ever uses the term “ALL” liberals in our discussions. Please reference where I have not gone out of my way to use modifiers like “some” or “many”. I use those words on purpose.

    But put that aside for a second… Please post three references when the NYT editorial page praised the Bush administration for *ANYTHING* in the last few years.

    Are you seriously saying that it’s not a tactic used (on by sides, but far moreso) by the left to call people names when they disagree with them? Or take the border issue for example… It’s a top-5 favorite tactic to refer to anyone who believes the border should be secured a racist. How many times have conservatives called someone a racist lately? Same thing with the black community. If you disagree with someone who’s black, Jackson or Sharpton are on the scene saying you’re a racist.

    I just don’t approve of the name-calling and the sensationalism. Debating the issue is one thing, but I find that far too many (not all) liberals tend to resort to attacking the person when they can’t win the debate. And I notice that conservatives (not all) seem to do that *far* less. I’d love for you to prove me wrong. But that’s why I feel there’s a double-standard.

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  4. Brad Bull says:

    “They’re the same people who would claim that President Bush’s faith disqualifies him from serious debate on many things, because he’s in a sense tainted by it. They would denegrate all day long the Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Buchanan’s and Jim Dobson’s of the world (not that I necessarily agree with them either, but that’s not the point) as being reactionary. The same group that would insist everyone give the presidents of Iran a fair hearing would call these other guys names all day long, belittle them at every turn, and try to make them appear incapable of a rational contribution to the debate. ” I guess you never really identify who they “the group” are. point Jeff.

    Many people call others names, I tend to ignore them. If you believe that the left does this far more than the right, you currently have have the freedom to believe that. FYI, many conservatives wouldn’t call Robert Byrd racist, so I wouldn’t count that as much of a victory.

    “If you disagree with someone who’s black, Jackson or Sharpton are on the scene saying you’re a racist. ” You must be getting desperate if you are pulling these 2 out in your argument. 🙂 The majority of black people I know do not appreciate Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton speaking on their behalf.

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  5. Jeff Block says:

    Re: Jackson and Sharpton…

    You’re totally sidestepping the actual point I’m making. The point is that if you want to verbally smack down a white person, feel free. That’s socially acceptable. But if you every say anything bad about a black person for ANY reason, you’re automatically a racist. Jackson and Sharpton are just the most obvious examples. The vast majority of the media does the same thing. Same goes for the Hispanic community, as evidenced by a lot of the name-calling and racism claims thrown around in the debate over securing the border.

    If we really want to do away with racism, then it’s just as important to understand that a person is no more automatically right because they’re a minority any more than they are automatically wrong.

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  6. Brad Bull says:

    I just don’t feel like a victim. I can’t make myself feel like a victim. As I said before, you can find people calling others names, but most people do not take them seriously. Most of the coverage of protesters I have seen did not involve racist anti-white remarks. Most of what I heard was SI SE PUEDE (SP?). Unless I am watching a stand-up comedian, I really don’t see much of any racism.

    And again
    “But if you every say anything bad about a black person for ANY reason, you’re automatically a racist.”
    I couldn’t possible disagree with you more over this. I assume you mean in the media again instead of personal experience.

    “If we really want to do away with racism, then it’s just as important to understand that a person is no more automatically right because they’re a minority any more than they are automatically wrong.”
    Very true.

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  7. Jeff Block says:

    I didn’t say that I feel like a victim, I said there was a double-standard.

    Like

  8. Were talking about political correctness here…. so if the majority of crimes in oakland are commited by poor black people… is that a racist comment? no ist a factual statement but the problem with the media and liberal watchdogs is this, taken out of context that statement is then turned around and used to build the “case for tolerance” But what exactly is tolerance, i as a christian could not pass out tracts in my highschool that stted homosexuality is wrong… my freedom of speech was censored because we have to “be sensitive to others” no matter what a person believes they have the right to say it. Tolerance is a double standard. because most liberals are “tolerant of everything but intolerance” so if im not a tolerant person, then what… we all have the right to disagree… but if our life is contradictory to what we believe then our speech shouldnt be taken as seriousyl, and we still just make ourselves look like idiots.
    By the way i am an “American – Mexican” and im with you on border control… imagine that.
    Its hypocritical to stand on free soil and excersise first amendment rights when
    a. you arent amercan
    b. your criticizing our chief
    c. you dont offer those same rights to others in your conuntry that you rule as a dictator over..

    Like

  9. Jeff Block says:

    I particularly agree with your pointing out the double standard. If what you believe — in your example, that homosexuality is natural and the same as heterosexuality — is in line with what the liberal establishment says you’re supposed to believe, then you can hand out tracts all day long, speak out all day long, hold rallies, criticize those who disagree, call them names, etc. No problem. The media won’t have a problem with you, and neither will academia.

    However, if you believe otherwise — again using your example, that homosexuality is wrong — then you can NOT pass out tracts, you can NOT hold rallies or voice your opinion. If you do, you’re vilified. You’re a homophobe, and generally a bad person.

    I know that not everyone behaves this way. Likely that Brad and some of the other liberals who post to this blog do not, but MANY MANY people do — most notably, a significant body in the media, the judiciary, and the education system.

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  10. Brad Bull says:

    If you are villifying homosexuals for their lifestyle, how is it a double standard for them to villify you for intolerance? True, most liberal people believe homosexuals have right to their lifestyle and would not persecute them, where they would persecute homosexual hate groups. Many conservatives would feel the opposite and protest gay pride organizations, maybe by posting on a blog? Please note that in the term “hate group” I am not trying to compare average conservatives to those who protest AIDS patients funerals, bomb abortion clinics, or any wacko stuff like that.

    Abigail “Tolerance is a double standard.” I don’t understand. Tolerance is defined as sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own. Projecting your personal beliefs onto someone else is not tolerance. This doesn’t mean it is always wrong to do so.

    Most moderate liberals have limits on tolerance. Don’t hate a mexican because they are mexican, etc.

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  11. ok… let me be clear then… when i say “Tolerance is a double standard” its because any liberal i have ever known has professed to be tolerant of everything under the sun…Except of course christianity because after all were all bigots. Well, its certainly not very tolerant to disagree with my beliefs. believe me i dont sit in class all day and shut down a homosexual, or anyone else. but in no way will i agree with there lifestyle yes they have every right to do as they please, but i dont have to accept it as a good thing. But neither do i “hate” them, and none of my friends do… so why the classification of “Hate groups” see this is were the problem is. Christians are grouped in with people who yes blow up abortion clinics and harass gay people. I dont agree with that. I think that God did judge sin, but not the way people want to think. God would never tell someone to blow up a clinic or vandalize a homosexuals grave… he would instead try to reach out to these people. and by saying that its not a natural lifestyle, then somehow weve become hateful. Im sure your not the kind of person who would say “Oh ya Abigail your pretty hateful” but where im from Nor Cal… that is the case. If projecting beliefs counter to someone elses isnt tolerance, then why in junior high do we have to learn about Islam… and all the other religions… Why then can you have an “Earth Club” or UN Model Club, but not a conservative club or Christian club, and you definately cant teach a class about the Christian religion? And yet still claim to be tolerant?… just a question because to me that doesnt make sense. I cant learn or speak about my beliefs in highschool but everyone else can? So most liberals have limits… and from what i see the line is drawn at someones faith in Jesus…

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  12. Brad Bull says:

    I think you may have tolerance confused with acceptance. Tolerating something doesn’t mean you support it. In your post you say homosexuals have every right to do as they please – you are then tolerating them, even though you would personally never engage in homosexual behavior.

    “Well, its certainly not very tolerant to disagree with my beliefs.” You can disagree with someone and still tolerate them.

    when I referred to hate groups, I was specifically indicating those who do not tolerate.

    “Christians are grouped in with people who yes blow up abortion clinics and harass gay people.” I don’t think this is anymore prevalent than those associating all muslims with jihadists. Their are plenty of idiots to go around, so this will never completely go away.

    I am aware that many liberals consider evangelizing to be intolerant, and this is unfortunate, because it is not true. I have seen some misguided people who combine evangelism and intolerance, but hopefully they are mostly ignored. Everyone is a sinner, homosexual or heterosexual, all will be judged by god and don’t need judged by man.

    You can have conservative clubs in school as far as I am aware. “I cant learn or speak about my beliefs in highschool but everyone else can?” I don’t understand, when I was in high school (public) their were no religious based classes.

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