Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Press, Ahmadinejad, and Freedom of Speech

In the New York City press, editorial reactions to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University were mixed. To the Post, the entire exercise was a "Lesson in Absurdity" with no big First Amendment implications. To the Daily News, Columbia was "damnably wrong." And while the Sun thought President Lee Bollinger of Columbia did "pretty darned well" in his confrontation with Ahmadinejad, it still held that "it may have been a mistake" to invite the president of Iran to the campus.

Only the Times and Newsday defended Columbia on the grounds of freedom of speech and the right of universities to conduct inquiry, dialogue and debate as they see fit. By my count, that makes the city's press a shaky bulwark of support for the First Amendment.

But take heart. A Daily News Web poll asked, "Should Columbia University have invited Ahmadinejad to speak on campus?" Look at the answers.

Yes: 1,191 (57%)
No: 912 (43%)

Web polls are notoriously unscientific and should always be taken with a grain of salt.

But this one suggests that the people who answer such polls are better guardians of the First Amendment than many of the men and women who inhabit the editorial boards of the New York City press.

No comments: