On September 24, 2007, an evil man took the stage to speak at Columbia University. A psychopath. A thug. Leader of nation that murders dissidents, jails reporters and imposes the death penalty for ‘impure’ women’s clothing or homosexuality. An enemy of the United States who supplies weapons to Iraqis used to kill American soldiers. Who has threatened to destroy the nation of Israel for reasons not exceeding the practice of it’s citizens of the “incorrect” religion. Who subscribes to a strain of religious fundamentalism that dictates the need to jump-start worldwide Armageddon.
For days leading up to this, the “conservative” pundit class had been excoriating Columbia for inviting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak. “Liberal college students!” “Traitors!” “America-Haters!” Then the actual event got under way…
…and everyone, from the university president on down, essentially stood Ahmadinejad up on the stage and threw tomatoes at him. The president called him a petty tyrant without the intellectual honesty to answer their questions. The assembled students laughed in his face. They made a fool of him, dressing him down in front of a worldwide audience.
Set aside the fact that the right-wing talking heads owe Columbia an appology, though they most certainly do. Something extraordinary may have happened here. We may have seen the first real sign of International Politics in the age of “The Daily Show.” Faced with a figure of Hitlerian ambitions and outright evil, these kids did what years of Jedi Training under Steven Colbert, Jon Stewart, “Borat” and “South Park” had prepared them to do: They tore evil a new rhetorical asshole. They mocked him. Derrided him. They dealt him a punishing media-age blow by robbing him, violently, of that which all like him desire most: Respect and fear.
This guy stands at his podium and postures like a man who needs to be feared and revered, and a bunch of snarky American college kids told him, loudly, that he’s not. You’re a JOKE, and we are not afraid of you.
I love my country. This is why.