Jesse Walker suggests that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not achieve a propaganda victory when he spoke at Columbia university.
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University yesterday, he did not emerge with the "propaganda victory" that neocon pundit Bill Kristol assured us he would receive. He didn't seem to be having fun either. Instead, he had to listen while Columbia President Lee Bollinger lambasted him for the terrible state of civil liberties in Iran: the executions, the political prisoners, the persecution of homosexuals. Bollinger also questioned Iran's foreign policy—sometimes skating past the province of the proven, but never beyond the realm of legitimate inquiries—and he challenged the Iranian for suggesting the Holocaust is a "myth." Agence France-Presse called the introduction "a humiliating and public dressing down."
And then, after presenting his point of view, Ahmadinejad faced frequently hostile questions from the audience. Immediately before the Columbia speech, he had spoken via satellite to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where he also had to answer audience questions. Before that he appeared on 60 Minutes, where he had faced still more questions. For a few days in September, the president of a repressive religious regime actually had to engage his critics.
But Walker’s view considers only what those of us in the USA who saw the talk on CSPAN or on other MSM. In fact, around the world, Lee Bollinger’s words never made it to those who heard reports on al Jezeera and other Arab news outlets. Rather, they heard reports like this from Iran’ News agency :
Despite entire US media objections, negative propagation and hue and cry in recent days over IRI President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scheduled address at Colombia University, he gave his lecture and answered students questions here on Monday afternoon.
On second day of his entry in New York, and amid standing ovation of the audience that had attended the hall where the Iranian President was to give his lecture as of early hours of the day, Ahmadinejad said that Iran is not going to attack any country in the world.
Before President Ahamadinejad’s address, Colombia University Chancellor in a brief address told the audience that they would have the chance to hear Iran’s stands as the Iranian President would put them forth.
He said that the Iranians are a peace loving nation, they hate war, and all types of aggression.
Referring to the technological achievements of the Iranian nation in the course of recent years, the president considered them as a sign for the Iranians’ resolute will for achieving sustainable development and rapid advancement.
The audience on repeated occasion applauded Ahmadinejad when he touched on international crises.
At the end of his address President Ahmadinejad answered the students’ questions on such issues as Israel, Palestine, Iran’s nuclear program, the status of women in Iran and a number of other matters.
Sadly, Iran’s president did win a propaganda victory throughout much of the world outside the USA, for reasons explained by Wretchard of the Belmont Club comments:
Both Bollinger and Ahmedinajad broadcast their messages on a platform which grabbed the attention of the world. But what was said on that platform will be selectively quoted and amplified in a process that favors Ahmedinajad's signal over Bollinger's. The amplifying circuitry of the media will ensure that an anti-Israel, anti-American message will get more than a fair airing. Few will read the exchange verbatim. If [Columbia University President Lee] Bollinger thinks that a few barbed questions, a few provocative statements; that a little defiance can compensate for giving the Iranian dictator an opportunity to emit a signal which is even now being tweaked and boosted to fit established talking points, he is mistaken. The medium is the massage. What works in the classroom doesn't always work on the larger world stage.
If the world was like a fine university, the idealistic and in many cases naïve views of academics might actually mean something. But we live in a gritty reality where bad people want to subjugate and/or kill us. That’s not paranoia, that’s fact, supported not only by documented threats, but by clearly documented events. One of those bad people is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the spokeman for fanatical regime that may ultimately lead the world into a conflagration that makes Iraq seem tame by comparison.