Mary Katharine Ham

I hate to lecture. I really do. But these kids today. Man, they’re askin’ for it.

I’m t-t-t-talkin’ ‘bout my generation. And, a lot of them s-s-s-s-suck.

They don’t take criticism well from their elders and they’re, like, totally not down with authority figures, so I thought I’d try telling them what idiots they’re making of themselves. Call it peer pressure.

Last week, the Columbia University College Republicans invited Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist to speak on campus. He made it as far as the podium, and about six words into his speech before the school’s Leftists Gone Wild—a cast composed of the Chicano Caucus and, predictably, the school’s Socialist contingent—stormed the stage, chanting over the speech, and inciting a melee, which made speech fairly impossible.

Gilchrist and his fellow Minuteman Marvin Stewart, who had been able to get a few words in edgewise before the riot began, were escorted offstage. The question-and-answer session planned for after the speeches, of course, did not occur. There was no debate. There was no reasoned argument. There was only a thuggish, petulant, childish shout-down of opposing viewpoints by the alleged intellectual lights, the eminently tolerant, the vaunted Ivy-Leaguers, of my generation.

If Columbia University were acting in loco parentis, it’d have the rioters run out in the backyard and pick a switch to get whooped with. Instead, the administration is writing letters to the rioters, and dis-inviting guests for other conservative lectures for fear of the audience reaction.

The Minutemen are controversial. I get that. They raise temperatures. The Minutemen’s efforts to patrol the border and fill in the miles of gaps left by shoddy federal enforcement are regarded as “racist,” “oppressive” and “violent” by many college students.

About a month earlier, another controversial speaker took the podium at another Ivy League school and garnered a much different reaction. Mohammed Khatami, the former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, spoke to a Harvard audience in September.

I imagine his inability to condemn Holocaust denial could be seen as “racist.” His administration’s closing of 20 reformist newspapers could be interpreted as “oppressive,” and the jailing and executions of student protestors and dissidents has just a whiff of “violence.”

And yet, he evoked something less than the reaction the Minutemen got at Columbia. Let’s compare and contrast—just like we used to do in college!

Student Reaction

Minutemen: We’ve already been over a bit of this, but watch the video. It’s informative. Minuteman Marvin Stewart is also charging that the students who rushed the stage referred to him using the n-word. If true, a classy way to start a solid debate.

Khatami: Let’s check the Harvard Crimson’s account of the speech.

In response to another question, Khatami also justified his country’s use of capital punishment for acts of homosexuality, but said that the conditions for execution are so strict that they are “virtually impossible to meet.”

“Homosexuality is a crime in Islam and crimes are punishable,” Khatami said. “And the fact that a crime could be punished by execution is debatable.”

The audience responded with silence to his remark.

Silence, eh? “Execution is debatable” for homosexuality, and the audience declines to even rustle up a “boo?” And here I thought college campuses were the vanguard of the gay rights movement. But let’s give them another chance. What about terrorist sympathizing?

In his 30-minute address under heavy security, the Muslim cleric also defended the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah as a legitimate resistance movement fighting for the “territorial integrity” of Lebanon.

Khatami, who was president of Iran from 1997 to 2004, was met by angry protestors who called on him to apologize for human rights abuses committed by the government under his watch. Police estimated that 200 protestors gathered outside the Kennedy School of Government.

But inside the forum, Khatami faced a relatively polite audience, a marked contrast to previous controversial visitors.

Hezbollah’s A-okay, but the audience managed to keep its composure. Protestors gathered outside the hall, as is the tradition in appropriate protesting.

Campus Papers:

Minutemen: The Columbia Daily Spectator printed two editorials on the debacle.

“When Protest Fails” condemns the conduct of Columbia students while kinda, sorta excusing their actions:

The protesters did, of course, have cause for concern. The Minutemen have at best a highly controversial opinion regarding immigration. The speakers themselves practically encouraged the unruly behavior, directly insulting the crowd numerous times. Jim Gilchrist, the featured speaker, walked up to the podium smiling and berating the protesters. Aside from some token requests for respect, also couched in antagonistic words toward the audience, the College Republicans and their guests did little if anything to promote a truly productive discussion environment.

A follow-up editorial called “The No-Spin Zone” bemoans the fact that conservative commentators and Fox News are using the brawl as a big ol’ brush to paint Columbia’s student body.

The primary culprit in this unbalanced coverage has been the Fox News Network, specifically, its numerous commentators. Prominent figures such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity have leapt on the incident as an opportunity to criticize Columbia for perceived left-leaning tendencies. O'Reilly, for example, claimed that "everyone thinks the same" at Columbia, ignoring the obvious fact that Columbia students invited the speakers in the first place and fought the protesters on stage. Furthermore, many controversial speakers-most notably Norman Finkelstein and John Ashcroft-have come to the University before, only to meet with peaceful protest.

Guys? Fox News is not the problem; the violent Socialists on campus, and the culture that makes them think their conduct is virtuous, are the problem. The Daily Spectator refers to the Minutemen’s views and speeches as “repugnant,” “disrespectful,” and “race-baiting.”

Khatami:

The Crimson refers to Khatami in somewhat more gentle terms than the Daily Spectator used for the Minutemen. The editorial page editors concede that he has a “twisted” world view, but refer to him in the headline as only “objectionable.” They called the event “remarkable” in that it sparked debate on an important issue.

The headline is extremely polite to the Iranian guest: “Khatami Deserved a Forum.”

Would that we could see such an unequivocal headline from a campus paper when referring to fellow American citizens who wish to patrol the Southern border and have immigration laws enforced. Of course, those views are “repugnant.”

Administration Response:

Minutemen: In the wake of the Minutemen riot, the Columbia administration responded to “security concerns” by barring the public from another College-Republican-sponsored lecture, by Whalid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist:

It is the decision of the advising office to Student Governing Board groups that at tonight’s event sponsored by the Columbia College Republicans, hosts to the Walid Shoebat Foundation, attendance will be limited to the invited speakers and their staff, CUID holders, and 20 invited guests. You are receiving this email to inform you that unfortunately, your RSVP to tonight’s event cannot be accepted. Sincerely,

Jewelnel Davis
University Chaplain
Associate Provost
Director of the Earl Hall Center

Khatami: When Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney declined to offer state-funded security to Khatami, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government insisted that the event go forward as planned.

To review: An Iranian president who can’t unequivocally condemn either Holocaust denial or the death penalty for homosexuality, who lauds Hezbollah, and whose administration jailed hundreds of students for doing the same protesting American college students so treasure? He gets a polite hearing for his “objectionable” views, few challenging questions, and the assurance of security on campus.

Americans who are serious about border-control and reasonably and lawfully take matters into their own hands when the government fails to? They receive physical attack and no fair hearing. Their beliefs are “repugnant,” and future conservative speakers are deprived of an audience because the administration cannot guarantee safety.

I think that’s what lefty American professors and college students like to refer to as “disproportionate response.”


Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of HotAir.com, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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