What are People Afraid Of?

I just don't know why conservatives are so afraid to let folks like Khatami speak in the US.  Sure, he is a lying dictatorial human-rights-suppressing scumbag, but so what?  Its good to let people like this speak as much as they want.  They always give themselves away.  There were counter-protests and lots of debate about Iran in the news and on the nets, and that is as it should be.

I suppose conservatives real fear is that the press will, as they sometimes do, throw away their usual skepticism and cynicism and report his remarks as if they were those of a statesman rather than a thug on a PR mission.  But that's a different problem, and not a good enough excuse to suspend free speech, even for a man who granted it to no one else in his own country.  (I have never bought into the "media bias" critique, either conservative or liberal, in the press, because this seems to imply some active conspiracy exists to manage the news to some end.  Rather, I think it is more fair to say that reporters tend to apply too little skepticism to stories with which they are sympathetic.  For example, many reporters think homelessness is a big problem, so they were willing to uncritically accept inflated and baseless numbers for the size of the homeless population, numbers they would have fact-checked the hell out of if they had come from, say, an oil company to whom they are unsympathetic or skeptical of.)

On the same topic, I don't know why conservatives are so worried about this story of an increase in students from Saudi Arabia.   It used to be that we had confidence that people from oppressive countries would have their eyes opened by living in the US.  We have always believed that intellectually, freedom was more compelling than dictatorial control, and would win over hearts and minds of immigrants.  Our foreign policy with China, for example, is counting on engagement to change China.  Have we given up on this?

  • Bob Smith

    Is a Saudi student (almost certainly Islamic) going to have his eyes opened as to the desirability of western life, or will exposure to it confirm his imam's warning that the US is a decadent, vile, sinful place, which he should forever reject while he learns infidel science? That such a place deserves jihad being waged against it, and Sharia law instituted, so it can be saved from itself (and not coincidentally, its wealth plundered, as all previous Islamic wars against the west have done)? The notion that people naturally yearn to be free, even people taught from childhood that total submission to Islam is the only true freedom, is insanely naive and foolish. Every Muslim nation reacts the same way to its problems: they can be solved only by more fervent, more "pure" devotion to Islam (and a few more murders and rapes of non-Muslims, who are the cause of all our problems, while we're at it). The majority of university degrees in these nations are in Islamic theology, utterly useless for advancing the welfare of their citizens (a western judgment, since they would deny it) but good for helping spread that "purer" Islam that's going to solve everybody's problems. I am reminded of the classic definition of insanity being repeating the same acts over and over and expecting different results.

  • JoshK

    I think it's just about a certain decency standard. Would we give Idi Amin, Hitler, or Stalin a visa to come in and speak? Yeah, to most people outisde of the readership of the NY Times, they come off as deranged, but still, offering them a chance to get any flattering PR on US soild just seems wrong.

    You can see the headline. "In speech at Yale, Khatami accuses US of ongoing human rights voilations in Middle East"