Wednesday, September 26

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University

tickets were sold out in 90 minutes and i had to work, but luckily the speech was broadcast on the lawn in front of butler library, our main library. i was able to swing by and catch around 10 minutes of the question and answer segment. from the news articles i read online, i'd say it was pretty accurate, at least according to my limited amount of listening.

what i found the most interesting, though, wasn't necessarily what he had to say. you can read it online. for those of you interested, i'll get through this quickly. for those of you who aren't skip the rest of this paragraph. the part where ahmadinejad spoke about no homosexuals in iran is, of course, outrageous. but he did have some good comebacks and rhetorical arguments that, while at times fallacious, were almost convincing in their and, because of that, kind of frightening. one argument he made, comparing the need to continue research in the historical event of the Holocaust to the need to continue research in academic subjects like physics and mathematics, was at first appealing, but ultimately wrong: in a historical event with such evidence, new complexities and nuances may be found, but refutations of existence will simply not be found. There are no laws or theorems at work; we're talking about artifacts here -- documents, instruments of torture, bones and skulls. additionally it's clear bollinger, from the reports, made a misstep in his hostile and preemptive strike-like introduction of the iranian pres.

the thing that interests me most is how i never cease to be amazed by large and sudden groups of people. the energy, the potential for complete destruction and chaos. i always think about what would happen if all the people there suddenly became of one mind. they could do anything.

there were suddenly thousands on the lawn, wild specks of color, of life. invisible rushes and surges and potential events words have trouble really capturing. i took a few grainy pictures with my camera phone that aren't worth posting here. protesters and anti-protest protesters everywhere, in and outside the gates; student groups and others outside the main gates and behind barricades -- mostly jewish, from what i heard. tons of security. while at work i opened a window and leaned out, trying to hear what was being said, and was promptly shouted out from below by a security guard and a cop to get out of the window and close it. while getting lunch another student in my program (and a friend of mine) remarked, in a voice i couldn't decipher as earnest or facetious -- i never can with this guy -- that he "feared for his safety."


UPDATE: i've since been asked by a friend about the crowd's pathos.

to answer this from a personal vantage, i found an interesting and appropriate comment on a web page: "You listen to him speak, and suddenly you realize that the way he speaks is a lot like the that politician over there who you thought was a Good Guy ..."

ultimately i think it's hard to really gauge the pathos with the crowd. i watched with thousands on a lawn. i felt both hesitancy and group-thought present and so everyone was pretty much quiet to him, out of fear of disrespecting their neighbors. go figure. not sure if this is a good thing or not.

there was some applause for the columbia guy (not he pres) who refused his evasive first answer to the destruction of israel question. he asked for a yes or a no answer. but ahmadinejad's response was fucking good -- "you asked me a question and i tried to answer it but now you want me to answer it how you want me to answer it and that's not possible..." -- and then he turned the question on us -- "i want to ask you a question: what if you had bombs coming down in your cities..." -- essentially, "what would you do", and it scared me and i felt like i needed to go get a sandwich.

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