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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Iranian President Ahmadinejad is in town, as of this writing, sparking "protests" (although I have to be honest, I don't see that many around here) and contraversy. Personally, I don't see the contraversy. He should be allowed to speak, of course, and freely. He may say things that I don't agree with, even things I find incredibly offensive. But that doesn't stop the GOP from declaring war on Gay Rights and Immigration and Abortion Rights.

Are our beliefs so fragile that they can't withstand opposing points of view? Frankly, aren't abhorrent points of view (Holocaust denial) better aired and simply discarded and discredited? Free discussion is the lifeblood of a reasonable society. The fact that Ahmadinejad is having a moderated discussion at Columbia University is a very good thing. It exposes him to direct criticism. That's something that our own President tries very hard to avoid.

I'd also like to add that the refusal of the US to allow Ahmadinejad to leave a wreath at the Towers is pretty revolting. There were no Iranians on those planes... mostly Saudis (our allies) as far as I understand.

What scares people is nuance. There's far more gray area in his visit than the media likes to cover or that our society likes to absorb. For example, Ahmadinejad isn't particularly powerful Iran... there is far more power in the religious arm of the government. And while nuclear power in the hands of Iran is dangerous, it appears as if Iran is a rational actor in its own interests, and that it doesn't appear (at least from what I've read) to be seeking nuclear arms in order to wage war and, effectively, turn the entire world against it. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial isn't unique to him in the Middle East. I'd be curious what a poll of the Iraqi Parliament's views of Israel would show their views to be. That's not to defend that point of view remotely. It's simply to identify that it appears to be a symptom of other problems, as opposed to evidence of Ahmadinejad's lone mania.

Anyhow...I'm curious what other think of his visit. Personally, I'm embarrassed by the news coverage thus far.


Adam Szymkowicz said...

I watched almost all of it live here at work. I have to say, he said some things that were rational criticizing our government and he said thing that were clearly untrue about previous statements he had made and he said things that were ludicrous. And I can't help but notice he mentions god a lot, not unlike our own president.

It's hard to forget that he hangs people for being homosexuals. But as a person, he seems slightly ridiculous and somewhat harmless. It's hard to beleive he is responsible for so many atrocities, but i guess that's true of bush too.

Adam Szymkowicz said...


from the columbia journalism school

Zack Calhoon said...

I'm more worried about the blind hatred that has been flying his way. His descriptions over the network news are of a raving wild man a la Hugo Chavez shouting his hate for all to hear.

When I've seen interviews with him, he seems to be intelligent, rational,charming, a master of rhetoric . . . things that in a leader of a country like that scare me far more than a man who screams at the top of his lungs.

I guess the question is why is their such blind rage. Is it because our president is trying to make a case for another disasterous war? One that we are more ill equipped to fight than we were five years ago.

Freeman said...

What struck me, reading about the discussion, was how much more fruitful it was to allow the people to directly confront him than it would have been to ban him from speaking.

And, frankly, he did come off a bit nuts to me. "We don't have homosexuals in Iran" is astounding as an assertion. His evasiveness about the Holocaust and science and the oppressive tactics of the Iranian leadership were extremely telling.

In the end, no one is going to change his mind. But I'd rather have access than distance. It's a testament to the power of truly free speech that he and the president of the University could share the stage, even comabtively, and have what resembled a civilized discourse.

Matthew Trumbull said...

I think that the opening remarks from Lee Bollinger, while true, were totally uncalled for. Why not introduce him neutrally, and let him damage his own self with his spoken lunacy? Nobody needs to be told how to feel about Ahmadinejad; any enlightened, intelligent soul listening yesterday quickly arrived at his own conclusion that Ahmadinejad is ignorant and dangerous. Insulting him before he opened his mouth only justifyed him in his complaints about rude treatment and American hyprocrisy. It sent the message that no one was really interested in listening, and if that was Bollinger's intent, then having the forum was a waste of everyone's time.