Opinion revised: Bollinger, and Mahmoud (goodbye testicles) 2
I went to mnuez and watched Lee Bollinger live. I have revised my opinion of him and his performance. I must say I respect him for his remarks. They were necessary. Without them, yes, the event would have had a character of complete neutrality, but I think this would have been a delusive and meaningless neutrality. The event was not a debate, in which complete neutrality is a ground-rule.
Remember, too, this was an audience of students, and Bollinger's role, which he assumed courageously, was that of an adult. He put a moral and political frame around the event. True, it was a frame of value and subjectivity, which was no doubt contested by some in the audience. Bollinger did not speak for everyone -- every individual -- but he spoke for, and on behalf of, and in defense of, a kind of collective (though, again, contested) decency.
I do not now see his remarks as disrespectful of his guest, because I do not now see the hospitality due Mahmoud as the same kind of hospitality you are obliged to give to your house guest. The freedom to speak was the hospitality that was due Mahmoud, and that was the hospitality that was given to him. More hospitality than that is not due him.
The freedom to speak is our considerable hospitality.
The freedom to speak uninterrupted and unmolested is our good manners.
We are not obliged beyond this point.
Another thing that drew me to Bollinger was his obvious nervousness. He is a "only a professor," but here on this stage he was a blindingly illuminated pinpoint on the world stage, his every word and gesture broadcast to, and scrutinized by, hundreds of millions of people. No one expects, when he steps onto the Professor Road, even when he becomes the President of a great university, that he will be in such a position, especially vis-a-vis the head of state of a hostile nation standing right next to him. I would have been shitting in my pants. So I take my hat off to Lee Bollinger.
Stanley Fish on Bollinger. More interesting than Fish are the many intelligent reader-comments. Most appear to agree with Fish, but some do not. I am in the middle again. Fish is persuasive, but not completely so.