Columbia University speech
I have great problems with the accounts of his speeches to Columbia University and the UN, which I watched in their entirety on satellite tv. In particular, the Columbia speech was most notable for 4 things: (1) the political speech made by the President of the University, which was not in keeping with the academic standards of the world (2) the visible Jewish lobby which was determined to silence Ahmadinejad (3) his robust defence on the Israeli issue, which is not a simple "Let's destroy Israel" message (4) the booing mostly came with his answer about homosexuality in Iran, which also occasioned laughter at the response.
In the case of the UN speech, most notable were the absence of the USA and in his speech a focus on the structure of the UN and its reliance upon world war 2 victors. This criticism of the UN is upheld in the academic literature, and constitutes an oligopoly of power by a few countries.
I should also mention that the BBC reports of these two speeches were inaccurate and unacceptably low quality: they cannot be relied upon for an academic article.
--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:46, 26 September 2007 (CDT)
- OK Martin, but bear in mind that it's unlikely that some of your edits will survive here, as you've removed a reference (so this article's coverage of the Columbia speech is now based on your viewing of the event) and included a statement about "the real political agenda", which is not the sort of thing that sticks in encyclopaedia articles. I should point out that I am actually sympathetic to giving Ahmadinejad's views a fair discussion on CZ - fairer than the media, anyway - which is why I deliberately avoided most of the stuff you find talked about him online. John Stephenson 22:15, 26 September 2007 (CDT)
- John, this is not a personal issue. I am telling you, as an Editor, that the BBC reports were a disgrace. I think my own ability to listen to a speech and report accurately on it is far greater than any journalist. This is not about Wikipedia rules: we have higher standards on CZ. I am open to change on "real political agenda" although I stand by it as an accurate analysis. If you can phrase it slightly more delicately, that would be better:-) --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 22:39, 26 September 2007 (CDT)
- If you feel the BBC reports were so inaccurate as to merit removal, fair enough - but let's have some more sources other than your interpretation of it. I don't understand the reference to Wikipedia - it seems to me that if anything basing edits on one's own opinion is the sort of thing they do over there. John Stephenson 01:51, 27 September 2007 (CDT)
Martin, I think you greatly underestimate the ability of many fine journalists when you say you have a better ability to sum up a speech than "any journalist." This text is overly sympathetic to a man greatly reviled by most of CZ's readers:
- In September 2007, he was a guest speaker at Columbia University in the United States, where before speaking he was made to wait while the President of the university made offensive personal and political attacks in a lengthy introductory speech. Ahmadinejad's own wide-ranging speech elicited relatively little reaction from the audience, but it was in the question and answer session following that the real political agenda emerged. Selected and carefully prepared questions "from staff and students" were read out by one member of the university, for Ahmadinejad to respond to. Many of these questions had as their premises incorrect claims about previous statements made by Ahmadinejad (mostly derived from loose and imaginative translations into English) and in his responses he did not defend these alleged positions, in particular those concerning Israel.
It simply cannot remain in its current form, by the standard of CZ:Neutrality Policy. For instance, while you may feel, Martin, that the introductory speech consisted most notably of "offensive personal and political attacks," others might choose a different sort (while still perfectly accurate) of description. Furthermore, your blanket claim that "Many of these questions had as their premises incorrect claims about previous statements" is very far from neutral: obviously, whether any question has as a premise about a previous statement, and whether that premise is correct, is always going to be a matter of considerable debate. Describing the questions as no more than ill-founded is surely tendentious. Our aim here is to produce a text that is at once accurate and sympathetic to all competing views. It is not our aim to tell our audience what to think about the subject. Please edit the above for neutrality. --Larry Sanger 02:26, 27 September 2007 (CDT)
- If it might help, I can informally suggest specific re-wordings of things upon request. My main qualification? I really do not give a *** about the polar sides in this whole matter but have, I think, a solid handle on neutrality. —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 03:09, 27 September 2007 (CDT)
- Any suggestions are welcome, Stephen. I have no interest in or support for Iran, but it was very clear as a social scientist that there are some serious problems in the USA with the reporting of several things. First, what Ahmadinejad has said in the past: how do we know? Only through translations and reporting from the western media, which according to several political commentators is biased and inaccurate. Secondly, my account of the introductory speech is completely factual, and I do not see how any other description could be made. The BBC report cited was so overtly biased, that it mentioned an "introduction critical of Ahmadinejad" and misled the viewer/reader. This is unacceptable reporting. My account is neutral and accurate. I doubt that many Americans are able to see neutrality on this issue. because of the propaganda which has been so actively promoted in the USA. So, who is the arbiter of the Neutrality Policy? I think I am completely neutral on this issue, but I am open to more careful rewordings.--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 03:59, 27 September 2007 (CDT)
One additional point: I have no problem with additions to the text about the American point of view on this topic, as long it is clear that this is about public perceptions.--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 07:54, 27 September 2007 (CDT)
Martin, I stand by every word that I wrote above. The part that I quoted is still quite obviously biased and needs to be qualified, with the implied points of criticism that you raise being attributed to, well, people such as yourself. If you can't see how it can be qualified, I don't know what to say; that's just obvious that it can be. In my opinion, there is very little question that Ahmadinejad has called for the elimination of the state of Israel on several occasions. If the article does not explicitly say this, it is leaving out crucial information--it should provide references, of course (such as this article from that bastion of conservative American media, the Washington Post), and it should also be qualified by also reporting that there are some, such as yourself, who doubt or deny that he actually says so. If that's the case. This is the first I've ever heard anyone imply that he does not, in fact, call for Israel's destruction.
There's another point here which deserves comment. You say, Martin,
- In particular. he noted the failure of the Security Council to deal with either the illegal invasion of Iraq or the more recent Israeli military attacks on Lebanon, citing the interests of the USA and other great powers as being disruptive to the proper functioning of the Security Council and to world peace.
That should be "...what he regards as the illegal invasion of Iraq..." or else simply "...the invasion of Iraq..." Right? There could not be a more straightforward application of the neutrality policy here: since many people believe the invasion of Iraq was legal (being sanctioned in fact by a U.N. resolution, they say), we must not state without qualification that it was illegal. We say: so-and-so believe(s) it was illegal. Anyone who does not agree with that has in effect rejected CZ:Neutrality Policy.
As editor-in-chief, I am stating that we must fix these points. I am taking the time to comment, by the way, because I feel that we have a very clear case of the applicability of the neutrality policy, here, and something of a "learning moment" on our hands. --Larry Sanger 12:51, 27 September 2007 (CDT)
Thanks Larry, I certainly agree about the neutrality issue here. What I wanted to do in changing the original article was to provide facts, rather than analysis. This remains my objective, as I have no intention of supporting the Iranian regime. So, I think the starting point is to remove anything which is not a clear factual description of the two speeches. As far as I am concerned, the reporting by the media of these is completely unacceptable, and you should not ask me to defer to populist and/or semi-trained journalists.
Several points, although I believe them to be correct, are less obviously factual and need to be replaced with more careful phrasing. These include "Many of these questions had as their premises incorrect claims about previous statements". I am actually at a loss to deal with this, because the actual statements made years ago by Ahmadinejad are not available to us. I can tell you that the political commentator on Al-Jazeerah [a political scientist of Iranian origin] complained bitterly about the way in which the texts had been translated into English, apparently serving a political purpose. It raises a fundamental question of knowledge: I do not know that he ever demanded the annihilation of Israel, so I refuse to include that in an encyclopedia article. Your reference is not good enough, because the source is still secondhand and politically biased.
Concerning the invasion of Iraq, which lawyers are claiming it was legal? As far as I recall, it was only the Attorneys-General of the USA and UK who did so, and their reputations are in tatters. We can put it in quotation marks anyway, to avoid getting caught up in that debate.
May I ask if anyone else heard the whole speech and introduction? I think some other insights would be helpful here. My opinion is that the Columbia speech was actually not so interesting, other than as a political exercise. The UN speech was of more significance in challenging the bases of international power and organisation, and touched directly upon the reality of the West as primary causal factors of instability in the Middle East.--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 13:25, 27 September 2007 (CDT)
Well of course you don't support the Iranian regime, but pro-Iranian bias wasn't the neutrality issue I was pointing out. Many, many U.S. political commentators, and of course not just on the right, do not claim it is illegal. Asking "which lawyers are claiming it was legal?" is the wrong question. Lawyers are not the only ones with relevant opinions on the matter.
It's very implausible that the Associated Press is biased, as you claim, when it reports on the bare facts, like who said what. If you want to say so, it is incumbent upon you to argue otherwise: the AP has some of the best journalists in the world. Anyway, since you refuse, I will go ahead and make the edits I think are necessary. I hope these edits will clarify a bit more what neutrality requires, in my opinion. --Larry Sanger 16:55, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
In short: neutrality when the issue is a controversial political one, requires that conservatives and progressives be either equally pleased or equally outraged with the article. We aren't Conservapedia (god help us), but we are also going to be more careful and respectful about how we characterize views with which we disagree.
Again, if the AP is not acceptable to you, when quoting someone in a speech, I wonder if any journalist would ever be acceptable. I posit that we must have some specific reason, and a good one, not to accept straightforward factual reports from reputable news sources on face value. I don't mean to say we should accept vague estimates, or journalist opinion, or journalists' summaries of long-standing situations; I mean we should accept clear facts of the sort that all but the most outrageously biased observers would agree upon, if they were there. Such as what Ahmadinejad said in a speech. --Larry Sanger 18:18, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
- I am sorry to tell you this, Larry, but no academic worth his salt will accept reports from journalists. I made that mistake early in my career, and it will not be repeated. As fas as this specific reporting is concerned, you cannot ask me to accept a journalistic account over my own professional hearing, This is insulting. I will look now at your changes to see if I can accept them.--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:58, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
- Well, consider this. You can offer your summation of how the speeches have been received. But when it comes to reporting the contents of speeches, when we quote something in any case, we must cite a source. If you can find a more academic source, great! But what if there isn't one? Then you cite what is available, and news reports are serviceable for certain purposes. Most people with clear judgment know that news reports cannot be trusted in every detail; that's hardly a profound point. On the other hand, there are certain kinds of details that generally can be trusted. Quotes such as the ones the AP story provide are simply unreasonable to question without some clear grounds for doing so, especially if they come from a source like the AP.
- Besides, I'm reluctant to grant your premise, Martin. I've spent a fair bit of time talking to journalists in the last several years, and I'm usually impressed by how sharp they are. Most high-ranking reporters are just as sharp as academics; in fact, more than a few of them are in and out of academia themselves. On more straightforwardly factual matters, they are not as a rule worse sources than academics--who, as we know because we saw a study that proves it, publish more false research than true. ;-) Believe me, I think reporters are frequently wrong, and getting a story 100% right is rare and extremely difficult--but I don't make a blanket dismissal of what they say. --Larry Sanger 20:08, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
- I can live with the changes, although they remove important points about the political behaviour of the President of Columbia University. You might like to know that elsewhere in the world, i.e. Europe, there is more debate about his behaviour than about the content of Ahmadinejad's actual speech. Doesn't that tell you something? --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 19:04, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
It sure does, Martin. Maybe not what you want it to tell me, however. --Larry Sanger 20:08, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
- Well, unfortunately, Larry, it suggests that there is a real problem with the conception of the neutrality policy. What you have written may seem neutral from an American point of view, but it is not so for many other non-Iranian commentators. This is what I wrote at the very outset: that the reporting was very low quality and clearly politically biased. (This is not to even mention the axiomatic bases of the questions addressed.) I do not retract that analysis. What we have put here is OK, but it is not particularly informative or helpful to readers. It certainly would not be acceptable to me for an academic journal publication.
- This is not to say that I am opposed to the Neutrality concept at all, but it is not sufficiently clear in philosophical terms. The idea is rooted in a cultural context, and is thus non-neutral. Your point of reference is American, and that is what you see. I do not see it that way, nor does the rest of the world. You have not explained to me why removing the factual description of extreme personal and political insults in an introduction of a guest speaker is somehow more neutral. Indeed, it is clear that it is not. It is more biased. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:38, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
Stephen: I do not find your change of photo an improvement. To my eye, it presents an aggressive image which is not consistent with CZ Neutrality policy, Please revert the picture. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:59, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
I think they both have issues, for the reasons I have stated in the captions. I think option 3 is probably best.
- Well, they are all bad! I still prefer (1), if only on the grounds that I didnt notice your crazy implication. Also, it fits in with my recollection of watching his speech: maybe he makes that gesture a lot? --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 22:06, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
- I think the head-and-shoulders one we have now is best. John Stephenson 22:24, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
I think it is completely, not "allegedly" clear that his solution to the Palestinian/Israili issue is the dissolution of the state of Israel.
"If you [Europeans] committed this big crime, then why should the oppressed Palestinian nation pay the price? This is our proposal: give a part of your own land in Europe, the US, Canada or Alaska to them so that the Jews can establish their country." This is completely unsurprising, if one looks at things from his worldview. —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 22:12, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
- I think 'dissolution' is a better word to use than 'elimination' or 'destruction', since as far as I know he's said he wants rid of Israel by diplomatic rather than military means. We have to be careful with the translations. John Stephenson 22:24, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
It seems to me that nobody actually knows what he said about Israel, and until there is a proper text in Persian and a translation accepted by experts, I do not accept journalistic simplifications of their perceptions of truth. His points about the behaviour of the western powers in creating Palestinian refugees in their millions in order to assuage their guilt about Nazism is valid. It does not mean that Iran wishes to militarily destroy Israel. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 22:34, 28 September 2007 (CDT)
- He's not hawking to militarily destroy them, but apparently wanting the state to be politically dissolved. He disfavors a two-state solution. Again, this position is not in the least bit surprising, and not unique to him as a Middle Eastern head of state. —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 22:50, 28 September 2007 (CDT)