Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - United States Consititution, Bill of Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
For what its worth I don't think for a minute that Iranian President Ahmadinejad was speaking to the great American middle when he spoke at Columbia yesterday. He was certainly speaking to his own people, (an interesting take on the Iranian view of Ahmadinejad appears in the NY Times.) He was probably speaking to the larger Middle East and he might even have been speaking to some factions of the American left who would rather offer excuses for Ahmadinejad's extremism than agree with the American right in seeing him as a threat.
But I hope even the extreme left and the extreme right heard what I heard here in the middle - from we need more research on the Holocaust to we have no homosexuals in Iran - the guy is wacky and deluded - and yes scary, in the way meth addicts with guns are scary. I am ok with Columbia for letting the guy hoist himself on his own petard. We upheld one of the basic principles of a civilized world and the world now gets to judge Ahmadinejad by his own uncensored speech.
I feel the same way about the Daily Kos, Ann Coulter and the rest of the gang at the extreme edges. They should be allowed and even encouraged to tell us what they think because it lets the rest of us know just how extreme and unreasonable they are. General Betrayus? - an obscene comment about an acting general - but Moveon.org has the right to say it. Ms. Coulter gets to make tasteless jokes about John Edward's masculinity and some of the partisan blogs here on the north shore get to spin and spew hate and vilify anyone who doesn't dig their dogma. But that's ok. They get to say what they think and we get to judge them based on their own words.
The braying of the lunatic fringe can get your blood boiling, can frustrate, outrage and sometimes even entertain. Despite the shouting at the extremes it is the quiet, reasonable voices of the middle that must be heard.