Two new developments here in Europe which are just begging to be juxtaposed: US talk show host Michael Savage is adopting a new tact in fighting his UK entry ban, while Roman Polanski is allowed to hang out in his Swiss chalet under house arrest while a decision is pending on his extradition to the USA.
Savage was placed on the Labour government’s barred-entry list in May, and still hasn’t been taken off — so now Texas Rep. John Culberson is asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene, citing Savage’s need to tend to his “rare medicinal plant specimens from Fiji and Tonga” in Kew Gardens. Not a bad approach to use on a Labour government whose Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, believes the world is doomed if it isn’t saved from global warming within 50 days.
It may seem like a far-fetched approach to getting around an entry ban, but one might also have said the same about citing weather patterns as an excuse for increasing taxes. Would “greenie” Brown want to be held responsible for killing rare, potentially lifesaving plants? Could he live with himself knowing that he allowed valuable phyto-lives to be extinguished because their caregiver is a right-wing blowhard? Tick tock, Prime Minister.
Polanski lived freely in Europe for decades after being convicted of statutory rape of a 13-year old girl in America. And what, you might ask, was Savage’s crime? Well, he said things on American soil the likes of which aren’t normally seen outside of a European soccer match: he has claimed that autistic kids are brats who just need to smarten up, told a homosexual that he hopes he “gets AIDS and dies”, and suggested that illegal immigrants are bringing H1N1 into America.
So basically Michael Savage is your average 80 year-old grandmother. And in more ways than one: Grannies are felt up and harassed routinely by airport security so as not to offend anyone who actually fits the profile of a threat. Similarly, the UK Home Office doesn’t want to offend people with a proven track record of causing death or destruction — jihadists, mass murderers, and Russian gang members — so it slips someone relatively innocuous onto the list in the interest of good company. Obviously Gordon Brown isn’t taking Michael Savage’s feelings into account by lumping him in with thugs. That’s because he’s not a rare plant, or a drowning polar bear.
But here’s where Culberson errs in his plea: He says that he’s seeking “to help protect Dr. Savage’s First Amendment rights, and his ability to travel freely to Great Britain.”
Savage has no “First Amendment rights” in the UK — or anywhere outside of the USA. All you have to do is look at the average newspaper website comment section in either the UK or France to see how the approach to free expression in America is the exception, even among western democracies. In both of these countries, website operators can be held responsible — through hefty fines in many cases — for defamatory comments made by others in the interest of “free speech”. In France in particular, the penal code explicitly guarantees a person’s right to control their image, unless public interest demands otherwise — and even those exceptions are very strict. That in itself is a good thing. Celebrities who move to France for some peace and quiet — such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Johnny Depp — would likely agree.
But the question is whether or not this approach to protect individuals ought to extend to groups of people. In short, it shouldn’t. Creating protected classes gives rise to a cottage industry of victimhood which latches itself like a parasite onto government funds and leverages this generosity of the state to bully individuals whose opinions they dislike. Where are all the defenders of minorities when the opinion of the smallest minority unit possible — that of the individual — needs defending from the tyranny of government-funded proxies?
It’s also politically and diplomatically gauche for Culberson to claim Savage — or anyone — has an innate right to enter any sovereign foreign country. The UK would likely appreciate the sentiment about as much as the US would want a foreign leader dictating its own border policies.
The best argument Savage and his political pals can advance in favor of his admission to the UK is that Savage knows the laws as they apply in various countries, hasn’t broken any, and doesn’t plan to — as evidenced, for example, in a Cambridge Union Society debate on (ironically) free speech, in which he was relegated to participating via the internet because of the entry ban.
Or, more realistically, he could always could just fly into any of the other EU countries where he isn’t banned, lose his ID somewhere along the way, make his way to the illegal immigrant camp in Calais, France, and nip across into the UK. It would be the international travel version of cheating with your own wife.