Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The not-so Savage Nation

If you plan on visiting Great Britain in the near future, by all means go. So long as you aren't some racist, xenophobic blowhard like anti-gay Christian crusader Fred Phelps or former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and white supremecist Stephan Donald Black. Or controversial radio host Michael Alan Weiner, a.k.a. Michael Savage. All three, along with 19 others (16 of which were mentioned by name), are not allowed to step foot the country. In essence, they got union jacked.

The British government published a blacklist on Tuesday of people that are banned from entering the United Kingdom. This list also includes Yunis al-Astal, a Hamas lawmaker, Jewish Legion leader Mike Guzofsky, and several Islamic preachers linked to terrorism. And don't forget the Savage Weiner.

The AFP sez:

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she decided to publish the "name and shame" list -- which identifies 16 people banned since last October -- for the first time to clarify what behaviour Britain will not tolerate.

"I think it's important that people understand the sorts of values and sorts of standards that we have here, the fact that it's a privilege to come and the sort of things that mean you won't be welcome in this country," she said.

"If you can't live by the rules that we live by ... we should exclude you from this country and, what's more, now we will make public those people that we have excluded," she told the GMTV broadcaster.

The San Francisco Chronicle sez:

...Along with Savage, who has called the Quran, the Muslim holy book, "a book of hate," Muslim extremists, jailed Russian gang members and a militant Israeli settler were banned. Smith cited "public interest" reasons for not disclosing six of the names.

Since 2005, the United Kingdom has excluded 101 people for "unacceptable behavior, including animal rights extremists, right-to-life, homophobe and far-right extremists, as well as those who advocate hatred and violence in support of their religious beliefs," Robin Newmann, spokesman for the British consulate in San Francisco, said by e-mail Tuesday. In 2008, he said, Smith "introduced new measures that favored excluding people who have spread hatred."

Well, nobody will really complain about most of those types of people being 8-balled from The Commonwealth. I'm sure even the Bushniks would applaud that. But throw in a crazy right-wing radio squawker like Savage? Oh, then the tighty-righties of America will go ballistic. And the people named aren't too happy either.

Gee, what are they gonna do, call them un-American? Fer cryin' out loud, they're British!

Now, I have three schools of thought on this Brit blacklist. First, a country minus guys like Phelps, Black and Savage sounds kinda Utopian, though I kinda do like that freedom of speech thing, even if it encourages a few nuts. Second, it's their country, they can do whatever the hell they want. I'm not too keen on ideological blackballing in general, but I'm not the one in charge there.

But here's the third and most important point, and one that the people whining about this have completely forgotten about or disregarded: Our government's been pulling the same shit with the Brits for years.

Here's a name you'll all recognize: John Lennon. Remember him? Well, you may recall that the Nixon Administration, the J. Edgar Hoover-run FBI and Republicans like Strom Thurmond waged a very ugly campaign during the first half of the 1970s to have Lennon kicked out of this very country. The reasoning they gave was John and wife Yoko's piddly 1968 London drug bust, led by an over-exuberant Scotland Yard flatfoot bent on nailing pot-smoking, acid-dropping British rock stars. But that was a pretty flimsy excuse. Consider the fact that other British pop stars busted for drugs, such as Donovan and the Rolling Stones, ran into limited interference as they came and went from our shores. Lennon's former Beatles bandmates, the lower-key George Harrison and Paul McCartney, were involved in similar pot busts but were free to come and go as they pleased. Harrison even visited the White House (as a guest of then-President Ford's son, a huge fan) a few years later! British bands like Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and The Who laid waste to hotel rooms across the land during the 1970s. Yet John and Yoko were the ones who were made an example of. This was purely vindictive. Lennon was rather prominent on Nixon's "Enemies List" due to his very vocal anti-war leftist politics and for palling around with guys like Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and Bobby Seale. For Nixon, it was personal.

So, how is the Lennon example different than what merry ol' England is currently doing? Let's face it, the Brits are only looking to keep the hatemongers out. The Lennons were hardcore peacenicks. And in a rather disturbing act of irony, John Lennon, years after finally obtaining his green card, lost his life in an appalling act of violence perpetrated by an American screwball in a city and country he has long professed his admiration for. Makes your head spin, don't it?

This puzzlingly selective gatekeeping still occurs up through the present day. We're still blackballing Brits. The former lead singer of 1980s one-hitters Frankie Goes To Hollywood was denied entry to our country due to his HIV-positive status. British folk singer Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, was on U.S. terrorist watch lists and subsequently deported in 2004, mostly due to his heavy devotion to the Islamic faith and vocal support for its followers. And many subversive corporate-owned oldies stations still play his hit "Peace Train". It gets even nuttier. Amy Winehouse still isn't allowed on American turf, even after a Grammy win and a couple best-selling albums, due to a destructive drug habit that has hurt nobody but herself. Same with Pete Doherty, a drug-fueled basketcase of a rock singer known more for his tabloid antics than his music. Yet lesser musical talents like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan can get plastered and mow down pedestrians on the streets of L.A.

Let's tally up this mess. They keep out a few extremist hatemongers. We ban inoffensive rock stars. Advantage, U.K.

So, if you're someone like, say, a Brent Bozell-type, just how firm is your footing when you bitch about the British blackballing of Michael Savage, yet elicit nary a peep about John Lennon? Or Cat Stevens? Or even Amy Winehouse? Well, not very firm, most likely.

Now, all this banning on ideological grounds seems a bit petty. And it's really more symbolic than anything else. I can't imagine a guy like Savage being all that willing to visit the U.K. anyway. But it is kind of an ironic 'back atcha' toward a country that's done more than its fair share of questionable gatekeeping. Namely us.


AlanF said...

It's worth pointing out that Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam actually supported the fatwa (death decree) against Salman Rushdie, stating that while he wouldn't kill Rushdie himself, he might help someone else who would. Later, he tried to deny that this was what he had said, but his statements had been recorded, and Rushdie refused to accept his apology/denial. So his banning was not a simple case of "'Peace Train' writer is cynically barred by peace-hating government".

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