Monday, May 11, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People: Reflections on Jacqui Smith and the Blacklist

A little late but sometime last week, British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith published a list designed to “name and shame” 16 individuals that have been deemed to harbor and/or practice extreme views. Those named are part of a larger list of people barred from entering the United Kingdom. According to press releases, 101 names have been compiled since August of 2005 but this is the first time select names have been made public. Home Secretary Smith’s decision to release these 16 names is a curious one and even though the British government has been careful not use the word: blacklist. The objective is clear.

To the Home Secretary, entering the UK is a “privilege” and those advocating hate and committing violence against a certain ethnic group are being told that privilege will be revoked. Looking over the 16 names a banishment seems reasonable; however, a government sanctioned blacklist (both public and private) tends to negate any positive efforts made while giving those named, especially to a slimy demagogue named Michael Savage, the opportunity to play the victim. Forget for a moment, Savage’s long documented rants some of which he believes are meant to “inspire thought” forget his hostility towards non-Christians or Hispanic landscapers or homosexuals in all their shapes and sizes or, even, autistic children (I dare you to read or hear his thoughts on that and not laugh from shock) and ask yourself if his inclusion on a list with known murderers and their rabble-rousers is warranted?

I could make the argument that other “name and shamees” haven’t committed violence either. Look at Eric Gliebe, for years he has been holed up in West Virginia recruiting angry runaways and leading the neo-fascist National Alliance. Another name is Yunis Al Astal a militant preacher and member of Hamas who provokes and glorifies terrorism in the Middle East. Others include the “Jewish extremist” otherwise known as Mike Guzovsky. He’s famous for being the leader of Kahane Chai, an organization labeled as a terrorist group in many countries including Israel. Another demagogue on the list is famous homosexual-hater Fred Phelps. Of course like Savage and a few others on this list, Phelps isn’t violent per se he just likes talking about violence and instigating violent behavior against those he considers irredeemable.

I could go on but you get the gist of it. Savage has publically stated that he is looking into legal action against the Home Secretary but does he really have a case? Historically, those who have formed blacklists haven’t been too successful in staying on the right side of things. If you google the word: blacklist you’ll see beyond all the links explaining IP addresses and spam blockers passages about how unfair the HUAC hearings were and that whole Alger Hiss mess, the Hollywood blacklist as well as cases documenting those who supported the American Revolution and the measures they had to take to keep their feelings private. All of these examples are seen today, by most, as being incredibly wrong-sided and oppressive. But what if we turn the language around and replace blacklist with the word: excluded?

In the official report written by Jacqui Smith to members of Parliament, the Home Office was careful in not dropping the B-word and, instead, included “on to existing policy" the "exclusion from the UK of those individuals who encourage violence or hatred in support of their ideology.” Much of this language and policies fall under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005. Created after the July 2005 terror attacks in London where three London Underground trains and a city bus exploded killing 52 people and injuring over 700. In these provisions a control order was placed where the Home Secretary has the power to "restrict an individuals liberty" who has been deemed as an extremist and thereby use their ideology to instigate terrorism. And most notably, these measures apply not only to citizens but foreigners as well.

For Michael Savage to make his case he'll have to prove his words were never meant to incite violence. Savage is no stranger to filing lawsuits and even having them dismissed and since British law doesn't recognize 1st Amendment rights (instead it uses a form of self-regulation that can change according to editors and communication officers, etc.), Savage will have to stand by his words and accusations. Face it, Savage is a demagogue plain and simple. He likes to present his rants as a fresh and honest approach to his listeners who are fearful and suspicious of liberal humanist ideology (at best) and hateful to those of different races and creed (at worst). However, Savage will get some face time and threaten legal action since a government official across the pond has put the kibosh on his reputation as a "free-thinking and thoughtful, independent voice" thereby painting him, again, as a victim of political correctness and stifling liberal elitism. When, unfortunately, the real victim(s) could be on this list. Of course I seriously doubt they are among the 16 named (H.S. Jacqui Smith can be a clumsy legislator but not that clumsy), but what about those who do sit on the side of Muslim rights and could present their views in a qualified and thoughtful way. I'm sure it's achievable and may require those in power to listen to everything that's good, bad, and ridiculous.


Author's note: I know this blog has danced its way into the realm of flippant law study. Of course I may read like a qualified scholar of the law but I assure you.... I am not. I am a man like any man curious about the role of humanity and in fostering the one unique trait that keeps us separate from our gorilla and chimpanzee relatives - for which trait is that you may ask?

Well, isn't it obvious?

That trait is the pursuit of JUSTICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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