I read about the ban slapped on so-called American “shock jock” Michael Savage by the UK government with interest.
Last month, I was in the USA on business, and driving back to New York with an (English) colleague of mine, we happened across Savage’s show. While initially we were amused at his ranting, it very soon became clear that this went way beyond the usual rhetoric aimed at building a love-him-or-hate-him audience.
Savage was quite simply a vile bigot. Anyone who opposed him was shouted down. He repeatedly referred to “Hussein Obama” and his being a “Muslim lover”. The president’s crime at the time was that he had apologised to Europe for what he described as the USA’s “arrogance” during the Bush era. Savage fumed that there was nothing to apologise for and that Europeans were “vermin” who had “sponged off the USA for decades”.
Warming to his task, he berated the 66% of Americans who thought Obama was doing a good job, told one first-generation Asian who phoned in to remonstrate to “get back to driving your cab”, and then harangued an elderly person who said they were a state employee as being a “lifelong sponger” who needed to “get off their backside and do a day’s work”. By the time he said that Muslims (all of them presumably) were “the people who attacked the World Trade Centre” we had had enough.
We discussed how on earth someone could be allowed to get away with preaching hatred – Savage himself, lowering his voice to sound sincere, had earlier claimed that he was the only voice of reason in a “liberal-dominated” media and spoke for the people – where in any normal society he would be locked up for inciting civil unrest.
He has previous, including urging Americans to “burn the Mexican flag on your street corner” and labelling autistic children as “brats” in need of discipline. He the Koran as “a book of hate” and told Muslims: “Take your religion and shove it up your behind.” In 2003 he was fired by a TV channel for saying on air to a caller: “You should only get Aids and die, you pig …”
He is threatening to sue the UK government for “defamation”. Even the hapless Jacqui Smith couldn’t lose that one. Play five minutes of one of Savage’s bile-laden broadcasts and he would be sent packing.
Free speech is one thing. Savage is quite another. Even in a democracy we need limits. Savage claims he stands for “traditional values”. In his own way, he is every bit as evil as anyone the West has been fighting in the war on terror.