I won't go into it again about my years as a student in England and how much I love that country and the university where I received my degree. It is irrelevant to the "Alice in Wonderland" situation that just keeps getting more bizarre — Britain's banning of American conservative talk radio host Michael Savage from entering their country. Now, it looks like the British government not only banned the wrong Savage, it also released from prison a genuine savage.
As noted in my column of several months ago, Dr. Savage, the third-most-listened-to radio talk show host in the United States, was lumped together on a list of "undesirables" with terrorists and murderers.
The list was compiled by the British home secretary, a woman who has since resigned her post. There's little doubt that Savage was grouped with the others because the British government needed some "balance" on its list — most of the others were Islamic extremists. Savage is, shall we say, "savagely" opinionated sometimes on his broadcasts. That's about as close to a crime as he comes.
Someone, likely here in the U.S., and I believe working with the British government, thought it would be clever to take the controversial Savage and somehow characterize him as a man who might incite civil unrest should he be allowed entry into the United Kingdom.
I have watched as a stubborn British government, which has been roundly criticized by its own media for placing one of America's top radio personalities on a list with skinheads and murderers, has refused to address the stupidity of its decision. Now I am astonished as the hypocrisy of banning Savage has played itself out for the entire world to see.
Last week, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill allowed the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the man convicted of bombing Pan Am flight 103 near Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Two hundred and seventy people died. MacAskill released the Libyan spy from jail because he reportedly had terminal cancer and his release was deemed by MacAskill as "compassionate . . . no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity committed."
This true "savage" in our story, the man who killed so many innocent people, returned to Libya to a hero's welcome, and to the news that his cancer might not be so imminently terminal after all.
The British prime minister had written to Libya's dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, asking that the Libyan government downplay the release of this vicious killer. But, true to form, Gadhafi greeted the killer personally, and an enthusiastic crowd gave him a public welcome.
A less obvious outrage through all of this is that the American government and the U.S. media don't seem to give a damn. Where's the outrage from our own elected officials? Where's their objection when they see an American, who makes his living by taking full advantage of our precious freedom of speech, having his own words twisted around to make him look like a danger and a threat to the nation that might be our top ally? Why do the mainstream media in the U.S. keep acting as if there is even a shred of justification for this absurd measure against Savage? They act as if they don't know about the ban of Savage, or at least as if they don't consider it a news story.
You can bet the same silent media would have their megaphones of outrage out and active had the banned media personality been, for example, Bill Maher or Michael Moore, both of left-leaning persuasion. Then the outrage would be endless (and justified).
Having been a guest on Maher's TV shows in the past, I can tell you that he too is capable of making some pretty provocative statements. But we recognize that this is his job. No one keeps a list of quotations by Bill that might be used against him to restrict his travel or freedom. At least let's hope not.
I understand all too well that our constitutionally protected rights of free speech don't directly affect actions by the British government. But standing up for those who rely upon that precious right of speech here in our nation is something that should be of paramount importance to all Americans, whether they agree with Savage's opinions or not.
So I pose this question to the British government: Do the words uttered by a talk show host in America — words regulated by a very strict Federal Communications Commission — justify banning the man from your country? Where is the "compassion" for a man who has harmed no one? Or do you reserve your compassion for bona fide "savages" — the kind that wreak or would like to wreak murder and mayhem?
Matt Towery is author of the new book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2009 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.