Public Enemy No. 0

Heard the one about the shock-jock, the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and the Lebanese terrorist? 

The Home Office might be working on the punch line but it has already become the joke. Previously, the only thing these three had in common was that they didn’t want to come to Britain. Now they’re united in the fact that they couldn’t even if they wanted to. As the banned American talk show host Michael Savage said, “Damn, there goes the summer trip where I planned to have my dental work done.”

Earlier this year, Standpoint readers will recall, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith barred Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the UK because his views “would threaten community harmony and therefore [therefore?] public security in the UK”. Wilders is currently riding at the top of the Dutch polls and it will be interesting to see whether the Conservative and Labour parties are able to sustain the ban if he ever becomes Holland’s Prime Minister.

But of course it was clear the moment the Wilders ban was imposed that the precedent was unsustainable. Almost immediately afterwards, the spokesman of Hizbollah, Ibrahim al-Moussawi, was due to make one of his annual trips to the UK. A number of us lobbied for him to be kept out and after threatening to take the Home Secretary to court, he was finally excluded. Hizbollah is, after all, an illegal terrorist organisation.

But it became evident then that the Home Secretary was making up policy on the hoof. The Home Secretary’s job is huge. It appears that Smith would now reduce it to the role of a radio critic armed with a visa stamp.

Trying to construct a coherent policy from the wreckage of her earlier judgments, Smith recently produced a UK “least-wanted list.” The “initiative” proved a typically strenuous attempt to equate the dangerously real problem of Islamist extremists who come to Britain to preach violence with those who have views that are disagreeable and offensive. The only thing the stunt truly did was to draw a blanket of moral equivalence over the carcass of Jacqui Smith’s
career.

You can see the scene at the Home Office now. “There’s a Hamas man we need to keep out. This is serious. You know what? I’m going to need an American homophobe.” “How about I raise you a Jewish extremist?” “Oh my God — we’ve got an Islamist baby-murderer on the list. This’ll never pass. You’re going to have to find me an American shock-jock. One with really bad jokes.”

Despite what the Home Secretary appears to think, having mean views is not cause to equate someone with a murderer. I occasionally wonder whether Smith is aware of the principles of free speech, so precise is she at trampling over them. Take Savage’s reported comments on autism. I’m not an expert on the condition and have no reason to doubt the scientific consensus. But I should be able to hear even wildly wrong views about the matter. After all, why should the Home Secretary decide what I am or am not allowed to hear said about that — or any — illness?

The Phelps family from America is another case in point. “Homophobic” doesn’t really do justice to their views. They’re more like homo-maniacs. Like most people, straight or gay, I’m not much enamoured of a family who picket military funerals with signs saying “Thank God for IED’s”, and claiming that the deaths of US military personnel are punishment for America’s “tolerance” of homosexuality. 

I think they’re the scum of the earth and wish there were a Hell for them to go to. But I don’t fear their speech. And unlike the Home Secretary I don’t think it’s because people haven’t heard their views that the Phelps family’s following doesn’t extend much beyond, well, the extended Phelps family.

We already, quite rightly, have laws forbidding incitement. So far as I know, Phelps and Savage have not called directly for anyone to be killed. Others, such as KKK men and neo-Nazis, have. 

We already have the ability to keep them out. But that is not what this exercise is about. It is simply a typical action of a government which even when it is on the right track does everything it can to cover over the fact. It is an exercise in refusing to name the enemy.

Within 48 hours of Jacqui Smith becoming Home Secretary, in 2007, bombs were planted in the Haymarket, London, and Glasgow airport was attacked by suicide bombers. Her reaction suggested that she had not just landed in the deep end, but that her head had gone under the water. She has spent the last two years flailing and gasping for air. I hope I’m not barred from re-entering the country for saying so, but we must hope that she — and we — are soon put out of her misery.

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