Ken Kerr Bio
It seems our cousins across the Atlantic still have a thing or two to show us. Last Tuesday, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, published the names of 16 of 22 people who have been banned by the British government. “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," Smith explained.
There was Fred Phelps of the infamous “GodHatesFags.com” Westboro Baptist Church. There was KKK grand wizard, Stephen Donald Black. There was neo-Nazi Erich Gliebe. And, oh yeah, American talk show host Michael Savage. A proud member of our local WFMD radio evening line-up.
It seems what passes for free speech here gets you on the equivalent of a UK-No-Fly list.
Savage and the Usual Suspects of Right-Wing Radio get away with their extremist the speech in the USA for a multitude of reasons. These reasons don’t always make sense. The cornerstone of their defense is the First Amendment guarantee of “free speech.” However, on that very same point, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919, stated, ”The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”
At the very least, Savage et al. are hinting that the theater is in imminent danger of being set on fire by left leaning socialists, and anyone who holds a dissenting opinion to whatever they happened to be ranting about that day.
There once was a time in the USA that the Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It required anyone holding a broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance; however, they must to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. One would think that the Fairness Doctrine was aptly named and a responsible approach to keeping the public informed and engaged.
The Fairness Doctrine was officially introduced in 1949. All was well for a time. The doctrine remained a matter of general policy until 1967 at which time some provisions of the doctrine were incorporated into FCC regulations. For the most part, important, yet controversial, social issues of the day were presented with equal time and rigor to the listening and viewing public.
Then, one day, Mark S. Fowler was named FCC Chairman by (wait for it . . .) Ronald Reagan. Fowler, was a communications attorney and served Ronald Reagan during his unsuccessful presidential bid in 1976.
Successful in his second try, the commission, under Reagan, began to repeal parts of the Fairness Doctrine. By 1985, Reagan decided the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. How’s that for irony? In 1987, the FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine.
By August 1, 1988, little known Sacramento Radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, moved to New York City and began his national radio show. The rest, as they say, is history. With the Fairness Doctrine gone, right-wing demagogues were free to flourish without fear of fairness or defense of dialogue. There began a steep slide to partisan rancor, deep division, and the death of bi-partisanship. The final nail was put in that coffin in 1994 with the Contract with America, the rise of Newt Gingrich, and the fall of civil discourse. Despite recent progress toward reconciliation in Washington and across the nation, the identity-challenged GOP seems locked in neurotic patterns of familiar dysfunctional behavior. They still control the AM airwaves, and the strong voices of Savage, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Ingraham, give what is left of the right-wing a false sense that they have widespread support.
If only Home Secretary Smith had been around in 1988—well, she was, but she was only 26—we could have gotten a handle on this.
By “banned” Smith means these people are not permitted to enter the UK. "If people have so clearly overstepped the mark in terms of the way not just that they are talking but the sort of attitudes that they are expressing to the extent that we think that this is likely to cause or have the potential to cause violence or inter-community tension in this country, then actually I think the right thing is not to let them into the country in the first place.”
Anyway, it’s a start. I can suggest a few more names.