Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has added “shockjock” Michael Savage to the list of those banned from travelling to the United Kingdom. Included on the list are those that the home office believes would perpetuate hatred and glorify terrorism. Savage finds himself listed among white supremacists, homophobic preachers and an anti-Arab Jewish militant. Two Slav supremacists on the list have been incarcerated in a Russian jail since October 2007.
Well it seems that being “to the left of God”, is not paying off for Savage. In the US his daily hateful screeds are covered under free speech, however the United Kingdom has a different understanding of speech. Speech is not free when the devaluation of another clearly leads to inequality and violence. When Savage rants about illegal immigrants, the disabled, bodies of color, the GLBT community and women not only is he affirming his white male privilege, he is helping to maintain a social dissonance which serves as the basis for our hierarchy of bodies.
In a conversation with WorldNetDaily he commented:
“Darn! And I was just planning a trip to England for their superior dental work and cuisine. Then it sank in ... She's linking me with mass murderers who are in prison for killing Jewish children on buses? For my speech? The country where the Magna Carta was created?"
Savage has apparently threatened to sue the Home Secretary for defamation and clearly this is based in the belief that there is no connection between speech and behaviour. He is a Jewish man and I find his obtuseness to be incredibly alarming. Did his people not pay a terrible price when the world ignored the hateful rhetoric of Hitler which lead to a genocide? Words have power Savage and your white male status should not be enough to enable you to oppress other groups simply because this time the spotlight is not aimed directly at you.
Jacqui Smith responded with the following:
"Coming to this country is a privilege," she said. "If you can't live by the rules that we live by, the standards and the values that we live by, we should exclude you from this country and, what's more, now we will make public those people that we have excluded."
The key word in Smiths statement is privilege. Savage has become accustomed as a white male of class privilege to “othering” various segments of society at will and yet when bodies of colour dare to critique whiteness for its behaviour we are quickly deemed angry or it is suggested that we are playing the “race card”. When white male privilege acts in its own defence it is most often understood as rational, thoughtful speech because of the race and power imbalance. Accountability for what hate speech leads to is denied because it supports the white supremacist state. One need not be explicit in language to assert white privilege as covert racism or sexism can be just as damaging to those it is aimed at. When Savage speaks he is far from covert hence the name “shock jock”. Just like his associate in evil Coulter and Limbaugh, he directly uses his large platform to denigrate those bodies which society has deemed disposable.
Savage preys upon the fears of white, cigendered, heterosexual men. The most privileged group in history (read: white men), fear the loss of the ability to express power coercively and it is in their service that he sends his message of hate out into the world each day. It is further quite ironic that Savage should be upset that his speech be limited when daily the marginalized face censure for simply acting in their own defence against the kind of speech he practices. What is good for others apparently should not apply to him. 2050 may still be some time in the distance but the day is quickly approaching when the numbers will not support this kind of rhetoric. In the meantime we must be vigilante if we hope to achieve any form of change in our present day. Each of us deserves to have our humanity recognized and no amount of vitriol on the part of Savage or his associates should ever be confused with free speech. Language is important because it frame discourse and if we want equality to be more than a word we pay lip service to, such language must be strongly disavowed.