Last month I reported on a list of people banned from Great Britain compiled by Britain's Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The list included Michael Savage, host of the third-most-listened-to radio talk show in America. Savage was listed along with terrorists, murderers and advocates of violence.
My protest was that a man whose job it is to entertain and raise the ire of listeners from time to time was being labeled a dangerous threat to the people of Britain. Keep in mind that America's own FCC regulates "The Savage Nation," and that Savage necessarily holds his freedom-of-speech rights to a higher standard of tolerance than that of the average citizen.
Having taken an academic degree in Britain, and having a true love for the nation, I was perplexed and frustrated by this. In the past month, my concern has only grown. I now wonder whether freedom of speech is diminishing here, too, as might be Americans' willingness to take others' words in context. Why won't people stand up for others' rights to express their opinions without being beaten into the ground or banned by governments?
Consider this often-quoted remark by current Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. In a speech made years ago, she said, "I would hope that a wise Latino woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
At first glance, the statement seemed what some prominent conservatives have labeled "reverse racism." Among them are Rush Limbaugh and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has taken to Twitter. That medium allows one to send messages of no more than 140 characters to those who follow their "tweets" on their computers or handheld devices. Gingrich tweeted that Sotomayor's comments were racist and so she should not be considered for the high court.
How can we assert commonality to Savage, Sotomayor, Limbaugh and Gingrich? It's simple: They're all human.
Savage's job is to express his views on the airwaves. He sometimes says outrageous things, but that's why he has a huge following. If his words were inciting riots, the FCC would have fined the daylights out of the stations that carry him.
Limbaugh and Gingrich likely thought exactly what I did when I first read Sotomayor's statement: What if I had said that I would hope a white Southern male with his experiences would reach better legal conclusions than a Latina? I would have been forced out of consideration for anything less than the unemployment line.