Free Speech Is Uniquely America

Mike Gallagher
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Posted: May 08, 2009 12:00 AM

I’ve been touring the country with my friends and fellow radio hosts (and Townhall contributors) Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager and Bill Bennett. The subject of the tour is, “Obama: The First 100 Days”, a townhall-style forum where three of us on a given night analyze, debate, and critique the first few months of this remarkable time in our nation’s story.

For a guy who makes a living sitting in an empty glass studio talking into a microphone and staring at a bunch of blinking telephone lights, this is simply heaven.

Getting to shake hands, pose for pictures, sign books, and interact with people who listen to our radio shows is a blast. Sure, there’s the ego boost of nice people saying nice things about our work. But more importantly, we are learning what truly matters to Americans in cities as diverse as Dallas and San Antonio, Los Angeles and Cleveland (and nine other cites as well -- we’re all grateful for our new frequent flier miles these days).

The sheer genius of talk radio and Townhall.com is that the environment is so interactive. Listener and reader input is every bit as important as anything any of us can say. We’d be like crazy people chattering in the middle of that empty field that Joe Biden thinks we should stand in to be safe from swine flu if it weren’t for the calls, the letters, the blogs, and the reaction from our audience.

I’ll bet Michael, Hugh, Dennis and Bill are soaking up the energy of our “Obama 100 Days” audiences every bit as much as I am.

For one thing, there are the crowds. Every city we’ve visited has exceeded the expectations, in terms of the number of people who are coming out to participate. Every single stop has featured ballrooms and theatres and auditoriums packed with enthusiastic Americans who are deeply concerned about the direction of our country under the Obama Administration.

And there are the young people. Last night in Phoenix, Hugh asked for everyone under the age of 25 to stand. About 50 kids sprang to their feet. Having a talk radio-loving crowd of over a thousand feature that many young people was inspirational.

And of course, there is the passion. People are simply hungry for answers, an antidote to the massive spending and liberal social agenda of the new president.

As we keep saying, the answer lies at the ballot box. We Republicans are in the mess we’re in because the other side convinced enough people to vote for Democrats. I’d like to think we’re smack dab in the middle of a period of buyer’s remorse, something that will get rectified with each pending election.

But I also make sure I’m listening carefully to what people are saying about the specific things that trouble them. And after getting an earful this week over the British ban of an American conservative radio host, Michael Savage, I made it a point to mention the outrageous decision to bar him from Britain at our most recent stop.

Evidently, the Brits have compiled a list of 22 people they deem so shameful in their speech or actions that they have barred them from setting foot in their country. Some British official I’ve never heard of made the announcement the other day, saying that Britain wants to send a message to the world that it is a privilege to come pay a visit there, and some people are simply not welcome.

Being a radio host, I naturally am more concerned about their decision to ban another broadcaster rather than the Islamic extremists or other loonies on the list (including the vicious Rev. Fred Phelps, the guy whose family protests outside the funerals of slain military personnel and other victims).

Michael Savage turns on a microphone and broadcasts his opinions to faithful followers who enjoy listening to his views on politics, social issues, and anything else that this colorful, provocative, entertaining guy comes up with. It doesn’t matter which of his views I agree or disagree with. He’s a proven commodity that is blessed to have a platform that enables him to be a First Amendment practitioner on the radio airwaves.

For a government entity of any country to decide that his views disqualify him from even visiting the place is appalling. This reprehensible act reminds us that we do, indeed, live in the greatest country in the world, a place where opinions and viewpoints are not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Keith Olbermann is proof of that.

I guess the quaint tradition of Londoners standing on soap boxes and screeching their opinions in Hyde Park, something I’ve personally witnessed, doesn’t apply to American radio hosts who do the same thing.

And incidentally, don’t shed any tears for Savage. I’m sure he has received the news with great glee and will manage to turn this into a windfall for his radio show. I envision seeing him on the evening news trying to get off a plane at Heathrow, cameras and microphones capturing every moment.

It’s what we call the proverbial win-win.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about that uptight British official’s assertion that visiting her country is a privilege.

Ultimately, isn’t she right?

Where in our Constitution does it state that we are compelled to let anyone who wants to enter the country in?

While we cherish the message of welcoming huddled masses yearning to be free, we sure don’t have to throw out the welcome mat for illegals who insist upon breaking the law in order to live here.

Someone told me that Michael Savage was complaining that very few broadcasters are supporting him over this insane British ban. Well, I am more than happy to defend his right to air his views and expect to be able to visit any country on the planet he chooses to.

But I also think we should apply Britain’s “keep out” message to the millions of illegals who are wreaking havoc in the United States. Michael hasn’t broken any laws. He’s no criminal. But the people who continue to sneak across our border sure are.

Perhaps we should consider making the Brit who banned Michael our new Homeland Security chief.

She’s got to be an improvement over our current one.