England - the home of the Mother of Parliaments, founded upon the Magna Carta, land where free-born Englishmen stand equal before the law. And most of all, birthplace of the rights of conscience we in America, inheritors of that legacy, know today as freedom of speech and of the press.
Alas, it appears that England is becoming the place where those great freedoms pass away, die, and are buried and forgotten. Where once personal liberties were the driving force of a great nation, they now are the death knell of a fading one.
The British Foreign Office has a great deal of organizational experience operating in different countries over the last couple of centuries. There was a time when the British Empire included Gibraltar, Crete, Malta, Canada, Australia, India including what is now Pakistan and most of Afghanistan, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Fiji - not to mention a large chunk of these United States. The British never made much headway in South America because the Spanish and Portuguese got there first, but they grabbed the Falkland Islands near Argentina.
The Union Jack flew over so many lands that people said, "The sun never sets on the British Empire." This was true, but not only was it a point of pride as Britons viewed it, the saying also revealed the unfortunate fact that not even God could trust the English in the dark.
This was because the well-oiled combination between international conglomerates like the British East India Company and the British military gave Britain one of the most cost-effective empires the world had known.
The fiction of the day was, "Trade follows the flag." British lawmakers justified the military budget on the grounds that wherever the military established peaceful conditions, businesses could buy and sell. Their trade caused vast amounts of goods to be exported from all over Britain, creating jobs without number.
The truth was a bit more subtle. Trading firms like Hudson's Bay Company often entered terra incognito ahead of the military. If the new territories had nothing of value, the merchants moved on. If there were valuables lying around, they'd try to trade.
If the natives were willing to trade, well and good. If not, the traders would invite the military in to teach the Worthy Oriental Gentlemen a lesson in how business ought to be done, and trade resumed, either with the original leaders or with their heirs.
The driving force of empire goes back to the Magna Carta which the nobility forced King John to sign in 1215. The charter required the King to proclaim certain rights to the nobles and barons, respect certain listed legal procedures, and accept the fact that his will was bound by law.
The nobles didn't fight a war to get King John to sign the document. They discussed his intolerable actions among themselves, ganged up on him, and had a little chat. Finding himself in an inconveniently outnumbered spot on the fields of Runnymede, the King signed.
In practice, the King didn't respect the document very well, but by the time the English Civil War came along in the 1640's, the English had become accustomed to the idea that all men were bound by the rule of law and that by taking action, men could improve their condition.
The rulers didn't give up their powers voluntarily; rulers never do. They ceded power as slowly as they could and only as forced by the people below. In contrast to the French Revolution, where pressure built up over millennia resulted in an extremely violent revolution, the British developed the idea of freedoms, rights, the rule of law, and limited government over time by taking initiative for themselves and not necessarily being subservient to authority - less so with each passing century.
This tradition of individual initiative and the clash of ideas manifested itself in the freedom of speech. So long as there was no incitement to violence or excess profanity, speakers could, and did, say just about anything. People who were offended by what they heard were free to heckle, of course, but had to permit the speaker to speak on. To this day, there is a "Speaker's Corner" in Hyde Parke where anyone can publicly declaim on just about anything - and many do.
Individual initiative served the British well in developing their empire. If a businessman-adventurer such as Cecil Rhodes saw an opportunity, he followed it, ending up founding what became Zambia and Zimbabwe and owning the DeBeers diamond mines which at one time produced 90% of the world's diamonds. His business holdings were in a sense "guaranteed" by the British military.
Similarly, the East India Company's desire to sell opium in China led to the Opium Wars and British ownership of Hong Kong, a spot where significant profits have been earned ever since. In reality, the flag followed trade; there was no point in sending in the Royal Marines unless there was money to be made. Without profits, there'd be no taxes, and without taxes, who'd fund the military?
Unfortunately, the British are giving up their tradition of being able to prevent their nominal masters from pushing them around. This has started with the public allowing the British government to impose limits on freedom of speech.
Under the headline "Punishing Thought," World Net Daily published "Banned by U.K., Savage hits back - Radio talk star blocked from visits, along with terrorists, neo-Nazis". The article reports:
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she decided to publicize the list of 16 people banned since October to show the type of behavior Britain will not tolerate, according to U.K. news reports.
Savage, not being one of Her Majesty's subjects, was amused - until he thought about the matter.
"Then it sank in," he told WND, "and I said, 'She said this is the kind of behavior we won't tolerate? 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?'"
Smith explained to Britain's GMTV that she believed it was "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."
"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."
Ms. Smith is absolutely right that entering any foreign country is a privilege, not a right. If England doesn't want Mr. Savage around, it's entirely legal for them to keep him out.
All Englishmen and lovers of freedom should blanch, though, at her reason for this action: Mr. Savage, by verbally criticizing a violent religion foreign to both England and America - but not advocating vigilantism or personal violence - is violating the standards and values of England? What sort of values could those possibly be?
Mr. Savage is planning to sue the Home Secretary - not specifically for banning him, which she has every legal right to do, but for defamation because she linked him with mass murderers. None of his speech has advocated violence, he says, so there is no valid reason to ban him from Britain.
"It's interesting to me that here I am a talk show host, who does not advocate violence, who advocates patriotic traditional values - borders, language, culture - who is now on a list banned in England," Savage said. "What does that say about the government of England? It says more about them than it says about me."
The U.K. list also includes Hamas leader Yunis Al-Astal, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Stephen Donald Black, neo-Nazi Erich Gliebe and radical American pastor Fred Phelps, known for his virulent anti-gay protests at funerals. Phelps' daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper also is on the list.
There is a clear pattern to the actions of the United Kingdom; Mr. Savage is not the first prominent anti-Islamist speaker to be barred from its shores. Noted Dutch politician Geert Wilders was turned away at Heathrow airport - on his way, by invitation, to screen his anti-Islamist movie before a group of members of England's House of Lords! As with Mr. Savage's radio broadcasts, Mr. Wilders' film Fitna does not call for violence against anyone; rather, it features recordings of Muslim imams and leaders already resident in Western nations calling for violence against non-Muslims living in their own lands. In other words, England is now punishing the people who reveal and warn of the violence of others.
We're written about Pastor Phelps' speeches being attacked in America. We at Scragged believe that freedom of speech means nothing unless people are free to speak against majority opinion and beliefs. We hope that Mr. Savage sues Ms. Smith for her back teeth, and succeeds in both impoverishing her and hounding her from office.
The British Government's position is particularly unjustifiable because a number of Muslim imams who are not British citizens have been allowed to remain in Britain even though they have advised their followers to kill as many infidels as possible.
Said Savage, "How can a nation put me on a list and leave hate preachers in England who say that we're going to kill all of you? We're going to convert all of you to Islam. How is it possible that those hate preachers can't be deported from Britain, but I can be banned from Britain? People who advocate actual murder cannot be deported from Britain.
"How is it that liberalism has gotten so distorted and cowardly?"
Mr. Savage has asked a good question; we wish we knew the answer. Ms. Smith might have been better prepared had she allowed Mr. Wilders to screen his film, and attended the occasion; it would have clearly showed her who the true enemy is.
Back when the sun never set on the British Empire, the British used to say, "There'll always be an England." That's true in a sense - not even the US military has enough nuclear weapons to sink the British Isles beneath the waves which Britannia once ruled - but loss of freedom of speech is the first step to being back under the power of a monarch (or sultan, perhaps?) whose word is law.
The England we knew, the England of strong, outspoken, independent workers, farmers, and businessmen, is fast passing into the dustbin of history. We mourn.