Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The ignoble Savage

Thanks to the pre-emptive actions of Jacqui Smith, it looks as if I'll have to shelve any plans to go out for a drink with Michael Savage in the near future. The crude, loudmouth “shock jock” who has made a lucrative career out of firing off insults at gays, Muslims, autistic children and anyone else whose face he doesn't like has been banned from Britain.
I find this a hugely puzzling and self-defeating gesture by the Government. Everything Michael Savage (not his real name, but a camp showbiz sobriquet in the tradition of Coco Chanel) has to say about autism is offensive, pigheaded and plain wrong. But does he really pose a serious threat to the foundation of our society, as Jacqui Smith implies in grouping him with suspected terrorists? If that were true, I'd have to question if we had a civilisation worth defending. Preachers to the ignorant, which is what Savage is, are aggravating, attention-seeking and sometimes disturbing (not unlike autistic children, in fact), but the very last thing they should be seen as is threatening. It stokes their misplaced sense of self-importance and allows them to portray themselves as “the little man taking pot shots at the powerful” when the very opposite is true: Savage has earned a tidy fortune and a huge media presence from peddling his uninformed prejudices, at the expense of some of the most vulnerable in society.
Savage's arguments aren't hard to knock down. He says: “There is no definitive diagnosis for autism. None.” This will come as a surprise to the three doctors who wrote a four-page report diagnosing Euan's autism in clear and specific terms. He claims autistic children “don't have a father around to tell them don't act like a moron, you'll get nowhere in life.” Savage's own career path is a living refutation of that latter statement. “In 99 per cent of cases it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out.” If we translate the self-consciously folksy rhetoric into proper English, he's saying that autistic children haven't been shown how to behave, when in fact there's a huge span of successful therapies devoted to exactly that issue.
Until yesterday I suspect most people in Britain hadn't heard of Michael Savage, and were much better off for it. Now, thanks to Jacqui Smith's needless grandstanding, I've absorbed far more of his subliterate bile than I ever wanted to hear. I almost wonder if I shouldn't sue the Government myself for causing me needless distress. Sure, I wouldn't invite Michael Savage into my living-room, but I don't see that as a reason to exclude him from the country. In fact, let him come over and reveal himself for what he is: an overgrown playground bully who gets his kicks from picking on those who can't fight back. Or, to put it another way: Come over here and say that, Mike. And if you haven't got the bottle, cut out the dumbass act.

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