There’s a pattern to 21st century American partisanship and ideology. It’s this: if someone is a threat, try to discredit them or remove them. And, no, this isn’t referring to those who overstep the bounds of traditional public discourse, almost slander someone, or even demonize someone. After all: without demonization how could the talk show industry (right and left) even exist? This is about trying to remove a foe perceived to be strong enough to sway some minds, or at least strong enough to get his ideas serious attention. Pure and simply, because of a political view, not an assertion generally taken by most of society to be out of bounds.
And so we have a petition drive signed by some 30,000 Americans (who presumably are those who insist on the right to free speech, or at least they have when it came to the defunct fairness doctrine on the radio) who want CNN’s Piers Morgan to be deported.
Yes, you have that right, d-e-p-o-r-t-e-d — because in the light of the murders of little kids and their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, Morgan has displayed an unfettered passion on the issue of gun control, and been blunt when he has encountered NRA supporters who keep delivering longtime-gun-control advocate talking points.
This is not from The Onion, but via ABC:
A petition asking President Obama to deport CNN anchor Piers Morgan gathered more than 33,000 signatures in just three days.
The petition on the White House’s “We the People” website posted Friday has crossed the 25,000 threshold needed to solicit a response from President Obama. But unlike the petitions to reduce gun violence that Obama addressed last week, this one isn’t likely to receive a favorable response.
The petition takes aim at Morgan for his impassioned defense of proposed gun control legislation on air this week. It accuses him of launching “a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment.”
But according to immigration attorney Mark Schifanelli, it would take more than expressing an opinion on television to get Morgan booted out of the country.
The Department of Homeland Security would have the power to start a deportation process on Morgan if it was warranted, Schifanelli said, but even then, there’s no guarantee Morgan wouldn’t win the right to stay in an appeals process.
“He’s got certain rights,” Schifanelli told ABC News Monday. “Even as a foreign national in the United States, he’s afforded various rights under national security law and due process.”
What’s more, Morgan’s supposed attack on the Second Amendment is likely protected by the First Amendment. His speech would have to present “immediate danger” in order to break the law. Schifanelli said it’s unlikely Morgan’s defense of gun restrictions would meet that requirement.
But perhaps the best reason the president wouldn’t deport Morgan for advocating stricter gun laws on television is that he would be guilty of the same crime.
In a televised address on Wednesday, President Obama expressed support for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban and urged Congress to take “meaningful action” to prevent further gun violence.
Morgan has been passionate and blunt in his interviews since the virtual babies and educators were slaughtered by a shooter with an assault wepon in Newtown — but this is the interview that seems to really have gotten the drive to (let’s be blunt) punish him for his views going:
Why is this an important issue, give the fact that petition is as likely to flop?
It again underscores the fact that in American politics it’s increasingly not about real issues. It’s all about the power play — the lashing out via name calling, negatively defining, or discrediting a foe that might obstruct a political agenda.
In Morgan, he is an unwanted figure on the political scene. He filled Larry King’s chair but in the view of some pundits not his shoes. The reaction of those furious at his passion and impatience on gun control — willing to make a case that he is in effect a subversive force in America by not respecting their interpretation of the constitution –suggests now he has emerged (finally) in his own right as owner of the King time slot.
It’s reality in media that when you do a story, or an analysis, and those who disagree come at you with both guns (excuse the expression) blazing, it increases the writer or pundit’s credibiity.
So here’s what’s likely to happen:
1. The petition will go no where.
2. Some (NOT ALL) conservative bloggers and talk show hosts will either back it or not really condemn it. This is not akin to the move against Rush Limbaugh in the Sandra Fluke controversy since that bordered on slander.
3. This story hits on Christmas Eve so it may not get much attention. But if it has “legs” and is covered more extensively by the news media, Morga’s ratings will go up.
4. In the new CNN that will emerge, Morgan could do well, indeed, because he is presenting a sharper edged interview at a time when CNN wants to keep its branding but boost its ratings after losing audience to Fox News and upstart MSNBC, which uses the Fox News talk show model to a certain extent.
5. Those who signed the petition will be only cheered on by their political choir.
6. Independents, moderates and centrists will view this as yet another sign of the bile that infects American politics among some partisans and ideological true believers.
FOOTNOTE: There are many many many FINE people that own guns (I have a relative who does by the way). These are folks who don’t agree with Morgan but will look at this petition and say: “Are these people out of their minds??”
(That’s a set up line and I refuse to take the bait……..)
HERE’S A ROUND UP OF BLOG AND NEWS MEDIA REACTION:
–Here’s how the AP frames it:
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for British CNN host Piers Morgan to be deported from the U.S. over his gun control views.
Morgan has taken an aggressive stand for tighter U.S. gun laws in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting. Last week, he called a gun advocate appearing on his “Piers Morgan Tonight” show an “unbelievably stupid man.
Now, gun rights activists are fighting back. A petition created Dec. 21 on the White House e-petition website by a user in Texas accuses Morgan of engaging in a “hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution” by targeting the Second Amendment. It demands he be deported immediately for “exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
Go to the link to read the AP’s extensive piece in full.
The petition has easily exceeded the 25,000-signature threshold requiring a response from the White House. No doubt Obama will see to giving this unwelcome guest the bum’s rush — right after he deals with his own illegal alien welfare queen aunt.
If only we could deport the comparably execrable David Gregory.
Morgan spent most of the weekend laughing the petition off, tweeting at critics with grammar corrections and snarky one-liners. But as more conspicuous voices, such as that of British Donald Trump Alan Sugar, joined the rabble, Morgan’s demeanor grew more somber.
“I am also a legal resident with the same USA Visa as you. But I keep my mouth shut here,” Lord Sugar tweeted at Morgan. “Coward,” Morgan responded.
Later, after pointing out the irony inherent in a petition ostensibly defending the 2nd Amendment while ignoring the 1st, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto added fuel to the petitioners’ bonfire by directing Morgan’s attention to Kleindienst v. Mandel — a Supreme Court ruling that barring a foreign journalist from entering the country does not violate the 1st Amendment.
Within 24 hours of Taranto’s contribution, the petition added a whopping 20,000 signatures, crossing the threshold necessary for an official White House response.
It’s worth noting that while the White House has said it would respond to petitions with over 25,000 signatures, it is under no obligation to do so. In fact, a petition to grant the State of Texas the right to secede from the Union currently has over 120,000 signatures and zero White House responses.
Morgan is not shying away from the attention. Monday afternoon, he Tweeted: “This is why I’m facing deportation from America,” with a link to a video from a town hall on guns that he hosted last week on CNN.
Lovers of the Constitution call on the US government to punish a journalist with deportation for his political views
If you start deporting British editors, there’ll be no managerial class left in American journalism. #firsttheycameforpiers
Many Americans follow a literal interpretation of the Second Amendment, which enshrines the “right to bear arms” in the US Constitution.
Mr Morgan insists America can outlaw military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines without infringing on people’s constitutional rights, and says he has no quarrel with the Second Amendment.
A defiant Mr Morgan refused to back down from his position.
“Ironic US gun rights campaign to deport me for ‘attacking Second Amendment rights’ – is my opinion not protected under 1st Amendment rights?” he posted earlier on his Twitter feed, referring to freedom of speech provisions.
Morgan, 47, a former newspaper editor in London, shot back at his critics on Twitter. He repeated his past calls for the United States to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and conduct background checks on all gun purchases.
Five days after the Connecticut massacre, Morgan called a guest, Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners for America, an “idiot,” “dangerous” and an “unbelievably stupid man” when Pratt argued that more guns were needed to combat crime in the United States.
“I don’t care about a petition to deport me. I do care about poor NY firefighters murdered/injured with an assault weapon today. #GunControlNow,” Morgan tweeted on Monday, referring to a shooting in New York that killed three people, including the gunman.
Christa Robinson, a CNN spokeswoman, said the network had no immediate comment on the petition.
Publicist Howard Bragman, vice chairman of Reputation.com, said the controversy will get Morgan attention that may translate into higher ratings and wouldn’t harm his reputation.
“A lot of it comes from his being British, he’s seen the differences between the U.S. and UK, he’s passionate and authentic in taking this issue on, and it’s probably only going to help him attract more people to his show,” Bragman, told Reuters.
Oh boy, wait until the British chattering classes hear this: A large number of Americans have signed White House petitions to deport British citizen Piers Morgan because he criticized America’s gun-loving culture on his CNN talk show.
Can they do that? Not bloody likely, but people are having nasty fun with the idea anyway, while Morgan is treating it with his characteristic amused disdain. And his CNN show gets more attention.
Morgan’s many enemies among the British media would not be too happy to see him back, but they probably don’t have to worry.
A foreigner already a resident in the USA, with a green card and authorization to work, could be deported for, say, committing a serious crime or being a communist. But it’s unlikely he could be run out just for expressing an opinion on TV.
Not since revolutionary times has there been such a public groundswell of fury aimed at the British, or in this case one particular Briton. Thousands of American gun rights supporters are calling for the deportation of CNN anchorman Piers Morgan over his calls for new weapons restrictions following the Newtown school shootings.
The petition on the White House We the People website to “Deport British Citizen Piers Morgan for Attacking 2nd Amendment” had more than 32,000 supporting signatures by Monday morning, easily passing the 25,000 threshold needed to receive a White House response.
The petition was created on 21 December by “Kurt N” in Austin, Texas, and seems to be a response to Morgan’s statements following the Sandy Hook school massacre.
More than 47,000 people have signed the petition in the first three days, smashing through the 25,000-signature threshold needed to get a White House response.
Piers took the campaign in good humour, joking on Twitter: “If I do get deported from America for wanting fewer gun murders, are there any other countries that will have me?” He received takers from as far afield as Australia, Nigeria and the Philippines.
But later he added: “I don’t care about petition to deport me. I do care about poor NY firefighters murdered/injured with an assault weapon today.”
He was referring to the shootings in Webster in New York State, where two volunteer firefighters were shot dead as they battled to put out a blaze.
Meanwhile Piers also retweeted a comment by Mirror columnist Tony Parsons which read: “Thousands of Americans want Piers Morgan deported for stating that America has too many guns. And millions of Americans agree with him.”
Morgan has taken to Twitter to respond to the petition, even poking fun at the initiative.
“If I do get deported from America for wanting fewer gun murders, are there any other countries that will have me?” he tweeted.
That prompted a number of responses from people offering up their country as a new home for Morgan, from Malaysia to Sierra Leone, the Philippines and Australia.
Morgan also said “bring it on, you goon” when radio host Alex Jones tweeted his support for Morgan’s deportation.
FOOTNOTE: And this does fit a pattern. For instance, note this post on the liberal website Crooks & Liars:
I will never understand the wingnut mind. Apparently their Second Amendment right are absolute and can never be subject to regulations, restrictions or even a suggestion of safety. But have a talk show host get tough on NRA President Wayne LaPierre on the inconsistency of his stance and they’re clutching their pearls in outrage. Outrage, I tell you!
For example, the uber-right wing blog The Patriot Perspective was eager to cite chapter and verse of the DC gun ban to prove that David Gregory, by holding up the 30 bullet magazine in front of LaPierre, was flagrantly in violation. Of course, getting Stretch Gregory in trouble (with a maximum penalty of $1000 or one year in jail) is too delicious for Drudge, Malkin, The Blaze and the Breitbots to ignore, so they’ve hopped on the wagon too.
Now it may be that Gregory was in violation of the DC gun ban. But it could also be entirely possible–since he works at a television studio–that the magazine was a prop. Or it may have been spent and without bullets. But since he asked tough questions of LaPierre and pointed out the hypocrisy and inconsistency of his stance, the wingnut parade is just gonna assume that he went out and bought himself a 30 bullet magazine just for verisimilitude in this interview.
So if some folks have their way it’s Morgan out of the U.S. and Gregory to jail.
It does seem a bit of a shift from how we used to conduct our political debate — doesn’t it?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.