I hardly even know what to say about the petition to deport Piers Morgan, now at over 80,000 signatures. I mean, yes, it is a little bit funny to picture the President explaining why we're not going to deport Piers Morgan: you can imagine the scene appearing in a dark comedy. But then it stops being funny because America is not supposed to be dark comedy; it's our actual country. Eugene Volokh has discussed the legal aspects, which is interesting, but hardly necessary, because c'mon, folks, this is America. We're the country that put freedom of speech number one in our bill of rights. We, every one of us, should be better than this.
I know that it is a tiny number of people who have signed the thing, compared to the actual population of the United States, but it's a little distressing that even a tiny number of Americans don't know that in this country, we don't use the law to punish people for speaking their minds.
I once had some very nice young members of the Chinese Communist Party earnestly explain, in tones that indicated they expected to clear up some puzzling misunderstanding, that Nobel-prizewinner Liu Xiaobo was quite properly being incarcerated by his government. "He broke the law" one of them said, rather passionately. "Any country would put him in jail for that."
"The law", in this case, was of course a proscription on criticizing the constitution, and its enshrinement of one-party rule by the Communists. One is tempted to suggest that the signers of the petition "self deport" to China, where they might feel a bit more in tune with the general approach to civil liberties. Though I am afraid they do have rather strict gun control.
I expect that this may be the beginning of the end of these White House petitions, or at least, the pledge to respond to any that get over 25,000 signatures. They're far to vulnerable to just this form of idiocy, and the success and fame of this petition is only going to encourage more of it. Unless we want to pay some White House staffer to spend precious tax dollars, and precious minutes of their life, considering whether President Obama should go on Dancing with the Stars, or the Real Housewives of Orange County should be made illegal, it might be better to end this particular experiment with public democracy.
Obviously, Piers Morgan is not actually going to be deported for stating the consensus view of all the British people I've ever known. So there's a limit to how outraged I'm going to get about all of this. But I wish it hadn't happened, just the same.