Should Trump be banned from the UK? A clash of views

Let’s begin with this strip from today’s Doonesbury, courtesy of reader Diane G. And yes, Trump did say all of these things, save one. (Click to enlarge.) I can’t believe I haven’t been following Doonesbury during this election season, and wonder what I’ve missed.


It’s shameful that so many America’s support a windy demagogue like this; one can only guess that they share his views. It can’t just be that they simply admire plain speaking and a politician that doesn’t dissimulate, because a. Trumpe does dissimulate, and b. what he says “plainly” is reprehensible. No, one can indict Trump supporters for sharing his views. It’s amusing to me how prominent Republicans recoil because they now see the embodiment of the bigotry and entitlement that they heretofore only implied but never stated outright. And I’ll be glad to bet any reader $20 that Trump will lose the election come November.

Anyway, there’s a bit of kerfuffle going on in the British press about The Donald. Exactly one month ago I put up a video of author J. K. Rowling speaking at a PEN gala in New York, asserting that—as all rational folk do—she found Trump’s views absolutely reprehensible, but didn’t support the suggested ban of his coming to England, for she was in favor of free speech.

Rowling’s views, however, were attacked on the same day in the Guardian by Suzanne Kelly, who started the petition last year (now having over 585,000 signatories) to ban Trump from entering the UK. The reason? Trump’s bigotry, of course, which Kelly considers “hate speech.”

Trump has said that terrorists’ relatives should be “taken out”. He has said that he would ban Muslims from entering the US. Protesters are not free to gather near or at his rallies without the threat of violence – and he said at one point that he was considering paying legal fees for a supporter who lashed out. The film You’ve Been Trumped catalogues Trump’s bullying ways in Scotland. The former councillor Debra Storr opposed Trump, and later claimed to have been assaulted by a Trump supporter.

. . . Trump has said that terrorists’ relatives should be “taken out”. He has said that he would ban Muslims from entering the US. Protesters are not free to gather near or at his rallies without the threat of violence – and he said at one point that he was considering paying legal fees for a supporter who lashed out. The film You’ve Been Trumped catalogues Trump’s bullying ways in Scotland. The former councillor Debra Storr opposed Trump, and later claimed to have been assaulted by a Trump supporter.

Because of this, Kelly claims that Trump’s presence incites hatred and violence, giving sufficient reason to ban him.

Note, though that she’s short on examples of actual violence; what she argues (as do American college students who oppose free speech) is that the threat of violence, or the possibility of Trump-inspired violence, is sufficient reason to ban him. In other words, hate speech is a form of violence.

Even in the  U.S., free speech is not permitted if it incites immediate violence. That is, you can say, “I think all abortion doctors should be attacked,” but you can’t say “I want you to go out and kill abortion doctors, especially doctors X, Y, and Z right now!” Kelly:

The sad truth is that irresponsible verbal attacks can lead to physical ones. This is why the UK has banned over 80 hate preachers. The problem is not simply that I, and others who signed my petition, find Trump’s hateful rhetoric offensive; I do not count myself among the perpetually offended who seek to censor anything they don’t like. The problem is the physical violence that has come as a result of Trump’s words.

Well, yes, verbal attacks can lead to physical ones, but unless a speaker immediately incites those verbal attacks, he or she isn’t responsible: the attacker is. Any other standard of speech leads to a slippery slope in which any violence, no matter how delayed, could be used as an excuse to silence someone. Perhaps the speech laws in the UK and Canada are more stringent on this matter than they are in the U.S., but I think the U.S. is right.

Kelly is in fact a member of the perpetually offended, for she thinks Trump should be silenced because some supporters may have beaten up others at rallies. In fact, though he should be called out for saying that certain hecklers in his audience be beaten up (I’m not sure if he’s done this), it is his opponents who, by and large, have been driven to physical violence because they deplore his rhetoric and, like Kelly, want him silenced. Should Trump then be silenced because it causes his enemies to attack his supporters?

I thus agree with Rowling and not with Kelly. If Trump calls for people to attack others immediately, and that happens immediately, he is not protected by America’s freedom-of-speech laws. But if, at some later time, someone, inspired by what he said, causes violence, Trump is protected. If he wasn’t, any Christian preacher or Muslim imam who decries homosexuality could be silenced if his words cause someone to attack gays. One can always draw a tenuous connection between someone’s words and somebody else’s acts.

It looks as if the “hate speech equals violence” trope has made its way eastward across the Atlantic. It’s bad enough when misguided college students promote this idea, but if it infects democratic governments it would be a disasters.


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Based on the question in the heading I cannot really say. It is for the people of Britain to decide this issue and that would be based on their laws and beliefs.

    However, if I judged it on our understanding of free speech here in the U.S. and the law, the answer would be no, I would not ban his visiting. I wouldn’t like it, but that’s the way it goes. Trump visiting any country should be a big embarrassment to a majority of Americans but then, a large portion of them have gotten him to this point. As a representative of the U.S. he stinks and as a candidate for president he is completely unqualified.

    I will simply continue to see this as a continuing downfall of the republican party. It is bankrupt in every way but money.

  2. Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    “…Any other standard of speech leads to a slippery slope in which any violence, no matter how delayed, could be used as an excuse to silence someone. Perhaps the speech laws in the UK and Canada are more stringent on this matter than they are in the U.S., but I think the U.S. is right.”

    Perhaps the U.S. IS right. But perhaps it is wrong.

    It’s hate speech law certainly is different from the twenty or so European countries who have had their more strict restrictions on hate speech for more than half a century and yet do not seem to be sliding down that slippery slope very far into totalitarianism.

    Perhaps this insistence that America has the one correct approach, and everybody else has got it wrong is just another example of American exceptionalism. An exceptionalism that is, ironically, at the heart of Trump himself.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Although I’ve got a major problem with the American exceptionalism thing, I do think their approach to free speech is the right one. Much as I abhor Trump, I don’t think he should be banned. Imo banning someone like him gives him a moral victory, which is the last thing we need him being able to claim.

      Banning Trump also sinks to his level. He has pulled the press credentials of any media outlets whose coverage he doesn’t like, most recently the Washington Post. I can’t remember off hand all of them, but they include several major outlets. The Des Moines Register is another, and I think Politico.

      He infamously wouldn’t attend a debate with Megyn Kelly as the moderator because he didn’t like her questions and temporarily wouldn’t appear on several Fox News shows. Embarrassingly fawning Sean Hannity continued to get him, which says a lot about Trump.

      Separately, Jerry said he wasn’t sure whether he’d called for hecklers to be beaten up. He didn’t precisely say that, but he did go on about the good old days when they could have got what they deserved, and lamented the passing of those days.

      And I’m not taking the $20 bet. I’m prepared to make the same offer, and I don’t have any money. I’m just not worried I’d have to pay out. In fact I’d say this could be an unprecedented landslide for a third term/same party winning election.

      • Graham Martin-Royle
        Posted June 20, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        I agree, banning him puts us on his level and I like to think that we’re better than that. I don’t like his politics or his views but that is no reason to ban him. Let him come and show himself up for the narrow minded bigot that he is.

    • Larry Cook
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      If you have read Dr. Coyne’s posts here for even a little while you would know that his assertion that the U.S. is right about hate speech has nothing to do with “American exceptionalism” and everything to do with his thoughtful and educated opinion on the subject. On the contrary, I think he’s too quick to praise European countries for everything from health care to social welfare and education but I have no doubt he has carefully considered what he writes. I was happy and a bit surprised to see him side with the U.S. on this issue. Trump is an embarrassment, but he’s relatively harmless unless he is elected. I say all of Europe should ban him if that happens. Maybe we can get the whole planet to ban him.

      • Posted June 20, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Ah I see… America’s approach to hate speech is correct because of it’s superior thoughtfulness and education, then, not because of American exceptionalism.

        Got it.

        • Larry Cook
          Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

          I think you’ve misunderstood me. I was responding to your implication that Dr. Jerry Coyne believes in American exceptionalism and uses that belief to form his opinions. After reading his books and reading his posts here for several years I don’t think he subscribes to that belief at all and, in fact, is embarrassed at times at how backwards Americans are and he thinks very highly of cultures outside of the U.S., especially those of certain highly educated European countries.

          I simply stated my opinion without tooting my country’s horn. I don’t appreciate nor do I deserve your sarcasm.

  3. colnago80
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Well, radio talk show host Michael Savage (nee Weiner) has been refused entry to the UK so there is some precedence here.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      There are lots of precedents. Several of the Westboro Klans have been banned in the past few years. If I recall correctly, one Malcolm X – US Freedom Fighter. Fund-raisers for the IRA (successfully transformed into a political party in the backwash of Sept-11). About a decade ago, a KKK leader. A holocust denier. A couple of Islamist and Hindu politicians from India. And that’s just the ones I noticed.

      It’s not a sanction that “teh authoratez” use very often, but it does get used.

  4. Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Ban the Donald from the UK? No. From the United States? By all means!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      If any other nation ever allows Trump to visit, as soon as he departs the US should issue a statement

      calling for a total and complete shutdown of [Donald J. Trump re-]entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.

      Has kind of a ring to it, doesn’t it?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Excellent idea, but kind of tough on the country stuck with him. Perhaps he could star in a new reality show where he has to live in an airport like the guy in that film. How would JFK look decked out in gold leaf?

        • Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

          If only we could stick him with a Muslim country.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted June 19, 2016 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

            I hadn’t thought of that! I vote for Saudi Arabia …

  5. veroxitatis
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Trump will be in the UK on Friday of this week to cut the ribbon at the official opening of his expensively revamped Trump Turnberry resort and golf course, Ayrshire, Scotland. As far as I know no Westminster or Holyrood politician will be meeting with him. That sort of ostracism is, imo, better than banning him.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I was planning to say much the same thing. I note that he hasn’t got the balls to show his face near Aberdeen, where his housing development with attached golf course has aroused considerable ire. The local politicians who took the Trump dollar have paid for it with their careers, while those who opposed him have benefited.
      (Politicians considering taking a Trump bribe take note : include the cost of losing your future in politics into the calculation of the price to beg for your allegiance. Also include the price of losing your party friends, who will also pay for your corruption.)
      Send him over. In the streets, people will turn their backs on him. Bodyguards need licenses for their weapons, which will take months. Sure he can visit parliament – the queue is several hours long.

      • veroxitatis
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Yes, no Aberdeen visit. I guess it will be Trump Force One to Prestwick (just up the road), stay 40 minutes and bawl to the assembled hordes (staff mostly) about how great Skawtland is, how great his mother was and how great he was, is and will be. Amen.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          and bawl to the assembled hordes (staff mostly)

          His goons had certainly tke care to ensure the audience is only invitees “under the cosh.”
          Hmmm, could I make it to Prestwick/ Turnberry or wherever it is?

  6. Vaal
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    On one hand there is something satisfying about the statement it would make for the UK to ban Donald Trump.

    But all things considered, I’d choose Rowling’s view over Kelly’s.

    BTW, having interacted with numerous people planning to vote for trump, the one common denominator has been anger. They give almost no reasons for why Trump would be a good president – aside from the “no B.S talking” aspect. Rather, they just hate Hillary, Democrats, the system, so much they are willing to send a scud missile into the whole thing. I don’t know how intelligent these people are in other areas life, but interacting with them feels like interacting with drunk frat boys.

    • Historian
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      It’s this type of anger combined with appalling ignorance that leads to fascism and dictators. These Trump supporters have no idea that the people they vote for are exactly the ones who screwed them for the last 40 years.

      • Posted June 20, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        “These Trump supporters have no idea that the people they vote for are exactly the ones who screwed them for the last 40 years.”

        Exactly correct.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Sam Harris’ latest podcast called “end of faith sessions part 2” or something like that has some interesting points that bear on the Trump phenomenon.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      I think it was something along the lines of – exceptionally challenged in all aspects of political discourse both domestic and foreign.

  8. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I acknowledge that b/c Britain has laws to ban people whose rhetoric is hateful, that Trump at least comes close to being ban-worthy over there. I personally agree with Rowling and not with Kelly, but I do understand the argument that Kelly is making is inspired by the laws of her country.

    Isn’t it incredible? A leading presidential candidate is even close to being banned from entering the country of a key U.S. ally!

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      No leading UK politician has supported the call for Trump to be banned from visiting. When/if he is confirmed as Republican candidate, and wants to embark on the usual globe-trotting, he will be treated with the courtesy that is due to such a candidate.

      But many of the same politicians (the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, for instance) have said that they would welcome the chance to show him just how wrong, ignorant and obnoxious some of his views are. And the Prime Minister has not retracted his earlier comment that Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US would be “divisive, stupid and wrong”.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Britain has laws to prevent the entry of anyone whose presence is not considered to be conducive to the public good. Hate speakers can, and do, fall into that trap, but the trap is far, far wider. As do undesired political agitators (a significant umber of the post-apartheid ministers of south Africa were at various times banned), economic inconveniences (people who pointed out the corruption of various arms deals with dictatorships who were also allies met that one on more than a few occasions) … and basically anyone who the government of the day dislikes.
      I would be fairly surprised if most countries didn’t have such catch-all exemptions. Oe of the things that our Brexit demagogues really hate about being in Europe is that we can’t actually ban Europeans whose speech we dislike from coming here. Say there were a French holocaust denier who wished to come here to present lectures to private groups within the UK – I’m not sure that they could be stopped (and since we’re specifically talking about lectures to private groups, the police’s catch-all of Section 5 of the Public Order Act probably wouldn’t apply either).

    • Somer
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really have a problem with banning entry of seriously dangerous stirrers – or people inciting violence as in calls to violence against others even if its not immediate, but it does need to be used with discrimination. Some equate offense including offence of cultures with violence and thats wrong. Likewise the UN definition of genocide as including cultural damage or conflict generally within a states borders which could be for any reason is wrong – really the older definition of attempt to wipe out a peoples is the meaningful definition – someone identified with genocide in the latter should be banned. Someone likely to incite or organise violent groups to do violent things is another case – if they really are likely to incite direct violence, not just offend cultural feelings or the identity of some group or their interpretation of history etc.

      I think Trump – given he’s a potential president – should be let in. Keeping him out may fuel more resentment from populists and I doubt little Englanders would identify with him anyway. As others have commented he will get very low interest and likely to be a nice prick all over to his ego. One or two very right wing MPs may meet him; there might be violent protests but nothing of a size the police can’t handle.

      • somer
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        PS I think his policies – including those on Muslims – are appaulling.

  9. Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink


  10. Merilee
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink


  11. johzek
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    A good theme song for Trump would be that 60’s garage-rock classic NOBODY BUT ME by the HUMAN BEINZ.

    I’m doin’, ain’t nobody doin’ but me baby!

  12. Pliny the in Between
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    It really doesn’t matter. It won’t affect the election. Trump supporters won’t care what some ‘foreigners’ think even in the UK. Trump detractors can’t loathe the man more than they already do.

  13. Adam M.
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    As they say, Trump is a truth-teller without the truth. I don’t think people like him so much as they hate standard politicians, but I suppose there are a lot of people who don’t find his views reprehensible at all.

  14. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I could see security and police forces not wanting Donald Trump to give speeches in the UK because of the violence that ensues in the US. Dealing with these things can be costly and I think on those grounds, there is rational reason not to host him.

    I wouldn’t care if he came into Canada though. Come here and maybe buy some maple syrup but don’t expect people to host you for your stupid speeches.

    I can see a big tension this way – people who want to host him for the big draw and money and people who don’t want to deal with inevitable skirmishes and property damage.

  15. Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Only 20 bucks? I think you be quite safe to offer 10-1 odds as well.

    Why is Herr Drumpfenfuhrer unelectable? Many know the potential answers but Steven Colbert nails it down tight for us.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know how the hell we would manage through all this without are comics and comedians.
      Actually, maybe that’s the best answer to Trumpaphobia.

  16. Filippo
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Kelly says: “Protesters are not free to gather near or at his rallies without the threat of violence . . . .”

    It’s not a matter of their simply “gathering.” It’s a matter of their repeatedly interrupting him and cutting him off when he’s trying to speak. For sure he presents himself as a bloody vile human primate. But why not simply and silently stand there with ones protest sign and let him speak?

    Perhaps Trump would be well-advised announce, “Hey everybody, let’s take a break, check your texts/email, have a smoke, a martini. I’ll sit down and rest my voice for five-to-ten minutes so that these protesters can get their reasonable fill of caterwauling and ululating. Thereafter, it’s my turn to talk – at MY rally – without being repeatedly interrupted and cut off.”

    Could protesters live with that? Apparently not. It’s not anywhere near as much fun as shutting down someone’s free speech.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Fair call.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Nah, Old Blighty should let Trump in and give him the “welcome” he deserves. Let the cameras and, more importantly, the Republican Party see the ignominy and shame it’s brought down upon this nation by pathetically allowing a risible reality-tv buffoon to capture its nomination for the presidency.

    Donald Trump fulfills the lowest stereotypes the rest of the world harbors about Americans — vulgar, greedy, loud, shallow, crass, sub-literate, poorly read, proudly ill-informed, incurious about the world outside his own experience — everything self-respecting Europeans aspire not to be.

    For a long time now, the GOP has been an ill-fitting conglomeration of odd bedfellows — pro-business chamber-of-commerce types, social conservatives, foreign-policy hawks, tax-cutters, marginal libertarians — with little to bind them together save a ginned-up paranoia that the Kenyan-born, secretly Muslim interloper in the White House was plotting to destroy whatever each holds dear.

    The Republicans have cast their hateful bread on the water; it’s about to come back upon them tenfold.

    • Posted June 19, 2016 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      That was a beautifully satisfying description of the situation.

    • Posted June 20, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Faust, gentlemen.

  18. Ken Pidcock
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got the $20. Experience teaches that I can guarantee outcomes by betting against them.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      The betting markets have Hillary as a 3-to-1 favorite. So Jerry’s gonna have to find himself a sucker to take any action on Trump at even money.

  19. Zado
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Protesters are not free to gather near or at his rallies without the threat of violence…

    This language looks positively Orwellian after San Jose.

  20. Craw
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I think you err in concluding supporters share his views. I think they like the way he stands up to those whom they feel disrespect them. His views are less important.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      That’s usually the appeal of populist bigots, from the original “America First”-ers, like Father Coughlin, to George Wallace.

      Plus ça change

  21. Dominic
    Posted June 20, 2016 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    A couple of typos in first few lines – America’s for Americans below the cartoon (I think), & Trumpe for Trump a few lines below.

    Let him come – populist bans on allowing people you do not like – that is like the ancient Greeks ostracising those they did not like.

  22. Posted June 20, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    UK laws are up to the UK to do. But I’d be wary of having any that can keep anyone out for simply being a boor … A boor with nuclear launch capability, maybe …

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