© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
We still hear rants from Piers Morgan on how America ought to be. A comparison seems appropriate, though in a sense it is rather embarrassing to compare him with Alistair Cooke.
Alistair Cooke came to the States on Commonwealth fund scholarship to study. Among other things he happened to be hired as a film critic and had a Letter from England program on NBC in the thirties and is noted for his coverage of the Abdication of Edward VIII. Reporting from America after WWII, he developed the Letter from America which lasted 58 years.
Cooke was a journalist and scholar. He studied the United States before speaking and he did not shoot his mouth off on subjects he did not understand. While in the States he was employed as a journalist for the Guardian, one of Britain’s more reputable papers and he wrote extensively. He oversaw the research and writing of Alistair Cooke’s America. And he understood what he was writing about. No ranting, just objective reporting.
On the other hand, we have Piers Morgan. Piers, a product of state schools and the Harlow College (roughly equivalent to a Juco or Vo-Tech in the US), has a career in tabloid newspapers and celebrity television. Prior to taking over for Larry King, he was fired as editor of The Mirror for publishing dubious photographs. He had been a “presenter” rather than a correspondent for BBC.
His role as a “host” is not that of a journalist. Larry King made no pretensions that the show was anything but entertainment. Unlike his predecessor, Morgan lines up guests who disagree with him for a session of hectoring and rants, bypassing rational discourse. He does not attempt to learn or to educate himself on America. His assumption is that celebrity trumps research and education.
In fact he is woefully ignorant, not only of American constitutional history but British as well. Our Declaration of Independence cites the 1689 Bill of Rights. Our second amendment guarantees all citizens the same right to keep and bear arms as the 1689 Bill grants Protestants. Unfortunately for our cousins across the pond there is a waiver of the Bill of Rights in time of war—ever notice that the UK has been in a state of war most of the time since. He looks at what are essentially “black swan” events which are not subject to real analysis since there origins appear to be random and comes to a definite solution that does not work—it has not worked in Britain, a far more violent society than the US, and it has not worked anywhere.
The British finally, about 1775, ordered the colonists in Massachusetts Bay to surrender their weaponry. On the night of 18 April 1775 they marched a column of 800 or so grenadiers and marines out of Boston to arrest two “traitors” at Lexington and seize munitions at Concord. In the morning they stood facing a small group of armed colonists on the green—while they were facing this group, John Hancock and Sam Adams slipped out of the Rev John Emerson’s residence and headed south unnoticed by the Redcoats. Shots were fired and the colonists retreated. At Concord they found the cache of munitions empty and a larger force (growing by the minute). As the British forces (I should say English because the term UK is a sop that does not recognize where the power is) started to retreat the colonists kept firing and picking up more Enfield muskets along the way. There was a war.
When, in the ratification process, the anti-federalist faction demanded a Bill of Rights that included the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The Assize of 1181 and the 1689 Bill of Rights were precedent to the US Bill of Rights. The fact that the UK Parliament has gutted Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as the people have adopted a stance of European serfdom, is not something one gets in a technical trade school.
Piers asks about the AR-15. In the 19th Century case of Dred Scott v. Sanford, the court remarked that if blacks were given citizenship, they would have the right to “musket and cannon,” the military weaponry of the day. This is, of course, what lawyers refer to as dicta which has less legal standing than the arguments in the decision. Dicta is most of what we get out of Supreme Court cases since judges want to leave employment opportunities for attorneys and judges. Prior to Heller, most second amendment cases (with the exception of Cruikshank which was overturned by Congress) have more dicta than decision. US v Miller, for instance, was decided as an excise case with dicta that there was no regulatory power and that the weapon in question was of no military utility.
A “host” with a liberal arts background would probably realize that there are arguments from various perspectives on the question. And the purpose of the interview should be to broaden the discussion, not browbeat the interviewee with the pretense that authority comes from a BBC accent. And yet there may be hope—in an interview with Ann Coulter, Piers did admit that his visceral reaction to pro-second amendment guests may have been counter to his cause.
We shall see.