Wednesday, June 09, 2004


What the journalist saw ...

There are two groups for which the U.S. Immigration Service is keeping a sharp lookout—terrorists and foreign journalists. From the signals I'm getting from the government, it is difficult to tell which is more threatening.

Elena Lappin, a British citizen and wife and mother of American citizens, previously a permanent resident of the United States, was on her way to L.A. to conduct an interview when she got snared by "la Migra." It seems that Britons are allowed to come here without a visa, but only if they're not being paid to report on what they see.

Paid journalism is a threat to America that the Bush administration is taking very seriously. If any news is to leak out about what we're doing over here, it should come from the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe, not some Limey or Wop or Aussie, who might give completely biased impressions of what our Great Leader is up to.

I have it on background that the Department of Commerce has agreed that the benefit-to-risk ratio for foreign journalists is so low that it shouldn't undermine our border policy. You see, it's not just what the journalists might write, but—let's face it—they don't spend.

Consider how Ms. Lappin describes her seatmate and her reaction—
Sitting next to an intriguingly silent young man who could have been a porn star or a well camouflaged air marshal, I spent most of the 11-hour flight daydreaming about the city where he so clearly belonged and that I had never visited.

Most red-blooded American women (not to mention men) would have spent the 11-hour flight dreaming of him, and surely would have made him a remunerative offer before touchdown. It wouldn't really have mattered whether he was a porn star or an air marshal, since we admire raw sex and authority almost equally.

But that's a British journalist for you—cheap and a bit repressed. And what we need right now is an economic stimulus—something more like electroshock really—and people like Mrs. Lappin are just not going to get the job done.

Here she is again:
I incurred the wrath of the boss [of the guards] when I insisted on edible food. "I'm in charge in here. Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are? This isn't a hotel," he screamed.

"Why are you yelling?" I asked. "I'm just asking for some decent food. I'll pay for it myself." A Burger King fishburger never tasted so good. And it occurred to me that a hotel or transit lounge would have been a better place to keep travellers waiting to return home.

See what I mean? They let her pay for her food while she's in detention, and what does she order? A California pizza with gouda and prosciutto for $15.95? An Atkins Diet appetizer of chitlins in hand-rendered bacon fat for $10.95. Not her. It's fish-and-chips all the way for $3.95. And she wants to eat it in a lounge?!

When she got back to London, she could hardly wait to write up her experience. She concluded her version of the episode rather snippily, I thought.
During my surreal interlude at LAX, I told the officer taking my fingerprints that I would be writing about it all. "No doubt," he snorted. "And anything you'll write won't be the truth."

If they ever let her back in, I just hope she'll have the good sense to leave her notebook at home and bring her credit card.

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