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When Men Wear Nail Polish, the Terrorists Win
March 21, 2008 8:45 AM   Subscribe

"I'm not a politician, I'm an artist. Depravity is part of the job description," says self-styled dandy, former drug addict, and controversial British author Sebastian Horsely, who was denied entrance to the US by customs officials at Newark Airport on the grounds of "moral turpitude," a wide net that encompasses everything from fornication to being a "nuisance." Shades of Oscar Wilde.
posted by digaman (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
He needs to be put in a slapping machine and the controls turned to 11.
posted by unSane at 8:48 AM on March 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


So I guess this means that the State Department is vouching for the accuracy of his memoirs.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:51 AM on March 21, 2008


W. T. F.

How is "moral" anything still even on the books? I'm looking forward to a day when the times I'm ashamed to be an American are once again relatively rare.
posted by DU at 8:51 AM on March 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sorry, that's "Newark Liberty International Airport." The "liberty" part must refer to some statue nearby, which, one hears, was actually created by Frenchmen, no strangers to moral turpitude themselves.
posted by digaman at 8:52 AM on March 21, 2008


If he's so depraved, why have I never heard of him?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:52 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, that "moral turpitude" thing is fascinating. It seems like a self-referential concept: a system of law that contains it is, in my view, automatically guilty of it.

Still, it's important to note that Horsely was trying to get into the US on a visa waiver program, and that he was rejected based on answers he wrote on an entry form. It's not quite as though they pulled him out of the line in customs and said, "sorry, sir, too flamboyant. Go back to Sissyland".

He was probably hoping to get exactly the attention that he's getting from this incident.
posted by gurple at 8:55 AM on March 21, 2008


If he were that depraved, I would have slept with him more than once.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:56 AM on March 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


How does one commit moral turpitude so that one appears more colourful at society functions, one wonders?
posted by ob at 8:56 AM on March 21, 2008


Man, it's gotta sting when you get told you're just not quite fit to enter Newark.
posted by Skot at 8:56 AM on March 21, 2008 [11 favorites]


In the CNN article linked above, Horsely says he was "questioned for eight hours Tuesday by border officials." Now, that's diligence. I'm glad they had nothing better to do.
posted by digaman at 8:57 AM on March 21, 2008


He was probably hoping to get exactly the attention that he's getting from this incident.

Bingo. Betcha he wrote some pretty crazy stuff on that form. After all, he's made it in several times before -- but now that he's got a book, he suddenly gets nabbed and tries to make a big deal about it?

...seems a little too convenient.

(which, mind you, does not mean the "moral turpitude" stuff isn't idiocy)
posted by aramaic at 9:00 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


A pop novelist trying to promote himself! I, for one, am shocked, shocked.
posted by digaman at 9:01 AM on March 21, 2008


(which, mind you, does not mean the "moral turpitude" stuff isn't idiocy)

Too right. Like I said, I was pretty shocked to hear about the "moral turpitude" thing, so if this guy's self-aggrandizement brings attention to an archaic law, too, so much the better.
posted by gurple at 9:05 AM on March 21, 2008


And did you see how high her skirt was? She was practically begging to get raped.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on March 21, 2008


The real shame is US customs promoting this pompous ass by taking him seriously.
posted by creasy boy at 9:07 AM on March 21, 2008


Where were these customs officials when David Bowie spread his subversive doctrine of flagrant cross-dressing, sexual libertinism, drug use, interplanetary alienation, and gaudy nail polish in the '70s?
posted by digaman at 9:08 AM on March 21, 2008


Next question to be enabled to enter in the U.S.A. : "did you ever feel guilty ?"
posted by nicolin at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2008


"Bingo. Betcha he wrote some pretty crazy stuff on that form."

Probably not; it's a yes/no tick box form...

http://www.immihelp.com/visas/i-94w.html

I wonder how many terrorists and nazis they catch out with question C...

I seem to remember another form asking about fruits and vegetables too. Maybe that one caught him out.
posted by Auz at 9:19 AM on March 21, 2008


A yes/no form? Bah, my mind is going. I blame Wednesdays. I was never any good at them.
posted by aramaic at 9:27 AM on March 21, 2008


In the CNN article linked above, Horsely says he was "questioned for eight hours Tuesday by border officials." Now, that's diligence. I'm glad they had nothing better to do.

That's pretty funny. I imagine it being like a scene out of Airplane! or some other farce. They are sitting there berating him, and behind you can see people walking through the metal detectors... first a guy with a knife... a shifty-eyed Ay-rab with a mysterious briefcase... a guy with one of those old-timey bombs... then Jason Voorhees... a guy juggling chainsaws... some dudes with RPGs, etc etc.
posted by papakwanz at 9:29 AM on March 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


If he were that depraved, I would have slept with him more than once.

What are you talking about? Sleeping with a zombie not only gets you into the United States, but gets you a guest spot on Access Hollywood.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:30 AM on March 21, 2008


Yeah, but they never call afterwards.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:55 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Scooter Libby was a candidate for the Democratic nomination, this story would end up with the headline: "The Hidden Link Between 'Scooter' Libby and Drug-Addicted British 'Dandy'"
posted by digaman at 10:10 AM on March 21, 2008


whoops, sorry for the broken link.
posted by digaman at 10:12 AM on March 21, 2008


He sounds extremely irritating.
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on March 21, 2008


His name is "Sebastian." Thats all I'd need to turn him away.

"S'cuse me sir but you have a cat name."
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:21 AM on March 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


I bought his book a little while ago after somebody linked to it here, in an article that he'd been Jimmy Boyle's secret gay lover. For those of you who don't know who Jimmy Boyle is, he might be the most macho person in the whole of Scotland. An Glasgow ex-razor gang merchant, he was like a Scottish Cool Hand Luke, who spent most of his prison sentence in solitary, covered in shit because he was determined that the screws wouldn't touch him.

Of course, his is a redemption story, because he's saved when he's sent to the Barlinnie Special Unit -- a hyper-liberal regime aimed at working with the toughest sociopaths. He becomes a writer and a sculptor, marries the daughter of the British film censor, and so is set free to become a decent functioning human being after 20 years in the hole.

So, I thought, this is a book that has everything. Sex, drugs, crime, gossip -- the only problem was that it completely sucked. His stories are all 'routines', that you know have been so carefully polished that no trace of truth remains. Not only could I not finish it, I couldn't even be bothered to get to the point at which he does the nasty with Jimmy Boyle, that's how bad it was.

Also, the man should have followed my example. I last visited the US about six months after 9/11. I'll go again when you've got a new president. I don't visit because I knew that it was only a matter of time before I was subjected to this bullshit, so I decided you can all go fuck yourselves.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:27 AM on March 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, BTW, that was Boyle who was in Barlinnie, not Horsley. It's hard to imagine him coated in human shit for months at a time, but I'm giving it my best shot.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:28 AM on March 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


How is "moral" anything still even on the books?

It's primarily a limiting factor on "crimes." Not all crimes are a bar to admittance, or admittance under the visa waiver. Crimes involving moral turpitude are, including crimes that you were arrested for but not necessarily convicted of, and crimes that you admit to but were never arrested for.

In his case, he might well have ticked off the box that about being arrested for a controlled-substance charge, since according to the article he was.

And in any case, this isn't about "YOU CAN'T COME TO THE US!!ONE!" It's only about "You need a visa to come to the US!"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:32 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most Brits do not need a visa to come to the US. This one did.
posted by digaman at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2008


This one did.

So did Amy Winehouse.

This is not a sign of creeping whatever-it-is-you're-trying-to-get-us-to-be-afraid-of.
posted by oaf at 10:42 AM on March 21, 2008


I can see the temptation to compare this guy to Oscar Wilde, especially since Sebastian Horsley appears to make an attempt at taking several pages out of Wilde's playbook, but Wilde was never barred from entering the US -- in fact Wilde toured the US to packed houses in the early 1880s. If Wilde was ever run out of anyplace with a pitchfork, it was Britain.
posted by blucevalo at 10:59 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


[Law geek]

Re "moral turpitude," there's some interesting constitutional law about whether morality is a rational basis for a law (let alone an administrative decision like this). Lawrence v. Texas struck down an anti-sodomy law not long ago that was justified because sodomy was allegedly immoral. Unfortunately the case used such wishy-washy language that it's still not clear whether protecting morality is an ok reason for a law in general.

One neat argument is that morality can't possibly be the only justification for a law, because "immoral" is impossible to define. One of the court's most important jobs is to decide whether laws are rational, because if they're not they must be depriving someone of life/liberty/property without due process of law. But when a party asserts that the forbidden act is immoral, how do they know?

The court could accept that the act is immoral because the legislature passed the law, and the legislature passed the law because the act is immoral -- but that's circular and makes the court's minority-protection role meaningless. Alternatively, it could evaluate who thinks the act is immoral, how long they've thought so, whether they really mean it, etc. -- but that gives the court the role of cultural arbiter, of deciding which creed is superior, a role Scalia for one maintains the court has no business having.

So it might be that the harm principle isn't just a good idea, but is actually necessarily implied by the 14th amendment. Cool, right? Anyway, whether you should be allowed to have rules like this is an evolving and hotly contested topic, and broadly speaking I think it's moving in the right direction -- 100 years ago it wasn't even a question. Sorry for the sidetrack ...
posted by jhc at 11:08 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've filled in visa waiver forms loads of times coming to the US, and this is one of the silly questions on the form, right alongside the one that asks if you're coming into the country to smuggle things, blow stuff up or whether you were ever part of a Nazi death squad. These are catch-alls that limit the liability of the US government. By signing a visa waiver form, you also waive your right to protest if you're turned away from the border. That's how it works.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:18 AM on March 21, 2008


Also, the dude had a previous conviction in the US for possession of amphetamine sulphate, and had 'assumed it had expired'. Smells like a stunt to me.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:21 AM on March 21, 2008


Smells like a stunt to me.

I agree. The man is obviously a moron. In light of that, I've got to assume that all that stuff about having read his book was just bullshit. I've been interviewed by those immigration guys. Most of them would struggle to read the words on the back of a Cornflakes packet.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:34 AM on March 21, 2008


Most of them would struggle to read the words on the back of a Cornflakes packet.

Reading just makes them angry; we won't like them when they're angry.

...however, my all-time favorite is still the Canadian immigration guys at the Edmonton airport. I hand them all their forms, the guy leaves for a while, then comes back with two more guys, they detain me, and we all proceed merrily to interrogation. Turns out their number one question, repeated ad infinitum, was:

Big Man #1: "why have you been out of the country for so long?"
Me: "I wasn't aware that I needed permission to go on vacation"
Big Man #2: "You don't. But why were you out of the country for so long?"
Me: "Um, I felt like it?"
Big Man #1: "Yeah sure, but why were you out of the country for so long?"

...endlessly amusing. Guys at the actual border posts, no problem. Edmonton Airport, on the other hand, seems to be a giant minefield for me and I have no idea why.

The point being: from my own personal experience, you cannot assign a reason to anything the Customs/Immigration people do. No matter where in the world they're located, they're insane.
posted by aramaic at 11:58 AM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Building on aramaic, I was in the UK about 2 years ago, and took a brief weekend trip to Dublin. I had all sorts of hassles trying to get back in to England because the woman was all suspicious as to why I'd had an Irish visa or something. She was like, "Why did you get a visa to travel if you didn't leave the country?!" Uh, I did. I was in the Republic of Ireland. They don't like you, thanks.
posted by papakwanz at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2008


He poses with skulls, people. SKULLS!!!!

I agree with the immigration service. We're full up on Dandies on the US. You can't throw a pumpkin up in the air anymore with out hitting a velvet smoking jacket and a bottle of absinthe.

Though we could use some more Techno Vikings.
posted by tkchrist at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2008


I caught this story on NPR yesterday. You can find an excerpt of the book and a commentary from Sebastian Horsely here.
posted by LightMayo at 1:15 PM on March 21, 2008



The scary thing is that we expect this to protect us from terrorists and from the evil hordes of marijuana-crazed hippies who are stupid enough to admit on a form that they have taken drugs. The form actually asks if you "are a drug abuser."

Presumably, a smart drug user could honestly answer "no" because he believes he is not abusing the drugs, but merely taking them.

The question about genocide in the 40s is so broadly written that a holocaust survivor who wanted to be honest might answer "yes" because presumably, victims as well as perpetrators are "involved" in the genocide.

Also, it asks if you are coming to the US to engage in "immoral activities." What kind of an insane person answers yes? I guess the same sort of insane person who admits to a mental illness or "communicable disease."

The other weird thing is that there are pages and pages and pages of case law relating to whether crimes involve "moral turpitude" or not--some of it reads rather like an indictment of Bill Clinton, including "oral sexual perversion" and obstruction of justice. But a lot of violent crimes are OK-- so long as there's no sex involved. Given that American lawyers disagree over what constitutes moral turpitude, how is a foreign citizen on a plane supposed to know whether or not an offense from years ago involved it or not?

Fortunately, the airlines are fined $300 for everyone who is turned back, so when you are filling out the forms, they will actually tell you to avoid answering yes to any of the questions.

Also, given the sad state of the dollar and the fact that Europeans are about the only ones still able to seriously shop here, we'd be really stupid to ever seriously enforce this: if we really did it, we'd have to turn back at least half of all tourists because they've used marijuana at one point in their lives. I imagine when it starts to affect business, the commercial interests will speak up and put an end to it-- either that or we'll actually have a smart President who wants us to screen out people who are really threats, not drug addicts and hookers.
posted by Maias at 1:38 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The War on the Unique and the Unexpected -- and on Tall Top Hats
posted by homunculus at 10:37 AM on March 30, 2008


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