Steyn on Europe
As I've said before, I've said it before. One of the occupational hazards of the commentative biz is that what's new - the daily news item - simply illustrates the same old thesis you've been hammering for years, so that life's rich pageant comes to seem like a Broadway catalogue song, a great torrent of accumulation all making the ever wearier point - that "You're the Top", "The Lady is a Tramp", "These Foolish Things remind me of you". Or in our case: We're the Pits, The Lady is a Transitioning Gentleman, and These Foolish Things remind me that our civilization's on the express chute to oblivion.
Here, by way of example, are a couple of stories readers asked for my thoughts on in the last 24 hours:
Richard Dawkins has become the latest speaker to be prevented from speaking at Berkeley. Professor Dawkins is a world-famous scientist, whose book The Selfish Gene has just been voted "the most inspiring science book of all time" in a poll commissioned by the Royal Society.
His science is not the problem. Dawkins is also an atheist.
That's not the problem, either - or it wasn't when he was principally urinating over the Pope ("a leering old villain in a frock") and the Catholic Church (an "evil corrupt institution" that's also a "child-raping institution"). All three quotes are from just one Washington Post column: that's how respectable and mainstream Dawkins was back then in 2010.
Alas, Dawkins is an equal-opportunity atheist, and feels just as unkindly toward Islam. Hence the announcement from the "liberal" sponsor of his Berkeley talk, KPFA Radio:
It would have to be "sincere", wouldn't it? Because it's hard to see how apparently sentient beings could otherwise write such effete desiccated tripe. Notice how the shriveling of free expression smoothly proceeds to the next diminished staging post: Once upon a time, Berkeley professed to believe in free speech. Then it believed in free speech except for "hate speech". Now it supports "serious" free speech, but not "hurtful" speech.
Well, we live in a world of hurt. Personally, I'm hurt by people who say they don't like my cat album, or by the director's decision to give me purple hair in this video. But what's really hurtful is that KPFA and Berkeley can't even be bothered to pretend to a principled defense of free speech. What is "serious" free speech? Not so long ago, arguments for same-sex marriage or tampons for menstruating men would have been dismissed as utterly unserious - indeed, preposterous. What KPFA means by "serious" speech is compliant, conformist speech that brooks no ideological dissent from the pieties of the day - on male menstruation, climate change, Islam, and whatever's next on the list. You can be as "hurtful" as you like to cardinals but not imams, to climate deniers but not climate alarmists, to homophobic pastry chefs but not to gay newlyweds.
Its "emphatic support" of "serious free speech" is, thus, merely a regime of apostasy enforcement - which is why it has no place for an atheist such as Dawkins.
Now I think of it, readers may recall that Mr Dawkins has been rather hurtful about me:
I renew that admiration today. Notice that even his defender Jerry Coyne feels obliged to qualify his defense: "Dawkins is not Milo Yiannopoulos." And that's true: Milo has bigger hair. Dawkins is also not Ann Coulter. Dawkins is not Germaine Greer. Dawkins is not Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And yet he has joined all of them in the Pantheon of the Hurtful. Funny how that works.
So, as a practical matter, Richard Dawkins is Milo Yiannopoulos. Which is where this sort of thing always leads. As I noted early on during the above-mentioned dispute with Canada's "human rights" commissions, restrictions on speech always start out on the far fringes - ensnaring wacky peripheral figures nobody cares about. But you should care about them - because those scalps are just the warm-up act, and the restrictions always move inwards, to (in my case) Canada's mainstream, impeccably respectable dentist's-waiting-room news magazine and (in Dawkins') to the winner of the Royal Society's prize for most inspiring science book of all time.
Unless they've already rescinded that. Because who wants to be inspired by someone so beastly and hurtful?
Why are we surprised that identity politics trumps even a theoretical commitment to free speech? Richard Dawkins belongs to the generation of British subjects who grew up in the long shadow of Dunkirk - the "miracle" (Churchill's word) of evacuation that saved the British Expeditionary Force (including significant numbers of Canadians, as our many RCL readers won't need reminding) and critical elements of the French and Belgian armies from certain capture or death by the Germans. The event resonated throughout Britain and the Commonwealth for half-a-century and was far more central to a people's sense of themselves than any of the more obvious triumphs: "The Dunkirk spirit" is shorthand for snatching victory from certain defeat by muddling through, backs against the walls, improvising as one can, and, without making a lot of fuss about it, never giving up. Yes, it has a big dollop of self-flattery, but right now we could use a bit more of that in the western world, don't you think?
I hope to have more to say about Christopher Nolan's new film on the subject, but I'll be hard put to match this insight from USA Today's critic Brian Truitt:
He's right. I've seen Pirates of the Caribbean. Why isn't Keira Knightley kick-assing on the beaches? Or better yet Halle Berry, with Jay-Z as the plucky Cockney Tommy stranded in France and gasping for a fag. And Morgan Freeman back at HQ as Field Marshal Viscount Gort, VC, GCB, CBE, DSO...
But hang on: Wouldn't that be "cultural appropriation"?
No. As with Berkeley's distinction between "serious" and "hurtful" speech, it all depends where you're coming from. If you happen to have the wrong kind of culture, it is necessary to appropriate it. Which is why Brian Truitt worries you may be hurt by Nolan's film.
Anyone who reads accounts of the instant, reflexive, civilian response to Dunkirk - of those middle-aged Englishmen volunteering to take a small fishing boat on a dangerous journey across the Channel to rescue a beleaguered soldiery from what would have been the most total and catastrophic defeat in British military history - finds himself thinking, as presumably Christopher Nolan did, about what spurs such men. Mrs Thatcher and Enoch Powell were both diligent attenders of the Conservative Philosophy Group, and at one meeting had a dispute on that very subject:
I'm inclined to give that one to Enoch. After the war, we tidy things up and say we "fought for freedom". But Englishmen fought bravely for England, just as Germans fought bravely for Germany and Russians fought bravely for Russia. Freedom in the two latter was non-existent, and in the former incidental: it's more visceral than that.
Well, we are all moral preeners now. When the Oxford Union voted that this House would not fight for King and Country, they did not say what they would fight for instead. We like to think we would fight for "values" - which is why martial imagery and metaphor are so enthusiastically bandied for piffling micro-crusades on the home front.
But as Powell said, values exist in a transcendental realm. And, as the Berkeley incident illustrates, values are precisely what we're surrendering, incrementally, every day. Many of us, including presumably Richard Dawkins, are puzzled why all over the developed world there are so few takers to "fight for freedom": Certainly the list of those prepared to champion the cause of free speech and protest assaults on it - from Berkeley to Berlin to Brisbane - is short, and those prepared to subordinate free speech to the needs of identity politics grows ever longer. Is this really so surprising? Most people are not invested in abstractions: "Country" or "tribe" is real, which is why Pushtun goatherds prove so implacable to transnationalist do-gooders.
But we're not much invested in "country" these days, except as a repository of "values" - all those "British values" and "Canadian values" the likes of Mrs May and M Trudeau keep going on about. In the absence of any real, felt sense of "country", we seek alternative identities in the new triabalisms: for the left, sexual self-expression; for restive western Muslims, a global Islamic identity. Whatever the defects of these enthusiasms, they're more real, more felt than a commitment to transcendental values unmoored from national identity.
Three-quarters of a century ago, the Englishmen at Dunkirk did not need to think about these things. They felt them. Today we have forgotten how to think about them, and no longer feel them.
Which is why, at Berkeley, no one will fight for freedom of speech. Values are no match for identity.
~As we always say, membership of The Mark Steyn Club isn't for everyone, but it does ensure that our content - such as Mark's recent SteynPost on the biggest issue of our time - remains available for everyone, in print, in audio, in video, out there around the world, and maybe once in a while changing a mind or two. Club membership does offer a few extras, such as our new newsletter, The Clubbable Steyn, the first issue of which ships later this week. For more information on The Mark Steyn Club, see here.
Meanwhile, for existing members, if you take issue with me on King and Country or anything else above, please have at it in our comments section...
from Steyn on Britain, July 24, 2017
President Trump's speech in Warsaw was a remarkable statement from a western leader in the 21st century - which is why the enforcers of our public discourse have gone bananas over it and denounced it as "blood and soil" "nativism" (The New Republic), "racial and religious paranoia" (The Atlantic), and "tinpot dictator sh*t" (some comedian having a meltdown on Twitter). Much of the speech was just the usual boosterish boilerplate that one foreign leader sloughs off while visiting the capital of another. But that wasn't what caused the mass pearl-clutching. This was the offending passage: There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies. We pursue innovation ...
No black detail is too absurd for today's world. And so it happens that the first named victim of the towering inferno in North Kensington is Mohammed Alhajali, a Syrian refugee who arrived as a teenager with his brothers in London four years ago and somehow wound up being housed in a flat in Grenfell Tower. Launching a fund to raise money for his funeral, Kareen el Beyrouty, director of the Syria Solidarity Campaign, declared that "Mohammed Alhajali undertook a dangerous journey to flee war in Syria, only to meet death here in the UK, in his own home. His dream was to be able to go back home one day and rebuild Syria." Which is apparently a lot safer. His friend and fellow Syrian refugee Abdulaziz Almashi tells the BBC that "Syria is a ...
Steyn on how Theresa May squandered her majority
Mayday! Mayday! for Britain's Tories
An enervated fatalism sets in in Britain
Steyn on a Saturday-night terror attack in London
Salman Abedi's very expansive comfort zone
The groupthink in our public discourse is so pervasive it goes as unnoticed as the air...
Mark on another jihadist bloodbath, and the need to not "carry on"
Reality intrudes on Macron's delusions
Mark on President Macron and the barren Eurocrats
A Milton Friedman lesson for the UK's general election
The French and EU establishments, the stock markets and the currency exchanges were rather too quick to advertise their glee. Within nano-seconds of the first projections yesterday evening, the euro rose and so did the Union's princelings, from the absurb President Junkers down, to congratulate their very good friend M Macron...
Terror at the heart of Paris
As they used to say in the long Ottoman twilight, the Turk is the sick man of Europe. Following the referendum, the Turk is sicker than ever...
Denial, derangement and debacle in Europe
In Europe, migrants' rights trump children's rights
Here's how America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It actually begins. Page one...
Turkey's sultan Erdogan extends Islam's strictures on free speech to his new vilayet of Germany
The man who introduced the word "Islamophobia' to the western world revises his position...
When the chips are down, progressive liberal feminist men won't be there for you
An attack on the section of the airport outside the security perimeter was entirely predictable
All the stories are different, and yet they're all the same...
Further to my observations about civilizational suicide as a form of moral narcissism comes this stark statistic...
Hashtagistan vs the real world
As I write, Paris is under curfew for the first time since the German occupation, and the death toll from the multiple attacks stands at 158, the vast majority of them slaughtered during a concert at the Bataclan theatre, a delightful bit of 19th century Chinoiserie on the boulevard Voltaire. The last time I was there, if memory serves, was to see Julie Pietri. I'm so bloody sick of these savages shooting and bombing and killing and blowing up everything I like - whether it's the small Quebec town where my little girl's favorite fondue restaurant is or my favorite hotel in Amman or the brave freespeecher who hosted me in Copenhagen ...or a music hall where I liked to go to hear a little jazz and pop and get away from the cares of the world ...
Gunfight at the OK Koran
Is it time for Seal Team Six to save the Mona Lisa?
This tenth anniversary of the Mohammed cartoons is a glum day for free speech. But that's no reason for some "social media" billionaire not to make it worse. During her visit to New York for the grand UN dictators' ball, Angela Merkel was overheard rebuking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for permitting people to post "anti-immigrant" sentiments on social media...
Mark and Mohammed in the Danish Parliament
Twelve years ago, it was said that the western armies in Iraq would be welcomed as liberators. (They were - for a while.) Today in Germany, another conquering army are being welcomed as liberators - liberators from the residual moral stain of what remains of ethnic nationalism and cultural identity. Watching European news broadcasts right now is like an insane demotic inversion of the Emperor's new clothes. "To a fool these thousands of fit young Muslim men appear well dressed and well fed. But a wise man such as Your Majesty can easily see that they are desperate starving refugees in rags." And so as the trains pull in to German railway stations to disgorge men who meet no known definition of "refugees" they are greeted on the platform by ...
With a migrant tide engulfing Europe, the question remains whether the west can muster the will to turn away from the suicidal delusions of multiculturalism
Further to my note on last week's UK election, Mark Wilson writes from beautiful County Down: Hey there, Mark is of course right when he says that no one outside Northern Ireland cares about the difference between the 'official ' unionists (or their name, since the 'official' went out years ago!) and the DUP...
Happy St George's Day to all our English readers, and Happy Independence Day to all our Israeli readers. It's not often they fall on the same day, but it's not inappropriate. Once upon a time, you could find quite a few English flags bearing the Cross of St George in and around Jerusalem, for one reason or another... You can still see the legacy of the Crusader Cross in village high streets up and down England - for the moment. In The [Un]documented Mark Steyn (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available, etc, etc), there's an essay that starts off in the Middle East, and winds up in the East End: In the "Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets" â€” the heart of London's East End, where one sees more covered women than in ...
According to Daniel Pipes, "Radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution." But what if "moderate" Islam is the problem?
The Victoria Cross is the Commonwealth's highest decoration for valour on the battlefield. Yesterday it was awarded to the first living Briton for action in the Afghan war...
The new British police state wages war on free speech
Free speech is in retreat around the western world
The French authorities killed three murderous savages yesterday. That was the only good news on a day in which a third hostage siege began in Montpellier. The bad news started at the top, with President Hollande's statement after the Charlie Hebdo slaughter and the Kosher grocery siege: Those who committed these acts have nothing to do with the Muslim religion. Yeah, right. I would use my standard line on these occasions - "Allahu Akbar" is Arabic for "Nothing to see here" - but it's not quite as funny when the streets are full of cowards, phonies and opportunists waving candles and pencils and chanting "Je suis Charlie." Because if you really were Charlie, if you really were one of the 17 Frenchmen and women slaughtered in the name of ...
My column on Britain's and Europe's Christmas holiday without end attracted a bit of pushback from readers across the pond. For example: Oh dear. I do like your stuff normally but this nonsense you have produced about the Xmas holidays us lazy Brits take is irritating crap. Just because the Yanks are good little wage slaves it's not a template. In any event average hours for a full time job per year in the UK are around 1950 for a 37.5 hour week. Most are lucky to get a couple of days for Xmas â€“ many of course work it. Thirty or so years ago one man/woman could work in a relatively average job, buy a house, get a decent pension and send his kids to university. Now both parents have to work their arses off just to keep head above water. ...
Rotherham and the multicultural cringe
Just about the only part of my career I truly regret was the time I spent at the BBC, who very kindly fired me back in the Nineties. Otherwise, I'd have a lot more time to regret. Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile - or at least I don't think so...
As I was saying: "Ukip â€” like Nigel Farage's bar bill at ten in the evening â€” will climb a lot higher yet." And so it did...
Today Britain goes to the polls to vote in the European elections. Nigel Farage has had a rough ride, to the point where a casual observer might easily assume the election was being fought between Farage's UKIP and a Tory-Labour-Liberal-Media coalition...
In the new Britain, quoting Winston gets you arrested
Who will rid Dutch liberals of this turbulent blond?
"Neo-Nazis" and "anti-government people" on the march!
Behold the infidels - bystanders in their own fate: Steyn on an act of savagery in a London street - and the appalling aftermath
The picture on the right is from the Nineties, and I'm rather fond of it, because I manage to look both goofy and shifty but Mrs Thatcher's cool is undiminished. I don't know why the harp was there...
Steyn salutes a great man...
I scrammed out of London a few days before the Olympics began, but after getting an earful on what the locals make of it. On the whole, the residents of that great city would rather the honor of hosting the world's most disruptive sporting event had gone to some joint that needs the publicity more – Alma Ata, or Ouagadougou, or Oakland. In 21st century London, traffic moves at fewer miles per hour than it did before the internal combustion engine was invented without the added complication of fleets of Third World thug bureaucrats and the permanent floating crap game of transnationalist freeloaders being dumped on its medieval street plan. Nevertheless, having drawn the short straw of hosting the Games, Londoners felt it a point of honor that the city be able to demonstrate the ability to ferry minor globalist hangers-on from their favorite whorehouse in Mayfair to the Olympic Village in the unfashionable East End in time for the quarter-finals of the flatwater taekwondo.
The Guardian has a report from the Greek-Turkish frontier - or "Europe's border", as a German member of the 175-strong Frontex security team describes it: In 2009 some 3,600 migrants managed to slip across the frontier not far from this market town; in 2010 that number shot up to 36,000, helping explain why Greece has become the favoured port of entry for 90% of illegals pouring into the EU. "They come at all hours of the night and day," said Orestiada's police chief, Giorgos Salamangas, in his icon-bedecked office. "And they're coming not just from the Middle East and Asia but all of Africa, places I have never heard of before." The Guardian being The Guardian, they headline the piece "Fortress Europe". But it's a fortress you can stroll ...
The last of the 20th century's Big Ideas is dying before our eyes: The sick man of Europe is ...Europe
My weekend column is on London ablaze and a society summed up by the relevant chapter title in my new book ("The New Britannia: The Depraved City"). The scenes we've witnessed this last week ought to prompt some serious soul-searching by liberal elites. I nearly said "paternalist," but, as Tocqueville noted, the word paternalism implies that your object is to raise your charges to adulthood, whereas the children of dependency are maintained by government in a state of permanent and increasingly feral adolescence. Are we likely to get that soul-searching? Charles Crawford, sometime NR cruiser and formerly Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador in various parts of Mitteleuropa, thinks not: The only worse thing than having a problem is not ...
The Mark Steyn Club
Not yet a member of the Mark Steyn Club? Join now!
Mark's Most Wanted
© 2017 Mark Steyn Enterprises (US) Inc. All rights reserved.