The Pundette's post on Detroit dusts off my 2011 allegedly "controversial" remarks about the city. Several readers have asked for a rerun of the "controversy". Here's what I wrote at SteynOnline way back in February 2011. For the thoughtful, considered responses of Detroit residents, see here, here and here.
On Monday's Rush Limbaugh Show, in the wake of Eminem's taxpayer-funded Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler, I made a few mild observations on the city of Detroit. What happened next has been expertly rounded up by Kathy Shaidle both in "Mock City: Mark Steyn vs Motown" and in her weekly radio review, but I thought we ought to preserve a few links from the week here.
On the Tuesday morning after Rush, I woke up to an unusual number of interview requests from Detroit. Paul W Smith, the morning man at WJR (Rush's Motown affiliate), had been discussing my disrespect of the city, and called on Rush's producers (as did many Detroit listeners) not to use me as a guest-host any more. (Mr Smith is himself a former Rush guest-host.) Smith's show is followed by Frank Beckmann's, and Beckmann's producer also requested an interview. Mr Beckmann was as unhappy about me as Mr Smith - see The Detroit News: "Beckmann blasts elitist!".
So I said yes, stuck to my guns, and dismissed both the ad and the enthusiasm for it as "the braggadocio of the brain-dead". I found out afterwards I was supposed to go on and make soothing, emollient noises to the fine people of Detroit. Good thing I didn't get that memo beforehand, or I'd have been even ruder. I had no particular investment in the faux controversy one way or the other - except that I didn't want to end up like my old pal Boris Johnson when he was forced to make multiple groveling apologies to the equally touchy city of Liverpool.
The nub of my argument was Detroit's debasing of its human capital. I pointed out that the city has a functioning literacy rate of about 50 per cent. Forty-four per cent of adults have a reading comprehension below Grade Six level. In response, Detroiters mounted many compelling arguments: "F**k you, Mark Steyn" (South-Eastern Michigan Sports), "F**K YOU, MARK STEYN!!!" (Cletus Pages), "Mark Steyn is a Faggot" (Brandon A Jiles), and "Has anyone fed Mark Steyn a d*ck?" (Rufio Jones). I'd say QED, but they'd probably figure that's the name of a rapper.
By the way, I wouldn't want readers to conclude from Rufio Jones' enthusiasms that, having achieved the literacy standards of the Central African Republic under Emperor Bokassa, Detroit is now adopting his penchant for cannibalism. I believe Mr Jones' observations are of a sexual nature: Like many of his neighbors, he apparently conflates foreigners with homosexuals, which would be an ever cuter joke if his city's car companies weren't co-owned by Canadian taxpayers and run by Italian management. For the next commercial, could Eminem do a butch attitudinal version of "Tu vuò fà l'Americano"?
Notwithstanding my remarks on Detroit's illiteracy, many correspondents to Mark's Mailbox demonstrated an impressive ability to spell the two-syllable word "asshole". The Detroit News considered this remarkable enough to reprint a selection of its native sons' missives to yours truly. In return, Detroiters went on to new levels of incisive analysis and explored the nooks and crannies of my rectum, scrotum, testes, penis, and taste in underwear.
As I said on Rush, unlike European cities, no bombs fell on Detroit. They did this to themselves. And the real rubble is not the ruined buildings, but the ruined people. This is an American city at the dawn of the 21st century, and one in two of its citizens are illiterate. That's about the same rate as the Ivory Coast, or the Central African Republic, under its aforementioned cannibal emperor. Whereas in the Seventies and Eighties Detroit was ruled by a Democrat mayor, a bureaucracy-for-life, and an ever more featherbedded union army, all of whom cannibalized the city. Say what you like about Emperor Bokassa but, dollar for dollar, his reign was a bargain compared to Mayor Coleman Young's. Hizzoner called himself the MFIC – the Muthaf*cker In Charge – and, by the time it was over, Detroit was certainly f*cked, and, judging by today's shrunken population, any mothers other than transgenerational welfare dependents have long since hit the road.
We're still getting tons of mail pro- and con-, and we'll run some of those letters in the days ahead. But here are a few other links from both sides of the argument:
~From The Wall Street Journal: "Eminem fires up Steyn"
~More from the Blog Prof, the Closet Conservative, the Inside Line, Daniel Howes, Small Dead Animals, and a characteristically pithy Kathy Shaidle
~Clarice Feldman has a suggestion, and Scaramouche captures the showdown in song.
Don't forget, in a few weeks' time I'll be live in Michigan - though probably not for long.