A mainstay of Mark's Mailbox for its first decade, Ezra Marsh returns to our pages to bring himself up to speed on the latest development (at the time of writing) in the Mann vs Steyn trial of the century:
Defendant Mark Steyn opted not to appeal the denial of the motions to dismiss the amended complaint.
Mr Marsh deduces:
There was a complaint.
It was amended.
There were motions to dismiss the amended complaint.
They were denied.
Mark could have appealed the denial of the motions, but he chose not to.
That might be good or bad, I guess, or something. I'm not capable of functioning like this.
Nor am I, to be honest. But the point isn't to be good or bad, it's to be protracted and expensive. We'll hold the rest of our Michael Mann mailbag for later this week, but I would like to think everyone who's helped keep me in the game long enough not to appeal the denial of the motions to dismiss the amendment of the denial of the motion to amend. There's years more fun still to come.
The column that generated the most reader mail this week is also a free-speech story. D C Alan writes from DC (Washington):
Brandeis University president Frederick Lawrence's most widely cited book is Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes under American Law (1999). Ostensibly about violent crime, Lawrence early on asserts, "As a normative matter, 'bias' should include bigotry on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and, in certain instances, gender".
If the wicked dissembler Frederick Lawrence were serious about what he wrote, he would commend and reward Ayaan Hirsi Ali for trying to bring attention to such violent crimes as are perpetrated so viciously under the inspiration of Islamic teachings.
It is interesting which selective quote from Émile Durkheim that Lawrence chooses to repeat approvingly, the assertion that the real function of punishment is "...sustaining the common consciousness in all its vigor", with Lawrence later adding, "Punishment...denounces that which is rejected and announces that which is embraced"; as, indeed, the contemporary despotic left-wing university has become very good at doing. Thus at least in the mad world of Brandeis University can Ayaan Hirsi Ali be condemned, under the logic promulgated by Frederick Lawrence, as a hate-criminal for having been declared to have deviated from the "common consciousness" of Brandeis' precious "core values".
What is additionally repugnant about Lawrence's actions is that he blames his cowardice on the students, whose "extraordinary" accomplishments must be the "focus" in "celebrating and honoring". If the poor little lads and lasses will have their delicate feelings hurt by what Ayaan Hirsi Ali says, then they are neither intellectually nor personally mature enough to be receiving a college degree.
Indeed. Those who run our universities are in a sense trustees of our cultural inheritance. Instead, hollow men like Fred Lawrence have so perverted their mission that their campuses are now some of the most closed-minded and uncurious real estate in the western world. It's hardly surprising that in such a world Ayaan Hirsi Ali's heroism is not merely unrecognized but regarded as a threat to the lies they tell themselves. Peggy Carr:
Thank you for your column. Ms. Ali is brave, and most of us never even have been in a situation where we need bravery. And yet they presume to judge her!
But what to do? Mrs Carr has a daughter approaching the end of high school, and wrote to Brandeis to say they would not ever consider it as a college choice. I liked this line:
I would not wish her to attend an institution with such cowards at the helm.
Mrs Carr concludes her email to me:
As I get older I am coming to realize that it is all that I can do, and if enough people do this, and hit Brandeis where it hurts (admission applicants/yield for US News and World Report college rankings) maybe it is a way to be principled and to fight back.
Indeed. And it's not just prospective students, but alumni, too:
I'm a long-time fan – in fact, I continued to subscribe to NR for a while just to read your Happy Warrior column.
Anyway, my parents are both Brandeis alums and my father was formerly on the Board of Trustees there. I have been begging him for years to quit donating to that left-wing cesspool, but finally, after this Ali incident, I got him to rescind his nice sized annual pledge to the University.
As I told him, as a white, Republican, Jewish businessman, he is everything they hate. Only Republicans (mostly moderate ones) are dumb enough to fund their enemies. And that's exactly what universities are. Your column is an excellent help in getting big donors to stop funding Brandeis.
As you say, he is "everything they hate". But, because of "systemic white privilege" or whatever this season's cliche is, the fellows they hate are the ones with the dough, so they need a certain amount of them on board to keep the racket going. For two generations, wealthy alumni have been sentimental enough to continue bankrolling enemies of western civilization. It's very generous of them, I'm sure, but their sentimentality is misplaced. As Brad writes:
The most embarrassing thing about graduating from Brandeis used to be displaying their diploma in my office. It looks like it was printed from someone's home computer on graduation day. But there it hangs next to my medical school diploma, certifications, licenses, and awards.
I am proud of what I accomplished there and how those experiences shaped the person that I am today. So what if the diploma looks like the certificate a child is given for completing kindergarten.
I was a Catholic student, definitely in the minority at the predominantly Jewish university. Back then, I think the school was tolerant. I met students from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. I never felt like we had "favored" groups. I'm happy that I went to college at Brandeis, but if I was applying to college now, I don't think I would consider going there.
It may be time to take that diploma down. Not because of what my patients see, but what has become clear for me to see. My old school doesn't want the kind of diversity that existed when I was a student. It wants conformity at any cost.
Turning to the previous week's story of what Mr Alan rightly regards as intellectual despotism, John Burd weighs in on the burning at the stake of the Firefox boss:
As someone whose name is on the list of Prop 8 donors alongside Brendan Eich's, I've taken a particular interest in his defenestration. So I've read Mitchell Baker's word salad statement on the matter a couple dozen times now.
Many have noted the utter disconnect between her words and reality ("Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness... Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public…", etc.). What strikes me afresh each time is the line "Equality is necessary for meaningful speech."
At first it reads like meaningless filler, but upon closer examination, you realize it's actually the exact opposite of the truth.
Our freedom of speech is essential precisely because it allows the citizen to make his case in the face of imbalances of power and equality. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't have equality. He had speech; equality followed. It may not stand as the foremost abuse in this sordid episode, but I thought it shouldn't go unremarked upon. Thank you for your work on the front lines of the fight for free speech.
I've often mused on the internal contradictions of the rainbow coalition - the assumption that the nice gay couple at No 22 and the firebreathing imam with four burqaed wives at No 24 will rub along swimmingly because they're both pet causes of western progressives. Steve Earl writes from Tufnell Park in London:
In your thoughts on the Mozilla contretemps you muse "...You could complicate it for them - the pro-gay guy is fired by a Muslim. But, until that starts happening on a regular basis, the western left is increasingly comfortable with the notion that core western liberties have to take a back seat..."
Well you might be interested in this story:
'A gay assistant head teacher has reportedly resigned after parents complained that they did not want their children to "learn that it's OK to be gay".
'Andrew Moffat, author of Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools, was targeted by a group of mainly Muslim parents in the dispute at Chilwell Croft Academy, in Birmingham, The Sunday Times reported.'
As the British comedian Harry Hill might say .. "Gays or Muslims, which one is better? There's only one way to find out ...FIGHT!!"
Ah, but Mr Moffat abandoned the fight. None of us can predict the future, but I think it safe to say no one will be "challenging homophobia in primary schools" in the Birmingham of 2030.
And another free-speech story: In the course of swooping down on a herd of cows in Nevada last week, the crack special forces of the Bureau of Land Management established a so-called "First Amendment Area". Simon Ramsay comments:
I don't know if you ever watched the American comedy show 'Arrested Development', but in the first season (episode 20) the air-headed sister Lindsey decided to protest 'the war' because her gay hair stylist was being shipped off and she did not want to find another stylist.
When her protest group tries to exert their 1st amendment rights at the nearby army base, the army public liaison herds the group into the 'free speech zone'. This zone is little more than a small fenced in pen, where the liaison then drives away leaving them all in an empty lot.
PS The Chinese did the same thing for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The "snipers" of the Bureau of Land Management are merely this weekend's manifestation of the paramilitarized bureaucracy, a truly loathsome feature of contemporary life but one about which many Americans are apparently quite relaxed. Not so Tim Underhay of North Charleston, South Carolina:
The rash of "Federal" "employees" targeting their fellow citizens with sniper rifles, barricading their memorials, and threatening arrest for the impromptu crime of "recreating", raises a point that every American should ponder carefully: in swathes of government agencies across the land, the line between government "employee" and "soldier" has become nearly undetectable. As both a U.S. citizen by birth and a loyal subject of Her Majesty the Queen, I find it difficult to imagine two hundred Mounties training their rifles on a Saskatchewanian rancher with a trifling disagreement with Her Majesty's Government over grazing rights.
Anyone who would voluntarily engage in these grotesque acts against their fellow man has no place in the civil society. These modern-day bureaucratic soldiers in our midst who are targeting and actually murdering our fellow citizens should be publicly named, shamed, and excluded from all polite and civil society. Their faces should be plastered in the stores of their hometowns so they can be turned away. That is until a law is passed making it a violation of their civil rights to do so, or Eric Holder finds it disagreeable, whichever comes first.
This is one of the primary ways the civil society used to protect itself and the things it valued most, by shunning those whose behavior threatened to devalue the pillars of civilization. Our pansified culture won't find this very palatable, but it's time we rediscovered our lost appetite for public shame.
Oh, dear, Tim, what's wrong with you? Don't you want to save the tortoise?
If the Bureau of Land Management is so worried about protecting desert tortoises, why did they euthanize an estimated 700 of them last year in Nevada?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali may be as rare as a desert tortoise at American universities, but I'm not yet persona non grata at a certain Texas high school. Kelly Bambacigno writes:
Recently my 17-year-old daughter had to choose a columnist to follow for her high-school English dual-credit class. I was thrilled when she told me she had chosen you. Each week she had to print out one of your columns and annotate it, then write a brief synopsis of the content or style of writing, depending on the assignment.
As part of the project, she had to share the columns, along with her annotations, with her several of her classmates for "peer review." And so, several 17-year-olds, along with their teacher, were introduced to and began looking forward to your wit, wisdom, and solid conservative writings.
Yesterday when my daughter returned home from school, the first words out of her mouth were, "Well, my life is finally complete!" When I asked why, she replied, "Taylor told me I am the Mark Steyn of English III AP."
When I asked what it was she said that provoked such a response, she said, "I don't remember; probably something that sounded intelligent, but was actually insulting."
I believe your work here is done, Mark Steyn!
My daughter's followup: "Best compliment ever!" I am purchasing a Steyn vs. the Stick t-shirt for her today. I know she will wear it with pride!
Oh, dear. For a moment there, I thought you said she'd sung "Marshmallow World" and Taylor had enthused, "You're the Mark Steyn of the winter holiday concert!" But I can dream, can't I?
For our Marlon Brando movie night, I mentioned the domestic arrangements of his final years:
In a last moment in the spotlight, he made the papers a year or two before he died when it emerged that he and Jack Nicholson had temporarily moved in together. "Get the buttah!" was no longer a roar of sexual liberation to a Parisian bedmate but a reminder to Jack as he headed out to Price-Chopper.
Low-hanging fruit, but readers rather enjoyed it:
As somebody who needs a good laugh to make it all worthwhile, I want to thank you for those three lines about Brando and Nicholson. Once again my "laugh of the week" goes to Steyn.
Your Pal,Aaron McDonald
The following night we turned our attention to Mr Brando's warbling of "Luck Be A Lady":
A fan of your guest hosting on the Rush Limbaugh. I have only recently begun to read your web page. I had no idea of your deep appreciative knowledge of musical theater. I am not an expert but rather one who appreciates that art-form.
Facing the reading of that column by a musical stranger (to me, that is) was like being handed a bucket of sand with the promise of a buried prize. But while I kept sifting I kept coming across multiple handfuls of insightful valuable observational jewels ... (more jewels than sand)....(enough to choke a dozen rap star girlfriends). I hope the political jackals never force you from our jungle.
If you're in the Vancouver area, you'll know Steve Bowell from his long-running "Ragbag" radio show on CFRO. Like me, he has a favorite Frank Loesser line, but, in one of those buffier-than-thou one-upmanships, his favorite line never made the final version:
So "Take back your mink to from whence it came" is your favourite Frank Loesser line? Mine is a line that got scratched before it ever got into How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
In working on a song about Mr. Twombly's blind loyalty to World Wide Wickets, Loesser started by trying to use the phrase "Organization Man," it being so recognizable because of William H. Whyte's bestselling book of five years before. I guess he decided that "organization" was just too clumsy a polysyllable to fit into a lyric, and the song became "The Company Way." Unfortunately, two very witty Loesserisms were thus lost. One was:
'And let me tell you something
I remember when the word came down to vote for Landon
I voted for Landon with abandon.'
"I voted for Landon with abandon." I love that line with a passion: it's my all-time favourite Frank Loesser line.
Vancouver, British Columbia
That is a pretty good line. Every so often I dust off my Presidents' Day podcast of songs mentioning all 44 presidents, but I may do an alternative one of songs mentioning only losing candidates. If you know any great Dukakis numbers, pass them along.
I was sorry to see you make it official that you've departed from National Review Online, although I have noticed your absence and understand at least some of the reasons for it.
It's their loss. I find myself clicking on your website even more frequently than I have in the past and I imagine your traffic is up significantly.
In the spirit of big-tent conservatism, I've suggested to NRO that they change the name of your former column from 'Happy Warrior' to 'Cordial Warrior.'
~Drop Steyn a line on his lawsuits or anything else at Mark's Mailbox.