I spent most of the last week traveling hither and yon to see various witnesses against climate mullah Michael Mann in the upcoming trial of the century. So I'd like to express my gratitude to all those readers who've continued to support me by buying a book or a gift certificate via the Steyn store. (The gift certificate can be redeemed when my new book comes out later this year.) It's an important case: one thing that was confirmed to me this week is the climate of fear that exists among scientists if they're tempted to take issue with Mann and the Big Climate enforcers. As with the hideous "human rights" regime in Canada, sunlight is the best disinfectant, and even in the fetid DC courthouse Dr Mann will get more sunlight than he's ever had in his life.
This week I'd like to thank especially all those Aussie readers who chipped in for one of our many fine products, and in particular my fellow freespeecher Andrew Bolt, whom I hope to see later this year on my tour Down Under. In Australia and in Britain and even in America, free peoples are losing the habit of free speech. And, when you lose the habit of free speech, you lose the habit of freedom. With that in mind, I would like to start with a letter from a Canadian reader, Anthony Dayton:
I'm sending this as a question that Mark might like to explore in one of his future writings. It has to do with his stand on free speech vs hate limitations.
I just read one of his latest articles which was carried in The National Post, the one about the ultra-left on campus that closes any debate or discussion, and I agree - what's happening in universities is a scary thing.
But always there is this nagging worry about the hatred that is spewed regularly, mostly against Jews and Israel, and that Hitler managed to parlay democracy into WWII and the Holocaust.
Today I came across this Front Page article, about anti-Semitism and probably anti-Americanism on the Tampa radio waves. (I would think that this would be a crime legislated by the Federal Communications laws.) But the point is, should radio and TV now be used in this way? (I know, the fact of the Internet seems to make the question irrelevant, but TV and radio are a mainstay for many people.)
Thank you for your letter, but, honestly, it is very sad to realize, after a six-year battle to restore some semblance of free speech to Canada, that so many of my compatriots still don't get it. That Tampa situation is not unusual in a semi-Islamified west: Muslim Jew-haters express their hatred for Jews openly. So what would you have Florida or the United States do? Institute a Euro-Canadian-style hate-speech regime? Europe has prohibitions against Holocaust denial and other "hate limitations" (as you put it). And what do they have to show for all those "limitations"? The biggest resurgence of Jew-hatred since the War, constrained only by the fact that, thanks to their thoroughness last time round, this time there are far fewer Jews to hate. But, for those that remain, Jews have to worship behind barricades, go to school behind barricades, buy kosher food behind barricades. And outside those secured enclaves they are enjoined not to wear identifying marks of their faith for fear of violent assault or murder. Those "hate limitations" are working just swell, aren't they?
Canada has not yet come to the pretty pass of France, but its own "hate limitations" have proved just as useless:
In Calgary, demonstrators of a certain, ahem, religio-cultural background march under placards proclaiming "Death to the Jews!" In Toronto, their comrades stand on sidewalks and express enthusiasm for a new Holocaust. But, as long as there's one last penniless loser neo-Nazi getting his swastika tramp-stamp touched up at the tattoo parlor in Redneck Junction, [ex-Canadian Jewish Congress honcho Bernie Farber] knows his priorities. Canada's "human rights" regime is less than useless against real threats to social tranquility, but it does enable cardboard crusaders to enjoy cosy sinecures pursuing phantom enemies.
If you think the purpose of "hate limitations" is to fast-track Bernie Farber's Diamond Jubilee medal, then they're working just great. Otherwise, not so much.
By the way, "hate limitations" are somewhat selective. More people have been slaughtered in the name of Communism than in that of any other ideology, yet you're still free to propound its principles at every college campus in the western world. But that's the Good Totalitarianism, the one everyone's relaxed about. What about the Bad Totalitarianism, the one everybody disapproves of? You warn us that "Hitler managed to parlay democracy into WWII and the Holocaust" - the assertion being that somehow excessive freedom leads to genocide. I'd recommend to you my book on free speech, Lights Out, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available at the Steyn store. On page 250 I write:
This argument is offered routinely: If only there'd been "reasonable limits on the expression of hatred" seventy years ago, the Holocaust might have been prevented.
There's just one teensy-weensy problem with it: pre-Nazi Germany had such "reasonable limits." Indeed, the Weimar Republic was a veritable proto-Trudeaupia. As Alan Borovoy, Canada's leading civil libertarian, put it:
"Remarkably, pre-Hitler Germany had laws very much like the Canadian anti-hate law. Moreover, those laws were enforced with some vigour. During the 15 years before Hitler came to power, there were more than 200 prosecutions based on anti-Semitic speech. And, in the opinion of the leading Jewish organization of that era, no more than 10 per cent of the cases were mishandled by the authorities. As subsequent history so painfully testifies, this type of legislation proved ineffectual on the one occasion when there was a real argument for it."
Inevitably, the Nazi party exploited the restrictions on "free speech" in order to boost its appeal. In 1925, the state of Bavaria issued an order banning Adolf Hitler from making any public speeches. The Nazis responded by distributing a drawing of their leader with his mouth gagged and the caption, "Of 2,000 million people in the world, one alone is forbidden to speak in Germany."
The idea that "hate speech" led to the Holocaust is seductive because it's easy: If only we ban hateful speech, then there will be no hateful acts. But, as Professor Anuj C Desai of the University of Wisconsin Law School points out, "Biased speech has been around since history began. As a logical matter, then, it is no more helpful to say that anti-Semitic speech caused the Holocaust than to say organized government caused it, or, for that matter, to say that oxygen caused it. All were necessary ingredients, but all have been present in every historical epoch in every country in the world."
Professor Desai makes a sharp point. Jew-hatred had been present to one degree or another on the Continent for millennia, but it had to wait until the twentieth century to turn genocidal, and in the most cultured society on the planet. How did that happen? The German government experimented with various attempts at a Final Solution: They rounded up a hundred or so Jewish prisoners, for example, and had troops simply gun them down. But they concluded that that was too stressful - that, when an individual soldier murders an unarmed civilian, the reality of what he's being asked to do cannot be avoided. It was necessary to put it at a certain remove - move it out east, bureaucratize it, impersonalize it. Pages 251 and 252 of my book:
The reductio ad Hitlerum is the laziest form of argument, so it's no surprise to find the defenders of the ever-more-intrusive "human rights" enforcers taking refuge in it. But it stands history on its head. Most of us have a vague understanding that Hitler used the burning of the Reichstag in February 1933 as a pretext to "seize" dictatorial powers. But, in fact, he didn't "seize" anything because he didn't need to. He merely invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Republic's constitution, allowing the state, in the interests of the greater good, to set — what's the phrase? — "reasonable limits" on freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom from unlawful search and seizure and surveillance of postal and electronic communications. The Nazis didn't invent a dictatorship out of whole cloth. They merely took advantage of the illiberal provisions of a supposedly liberal constitution.
Oh, and by the way, almost all those powers the Nazis "seized" the morning after the Reichstag fire the "human rights" commissions already have.
Once you accept that the state has the right to set "reasonable limits" on freedom of the press, freedom of expression, etc, it's not a large step to accept that the state has the right to set "reasonable limits" on everything else. Very few Germans wanted personally to commit genocide, but, as long as they they didn't have to do it themselves, many more were happy, or indifferent, or content to tell themselves polite lies about the government knowing best about "reasonable limits".
Earlier this week, I was on Ezra Levant's TV show and discussed, in the second segment, the sight of Canadian students cheering the forcible removal by police of peaceful protesters who happen to disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy on abortion and homosexuality. Those young Canadians are also content for "reasonable limits" to be set in the interests of the greater good. For the moment, it's just "homophobes" and people who don't support "a woman's right to choose". But one day, as in Germany, the winds will change, and the "reasonable limits" will be on something entirely different...
If you don't like what some Islamic imperialist is spouting on the radio, there's really only one response: stand up like a free man and win the argument. But to demand the state exercise the power to police thought is to lose the very spirit of free societies. Which is exactly - to go back to where we came in - what's happening in Australia and Britain and America, and Mr Dayton's and my native land, too.
Speaking of government overreach, Luis Gonzalez writes:
Read your "How Now White Cowman?", and I have one comment:
In other words, the purpose of the federal bureaucracy's "grazing fee" was never to provide a fair-market value for the cost to taxpayers of permitting grazing on public land but simply to drive those cattle off the land.
I never knew that Ronnie Reagan was such an asshole.
Mr Gonzalez is referring to the fact that these grazing fees date back to the Eighties. Whether or not Reagan or Clinton or Obama or both Bushes are "assholes", you're missing the point - which is that, once the permanent regulatory bureaucracy swells to a certain size, responsible government becomes a mere figleaf. As I always say, you don't need a president-for-life if you've got a bureaucracy-for-life. The Bureau of Land Management, an agency most Americans have never heard of and whose jurisdiction they could not reliably identify, rules single-handedly one-eighth of the United States - that's to say, an area larger than South Africa, or France, Germany and Italy combined. Where do you go to vote them out, or vote for a change of policy? Jim Copp of North Carolina emphasizes the point:
A comment on the Cattle ranch standoff. Last week I watched a segment of Megyn Kelly with the documentary maker talking to a BLM person. The BLM guys said they had gotten orders from "metro" to shoot the ranchers. Who the hell is "metro"? Which one person gave the order to shoot the ranchers? Who gave that person the order to NOT shoot the ranchers shortly after the interview? I don't see anyone asking about how high up the order came from.
Who is "Metro"? What is he? "Metro" is the bland, impersonal jargonese of "the system". That's its beauty. I voss only obeying Metro, ja? That's another reason I like free speech: If you want to critique the Jew-haters on Tampa radio, own your putdown: Don't mortgage it to the state to euthanize them in the cause of "the greater good", because, once you accept that principle, they'll be cracking down on all kinds of other stuff under the same principle. And, if you object, good luck getting "Metro" on the phone.
Speaking of bovine herds, Hailey writes:
Isn't it curious that "bovine flatulence" is going to End Life As We Know It when the bovines are tens of millions of American domestic cattle today, and yet a-ok when the bovines are tens of millions of American bison 500 years ago?
I think you'll find it's the air-conditioning in Cliven Bundy's cowsheds.
Last Wednesday was St George's Day, honoring the patron saint of England, under whose cross the crusaders marched across a continent to restore Jerusalem to Christendom. John K C Lewis points out that St George is also up there in the coat of arms of the Russian Federation, as he was in those of the Russian Empire:
Ah yes, St. George and the Dragon: the Russian Federation slays the evil of the Obamite American foreign policy and saves the beauteous maiden, the Christian Church. According to Wikipedia, the use of St. George as a protector in Slavic lands goes back to Yaroslav the Wise, ca. 1000.
Indeed. Speaking of Tsar Vlad, two days before St George's Day it was this year's Boston Marathon. Tom Tierney comments:
Re your retrospective piece on the Boston Marathon Bombing and the "Local 473 of the Amalgamated Union of Lone Wolves": I have to say that among the muddled messages and "explanations" from media and pundits after that incident and even 9/11, the best comment I've heard in 13 years since 9/11 is from Vladimir Putin, of all people (interview with NPR in November 2001 describing how Jihadis view "us"):
We are like dust to them.
Why can't Western "leaders" so succinctly understand, if not state this?
This week also saw the release of my new expanded eBook edition of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade. Hugh Hewitt recalled the days when I used to write obituaries for The Atlantic, as does California reader Seth Knoepler:
I still miss them - just recently found myself re-chuckling over the one for "Papa" (and fellow Canadian) Denny Doherty.
At the time the feature was discontinued I couldn't believe that the Atlantic could be stupid enough to let Steyn get away. I've always wondered what happened, since he was scrupulous about keeping his very un-PC political opinions at arm's length from this very liberal mag.
Well, you'll be glad to hear that Denny Doherty - "the other Papa" - is included in the new eBook of Passing Parade. I spoke about the book with Benjamin Weingarten at The Blaze, and another of the subjects therein prompted this missive from South Carolina:
I'm English,my wife is English/US dual national and we have lived in Strom Thurmond country in Aiken SC on and off since 1964. We are there right now.
There are not many people - black or white - who have ever said a bad word to us about Ole Strom. There are numerous stories of him going the extra mile for people in his constituency. Everything you have ever heard about him is probably true - one story I heard years ago in the 60's was about the daughter he had with a black girl who worked for his family. Which of course proved to be true, and apparently he never attempted to hide the fact, which you would think would be instant death for any southern politician's prospects.
A couple of years ago the subject of Strom came up in a conversation I was having with my Aiken-living brother-in-law Bobby. I said "You know what? If they dug him up, stood his casket in the corner and then put his name on the ballot, people in Aiken would vote him in."
Bobby replied "Nah! They don't even have to dig him up to achieve that."
I love being in the South.
Robert Strauss draws my attention to this Politico interview with Al Gore:
When I ask Gore in a two-hour interview in his Nashville office—the longest he's given since last summer—how he would describe his job, he says, "I want to catalyze the emergence of a solution to the climate crisis as quickly as possible. Period."
He also notes this bovine-flatulence solution from The Guardian:
Adopting a 'demitarian' diet would lead to a 25-40% reduction in nitrogen emissions from agriculture in Europe, report shows.
The promise of a bright new future led by cattle-less catalysts inspires Mr Strauss to a musical finale from G&S - can't remember if this is from HMS Mannafore, The Mikowdo, Flatulanthe or Bloodigore, but it's one of them:
I am the very model of a modern demitarian,
I've information vegetable, animal, and agrarian,
I know the climes of England, and I quote the consensarian
From Hansen to Flannery, in order quite Mannerian;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters profiterian,
I understand business, both simple and offsetarian,
About settled theorem I've solutions catalyzarian,
With many cheerful facts briskly apocalypterian.