With each passing day, last week's visit by Julie Bishop, Aussie Foreign Minister, to the offices of Charlie Hebdo seems more and more like some strange dream - or glimpse of an alternative universe where the inheritors of western civilization are not a bunch of spineless grovelers frantically trading core liberties for multiculti delusions. Six days on, Miss Bishop is the exception that proves the rule:
Canadian author Michael Ondaatje is among a group of at least six writers who have withdrawn from next month's PEN American Center gala, citing objections to the literary and human rights organization's honouring the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Ondaatje is the guy who wrote The English Patient. He's not the only bigshot pulling out:
Much of the literary community rallied behind Charlie Hebdo after the shootings, but some have expressed unhappiness with its scathing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and other Muslims.
Francine Prose, a former PEN American president, has also withdrawn.
"I was quite upset as soon as I heard about [the award]," Prose, a former PEN American president, told The Associated Press during a telephone interview Sunday night. Prose said she was in favour of "freedom of speech without limitations" and that she "deplored" the January shootings, but added that giving an award signified "admiration and respect" for the honoree's work.
A few years ago, during my battles with Canada's "human rights" commissions and the Canadian Islamic Congress, Ken Whyte, the publisher of Maclean's, called me up and asked if I could see my way to coming to Ottawa for some "world press freedom" thing. I said I was a misanthropic type who lived in a cave in New Hampshire precisely in order to avoid having to go to these kinds of events. But Ken said the committee were very anxious to salute us for standing up for freedom of speech and all that, so I said yes, and Maclean's paid big bucks for a table, and starry colleagues like Paul Wells and my editor Diane de Gayardon de Fenoyl and the rest of the gang were corralled into showing up. And lo and behold, come the big day, the committee decided to salute some other fellows entirely. Afterwards, I was chit-chatting with one of the grandees when someone came up and asked him what it would have taken for them to honor me and Maclean's. And he looked thoughtful and said, with an amused twinkle, "Well, maybe if the Muslims killed Mark..."
I'm glad no one took him up on the offer. As we now know, for Michael Ondaatje, Garry Trudeau and many more, even that won't do it.
~In Britain, meanwhile, the assault on free speech is relentless. The control-freak lunatics of Her Majesty's Constabulary are now criminalizing hashtags. In a pitiful attempt at last-minute pandering, the Labour leader Ed Miliband has told Muslim News that, if he wins next week's election, he will "outlaw Islamophobia". Douglas Murray observes:
If Ed Miliband does become Prime Minister and chooses to make 'Islamophobia' illegal would he mind letting us know what he thinks 'Islamophobia' is? After all a 'phobia' is an irrational fear. The Charlie Hebdo staff were often called 'Islamophobes' before (and after) two Islamists went into their magazine's office and shot most of them in the head. If there is such a thing as 'Islamophobia' and it is indeed an 'irrational' fear, would Ed mind telling us whether it was 'rational' or 'irrational' of the Charlie Hebdo staff to be fearful of elements of Islam? An answer before 7 May would be helpful.
Indeed. A fear of Islam is highly rational: just ask those PEN novelists who don't want to go to any awards ceremony honoring Charlie Hebdo.
Douglas Murray has pledged, if Labour emerges triumphant next week, to test the new law immediately by organizing a conference on Islam, and daring the Miliband regime to drag him into court. I would be honored to participate at such a conference.
~As the world now knows, Bruce Jenner came out as a transitioning transgender woman and also came out as a Republican. The latter proved a closet too far:
hi Bruce Jenner. you had me, until you said you were a republican. you're a stupid f*ck.
So says Tweeter Del Stamp.
Can we make Bruce Jenner the GOP presidential nominee? He seems a sensible sort, as far as one can tell. Most Republicans do their "transitioning" between the November election night and the first "bipartisan" thousand-page omnibus bill the following January. I'd be happy to have a guy who's got it out of the way beforehand. If I understand him correctly, Mr Jenner, after completing his transition, intends to continue dating women. So he would be the first female transgender lesbian president. If that's what it takes to beat Hillary, let's go for it. Real hope, and real change.
~SteynOnline's political coverage, Mann vs Steyn trial-of-the-century previews and Sinatra centenary observances all briefly converged the other day when Philip Casnoff walked out of rehearsals for the first production of Ferguson - The Play. Twenty years ago, Tina Sinatra picked Casnoff to play her dad in the TV miniseries Sinatra. I can't say I recall having seen him in anything in the decades since, but Phelim McAleer evidently saw what Tina saw in him and put him in his new play. Mr Casnoff appears to have been expecting the Ferguson drama to be the usual hands-up-don't-shoot hooey. When it dawned on him that it wasn't, he and his fellow cast members skedaddled out of there faster than Michael Ondaatje at a free-speech rally.
Phelim is a multi-talent - documentarian, feature filmmaker and now playwright. A couple of months back, he and his wife Anne McElhinny somehow found time to fly in for a rather tedious court date in the unending Michael E Mann defamation suit. I introduced them to my lawyer, Dan Kornstein, whose clients include King Michael of Romania, and so, as we were waiting for the hearing to get going, we talked, as one does, of various dispossessed Balkan royals we had known. My publicist was a bit befuddled by the conversational topic, but I did my best to include her: "Don't be shy, jump in. You must have a Montenegrin crown prince or two you've run into."
Phelim is a fearless chap, as I noticed when he helped himself to the jug of water reserved for plaintiff's counsel. And, although he was still re-casting his play on Friday, I had no doubt the show would go on. It opened, as scheduled, on Sunday:
An audience member came over to the two men and shook Goldreich's hand, telling the actor: "Just powerful. When I believe that person is the real person, then I know they've done a great job."
The cast controversy was a fundraising boon for McAleer, who is backing the play through an online crowdfunding site. He issued a public request for more donations after claiming that the actors' requests to change the script were tantamount to censorship.
After news broke of the actor walkouts, an anonymous donor gave McAleer's project $25,000, and as of Monday morning, the writer had raised a total of $97,312 for the project. McAleer says he wants to take the production to New York City and to Ferguson itself.
There's a few days left if you'd like to help with the funding. I would love to see this play on the Great White Way, but off-off-Broadway will do. Mr Casnoff, like Mr Ondaatje and Mr Trudeau, thinks "artistic freedom" runs only in one direction. It doesn't, and I'm glad Phelim McAleer is here to remind us of that.
~Whoa, is this becoming a stampede?
About a dozen Native American actors have walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie comedy, saying the satirical Western's script is insulting to Native Americans and women...
In the future, there will be no plays, no novels, no jokes - nothing that requires the spark of a free spirit. But you will be encouraged to engage in forced guffaws at state-certified humor:
I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me, 'Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?' And I said, 'Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.' (Laughter and applause.)
Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. (Laughter.)
New climate regulations? Bucket. It's the right thing to do. (Laughter and applause.)
Just a reminder. My new book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn has a section on last laughs - and it's more timely than ever. Personally autographed copies are exclusively available from SteynOnline - and will help to ensure I'll be able to afford some A-list QC when Ed Miliband pulls me up on aggravated Islamophobia.