On Friday I'll be in Toronto debating the "refugee" crisis in Europe with former UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour and distinguished historian Simon Schama on one side and me and UKIP honcho Nigel Farage on the other. For more details, see here. For tickets, see here. I have the feeling Roy Thomson Hall will be filled with 2,500 Trudeaupian liberal sunny bunnies, so a friendly face wouldn't go amiss.
~The Independent published its last print edition on Saturday, the first of Britain's national newspapers to abandon paper for online only - but surely not the last. As a minor member of what he calls the "Class of '86", I enjoyed reading my old comrade Sebastian Faulks' account of the first chapter of the Indy:
It was an absurd idea. You couldn't just invent a newspaper out of thin air. In Britain, papers had to have existed since the 19th century; they had to have been owned by lords and barons who had the ear of Prime Ministers; they had to have evolved out of history, with a line on Irish home rule, Appeasement and Suez.
But this was 1986. After 40 years of hardship, there was money in Britain at last. There was something in the air. You no longer had to wait three weeks for the national phone company to fix your line. You could suddenly do stuff: start businesses, make profits, think differently; you could almost be American.
In the course of my life, I've been involved in the launch of two national newspapers, Britain's Independent and Canada's National Post. They were both great journalistic adventures, with a terrific stable of talent. For me at any rate, your writing improves with the company you're keeping:
There were so many good people. With Glover, Nick Ashford ran a foreign operation of a size and quality that no paper today could afford; and Nick, also much missed, was a hero of the early days. The photography was outstanding, and we even risked an early colour picture – of Tom Phillips's portrait of Iris Murdoch. On the arts pages, Tom Sutcliffe had hired, among others, Sabine Durrant, Giles Smith, Andrew Graham-Dixon, Adam Mars-Jones, Mark Lawson and – perhaps in those early days the most dazzling of all, Mark Steyn. The books pages, under Robert Winder and Veronica Youlten, had Auberon Waugh (to the dismay of some, the delight of others), Anthony Burgess and a young man called Anthony Lane, later pinched by Tina Brown to become a star at The New Yorker.
Speaking of The New Yorker, years ago they published a cartoon showing a theatre marquee bearing the blurb "Fun for young and old!" and standing underneath it an unhappy looking middle-aged man. The Indy was like that in its early days: There were young unknowns like me and old lions like Anthony Burgess (the Clockwork Orange guy), but an odd dearth of the middle-aged.
Sebastian is being far too kind in his description of me, but it makes up for the time he came to stay with me in New Hampshire to research a chapter of his novel (A Fool's Alphabet) he wanted to set across the river in Vermont: The book contains vivid documentary descriptions of the breakfast I cooked him, The Caledonian Record's front page, the local Catamount beer, etc. I was hoping to find a gruff, bearded, musical-comedy woodsman among the dramatis personae, but in fact the person who cooks him that distinctively Steynian breakfast is of the female persuasion. So he turned me into a woman and had sex with me.
The Indy changed over the years, and that's fine. But it was a beautiful-looking newspaper in that first half-decade, and I'm sad to think it no longer has physical form. Our headline is a modification of its original ad slogan.
~"Dazzling" as I was, I'm not sure I'd be entirely comfortable writing in today's Britain. In response to the Brussels bloodbath, Matthew Doyle, who runs a talent agency, Tweeted:
I confronted a Muslim woman yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said 'Nothing to do with me'. A mealy mouthed reply.
In response, the bozos of Her Majesty's Constabulary arrested Mr Doyle, locked him up and charged him with an offence under Section 19 of the Public Order Act, which carries a gaol term of up to seven years. If anyone in the chain of command and broader bureaucracy at the Metropolitan Police thought there was something thuggish and totalitarian and, indeed, unEnglish about criminalizing an unexceptional Tweet, I've yet to hear about it. Instead, it was the Crown Prosecution Service that was obliged to explain to the Met that they had exceeded their authority - or, if you prefer, abused their power:
Matthew Doyle, 46, from South Croydon, was due to appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court on Saturday.
But on Friday night the Met police said the charge had been dropped after it emerged the police officer in question had jumped the gun and charged Mr Doyle when in fact he needed CPS approval to do so.
This seems like a fairly elementary mistake to make, and I would be interested to know the identity of the copper who made it. Instead, the totalitarian plods issued what Mr Doyle might call a "mealy-mouthed" press release:
Matthew Doyle, 46 (30.12.69) of South Croydon was charged by police on Friday, 25 March, with an offence under Section 19 of the Public Order Act 1986.
Following discussion with the Crown Prosecution Service, Mr Doyle is no longer charged with the offence and will not be appearing at court.
But we got to lock him up and make an example of him, didn't we? And we'll do the same to you, got it? Because in a tolerant, multicultural society, everybody has to fall in line and think the same way. Or else.
As my friend John O'Sullivan said a few years back, the British police are now the paramilitary wing of The Guardian. Whatever your opinion of Mr Doyle's opinion, the state's cure is worse than the disease.
~Meanwhile, back in America, your tax dollars at play. A headline for our times:
CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed ones in Syria
When Washington plays the Great Game, it funds both sides, money no object. Oddly enough, despite backing every team, about the only thing one can say with certainty is that we'll be on the losing side.
~When I think about who I was and the life I lived back in those Independent days, letters like the following depress the hell out of me. After my Easter piece, Fabio Scalia writes:
You keep adding in your columns that "most Muslims abhor terrorism/violence". Have you met most Muslims? How did you arrive at this conclusion?
Polls show most Muslims are virulently anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-everybody-else and anti-one-another (Sunnis versus Shiites), and support the death penalty for blasphemy, apostasy and homosexuality. I was teaching at a school the day after 9/11. All the Muslim students in my class were delighted by the attacks. Other teachers had students who said the same thing. You also report Muslim students celebrating terrorism in France, UK and Holland. We never hear of them criticising it.
So continuing to claim that most Muslims are peaceful is utterly pointless and quite counterproductive. It hampers attempts to stop the Islamization of the West.
You need to read more carefully. I certainly do not keep claiming that "most Muslims abhor terrorism" or that "most Muslims are peaceful", and I did not do so in the column to which you refer. Ten years ago, on page 85 of my bestseller America Alone I wrote:
One is tempted to update the old joke: A ten-dollar bill is in the center of the crossroads. To the north, there's Santa Claus. To the west, the Tooth Fairy. To the east, a radical Muslim. To the south, a moderate Muslim. Who reaches the ten-dollar bill first?
Answer: The radical Muslim. All the others are mythical creatures.
The "moderate Muslim" is not entirely fictional. But it would be more accurate to call them quiescent Muslims.
So I have never held to the view that "most Muslims abhor terrorism". Indeed, your own response to such a claim - "How did you arrive at this conclusion?" - is one I've also deployed innumerable times over the last 15 years. For example, after the 2005 London Tube bombings:
If "of course" Mr Blair and Mr Paddick and the rest do indeed know that "the vast majority of Muslims" do not favour terrorism, is that because they've run the numbers and have a ballpark figure on the very very very slim minority of Muslims who do? And, if so, what is it? 0.02 per cent? Or two per cent? Or 20 per cent?
And, if they haven't run the numbers, why do they claim to speak with authority on this matter?
I've made the same point more recently re Malcolm Turnbull.
What I wrote over Easter was that "not all Muslims are like these savages" - which is not the same thing at all, and happens to be true: not all Muslims are like the savages who murdered Mr Shah by stamping his head into the pavement. If a billion-and-a-half Muslims worldwide were willing to stamp you to death, it'd already be over. Because there are approximately a billion of us in the developed world - and, on the evidence of the reaction to Paris, Brussels et al, the proportion of the west willing to resist Islamic supremacism barely makes it into double digits.
So I'm disinclined to get into a Who's Got The Biggest Swinging Islamophobic Dong? contest with you. In that Easter piece I said that Islam cannot abide the other and is incompatible with a pluralist society, and throughout last week I reiterated my call for an end to mass Muslim immigration. If that's insufficiently butch for you, if that's "hampering attempts to stop the Islamization of the west", then please bugger off and get on with stopping the Islamization of the west your own way. And then you wouldn't need to mischaracterize what I wrote and put your words in my mouth, would you?
By the way, this campaign to "stop the Islamization of the west that I'm "hampering", where is it? Is it a club you've formed? Are you the chairman? Can anyone fill in a membership application? Or are you blackballing?
If I sound a little tetchier than usual, it's because Sebastian Faulks' farewell to The Independent put me in a wistful and somewhat elegiac mode, mourning my carefree younger self. So I hope you'll forgive me if a guy who lives with death threats, and "human rights" complaints for "flagrant Islamophobia" with attendant legal bills, and tedious expenses like having to switch hotels at the last minute for security reasons, and US State Department and British Foreign Office advisories warning their nationals it's unsafe to go anywhere near my events, and even crappy restaurants deciding it's too dangerous to honor dinner reservations resents being told he's not puilling his weight and is "hampering attempts to stop the Islamization of the west". If you'd asked me back when I was "dazzling" Sebastian & Co, it would never have occurred to me that just moving around could get so complex and expensive, and that (with a few exceptions such as Michel Houellebecq) almost every influential voice in western culture would choose to sit out the biggest story of our time.