All this week I'm marking the tenth anniversary of my bestselling book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It with some excerpts and some of the early reviews and interviews. You can find the first part of this anniversary series here. For this second episode, here's how my book actually begins. Page one:
Do you worry? You look like you do. Worrying is the way the responsible citizen of an advanced society demonstrates his virtue: He feels good about feeling bad.
But what to worry about? Iranian nukes? Nah, that's just some racket cooked up by the Christian fundamentalist Bush and his Zionist buddies to give Halliburton a pretext to take over the Persian carpet industry. Worrying about nukes is so Eighties. "They make me want to throw up... They make me feel sick to my stomach," wrote the British novelist Martin Amis, who couldn't stop thinking about them during the Thatcher Terror. In the intro to a collection of short stories, he worried about the Big One and outlined his own plan for coping with a nuclear winter wonderland:
"Suppose I survive," he fretted. "Suppose my eyes aren't pouring down my face, suppose I am untouched by the hurricane of secondary missiles that all mortar, metal and glass has abruptly become: suppose all this. I shall be obliged (and it's the last thing I feel like doing) to retrace that long mile home, through the firestorm, the remains of the thousands-miles-an-hour winds, the warped atoms, the groveling dead. Then - God willing, if I still have the strength, and, of course, if they are still alive - I must find my wife and children and I must kill them."
But the Big One never fell. And instead of killing his wife Martin Amis had to make do with divorcing her. Back then it was just crazies like Reagan and Thatcher who had nukes, so you can understand why everyone was terrified. But now Kim Jong-Il and the Ayatollahs have them, so we're all sophisticated and relaxed about it, like the French hearing that their president's acquired a couple more mistresses. Martin Amis hasn't thrown up a word about the subject in years. To the best of my knowledge, he has no plans to kill the present Mrs Amis.
That was extremely rude about Mr Amis, as his friend Christopher Hitchens noted. I can't really remember why I decided to open the book by clobbering a novelist I rather enjoy. The fact that 99 per cent of all those hysterics raging against the exclusive and relatively sane nuclear club of the 1980s are entirely relaxed about a world in which North Korea and Iran have nukes (and coming soon Sudan and Somalia and Isis) is a point worth making. But, in making it, I think I was just casting Mr Amis as an all-purpose leftie tosser.
If so, I did him an injustice. Not long after America Alone came out, I woke up one Saturday to discover that The Times of London had published a review of my book. This was flattering in that the book had not been published in the UK, and so a review was of little practical use to British readers. Even more flattering, the eminent reviewer was Martin Amis. The flattery ended in the opening paragraph:
Mark Steyn is an oddity: his thoughts and themes are sane and serious - but he writes like a maniac. A talented maniac; but a maniac.
Oh, well. Given the first page of the book, Mr Amis was sporting enough to take its thesis seriously, and overlook the writing, mostly:
I continue to hope that his admonitions will gain some momentum, despite the efforts of his prose style to impede it.
Amis understood very clearly the book's demographic argument:
With the sole exception of America, the nations of the First World are in demographic decline. Not a single Western European country is procreating at the 'replacement rate' of 2.1 births per woman...
A depopulated and simplified Europe might be tenable in a world without enmity and predation. And that is not our world. The birth rate is 6.76 in Somalia, 6.69 in Afghanistan, and 6.58 in Yemen. 'Notice what these countries have in common?' writes Mr Steyn, adding, with his usual incontinence: 'Starts with an I and ends with a slam. As in: slam dunk.' Albania's birth rate is a third of Afghanistan's, but it's the highest in Europe. Meanwhile:
'Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.'
Now those aren't the words of Mr Steyn - or, say, of Jean-Marie Le Pen. The speaker is Mullah Krekar of Norway.
Mr Amis was more punctilious than the totalitarian thugs of the Canadian Islamic Congress whose triple-jeopardy suits before the Canadian, Ontario and British Columbia "Human Rights" Commissions alleged that I had compared Muslims to mosquitoes. No, I didn't. But in the Dominion of Canada quoting imams accurately is apparently a crime - or at least it was until we succeeded in getting the hate-speech law repealed. Nevertheless, even with direct quotes, Amis understands the need to step gingerly on this turf:
Any acknowledgment of the fear of being out-bred inevitably reminds us of eugenics and forced sterilisation and the like; and many good modern Westerners, reading Mr Steyn, will feel the warm glow of righteousness that normally precedes an accusation of 'racism'. As Mr Steyn patiently insists, however, 'it's not about race, it's about culture'. If every inhabitant of a liberal democracy believes in liberal democracy, it doesn't matter what creed or colour they are; but if some of them believe in sharia and the Caliphate and so on, then the numbers are clearly crucial. Later in the book, he makes the same point from the other direction. A one-time white supremacist called David Myatt has changed his name to Abdulaziz ibn Myatt; and Abdulaziz ibn Myatt is a ferocious jihadi. 'A lot of his fellow "white supremacists"," writes Mr Steyn, 'will find it's not the "white" but the "supremacist" bit they really like.'
Martin Amis was kind enough to preserve his review of America Alone between hard covers in his anthology of the 9/11 years, The Second Plane - and to bring up its thesis to the Prime Minister:
When I interviewed Tony Blair earlier this year I asked him if continental demographics had yet become "a European conversation". He said: "It's a subterranean conversation." And we know what that means. The ethos of relativism finds the demographic question so saturated in revulsions that it is rendered undiscussable.
Most of Amis' fellow London liberals felt it should have remained "undiscussable" and "subterranean", and the novelist soon found himself having to write pieces headlined "No, I Am Not A Racist". As I subsequently wrote in my book Lights Out: Islam, Free Speech and the Twilight of the West:
In The Village Voice the other week, the playwright David Mamet recently outed himself as a liberal apostate and revealed that he's begun reading conservative types like Milton Friedman and Paul Johnson. If he's wondering what he's in for a year or two down the line, here's how Newsweek's Jonathan Tepperman began his review this week of another literary leftie who wandered off the reservation:
"Toward the end of The Second Plane, Martin Amis's new book on the roots and impact of 9/11, the British novelist describes a fellow writer as 'an oddity: his thoughts and themes are... serious â€” but he writes like a maniac. A talented maniac, but a maniac.' Amis is describing Mark Steyn, a controversial anti-Islam polemicist, but he could just as well be describing another angry, Muslim-bashing firebrand: himself. Talented, yes. Serious, yes. But also, judging from the new book, a maniac."
Poor chap. What did Martin Amis ever do to deserve being compared to me? As Mr. Tepperman concludes, the new Amis is "painful for the legion of Amis fans who still love him for novels like The Rachel Papers and his masterpiece, London Fields." But the masterpieces were in the fast-fading good old days before he transformed himself into a fellow who, as a recent profile in Britain's Independent put it, "chooses to promote the writings of a Canadian former disc-jockey called Mark Steyn." I'm not sure which half of that biographical prÃ©cis is intended to be more condescending. At least the "disc-jockey" bit is "former," whereas the Canadianness is, alas, immutable: you can take the disc-jockey out of Canada but you can't take the Canada out of the disc-jockey. In fact, it was The Independent which "chose" to promote the writings of the ghastly colonial platter-spinner. Having obtained an exclusive interview â€” the first with Mr. Amis since he found himself declared beyond the literary pale â€” the Indy's man "chose" to spend most of his brief time with the eminent novelist bemoaning the non-eminent disc-jockey. It's a very curious interviewing technique: "But enough about what I think of Steyn. What do you think of Steyn?"
The profile concluded that Amis had descended into a kind of schizophrenia, torn between "the left-wing . . . nuclear-disarming multiracialist" and the "Steyn-hugger." An even more renowned literary personage sent me a note after The Independent's piece appeared saying that, if you'd held a competition a decade ago to invent the phrase least likely ever to be appended to Martin Amis, "Steyn-hugger" would be pretty hard to beat. It's faintly surreal to find oneself cited as the principal reason for someone else's fall from media grace, and it's not terribly fair to dear old Amis. His approval of me is very limited: Steyn, he says, "is a great sayer of the unsayable."
In the decade since his review of my book, the list of the unsayable has got considerably longer. Nonetheless, at a time when virtually the entire left has decided to welcome Islamization as just another vibrant patch in the diversity quilt, I remain grateful for one of the few men in English letters to grasp the stakes:
A great sayer of the unsayable, Mr Steyn nonetheless fails to ask the central question. Will the culture of choice be obliged to give ground to the culture of life?*
Itself profoundly retrograde, Islamism may force retrogression on us all.
~Judging from the emails, readers and viewers enjoyed our reprise of Part One of Michelle Malkin's ten-year-old interview with me re America Alone. So here's Part Two:
~For a musical accompaniment to our anniversary observances, don't forget to swing by our Song of the Week department.
If you haven't read America Alone during its first ten years, well, you're missing a treat. It's still in print in hardback and paperback, and personally autographed copies are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore.
*For American readers, "culture of choice" and "culture of life" are not references to abortion, although the choice of words is interesting. Mr Amis is applying the terms more broadly re the contradiction between the primal impulses of a self-sustaining society and the do-your-own-thing live-in-the-moment ethos of a dying west.