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Hey welcome along to another edition of Mark's Mailbox. Bit of a mopping up operation we do once in a while. These are some questions from Mark Steyn Club members submitted from when we did one of our live Clubland Q&As around the planet that we didn't get to. The more interesting ones we put to one side and we use them in Mark's Mailbox.
And this one comes from Matt Watson and he goes, "Mark: I was wondering if you're ever going to comment on the recent controversy surrounding Professor Bruce Gilley and his article "The Case for Colonialism." The social justice crowd has been going bonkers over it and it seems some observations would be apt."
This is an essay in favor of...qualified support for colonialism as a good thing. And it appeared in the Third World Quarterly and it was excoriated by Professor Gilley's critics. Not particularly because of anything he said that they wanted to point out that was factually incorrect but the article has now been withdrawn from the Third World Quarterly by the publisher, Taylor & Francis. They publish all these scholarly journals and they issued the following statement. This is a remarkable statement, actually.
"Following a number of complaints, Taylor & Francis conducted a thorough investigation into the peer-review process on this article," the note reads. By the way, peer review is scholarly talk for total bollocks, as you know if you were in my shoes and you'd had anything to do with climate science peer review over the years. It's a deeply corrupted process. But anyway, they say, Taylor & Francis continues: "Whilst this clearly demonstrated the essay had undergone double-blind peer review," In other words it's gone through the proper process. "In line with the journal's editorial policy, the journal editor has subsequently received serious and credible threats of personal violence."
This is amazing. A guy writes a paper for a scholarly journal and it's withdrawn because the editor receives threats of personal violence. And since we live in a pansified age, instead of standing up for academic freedom these guys cave and withdraw the paper because the people who don't like the paper have threatened the physical safety of the editor.
Now on the matter of the case for colonialism, you don't need me to tell you that I'm broadly on Professor Gilley's side and I was colonialist before colonialism was cool. As I often say I'm basically a 19th Century imperialist 100 years past my sell by date. But it so happens that Matt's question came to me on the day that the Cato Institute in the United States and the Fraser Institute in the Dominion of Canada released their rankings of economic freedom in the world.
And I love this list so I'm going to do it in Casey Kasem top 40 style. I'm gonna count it down in reverse order. Hit sound number 10, 10th economically freest country in the world, Estonia. Number 9 Australia, number 8 Georgia, number 7 Mauritius, number 6 the United Kingdom, number 5 Ireland, number 4 Switzerland, number 3 New Zealand, number 2 Singapore, number 1 Hong Kong.
Now if you're an American and you're wondering where the United States comes in economic freedom they're just bubbling under the top 10 at hit sound number 11. If you're Canadian and you're wondering where Canada comes in the rankings of economic freedom, they're also bubbling under the top 10 tied with America at number 11.
So you notice anything that those countries have in common? The top 12, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Mauritius, Georgia, Australia, Estonia, Canada and the United States. 12 countries, nine of them are current or former realms of Her Britannic Majesty. In other words at one time or another they were either colonized or settled by Mother England. And of those 12 economically freest countries in the world, nine derive from England. That's the case for colonialism, that's the case for British colonialism.
The dominant regional power in almost any corner of the Earth, what do they have in common? South Africa, India, Australia, what do they have in common? The hyper power of the age, the United States. So I think the case for colonialism, is pretty obvious. Not general speaking. I regard...look, I'll say this because nobody else will. I'm not saying the British Empire is the best and the rest of you guys suck, but I'm actually tiptoeing up to the brink of saying it because somebody has to say it. Because you're not actually doing any favors to people when you encourage newly independent countries to trash their inheritance because...you don't even actually have to compare people on different sides of the globe.
The interesting thing about this list is that it includes nations that were settled by England in a certain senseâ€”Australia. But it also includes places on disparate parts of the Earth. It includes Mauritius, off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It includes Singapore in Asia. But the fact of the matter is a good reliable indicator of how well you do is how well you preserve that colonial inheritance. You don't have to compare apples and oranges, you just go to the Indian subcontinent and you look at India, the world's largest democracy. It has mainly kept its Westminster institutions. It has mainly kept its inheritance.
If you look next door at Pakistan, also carved out of the British Raj in India, they instead have gone for Sharia and they've gone backwards as India has gone forward. That's why when you call tech support at 3 in the morning from New Jersey or Florida; you're speaking to Rajiv or Suresh in Bangalore rather than some guy in Islamabad or Karachi.
And that's not to say that the English are the most agreeable people in the world. In fact the lady who did my makeup has just met a very nice Englishman. I said "You have to be very careful about them. They can be charming, superficially charming but they can be some of the most duplicitous fellas on the planet, you gotta be wary about them."
And a lot of people don't like the English. People chafed under English rule. But even the chippiest nationalists, by which I mean Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, or Nehru in India, or De Valera even close to home in Dublin, knew enough not to get rid of...they knew enough that if you enjoyed the benefits of Magna Carta, Common Law, Shakespeare, you'd have to be pretty stupid to get rid of them. And the guys who did get rid of them, which is mainly a bit of peripheral, African basket cases; they did no benefits to their people.
So I don't make it difficult to make the case for colonialism as a civilizing force in the world. No institution did more to rid the world of slavery than the Royal Navy and no record is perfect and in the balance of history there are always failings but on the whole the record of the British Empire in particular is all well and good and people should recognize that.
Anti-colonialists. I saw somebody objecting to this thing going on about King Leopold. Belgium had one lousy, stinking colony. I'd know this, my mum was Belgian. Belgium was a lousy colonial power, that's why they didn't have an empire, that's why King Leopold had the Congo as his like personal plaything. And the Belgians were lousy colonialists. And you notice when people run down colonialism they always eventually come back to King Leopold. That's not the story of colonialism. The story of colonialism is Barbados and Mauritius and Singapore and Malaysia and India. And I'm with Professor Gilley and I said earlier that generally speaking you can tell how well these countries are doing now by how much of their inheritance they kept.
The ones that didn't keep their inheritance, places like Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe with his strange Chinese made rubber prosthesis...I won't go into any more detail cuz that's the sort of thing that he's very sensitive if you start mentioning. If you say anything about Robert Mugabe, such as bringing up his rubber prosthesis in an interesting and unusual place made by the Chinese, he sends gangs out into the street to beat you up. That's what these guys have done; they've actually embraced the argument of the thug anti-colonialists. They didn't like the case for colonialism so they threatened the editor of the journal that published it and that tells you how weak the case for anti-colonialism is. As I said we're 19th Century imperialists here.
Holly says: What do you think of the latest Munk Debate topic: "American democracy is in its worst crisis in a generation and Donald Trump is to blame." Where do they come up with these resolutions?
I took part in last year's Munk Debate; you can find it out there on the Internet. It was about the refugee crisis and Nigel Farage and I had great fun with Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner, and Simon Schama, the BBC historian. You can find that. It was a fun debate. This year's was "American democracy is in its worst crisis in a generation and Donald Trump is to blame."
I actually agree that American democracy is in a pretty bad crisis but Donald Trump is not to blame for that. That's the reason Donald Trump got elected, is because American institutions cease to function and seized up and essentially became a closed club that operated in the interests of certain influential groups and a lot of people felt excluded from it and they voted for Donald Trump. But you've seen it in the last insofar as there's a crisis at the moment it's that the Republican Party did not realize that they had last November been handed a great opportunity to actually demonstrate that they were a modernizing, efficient, governing party that could accomplish great things. And instead this small group of narcissist senators decided that they had no interest in the president's agenda and they decided to obstruct it.
And it's true that the U.S. Constitution differs from the Westminster constitution or most parliamentary constitutions, not just in Canada or Oz or whatever but even by comparison with continental Europe in that it was designed to be difficult to do things. And that works in a small government culture but the effect of that when you have a big government culture, which is what we have now, is that it's still difficult to do things but is difficult to do is actually to reverse the ratchet effect of big government. It just keeps growing and growing and growing like that monstrous plant in little shop of horrors. You go to bed for a couple of hours and you wake up in the morning and the big, oozing pustules of the big government plant are even worse than they were the previous day.
And so it's for difficult to do, for example, what Sir Roger Douglas did as finance minister in New Zealand in the 1980s when they basically privatized a whole bunch of stuff and shrank the size of New Zealand government. It'd be wonderful to do that in the United States but it's actually difficult to do. And the Senate in particular is a dysfunctional institution.
Then you have the crisis of essentially judicial legislating, which is an abomination in and of itself. I don't really care what a judge thinks in terms of what he thinks a bill should be. I don't want judges of any kind legislating. But it's particularly bad when most judges are so to speak, social justices. And so you can have a district court judge in Hawaii or wherever who thinks he has the power to essentially remake American foreign policy and strike down Trump's so-called travel ban on six or seven different countries.
I think it's important to bear in mind here that there are systemically dysfunctional institutions in the United States and Trump is not to blame for that, in part that's why Trump got elected.
Kate Smyth writes: "A specific Weinstein question," Because we all love Harvey Weinstein, he's such a charmer, the ladies adore him, "Are corporations such as Miramax or the BBC with Jimmy Savile, effectively the same as church institutions found to be complicit in historical sex abuse crimes, in putting the interests and reputation of the organization ahead of the safety of individuals (including potential future victims)? Isn't the hushed payout akin to moving the offending priest to a different parish?"
This is a very interesting question. I think it's actually worse than that because in the Catholic Church they had problems with priests and if you look at the Boston diocese they moved some of these guys around until I think one guy. They'd moved him all the way through Massachusetts and up through the state of Maine, all the way up to the Maine-New Brunswick border. That was basically as far as they could move that guy, moving him around, Cardinal Law I think was the guy's name running that operation.
It's actually worse I would saw at Miramax. The Catholic institutions bodies that were doing that were actually still doing real jobs. Harvey Weinstein's company had all kinds of people whose only job was to procure broads for him to hit on. They paid the head of Miramax-Italy 400 grand just to find chicks for Harvey to grope. So that's a non-job. And that by the way is a personal expense of Harvey's, that's not a legitimate business expense. If you have a $400,000 a year position at Miramax, that guy's supposed to be doing something involving motion pictures. He's not just supposed to be arranging what we might euphemistically call Harvey Weinstein's social life.
So that's an issue for Miramax. I don't know where the tax is, whether the so-called business expense was deducted in Italy or via the parent company, Disney, in the United States. But that is an issue that some revenue agencies in Italy or the U.S, ought to be looking into.
I'll tell you something else too and this is the corruption. There is a pattern of behavior at the Weinstein Company in Los Angeles, where Harvey would meet some young actress. He'd be at a gala or an awards show or the Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, any film festival. And a couple of months later he'd call them up, he'd ask them to come to lunch or something and the pattern of behavior was that a woman would make the call and say, "Harvey wants to meet with you in his room or meet alone with you." And the woman who would make the call and set up the appointment would explain that she'd be there too so you thought that it was gonna be a meeting with multiple people including the woman who was arranging the appointment.
And the woman who made the appointment always knew that 10 minutes after the meeting started she said she suddenly had some other meeting to go to and she would withdraw and leave Harvey around to drop his pants in front of whatever actress or whatever that he was interested in nailing. That's what makes it systemic corruption. And that's what shames and taints the Weinstein Company and why I believe they'll be changing their name. They'll do it quietly, they'll keep the stupid name for another few weeks but that name isn't going to be on anything in a year's time, you know that.
Matthew McWilliams, also on that: "Hi Mark, It's easy for me to write off Harvey Weinstein and those like him as brutes who think it their right to satisfy whatever primal urge they might have at a given moment.
What I find more puzzling is the general dismantling of the traditional cultural values related to marriage, gender, citizenship, etc., as well as the general assault on our historical inheritance. I find it hard to believe that anyone in a position of real power actually believes these are good ideas for maintaining an orderly society, yet they continue to promote them.
So my question is a simple one, but perhaps difficult to answer. In your view, what is the long game in all this in terms of societal organization? Does a long term strategy even exist? Do you think anybody promoting these ideas has actually given any thought to where this is supposed to lead, let alone where it might actually lead to?"
Well I think it's actually an alliance between two forces. I think when you look on the people on the streets, for example, they're the Antifa people or the Black Lives Matter people or whatever and I think that they generally are interested in just destroying. You turn your back for a minute in Berkeley or in Ferguson and they're just smashing small businesses or they're smashing monuments to Christopher Columbus or to Robert E. Lee or whatever and they just feel like smashing and destroying and they aren't actually...and that is just a general neologism of destruction. But I think the danger is the elites make common cause with them. And that's not just the sort of frisson where you get if you're just producing some dreary awards show on TV and you've got a dance routine and you think it might be good to have a little black lives matter edginess in the dance routine, just to make it a little edgy and transgressive, that's basically anarchism as a fashion statement.
But I think it also gets to the heart of an entertainment culture. If you look at people like Harvey Weinstein, they make a 90 minute, 2 hour entertainment and it makes a billion dollars. That's incredible, that's incredible. Just to be clear about this, that's from a form of dramatic storytelling that as recently as 120 years ago people still had to tour it around going from town to town, theater to theater, so when you were doing your 90 minute, two hour storytelling you'd be turning up, getting off the train in some little, dumpy provincial town and you'd be going backstage to a grubby dressing room and you'd be putting grease paint on your face and you'd do your little 90 minute, 2 hour storytelling and then at the end of it you might go for dinner in the local hotel in that town. And that was 2 hour dramatic storytelling 120 years ago.
Now it's billion dollar storytelling across the planet and it's one of the most successful businesses ever devised and so the people...if you make your living like that, if you're paid $20 million to be in Ironman 7 or Cardboard Man 12 or actually Harvey Weinstein he's starring in Pigman, it's coming up, it's our biggest Hollywood blockbuster yet, you'll love it. I think it becomes very difficult to actually think in rational, socioeconomic terms.
Now then you take it to the next level. You look at Facebook. A guy invents a template by which a housewife in Ohio or a guy in the jungle in Papua New Guinea can just upload and share little photographs of what they've been doing. 95 percent of it is totally boring and of no interest. It's basically like home movies used to be in the 70s, where the dreaded part of the evening was when your host said, "Hey, do you want to look at these holiday snaps that I took? I was on the beach in Spain for a week and I took some holiday snaps, would you like to look at my holiday snaps from Spain?" And nobody did. There would be seven people in the room and none of them wanted to see his home movies. And then this guy Zuckerberg comes along and says, "You can upload all this rubbish that nobody wants to see and it'll become the biggest business on the planet."
So he's actually gone one better than the two hour dramatic storytelling taking old time 19th Century melodrama and doing it on a big flickering screen. He doesn't have to create any content, he doesn't even have to hire anybody to create content, he just has to get all 7 billion people on the planet to give him the most boring content in the world for free and it becomes the biggest business on the planet. Now once you've done that why wouldn't you think that you could remake anything? Why would you think citizenship is important? Why would it be odd that Facebook now has 57 different genders where before there just used to be two sexes? Man and woman. I mean if you can actually become the biggest company on the planet from getting people to give you the world's most boring content for free, why wouldn't you think you could remake sex and remake citizenship and remake anything you want to.
And I think in that sense the fact that there's boundless ambition derives from the fact that the entertainment industry, media, social media and all the rest of it is divorced from standard socioeconomic pressure on a scale that no one has ever yet seen.
Let's have one last one. Loyd Nixon. "When I watched your appearance on the "Greg Gutfeld Show" I was embarrassed because I remember having watched a portion of this sop to Hillary." This was when Greg played all these clips of comedy writers reading out these glowing thank you cards on The Tonight Show to Hillary Clinton, as she site there. These are comedy writers, they're people paid to write jokes, instead they're doing these Hallmark greeting cards with soppy piano music underneath saying how much they love Hillary. And this guy, Loyd Nixon says. "At the time I thought this was to be a rather long joke. But, I wasn't interested enough to wade through it for the punchline. How far will this go over time and how does it affect the quality of their work product?"
There will be no jokes in the future. I've got a whole section on this in my book called "Last Laughs." Because if you look at jokes now, jokes are actually about attitude and the classic moment was when Stephen Colbert, the guy who's taken over from David Letterman on The Late Show, and he comes on and he does a joke, he begins by saying that Trump has just fired Jim Comey and everybody cheers because they think that Jim Comey's the head of the FBI so they think it's good that he's been fired. And then Stephen Colbert has to explain to them that that's not something they're meant to laugh at, it's meant to be a bad thing that Trump has fired Jim Comey. And so that's the point, it's north to do with jokes anymore, it's nothing to do with comedy, it's to do with the correct attitude, and that's why if you notice on a lot of those shows you get that rather knowing applause. People don't find it funny anymore and so they applaud themselves and they applaud the joke because the joke has the correct attitude.
So actually in an interesting sociological phenomenon, where watching a joke evolve, the joke evolve instead into a demonstration of a correct attitude. And that in of itself is quite a fascinating sociological phenomenon, which is my way of saying whatever that the show was, The Tonight Show, all those comedy writers doing their thank you notes to Hillary, eventually, in essence...and that's why incidentally they all backed off on doing jokes about Harvey Weinstein, they didn't know how to do it. You know, Saturday Night Live, the world's most cobwebbed and geriatric edgy comedy show couldn't actually figure out because Harvey Weinstein is supposed to be on the side of the angels, because he's a big Hillary donor, they couldn't actually figure out, "Where's the comedy in that? We can't make any jokes. What's funny?"
Because they're striking attitudes and as I always say, and I think I first said this after I happened to be in an elevator, not in an elevator in a lobby, the elevator lobby next to Strom Thurmond when he mistook me for a woman and started stroking my hand, you always have to be able to see the comedy in your own side and once you lose that there are very, very few laughs.
Thank you for all your letters. We will see you next time.