Today marks the first day of The Mark Steyn Club's second year in business. Our Song of the Week department celebrated with a fairly obvious selection, but one whose convoluted and highly litigious tale I hope you'll enjoy. We also announced the inaugural Mark Steyn Club Cruise, sailing from Montreal to Boston this autumn - at the height of foliage season - via historic Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Maine and the blink-or-you'll-miss-it New Hampshire Seacoast. I hope you'll want to join me and my special guests for a convivial week: We'll do many of the things we do here each se'nnight - a little bit of history, as we pass the spot where the destiny of a continent changed hands; I may essay a live Tale for Our Time reading from Anne of Green Gables when we hit Charlottetown. And we'll do a live Mark Steyn Show or two while we're at sea. If you haven't yet received in your inbox details of our Club Cruise, email here and we'll be delighted to rectify the error.
If you'll forgive me indulging a little on this birthday celebration of a hugely successful first year, I had grave misgivings about launching our Club - and, for a guy who's written all kinds of stuff in all kinds of formats all over the planet for decade after decade, I had enormous difficulty finding the right tone in our initial pitch. I didn't want to sound like a total loser, because who wants to pal around with a total loser? So I tiptoed around the bad stuff ("I'm about to begin my sixth year in the hell of the DC court system over a 270-word blog post") and tried to play up the positive side of it ("the most consequential American free-speech case in half-a-century"). But, in fact, this time last May, I was indeed on the express chute to total loserdom.
It was two months after CRTV fired me, broke my contract and left me on the hook for a huge six-figure sum in production and payroll expenses, and I was under sustained assault from almost every angle. I'll give you merely the weirdest example to illustrate how comprehensive the onslaught was:
Shortly before we launched the Club and in the midst of all manner of legal distractions, a CRTV security guard stole the Mark Steyn Show cat tree. It was a custom-built cat tree from a company in Ontario designed to bear the weight of the corpulent feline who stars in this music video. Fortunately for the poor overweight fellow, the guard was photographed in the act of stealing the cat tree and loading it into the truck. And a very nimble colleague of mine coolly texted the photo to him as he was driving back to southern Vermont and suggested he might want to turn around and bring back his ill-gotten gains. He did, mainly because he couldn't withstand official scrutiny (he was working illegally for CRTV).
Even so: stealing a cat-tree? On orders? I mean, who does that? I've been in dicey spots in Iraq and Bosnia and elsewhere over the years, but I've never felt so exhaustively assailed as the moment I got an email saying my cat tree had just been nicked: Even in bad times, that's not something one expects to have to worry about. When CRTV screwed me over, I assumed I was in a fairly conventional contract dispute. I quickly learned it was far more than that. Last Friday, Bo Snerdley from "The Rush Limbaugh Show" introduced me on stage in Polk County, Florida, and, congratulating me on my recent court victory, noted that I had been subject to a campaign of "smears". And afterwards a few people asked what he had meant by that. Well, it wasn't enough for me to lose my CRTV gig. A prominent and powerful figure in American media, for reasons I will never fully understand, went to strenuous efforts to get me booted off all other outlets, too, especially the Limbaugh show. So I'm extremely grateful to Rush, Mr Snerdley, Kraig Kitchin (one of our trial witnesses - see page 11 of Judge Gordon's final order), Mike, Allie, Clay and everyone else I've worked with at EIB for years for making me feel welcome in the guest-host chair during those dark days of last spring. I was very touched by Snerdley's remarks the other night: The storm has passed, mainly because he and Rush's team held firm.
But this time last year I was facing the meltdown of my entire American career, from mysteriously withdrawn speaking engagements to suddenly canceled guest appearances on TV. We were determined to honor our contractual obligations to staffers who'd stayed loyal, yet Cary Katz had left us drowning in debt and I had no work or prospect of any in the United States. We launched the Club in a desperate hour - and, as I said, I had great difficulty trying not to let that desperation show.
I didn't entirely succeed. I subsequently heard that Chris Crane, the CRTV executive who called me "Pussy Steyn" and promised to "put this motherf**ker on the hook for everything" (see page eight of Judge Gordon's order), read the Club launch at SteynOnline and scoffed that I was a "loser" reduced to "begging for money".
I am many things. I am an effete Canadian. I like show tunes and cat albums. But one thing I am not is a loser. I won. And in this matter it is Crane and his CRTV colleagues who are the designated losers, big time. And that will not change. I have no wish to say any more about this last hellish year. But the longer the shabby and dishonorable CRTV resists complying with Judge Bransten and Judge Gordon's orders, the more inevitable it is that more will emerge. But that's their choice, not mine - as it was their choice all along, to fire me, to breach my contract, to sue me for ten million dollars, to re-sue me for five million dollars. The choice of losers who can't quit losing.
As for "begging for money", well, no, we don't. Like CRTV, we're in the content business - and some of our content reaches a far higher audience than any of theirs. We're pleased to report that our TV shows with Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray and Lindsay Shepherd have between them stacked up a combined audience of almost 900,000. That's not exactly viral, as the young 'uns say, and it's not like the millions and millions of listeners and viewers I have when I guest-host for Rush or Tucker, but it's surprisingly competitive with most US cable networks - at 8pm the other Monday night, for example, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield on HLN had a total audience of 155,000. So our viewership isn't bad for a trio of substantive long-form interviews with serious persons arguing their corners in a compelling and persuasive manner. We intend to do more of that in our second year.
We also provide more specialized content: I'm so pleased with the reaction to our monthly audio books and to our video poems. We'll have a brand new Tale for Our Time to mark our first anniversary, and more poetry and music in the year ahead. This website is about the big picture (Islam, demography, civilizational collapse) and the small pleasures (songs and films and poems) in whatever form suits each subject: print, audio, video.
But one thing we will never do is wall up our political content. As I wrote a year ago:
One aspect of the CRTV model I was never comfortable with was the subscription-only aspect. It was never meant to be part of the plan for The Mark Steyn Show. Indeed, the honcho who pitched it to me said that "Mark needs to be on TV at this critical time in history." It's a weird thing to be told that you need to be out there saving western civilization - but only for premium subscribers. Anybody in the ideas business wants their ideas out in the world, available to all and tested by all.
I felt that particularly strongly after taking part in last year's Munk Debate before an audience of upscale leftie Torontonians on the subject of the "refugee" crisis afflicting the western world. I walked on stage at Roy Thomson Hall with my debating partner Nigel Farage (a few weeks before his Brexit triumph) to find the pre-show survey had almost 80 per cent of the crowd opposed to us. By the end of the night, Nigel and I had, by one of the biggest margins in Munk Debate history, persuaded a significant percentage of the audience to change its opinion - simply by stating the reality of the situation in a compelling and persuasive manner. That's the key word: persuasion. And you can't persuade people over to your side if you're holed up behind a subscription paywall talking to people who already agree with you.
We've stayed true to that, and we now provide more free content than at any time in our fifteen-year history - columns and essays, SteynPosts and Mark's Mailbox, On the Town and Song of the Week. That would not be possible without The Mark Steyn Club. So on this first anniversary I'm especially grateful to all our first-day Founding Members, beginning with a gentleman from small-town Idaho who signed up shortly after midday Pacific Time and kicked off an avalanche of subscribers. I was stunned by your enthusiasm, and even more surprised as it grew in the ensuing weeks and months. My only regret is that we didn't do this a decade and a half ago, and I hope to thank many of you personally on this autumn's cruise. We're thrilled by all the renewals from all around the planet - from the Czech Republic to the Cook Islands. If you've waited a while to join us to see whether we're in it for the long haul, yes, we are - and membership does come with benefits:
*Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, CDs and other products;
*The opportunity to engage in Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly, in print, audio and video;
*Our monthly series of audio adventures Tales for Our Time. We started with my serialization of Conan Doyle's timelier than ever Tragedy of the Korosko, and moved on through H G Wells, Scott Fitzgerald, Jack London, Conrad, Kipling, Dickens, Gogol, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Thirty-Nine Steps and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. You can either listen to an episode per night, as we aired them originally, or you can binge-listen to the lot on a long car journey;
*Transcript and audio versions of our video content: For those who find it less stressful not to have to look at me, we're making The Mark Steyn Show available in non-visual form. If you go here, you'll find that we've already posted audio episodes of every single SteynPost all the way back to the very first one, plus some of our long-form shows, which we're also working our way through;
*Comment Club membership: you get to frolic and gambol through our comments section and take issue with me and my columns and radio shows and TV appearances. I weigh in there myself from time to time, but it's essentially your turf where you get to take the rhetorical baseball bat to any cut of my jib that happens to rankle. There's a lot of good stuff in there;
*Our newsletter, The Clubbable Steyn;
*My video series on classic poetry;
*The chance to join your fellow members on this autumn's Mark Steyn Club Cruise;
*Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
*Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest (arts, politics, culture, or the whole shebang);
*and, most importantly, the opportunity to support all our content, from the Big Picture stuff on Islam and climate change and civilizational collapse to the small pleasures of good conversation, great movies and live music.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, or to sign up a friend, please click here. Thank you for a terrific and spectacular first year. There will be many more birthdays to come.
~Tonight Mark will be keeping his Monday date with "Tucker Carlson Tonight", live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific.
For more Steyn Club first anniversary celebrations, please see:
Steyn's Song of the Week
Happy Birthday to You