Attentive fans may know that Mark had the honour last month of receiving the first annual George Jonas Freedom Award at a gala put on by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. It was a star-studded affair, with author Conrad Black, director David Cronenburg, and esteemed lawyer Julian Porter, who defended Mark during his British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal hearing, among the distinguished guests.
You can watch Conrad Black's introduction of Mark, and Mark's remarks here. Typically, transcripts of Mark's videos and live appearances are among the myriad perks reserved for Mark Steyn Club members.
With Mark still "on assignment," we thought we'd offer a sampling of Club benefits by making this transcript available for those who prefer reading at their leisure to watching.
If you'd prefer Mark in the flesh, there are still a few cabins left on the inaugural Mark Steyn Cruise, though not for long!
George Jonas Freedom Award Dinner
June 15, 2018 | Toronto
Conrad Black: Thank you very much John.
My dear friends the honor is mine. Indeed after such an elaborate analysis of the status of the Easter bunny the introduction of any less distinguished a man than Mark Steyn would be an anticlimax. And thank you for your very gracious words, generous words, John. We all want to play the cards we're dealt and sometimes they're not a good hand.
Mark is of course well known to all of you, a very justly renowned figure and you might not know that he was actually born in Toronto. But he is one of the few people who was born in Toronto, went to school largely in Birmingham, England and then launched his career, his media career,in Timmins, Ontario. An odd trajectory and a mere prelude to what was to come. But being in Timmins as a disc jockey he was in a sense following in the great tradition founded by Roy Thompson and Jack Kent Cook who when they kept the files of the Timmins press in a bath tub in Timmins in the early 1940s would have been improbable candidates to spend the declining decades of their lives as billionaires, which they did do, so Mark the best is yet to come.
I first became aware of Mark when he he started writing for a newspaper when I was the chairman of the Daily Telegraph in London, The Independent which practically nobody read including me but our editor at The Spectator, Dominic Lawson, a brilliant editor, spotted him and attracted him to The Spectator where I did see him and insisted the that he be engaged by The Daily Telegraph and we were an expanding newspaper company at that time when the industry was flourishing and as our editors in different places got a look at him they all wanted him and before long he was being published in Jerusalem, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, Ottawa and Calgary, Vancouver and when we founded The National Post in Chicago when we bought the Sun-Times the sun never set on Mark's readership.
But he had a...as delightful a man and dear friend as he is I cannot say that he is the easiest employee I've ever dealt with. He had two practices that created.... well three that created certain problems. One was he would only deal on an issue with the company, no matter how obscure it was, he would only deal with my associate Dan Colson and myself. Either one of us.
Secondly he was almost impossible to reach because this was in the era when he informed me that he was buying a winter house in Iraq and a summer house in Tadisak but I don't think he actually did it, as the English would po-facedly told me that's what he was going to do but he as far as I could establish lived in a recreational vehicle which looked like a modified Sheridan tank on wheels that he constantly had in motion between Vermont and the region of Montreal just outside Montreal and mobile phones were not then what they are now so he wasn't so easy to get hold of and the third problem was that his view was that he had an agreement with the company so if any editor from Jerusalem to Sydney going in either direction altered so much as a comma it was down in the pens, it was the old Fleet Street rules, that was it nothing and we would get a cascade of urgent inquiries from editors all over the world saying where's Mark's column, we're holding the space for him and then Colson or I would have to chase him up, which is I said was complicated and we could always resolve it, he's a perfectly reasonable man to deal with but but he has his foibles and they're lovable but they can be difficult.
Of course he became a writer that everybody became addicted to and I thought that his reporting on President Clinton and his travails were particularly brilliant and I thought his summary at the end of the spurious impeachment trial that that president was subjected to in the US Senate and no one summed it up as well as Mark did when he wrote "Air Force one is back in its hanger."
When the American legal system inflicted itself upon me, which John graciously referred to, Mark had the task of reporting on this for MacLean's and blogging on it every day. And he became, given the genius of his insight and the brilliance of his exposition and influence on the case, because he would encounter jurors. Now these jurors were pretty a pretty unSolomonic group and they were part of the catchment of the great city of Chicago which in the best times is a pretty rough town. And he would happen in a conversation with them and extract the most astounding things from them which was good intelligence for us but he took to writing about them individually in his blog and he particularly focused on one ladyâ€”that's a very all encompassing use of the word lady--who had the habit of, if you remember that that pink bubble gum we could blow big bubbles with and she'd blow these big bubbles and at...sitting immediately in front of the jurors were prosecutors and Mark described how this this woman had an astounding talent producing these gigantic chewing gum bubbles that hovered over the prosecution like German airships in World War I and anyway one day there was no more blowing of bubbles, obviously her Honor the judge now on her way to the circuit court of appeals was reading my blog.
Mark and I and Barbara and my daughter were together there and and they flagged that they didn't always want to go out to dinner but Mark and I did and and we had some most entertaining dinners in Chicago but I have always felt, I must tell you this, Mark I think you have and it's very rare for you a slight degree of envy because while we had our joint table in a couple of restaurants, including the one that I subsequently discovered was favored by the then senator from Illinois Barack Obama but we never saw him there, I think you were slightly envious of the fact that la tous Paris I got on the menu and you didn't. So you know you don't win them all.
I don't want to finish without saying a serious word about the tremendous stance of principle that Mark has taken in some of the litigation that he's had to deal with. In the case of Michael Mann he commented on this a monstrous charlatan and all that rubbish about the hockey stick and the you know...at least when the Prince of Wales said that Manhattan would be under water and you know the temperature in Winnipeg in February would be 90Â°F if we didn't all live under thatch and ride in carpools he was sincere but this man was just a just a disgrace and Mark commented on that and has been tangled up on the horrors of the civil legal system in the U.S. since then.
The battle that he had these fascistic human rights tribunals, which is the classic Orwellian newspeak, it means the deprivation of people's rights and...like the Trinity Western cases, an absolutely scandalous decision but not unfortunately a surprising one today that John referred to. Mark fought the good fight there and he won and he of course this absolute scoundrel Mister Katz, with whom he was briefly in business and that bust up, Mark won. This must be the greatest act of accidental justice produced by the American legal system in decades but he won an award of $4,000,000 and the last I saw, was conducting a fraudulent bankruptcy to try and deprive Mark of his winnings.
Anyway look the introduction of Mark again could go on at great length but you haven't come here to listen to me so I shall subside. I'll only say that I understand I can't actually leave the stage, we're going to show that Metternich was right, that all things end either by the people on the stage finishing or those that they're trying to deal with mounting the stage but I think in this case it'll be a benign matter of giving Mark his award and it is a very great honor and a very great pleasure to be part of honoring George Jonas specifically with Mark Steyn, two great man and dear friends. Thank you.
Mark Steyn: Thank you, thank you very much, Maya. It is a great honor to be here. Thank you to Conrad. It's great to see so many old friends from the launch of the National Post. Conrad and Barbara and I think my old editor Natasha, where are you, Natasha? Oh over there? And I think Andrew, is Andrew Coyne in the room or has he fled in terror after hearing Conrad's encomium to me? In your dreams, Andrew. It's great to be here. George was a big part of the early days of the National Post. He was a most unusual columnist in that he had another life, he didn't....he wasn't just interested in whether Patrick Brown was up and John Tory was down. Jonathan Kay, out of no disrespect to Jonathan's mother, who's here but one of the few things Jonathan has got right in recent years was when he said that George was at his least useful to the paper in the six weeks before an election because he didn't have much of an interest in the passings and goings of ordinary politicians, who all let you down.
And he had a much richer hinterland, he said interesting sentences that nobody else has written as far as I can tell from a Google search. His father..."my father knew the names of librettists," was a sentence that George wrote and I always...you can read Andrew Coyne for the next 30 years, he'll never do it. George wrote libretti, he wrote poetry, he wrote plays, he wrote novels, he wrote true crime, in part because I think the forensic aspect of true crime required the same precision as writing a poem or a libretto where you got to say it in very...again you got to be very precise, you gotta get your syllables lined up, you got to your prose. He was a dramaturge--I think this was one of his first jobs at a provincial theatre in Hungary, which was putting on an operetta festival and I'd spent some months in Hungary making a film on operetta with MTV, which isn't the caterwauling rock video station of the 80s but in fact stands for a Magyar Televisio I think? Hungarian Television.
And so I was interested in operetta and he told me when he put on this operetta festival that they'd had a lot of the old operettas, The Merry Widow, The Count of Luxembourg, The Countess Maritza, the count of this, the count of that, the Lord Black of Crossharbour, that's a fantastic operetta. He gets the girl in the end, you'll enjoy it.
But because it was under communism operetta was problematic because of the class elements of this. So they said at one point, the guy, the local commissar says what about the Soviet operettas? And George says what do you mean Soviet operetta? And the guy says well you know the Soviets would be offended if you have an operetta festival and you don't have a Soviet operetta. They couldn't find a Soviet operetta so George and a couple of pals who wrote one themselves. And it's called Little Sunshine and as Soviet operettas go it's quite competitive because after The Merry Widow and The Count of Luxembourg and all that there's a big downturn. Basically communism kills operetta because they kill all the counts. So what are you gonna sing about? So the big socialist operetta in Hungary was an operetta called The State Department Store.
I don't know whether any of our Hungarians are in that. Did you ever see that? It was a big thing, they used to show it, The State Department Store. If you're a Hollywood producer you know that's a hit title. So George was unlike any other columnist at the National Post he had a rich life, and he could have had a happy and productive life just writing poetry and libretti and so on if it weren't for the fact that he also cared about what was happening to the country he came to accidentally and to Western Civilization in the broadest sense and so he devoted part of his life to speaking out about the great threat to liberty all around us as we saw in the Supreme...by the way since this is a night dedicated to the Easter Bunny I want to say that I believe in the Easter Bunny far more than I believe in the Supreme Court of Canada. And actually if I want to appeal it to the Easter Bunny the Trinity Western I'm all for that, they should they should do that but George was a great writer. Everybody knows that George was not in great physical shape toward the end and he spoke for the Justice Center just a couple of years before he died. And if any of you were there you'll know.
When I say he spoke he couldn't actually speak his own speech at that point because he was too physically ill to stand up or whatever so he sat down. And somebody else read out the speech for him and it was the coolest thing I've ever seen because George just sat there while some other guy read out his speech and George sat there laughing at his own jokes. It was fantastic. So tonight I've decided...can you bring a chair up? I'm gonna take a chair and Andrew Coyne's gonna come and read my speech. And that looks like Clint Eastwood.
You know I don't like teaching writing because if you've got anybody... if there's a worse thing in the world than going and taking a course in writing or going into journalism school I don't know what it is. Columbia Journalism School, people mortgage their homes, they stack up $400,000 of debt to go and work in an industry that's currently paying $28,000 a year. I mean that really is a sensible business model and so I used to....I've occasionally been asked to teach writing and column writing and I used to use George as an example because I said George always had ingredients that you want. You never want a column to just live in the present tense, you also want something that looks backwards and looks forward, that uses the past to say something about the future and George was actually brilliant at that. He had a great way of just selecting some poignant little vignette from thousands of miles away and hundreds of years ago that would illuminate the point he was wanting to make. He was also a great aphorist. And I find, I don't know about you but I find when you're writing generally speaking it's easy to steal some other fellow's insight because most of the time it's not quite as well expressed as it should be. You know the words don't get the full juice out of the thought. I'm often with Andrew, for example, reading him and he'll stumble on something that's quite good but it doesn't quite have laser like precision that you know a really gifted wordsmith might bring to it, so you lift it and you like put the words in a slightly different order and then you have your...you could never do that with George because he was a peerless aphorist and so you couldn't steal his stuff and all you could do is copy it out and then type the words in front of it "as George Jonas once wrote."
And that's good advice, just type out three or four of his best lines, keep it in your pocket or in a folded piece of paper and it'll get you through almost any other public speaking engagement. I would like to illustrate that tonight with a with a couple of George's lines that speak to years after them speak to our time. As George Jonas once wrote, "If you write down your rights and freedoms you lose them."
And George was quite serious about this. He had a respect for the U. S. Constitution, he had more of a respect for our tradition in the Westminster system where generally speaking we did not adumbrate every specific item of life and write it down and he liked fellas like the British constitutionalist Dicey, who did not believe in written constitutions and George observed that when he was a young man when people heard something they didn't like they would often respond, 'Well it's a free country,' or "There oughta be a law.' And he observed that now you didn't hear those two sayings as much as you used to and that the reason for that was when people used to say there ought to be a law, now there is a law. There's a law against everything, there's a law about everything. People no longer say, 'Well it's a free country,' and it's an odd thing because it's a cliche we all took for granted and nobody, nobody under 50 says that. It's an odd thing, it's a way of looking at public discourse that has gone away.
Some of you may remember when Ezra Levant ran into trouble with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. He was interrogated by an agent, as I think they call them, they call them human rights rights commission agents, they're like James Bond and Shirley McGovern was her name, she was briefly the most famous Albertan on the planet and she was interrogating Ezra and Ezra went into this great sonorous, rhetorical flourish about how he didn't recognize the jurisdiction of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, he had the right to say what he pleased and he was going to continue to speak up and he believed in free speech. And he went on a bit as Ezra does when he gets excited. And at the end of of it Shirley McGovern said, "Well you're entitled to your opinion." And he said, "No, if I was entitled to my opinion I wouldn't be here being interrogated by you."
That's the point. Sometimes what happens sneaks up on us so fast that we don't even notice that the comforting cliches have become obsolete. The most necessary condition of freedom is that the citizenry assume the habits of free people; they live like free people, they expect to be treated as free people. So when cliches disappear, when something like "You're entitled to your opinion" goes away, when "Well it's a free country," goes away we should listen very carefully to that because the biggest threat here....you know it's not just culture, which is important, it's not just lawsuits. I laughed by the way when John said that he had, what was it? Three lawyers and a paralegal? I wish I could get down to that slimmed down staffing I'll tell you that. Boy I would love to get the invoice of the end of that one, that's a real bargain.
By the way I should say, Julian Porter who is sitting over there. Julian was a brilliant QC on the MacLean's case. And I hadn't yet been tied up in a decade of American litigation by then and the amazing thing about that case is that Julian, you did that whole thing single-handedly. It's like....that guy over there, he's actually a lawyer who, you know, if you hire him to do the case he does the case. When you're south of the border you hire the lawyer and the lawyer he's what they call "first chair." You've heard this, Conrad, the lawyers down south of the border they call themselves...the lead lawyer calls himself first chair, like he's with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the violin section and you're thinking, how big is the string section gonna be? Julian is an orchestra all by himself, there's no first chair he's the chair.
Another one of George's that is a famous one, I think. When you lose the habits of liberty, when you cease thinking like a free people. When you don't expect to live in freedom, something fills the void. George famously wrote: "It isn't wrong because it's illegal it's illegal because it's wrong." He was talking about a period a few years ago when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were discovered to be burning the barns of Quebec separatists and the then prime minister Trudeau pere, Trudeau the Elder, I don't know, how do we refer to him now? Trudeau the Elder, Trudeau Pere. He said if people were so upset about the Mounties illegally binding down barns maybe he'd make it legal to burn down barns and George rebuked him and said it isn't wrong because it's illegal, it's illegal because it's wrong.
That's a fundamental view of the morality that under girds society and if you replace morality with law, eventually you just have legalisms, you have a bewildering array of contradictory statutes. John Moulton, Lord Moulton, who was a distinguished judge in England and actually had a what I regard... during the Great War he had one of my favorite job titles in the British government. He was Director General of Explosives. I don't think anyone...I think ISIS has a director general of explosives but I don't think anyone else had had that job since Lord Moulton.
He used to talk about what he called divided society into three sectors which he considered the most important to be the middle land because at one end you have the things that you cannot do, and that's like murder and rape and steal and at the other end you have the things that you are free to do, absolute freedom in and in the middle you have what he called the realm of manners, where you are trusted to govern yourself. And he said you judge the health of any society, of any true civilization, by how large that realm of manners between the expressly forbidden and that which you are absolutely free to do, how large that realm of manners in the middle is. And our realm of manners shrinks remorselessly. All the stories that George like to pick out of the foot of page 37 in the newspaper and he liked to riff off and they occur again and again. There's a story out of Windsor where they have a waxing salon called The Mad Wax Salon and you can go there and get a Brazilian wax. And a couple of weeks ago a transgender lady called up for the full Brazilian. If you don't know what a full Brazilian is I'll give you one in the parking lot afterwards.
This transgendered woman called up for full Brazilian and explained as is the way now the transgender lady hadn't gone all the way as we say. For Austin Powers fans, she still had the old twig and berries I believe the expression is. And so the guy goes I think that might be a bit of a problem, the only waxologist we have on today is a devout Muslim woman. So if the devout Muslim woman has to give you the full Brazilian her husband's gonna have to kill her. And so the aggrieved trans person says and this is an actual quote says: "What you have to accept is that you can't do this because these days women have penises."
Now this guy isn't...now I'm a right wing...I'm an extreme right wing hate monger so I'd be saying to the transgender, "You know bring bring it on lady, I got no fear of you." This guy is just your usual Trudeaupian squish, he's like a big local guy in the Windsor business community, he's given to the LGBTQQS...I always lose it after the second Q. He's given to the parade for years and years and years. There's no right answer to this question, there's no correct answer to this question. Do you side with the transgender person or do you side with the Muslim waxologist?
In the future there will only be news stories about wax seeking transgenders and devout Muslim waxologists. They will be the only kind of news story that exists. There's no correct answer but they're happy, the Ontario Human Rights Commission will be happy to destroy that guy's life over it. And that's what Lord Moulton meant by the realm of manners.
I toured Australia a few years ago and every stop along.... I was very glad to have half the Australian cabinet introduce me at stops along the way. And I insisted on putting them through my rendition of "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, big disco hit. Anyone know when it was number one in Canada? come on we got a fully loaded Prius to give away. What? It was number one, yeah when, what year? 1974, that's right you win the fully loaded Prius. See me afterwards I'll be giving a Brazilian wax to the lady at the back of the room. In 1974 number 1, a guy is...it's oldies night in a pub on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England. And a guy is singing at oldies night "Kung Fu Fighting." And an Asian man is walking outside when through the window comes the sound of a man singing "there were funky Chinamen in funky Chinatown."
He calls the Isle of Wight police and they arrest the oldies singer for a hate crime. Now "Kung Fu Fighting" do you know who sang "Kung Fu Fighting?" Well this is amazing, Carl Douglas. Yeah from the British West Indies and a producer called Biddu, who was from India, from Bangalore where they make all those telephones. But they didn't in those days so he had to produce disco records. So no racist white men were involved in the production of this hate crime. But the British police arrested this guy for singing the line "there were funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown."
That's not the hill I would choose for Western civilization to die on. I like to take the long view, 1215 Magna Carta, 803 years on. That's great but you know 759 years after Magna Carta this guy wrote "Kung Fu Fighting" and it was completely perfectly unexceptional until in our view of the world we decided it was some kind of hate crime. And that's what we have lost. You know people talk about sensitivity training. Which have any of you had to undergo sensitivity training? Yeah you'd rather have me give you the Brazilian Wax wouldn't ya?
They're doing it at Starbucks because two guys walked in and they were sitting around there for half an hour and somebody said well are you planning on buying anything and they said no we're not planning on buying anything, we have no intention of buying anything we're just here to use the bathroom and so they closed down Starbucks across the United States for all this sensitivity training. I have the opposite experience in Starbucks. I go in intending to buy something and then after standing in the line for 35 minutes I think to hell with this and go to the diner across the street where you get a bottomless cup of coffee and endless refills for a nickel, so I've got a completely different view of Starbucks but the point here, the sensitivity training is we're over sensitive. If you take offense at "there were funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown." We actually do not need sensitivity training, we need insensitivity training. That is the essential ingredient to recover the the ability to live as free people.
Law corrodes morality. The more laws you have, the more the law itself falls into disrepute. The more the law itself just becomes a form of totalitarian control in which the state, as it is increasingly doing, in Windsor wax clinics and all over the map, is mediating what are essentially social relations, where the state tells itself that it is the sole legitimate arbiter of relations between competing identity groups and that is why identity group activism is also at odds with citizenship. It's not something... the most famous stories about citizenship, about identity come not from you whether you belong to this group or whether you belong to that group but on whether you're a citizen equal before the law and the disgraceful thing, the absolutely disgraceful thing about this Supreme Court judgment is that concept is dead in Canada now. We will treat groups differently according to whether they're in fashion or not. Because it doesn't boil down to anything more than that.
These...the thing that they found so objectionable at Trinity Western was that your supposed to be chaste before marriage. I don't know why the Dominion of Canada presumes to have an opinion on whether a private institution can be chaste or not chaste before marriage. It's simply no business of the government of Canada. As George Jonas once wrote, "Sometimes I think we won the Cold War only to show those Russians we can build a better police state."
George is absolutely right about this. The old school of totalitarianism, Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact, Soviet Union, that's George Orwell totalitarianism. A boot stamping on a human face forever. We've gone in for more beguiling, softer totalitarianism. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World totalitarianism, a seductive beguiling totalitarianism, where as long as we're allowed our little amusements, the chipping away at liberty around the edges isn't noticed. George was a serious man as you heard in those brief clips there. He made the light about it but he knew what the 3 o'clock knock on the door was. He didn't forget it, he hadn't forgotten it. And until the last breath he breathed in this free land he had a memory deep within it of what it means to live in places that are not free.
And we assume that the present condition, we assume the permanence of the present tense and cannot imagine, we cannot imagine what George knew what were his earliest memories. He said that line about the Cold War in reference to snitches which used to be...I mentioned that I made this film in Budapest about operetta with the BBC and Hungarian television and we spent the first few days in Budapest meeting with our local contacts, the producers, the fixers, the interviewees and they're all like George...I mean Hungarians are the most urbane and civilized people on the face of the Earth. They're witty, they're amusing, they're charming, they're delightful company and so you'd be meeting with Jorgi and then go on to the next meeting at which Josef would assure you that while Jorgi may seem urbane and charming, he'd spent the previous 20 years as an informant for the Ministry of the Interior, and then you move on to your appointment with Gabor and we'd be told that it was the eminently civilized and amusing Josef who'd been the state informer for the past several decades and needless to say Viktor had much to say about Gabor and Emory had much the same to say about Viktor.
And that snitch culture was deeply embedded in every aspect of life east of the Iron Curtain and the BBC guys I was with found this most disquieting. Now you know the BBC, well if don't know the BBC you know the CBC here, ABC in Australia, they're all the same, they're always a bunch of university Trokskyites and Marxists. So they agreed with these guys on the politics, they had no problem with any of the communism or any of that but they didn't like the snitching and the BBC crew were very discombobulated by the snitching because they felt it wasn't cricket, which is how the British think of themselves. Not true in my in my view. In my view the United Kingdom is full of duplicitous weasels who'll will screw you over at every opportunity. I'm talking about Daily Telegraph. The check is in the Daily Telegraph accounts department, Conrad, by the way if you're wondering why I always insisted on dealing with you when the check had mysteriously vaporized somewhere over the Atlantic.
Where was I? I got all distracted. They didn't like the snitching, they didn't like the snitching. And you know something it's deeply unsettling to me that we now live in an age of snitching. And I'm staggered by the the number of people whose lives are ruined. David Booker was suspended from his job at a hostel for the homeless in South Hampton after a late night chat with a colleague, Fiona Vardy, in which he happened to reveal that he did not believe in same sex marriage or in vicars being allowed to wed their gay partners. Miss Vardy raised no objection at the time but the following day mentioned the conversation to her superiors. They immediately suspended Mr Booker from his job and then announced that "This action has been taken to safeguard both residents and staff."
So this guy's out of work because he happened to say that he...now oddly enough this hostel is run by the Society of St James, which comes under the Church of England, which in theory holds exactly the same views on homosexual marriage as Mr. Booker does but nevertheless it was felt to be...action had to be taken to safeguard both residents and staff. This is totalitarian thinking. And this snitching leads directly to that Supreme Court decision, where somebody who has graduated from a school where you're supposed to be chaste before marriage is not allowed to become a member of the law society of Upper Canada. Wait a minute they changed the name, Julian? Law Society of Ontario. Yeah it's the law society bit they should have changed because they're not that anymore. This is totalitarianism and the snitching we see again.
Twitter exists, for example, only to destroy careers. There's no point to it. It's to destroy celebrity careers. I mean it's great that Roseanne lost her show but it would've been much better if we could have driven her to suicide, right because that would have been terrific. A lady made a joke about catching AIDS in Africa as she was getting on the plane at JFK in New York. And by the time she got off the plane in Johannesburg she'd been fired from her job. Her entire world had collapsed. So Tim Hunt, FRSPHD. He's got post nominals coming out of his butt. He's one of the most eminent men on the planet, he's at the conference somewhere in Asia and he makes a joke about sometimes when you have girls in the laboratory it can all get a bit difficult because they cry and this guy...he's one of the most distinguished scientists in his field, he gets on the plane, by the time he lands at Heathrow his career is over.
We are developing Eastern European habits, destroying our neighbors, consciously looking for the telltale remark that will vaporize them and people should stand up. There was a great moment the other day. The head of Twitter...this is a completely pointless Twitter. I got no use for Twitter at all. I I got a Twitter account. How many followers do you have, Andrew? I don't how many I got but Andrew actually Tweets. I Tweeted once and then my minders took away the keys and changed the password so I couldn't do it again. And they're very wise. So I have no idea who Tweets for me, now actually and I don't want to know but the chairman of Twitter he made the mistake of going to Chick Fil-A. Have you ever been there? It's like this homophobic chicken sandwich. It's like hmm, juicy. I love the taste of homophobic chicken. It's great. You talk about Colonel Sanders he had fried chicken but homophobic chicken mmm. [Laughter] He went to a went to Chick Fil-A and said he had a great sandwich and he'd gotten 30 cents off or whatever.
Immediately all these people were like "How dare you eat at Chick Fil-A." The guy at Twitter who drives people to kill themselves, he was coming under the Twitter storm. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, that's the monster he invented. In the Frankenstein movie when the monster suddenly starts having a go at the baron, in this case finally.... We are losing the ability to function as free people with a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.
Another George Jonas line I always like: "What matches in any population is not the numbers but who makes the running, who has the energy, who has the wind at their backs."
And again that's what the Supreme Court did today. They're telling you about the hierarchy of identity groups. I love stories like the transgendered wax customer and the Muslim waxologist because they oblige these fool jurists actually to start articulating a hierarchy of groups. Now I happen to think Islam is the most belligerent although some of these transgender activists can run them a very close second but we've seen how it goes. You know the big fuss about the book in the British Columbia school system, Heather Has Two Mommies? And all the Christians were told that you just gotta suck it up and take it, life has moved on. Heather Has Two Mommies, we're gonna teach your kid we're going to ram it down your kid's throat, get used to it. They tried to teach the same book to a group of grade schoolers in Bristol, England which happened to have a majority Muslim school population and say what you like about those Imans but they got that book chased out of there in nothing flat.
So it is about hierarchy of victim groups and if it is a choice between Heather Has Two Mommies and Heather has two Imans and a big bearded daddy who wants to marry her off to a cousin in Pakistan, bet on the latter every time. A hierarchy of victims groups.
I don't know how much further we can go at this because eventually if you're not careful you can wind up at the point you started from. At Wellesley College in Massachusetts, a girl student who identifies as a "masculine of center gender queer." Any masculine of center gender queers in the house here? Yeah you at the back with the fake five o'clock shadow...A masculine of center gender queer named Timothy and prefers to be referred to by male pronouns, was told that she could no longer run for coordinator of the school office of multicultural affairs because she was now a white male and therefore insufficiently diverse to be a diversity officer.
Which is tough on a masculine of center gender queer. She diversified a wee bit too far and diversified herself all the way around and right out of the diversity business and back into the white man business, which is where you don't want to be.
It's not about numbers, it's about who makes the noise, who makes the noise. And that's the relevance of the Jordan Peterson business. They don't care whether you believe. When they want you to say ze and zur and all that kind of stuff. They don't want, they don't care whether you believe. Believe what you want, think you're doing a Maurice Chevalier impression or a ChrĂ©tien impression. John Howard the Australian prime minister he does a great ChrĂ©tien impression but about two minutes in it veers into Maurice Chevalier. They don't care whether you believe, they just want you....again it's a totalitarian thing. They want to force you to live the lie and in actual fact the point about the ze and zur business is that if you don't believe it but they make you feel you have to believe it you've got no choice but to shut up and say it. That is a great victory and again that is totalitarianism. That is the way they did it in in the Soviet Union they didn't care when they took you to the reeducation camp, you could come out just pretending to be all old glassy eyed and monotone voiced, they don't matter. It's making you live the lie.
George said a great thing about terrorism a couple years ago that the the point about terrorism is it's not about hijacking airliners it's about hijacking the debate. It's about hijacking the conversation and that's how successful terrorism works. It wants to terrorize you into avoiding certain subjects. And we have seen that to an extraordinary length in the last 10 or 15 years. I always do the anniversary commemorations in the Danish parliament of the Danish Mohammed cartoons and one reason they ask me is because I'm like the only guy isn't dead yet, which is you know is nice for me but worry as I'm getting nearer and nearer the top of the bill that at some point that logic is...the first one I did was years, the fifth anniversary. I was on stage with Lars Hedegaard, who got shot at point blank range up by a Muslim terrorist, fortunately an incompetent one but one who fled to Turkey and Mr. Erdogan is declining to extradite him.
I was with Shabana Rehman who's a Norwegian comedienne whose family restaurant was firebombed. I was with Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who had his event shot up and two people died in the terror attacks at that. I was with the Dutch cartoonist Nekschot who's given up cartooning and has been forced into hiding. And that's basically about, that's a 80 percent hit rate from those of us who were on stage in the year 2010. And that's sobering but what I find even more disturbing is people's reaction to that is to actually say okay we'll close that off, we're not going to go there. We're not gonna do cartoons in that area because it's reasonable not to want to be shot, not to want to have your family restaurant firebombed. That's a reasonable thing and then it goes further up. I'm sure Doug has been at meetings where people have been pitching certain, oh it's a novel about a young young girl living in a Muslim ghetto in Molenbeek in Brussels and she's being made to marry her cousin and she's only 14 she doesn't want to marry her cousin and she'd like to go off and maybe go to the Netherlands and meet interesting young Dutchmen and the publisher says "Well couldn't we make it like she's a 14-year-old girl living in Alabama and her parents are like redneck Christian fundamentalists and they're Trump voters and she wants to run away and have an affair with Bernie Sanders. There wouldn't be a lot of changes you know it'd be just..."and those are the books we will never read, they're the plays we will never see, they're the movies that will never be made. They are the art exhibitions that are already being canceled.
When I made a big deal about the Danish Mohammed cartoons, people said "What are you talking about? Denmark? Who cares about Denmark, it's some rinky dink little country up near the Arctic Circle." And I said I'm Canadian, we're a rinky dink little country up near the Arctic Circle, what's your point? What was interesting is that these these pictures start in Denmark. The rest of the world, apart from Charlie Hebdo and we know how they ended up, aren't willing to stand with the artists who drew those cartoons. And so eventually Yale University Press in New Haven, Connecticut decides to publish a book on the Danish Mohammed cartoons in which they say...the argument of the book is basically it's all a big fuss and nothing to see here, don't worry about it. At the very last minute they decide they will not show the Mohammed cartoons in that book or any other ancient artistic representation of Mohammed.
And so this little thing it starts up in the rinky dink little country up near the Arctic Circle, Denmark, Canada, wherever the hell it is and next thing you know it's one of the two most prestigious institutions in the United States is too scared and too cowed to report on a controversy and actually show its readers what the controversy is about. And that is the world where we're moving in.
George, another line of his after the Ann Coulter speech was shut down. I think that was was my friend Andrew's event in...actually I should correct he was he was introduced as if he were my valet, Andrew Lawton. In fact is anyone here from London, Ontario? Cuz Andrew was a candidate in that election and it wasn't say until until...yeah give him a round of applause. This is his first night....it's safe to be seen with me again. Andrew Lawton, Doug Ford really needs to distance himself from Andrew Lawton because he was photographed with Mark Steyn in the lobby of the King Edward Hotel in 1993. That's s what it takes to get you bounced.
But Andrew brought Ann Coulter to Canada and again a sign of a free society, Francois Houle, the provost of the University of Ottawa, he warned Ann Coulter that she was in Canada now so to be careful what she said. Again this is extraordinary. She hasn't opened her mouth she's already being warned by a university that she should think carefully before she says anything. Then of course a mob shows up and the Ottawa Police, as George Jones observed, basically got the event canceled by declining to police it. "Ottawa's finest exemplified Canada's definition of moral leadership by observing neutrality between lawful and lawless. "
And there's more and more of that now too. Security is the new shut up. We don't actually censor you but we say to you that in order to ensure that everybody has a safe experience we're gonna need you to put down $100,000 in a security deposit and then when you go to the trouble of flying in and turning up to give the speech there's gonna be a mob and the police will stand idly by while the mob shuts down your event. So again the inability to function as free people eventually you lose the capacity to argue, you lose the capacity to debate and so in the end all you can do is smash and smash and smash while the police stand by because it happens to suit their interests that you not be allowed to speak.
George saw all this. He saw all this coming. He wasn't like a lot of people who for....the human rights commissions in the sixties were some kind of nice fluffy Easter bunny idea that just like bounced around and was nice to it. He saw it as a great evil because he understood that these things start on the fringes of the map and work in. I thought George Jonas was the very greatest of my colleagues at the National Post. He was a tremendous writer, a gifted writer, a brilliant writer.
I've spoken before I think at his memorial of how I regretted that he was comparatively ungarlanded by the Canadian state. He was given the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal which Mr. Harper handed out somewhat promiscuously for my tastes. In fact Faisal Joseph, who was the lawyer who took us to all those human rights tribunals in Ottawa and in Vancouver, he got the Diamond Jubilee Medal. Did you did you get the diamond jubilee medal? [Voices in audience say they got it or did not get it] You did? I don't care look I was a monarchist until I heard that Julian didn't get the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal okay so I want you to....what's the next one she's up for? [Voice from audience: "She just had the sapphire."] And did you get him a sapphire? [Voice from audience: "There wasn't one."] Well, keep working on it, she's gonna she's gonna overtake Franz Josef according to Conrad in like six months time and if she has a....I picked Franz Josef Jubilee Medal, I want to make sure that Julian gets one, okay?
Faisal Joseph got one for trying to shut down free speech in Canada. Free speech in Canada. Julian actually made a...in the British Columbia court. I was in Vancouver and he warned me that under British Columbia trial rules if you walk in the court Faisal Joseph can turn round and summon you to the witness stand immediately and I said what's the problem with that and Julian said cautiously, "Well you're a somewhat mercurial personality." And Julian on that last day he said in court about the old line which is a terrible false line, that you've no right to falsely shout fire in a crowded theater, which is some stupid line from the days when Broadway theaters were gas lit and Julian said you do not only have a right to shout fire in a crowded theater but when the theater is on fire and you have a duty to shout fire and that is the situation we are in with our core liberties today. The theater is on fire and we are pretending not to notice it.
As I said I thought George was ungarlanded and Julian's wife Anna Porter, whom you all know. Anna got George inducted into the Order of Canada as a member of the Order of Canada and I always say this because I feel it when I look at the number of totally third rate writers and phony intellectuals who were there were at the higher ranks, an officer of the Order of Canada and a commander of the Order of Canada. I am absolutely...I am I find it hard to contain my disgust. I think George should have held out for a dukedom rather than that. And yet Anna had to work hard to to get that to him.
I would like to end with two of my favorite poems by George, written half a century apart actually. This one is called "Greenwich Village." And you'll recognize if you saw some of those photographs of George and his bohemian raffish days you'll recognize this well.
The girl who shares this upstairs room
with a cat, a guitar and a chesterfield
left her native town, Sarnia,
because it was the end of the world.
First she moved on to Montreal
then crossed the ocean to Prague,
quickly returned to Los Angeles
and now she's bitterly crying.
She's bitterly crying I suppose
because she'd seen much sea and land
without once having glimpsed that world
of which Sarnia is the end.
And that's George's poem...anyone here from Sarnia tonight? And in a sense that's clever stuff, that's word play, something a witty man, alert to the cliches. He hears, he hears the false tinkle and he makes something of it. But it's also profound because in a sense we do look when we come to this or that town as if it's the end of the world and we don't actually think about that world of which Sarnia is the end. So the phrase has stuck with me all the years since I first read it.
Then that the last one I want to read of his is a poem on Ibn Ammar al Andalusi, the Portuguese Muslim poet and sometime grand vizier of Seville. Any grand viziers in the house tonight? Grand vizier of Sarnia? No sign. He lived pretty much exactly 1000 years ago and this is a meditation on decline. One minute you're the world and the next you're on a one way ticket to Sarnia or beyond. And that's hard to see, it's very hard to see when the surface prosperity is still around and everything's still working and still functioning. For us as it was for Ibn Ammar a millennium ago. George's poem concludes:
"He was cheerful and happier than I,
for when on Spanish domes the arabesque
loosened and fell, he never questioned why,
or why people grew flabby and grotesque,
and did not sense the fabric's fading dye
or in his own tunic the broken thread,
the fountains of the city running dry,
he did not taste the filth inside his bread
or see the boys who knew his poems die
or view the burning library with dread.
Brave and clever, he failed to note the fact
that faith's no help, nor wit, courage, nor dagger,
that no philosophy will resurrect
a culture: collapsing is forever."
And we too cannot sense the fabric's fading dye and we do not understand that collapsing is forever. So do as George did, speak up about it. The most necessary thing is not to wait for dinners like this, not to wait for speakers like George but live like George did on these issues every day of your life. He was a poet, he was a librettist,he was he was he worked at the CBC. Do you think any of them were interested in the ideas he had about Western Civilization and our loss of freedoms? No. But he lived in truth every day of his life and that is what all of you have to do too. And that way you can avoid the next Danish Mohammed cartoons or the next guys to be gunned at Charlie Hebdo or the the next person on Twitter to lose her job because she made some silly joke on the way to her South African vacation. Don't let that happen.
And don't everybody be picked off one by one and bullied and surrendered into silence. Live as free people and don't let the hate speech enforcers....they're cowards. I learned that, it's not fun, it's tiring but if you push back they crumble. It's indefensible what they're doing, that if you push back against it. Don't meet them halfway. Tanya Granic Allen is somewhere in the house. I'll tell you something about that. I don't want to live in a world where someone can make one remark at a speech and "boom" she's vaporized. And everyone's pleased about that and thinks it's just. It's not just. The cure is worse than the disease. The cure is worse than the disease.
So don't play games with the hate speech enforcers or the Islamic enforcers. That's the good cop, bad cop routine of totalitarianism. Don't let them tell you that you are not free. You are free and demand of everyone, particularly people who purport to be leading a so called conservative party in an advanced western democracy that you do not surrender on core issues of free speech. Share the risk. Speak up, speak out, live in truth and if that is all too much for you, relax, unwind, get a plane like George Jonas did and write some translation of Rilke while you're flying out there among the clouds. Live the life but live in truth. Thank you very much indeed.