On Black Friday I was back behind the Golden EIB Microphone on America's Number One radio show. You can find a few moments from my guest-hosting stint here. We don't do the parking-lot stampedes of the bigger retailers, but, as Black Friday happens to coincide with SteynOnline's sixteenth birthday, we do have sixteen per cent off anything you buy over at the Steyn Store, including my books and CDs and our Steynamite Christmas specials and even digital downloads like the all-time greatest Christmas disco single. So just shop till you drop as you normally would, and the discount will be applied to your basket as you check out - but only through Monday. We also have fifteen per cent off tickets for the first ever Dennis Miller/Mark Steyn tour, if you enter the promo code HOLIDAYS - but, again, you have to book before midnight on Monday.
~One of the things that's changed since we started up here at Thanksgiving 2002 is that the Internet is far more bloody boring than it was sixteen years ago, thanks to the stultifying grip of Zuckerberg and the social media cartel, but also to the increasing inability of writers to write. Mediaite, for example, are very exercised about the reluctance of a certain obscure guest-host to toe the party line:
Filling in for Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, Mark Steyn — during an interview with Nigel Farage — said the following about Khashoggi:
'And we should also be clear, too, Khashoggi is being presented as a hero of journalism. He's probably going to be Time magazine's Man of the Year just because he is a dead so-called journalist. But in fact he was kind of a deep state Saudi spook who just happened to fall out with the royal family. In a sense, it's different sets of bad guys we're arguing about when we're talking about Saudi Arabia.'
Mediaite's "writer", Joe DePaolo, doesn't actually say what he thinks is so objectionable about the above. In the New Media world, it's apparently enough just to reproduce what other people say and stand there with your hand on your hip going, "Well, I never! Would you believe it!" At The Huffington Post, Sara Boboltz makes a little more of an effort:
The comments seemed to echo others made by Mark Steyn, a Canadian political commenter who called Khashoggi a "dead so-called journalist" when Steyn filled in Wednesday for host Tucker Carlson.
"He was kind of a deep-state Saudi spook," Steyn added, without evidence or elaboration on what he meant.
Khashoggi had a long career as a journalist, covering conflicts in Afghanistan and Sudan for the Saudi Gazette and notably interviewing Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and 1990s. He contributed to the Post as an opinion writer on Middle Eastern affairs.
For a start, a columnist is not really a "journalist" - and I speak as someone who plied the former trade in the two most competitive newspaper markets in the English-speaking world. That aside, if you seriously think writing for The Saudi Gazette makes you any kind of a journalist, you're not much of one yourself. And, as it happens, I have elaborated on the subject:
In Saudi Arabia people die in grisly ways every day of the week, but, as I said on Wednesday's John Oakley Show, a chap such as Jamal Khashoggi, a deep-cover spook and former confidant of the highly sinister Prince Turki, does not get whacked except on orders from the very highest in the land. By 'very highest', see the two fellows at right.
Prince Turki is one of the most sinister princes in a family of sinister princes. He ran the Saudi intelligence services for over two decades, and it was to him and Pakistan's ISI that the CIA outsourced its running of the Afghan mujahideen. That worked out well - ie, Osama bin Laden, with whom Prince Turki was in very close contact. His Highness mysteriously resigned from his job after twenty-three years just ten days before 9/11. Jamal Khashoggi was one of his loyalest chums and most assiduous propagandists - which is how he got to "cover" Afghanistan and pal around with bin Laden.
I had some run-ins with Turki a few years back. In fact, I liked one of his lines so much we put it on the front cover, right above the title, of my bestseller America Alone:
The arrogance of Mark Steyn knows no bounds
- Prince Turki al Faisal
That's what they call on Broadway a money quote. Prince Turki also said of me:
With his imperialist pen he would like to wipe my country off the map.
I wish my imperialist pen were that good. But then I'm a writer and my imperialist pen is all I have - unlike Jamal Khashoggi, who, as Turki's protégé, operated in entirely different spheres. And, in fact, not long after the above exchange, when I was sounded out about a meeting with the prince, the pitch came via ...Mr Khashoggi. Nephew of Saudi Arabia's biggest arms dealer, cousin of the Princess of Wales' playboy boyfriend, Jamal Khashoggi was an extremely well-connected man ...until he fell out with the House of Saud. But he was not chopped to pieces in Istanbul because he was a "journalist", and not even the desperate American press can be so parochial and solipsistic as to believe that.
Mediaite et al should hire some writers who get out of the house occasionally.
~I was sorry to see that an old acquaintance from my BBC days died last weekend at the age of 93. Richard Baker introduced the first ever BBC TV news bulletin, and was a fixture of the evening round-up for the next three decades. He made three appearances on "Monty Python's Flying Circus", sang "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" on "The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show", and smoothly ushered in "Land of Hope and Glory" and "Rule, Britannia!" on the Last Night of the Proms year in, year out. Come to think of it, I believe it was at the Royal Albert Hall for the Proms that I last saw him. Back then we young whippersnappers thought his urbane professionalism a bit bland, but, on my occasional forays to the hell of contemporary Britain, I find myself missing his generation of Beeb presenters. He was the son of a North London plasterer who taught himself (as did almost every broadcaster of his generation) to talk posher than he was, in Lord Reith's "Received Pronunciation" - as opposed to today's BBC, when Oxbridge graduates feel obliged to lower themselves three or four socioeconomic notches and talk in some kind of Received Oik. The only news readers who seem to enunciate anything approximating old-school BBC English seem to be the Indian ones.
Away from the news, Richard Baker was a great survivor - if only by comparison with almost everyone around him. For many years he hosted Radio 4's "Start the Week", as I mentioned in this essay on "Great BBC Departures" in my anatomical anthology Mark Steyn from Head to Toe. In contrast to Baker's smooth purring middlebrow equanimity, his sidekick Kenneth Robinson was prone to get carried away. Mention of a dating agency for the disabled, for example, prompted Robinson to sigh (to Baker's horror) that in some parts of the country "you can hear the wheelchairs banging together all night long". His days were numbered:
One recalls, among many examples of classic BBC departures, the late 'Start The Week' controversialist Kenneth Robinson. Personally, I always felt that his 'controversial reputation' was intended to absolve the rest of the programme from the requirement to be in the least bit interesting. But nothing became his 'Start The Week' like the stopping of it. One morning, Robinson turned up to be told his services would no longer be required, and, to add insult to injury, then had to sit through Richard Baker's bland perfunctory thank-you at the end of the week's show. From off-mike, Robinson raged, 'It's a bloody disgrace after seventeen years.'
'Yes, well, there we are,' purred Baker, and on came the ten o'clock pips. In the vault at Broadcasting House a few years back, I happened across the recording of the incident: it's a telling comment on the show that the only moment BBC Archives thought worth preserving was the clumsy ejection of a regular contributor. A few weeks later, one of the departmental executives involved in the decision had a new answering-machine message: 'I'm too busy to come to the phone right now. But why not call Kenneth Robinson? He could use the work.' A 'presenter' is so called because he rarely has any future: the real, enduring 'talent' is behind the scenes.
Thus, not long afterward, Richard Baker took what he apparently thought was a short holiday from 'Start The Week'. Like so many before him, he was to discover that BBC vacations come with one-way tickets.
His great love was classical music, and he moved to Radio 2 to host "Melodies for You" until well into his eighties. Incidentally, Britain's national charity for the disabled, the Spastics Society, thought Kenneth Robinson's wheelchair crack rather funny and asked him if he'd like to do a book of jokes for the handicapped. The Spastics Society has since changed its name to "Scope", and the wheelchair gags wouldn't fly today.
~I'll be back later this evening with Part Sixteen of our continuing Tale for Our Time, Baroness Orczy's thrilling adventure set during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror - The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Tales for Our Time is made possible through the support of Mark Steyn Club members, for which we're profoundly grateful - and, if you've a pal who digs classic fiction, we'd love to welcome him or her to our ranks via the Christmas present that lasts all year: A gift membership in the Steyn Club, which this holiday season comes with a special personalized Christmas card from yours truly and a handsomely-engraved gift-boxed USB stick with three of our most popular Tales for Our Time for your pal or relative to listen to in the car or perambulating through the wilderness or almost anywhere else. That would be The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps. For more on the Steyn Club gift membership, see here.