Steyn on Culture
Apologies to all my readers: Last week I carelessly wrote about President Trump's Warsaw speech as if the words therein corresponded to the definitions ascribed to them by Oxford, Webster's or any other English dictionary. My mistake. Apparently the plain meaning of the words is entirely irrelevant. Because the words aren't words per se, they're "dog whistles":
As James Taranto noted during a previous dog-whistling frenzy:
Indeed dog whistles are all they hear. If Trump is, as has been said, the all-time great Twitter troll, in Warsaw he was trolling for western civilization, and an entire army of mangy pooches began yowling and - to mix canine metaphors - set off like greyhounds in pursuit of a mechanical hare. Even if the speech had not been worth it on its own merits, it would still have performed a useful service in demonstrating that the western left now utterly despises western civilization. As I noted on Friday, this is the most pathetic humbug:
Because you can't. Only a very highly evolved and advanced civilization can support a swollen elite grown rich on contempt for it. Most of the lefties stuck to the big-picture contempt: the dog whistles of faith, family, God, west, civilization. But for The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart the most deafening dog whistle of all was played by a full-size symphony orchestra:
Well, I would have thought that was obvious, though apparently Washington Post columnists need it spelled out: Trump is hymning the unique range of western achievement, not just the structures of functioning self-government, the rule of law and free speech, but the greatest accomplishments in science and intellectual inquiry, and a magnificent legacy of artistic expression, too, from paintings and cathedrals to plays and symphonies. What's to argue about?
But the Warsaw Philharmonic strikes up and all Jonathan Capehart hears is "Old Shep". "We write symphonies"?
Is it "a familiar boast"? It's not clear to me that pre-Trump it was a boast at all among "white nationalists". I see that the wine writer Andrea Frost has observed that (in Europe) "given music, we write symphonies", but she seems fairly antipathetic to Trump and an unlikely stray at the alt-right dog pound. At any rate, Capehart is eager to dispel the notion that symphonies are the work of tub-thumping white nationalists like Mozart and Mahler. Get a clue, losers:
So Beethoven's Eroica, Brahms' Fourth, Tchaikovsky's Sixth would be "real lame" without "the influence of the Middle East and Muslims".
So says a senior writer in the establishment newspaper of America's capital. On the basis of what? A lone reference to the umpteenth lavishly-funded straw-clutching special-pleading Islamofest created to explain why the casual observer is entirely wrong to conclude that the Muslim world is culturally moribund and entirely irrelevant to the planet's artistic, scientific and economic progress (with the single solitary exception of oil that they require foreigners to get out of the ground for them). The casual observers who've come away with that unfortunate and ignorant misapprehension include, inter alia, a fellow I quoted in America Alone:
But pay no attention to Dr Mahathir. What does he know about Islam's achievements compared to a senior columnist at The Washington Post? Sure, they may not have done anything much for a millennium or so, but we all know that everything in your world would be "real lame" without Islam. How stupid is Trump? He doesn't even know that, without Islam, we'd be in a lute-free world!
Who knew? When CAIR was named by the Feds as an unindicted co-conspirator in that terrorism-funding case, it was no doubt because the FBI wiretappers eavesdropped on the planning meeting for the CAIR Symphony Orchestra and misunderstood when the imam said, "Where have you stashed the lute?"
The evidence for this is - to put it politely - wafer-thin. Insofar as the lute has anything to do with Islam at all, it derives from the pre-Islamic east - like the one I saw in the British Museum a couple of years back from Mesopotamia, circa 3,000 BC. Then Mohammed showed up and that was the day the music died: Drove my camel to the wadi, but the wadi was dry.
Besides, what's a Mesopotamian lute got to do with Mahler's Second Symphony? That's barely more relevant than Schubert's mum telling the neighbor, "My boy's on his third symphony", and the lady next door saying, "Well, my boy can fart 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'. Light 'em up, Johnny!"
A less deranged response to Trump would be that other cultures hear music differently - which is true. For example, in Bali they prefer Gamelan ensembles to the configuration of a western symphony orchestra. I happen to think the latter is a more advanced form, but I accept that Balinese ears hear something in the former that I don't (and, in my own contribution to cultural appropriation, I put a bamboo flute in my record of "Year of the Siamese Cat" on Feline Groovy). But this is the insanity of warp-speed cultural relativism: The Washington Post is not arguing the equivalence of alternative music cultures to Brahms and Mozart; it's arguing the merits of a culture that is largely bereft of music as a matter of conscious policy. Our symphonies would be "real lame" without Islam? They're even lamer with Islam, in a world where drums, saxophones, pianos and other "un-Islamic instruments" are burned, where music is banned from Mali to Afghanistan, and where the performers thereof are either executed or, if they're lucky, get 90 lashes. On that last story, by the way, you'll see from the accompanying photograph that one of the discarded "un-Islamic instruments" appears to be - go on, take a wild guess - a lute.
Even when Islam isn't actively destroying music, it is at best indifferent to it. Which is why, if you operate a legacy symphony orchestra in a fast Islamizing European city, you have to draw your patrons from further and further afield - as a gloomy orchestral promoter was explaining to me not so long ago.
Does Jonathan Capehart know any of this? No. He's attitude-striking, as the left is wont to do. Trump's pose appalls him, and he suspects that the President is no attendee of the symphony. He may be right about that. On the evidence of the Trump rally I attended, he likes Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John rather than Wolfgang and Ludwig. But hypocrisy is famously the tribute vice pays to virtue, and it is important that fans of Sir Elton occasionally doff their hats to Bach and Haydn: aspiration is a critical element of a civilized society. Once upon a time even the pop songs knew that:
Paderewski? Wasn't he a Pole? Yeah, sure, but he culturally appropriated it all from Waleed the lute-player.
Jonathan Capehart can't whistle four bars of Islamic music, not even the call to prayer (which, if this kind of civilizational self-loathing keeps up, he'll know soon enough). I vaguely suspect he couldn't whistle four bars of a symphony either, save perhaps the first four notes of Beethoven's biggest hit. In that sense, cultural relativism leads only to a cultural void - not multiculturalism but a-culturalism.
To be fair to the left, they invest a lot of time in undermining language, to spectacular effect. As strange as it might seem to younger readers, not so long ago the word "penis" was understood to refer to the male sex organ. Now The Vagina Monologues gets canceled because of its cis-supremacist implication that women with penises aren't the real deal. In such a world, any word can become entirely unmoored, so that it seems perfectly natural for a prominent media figure to be arguing that the great symphonic composers owe everything to a culture that has not produced a single symphony. And nobody laughs.
I'm glad the President put in a word for symphonies. It is a good thing for a western leader, amidst all the pandering to dreary and meretricious fashion, to stand up for our splendid musical inheritance. I wish more would do it. But it's now too "controversial" for fainthearts like May and Merkel and Macron. Because to the sophisticates of our leading newspapers two sentences of specious bollocks by Salim al-Hassani can single-handedly demolish every conservatory across the planet. In the symphonic sweep of our civilization, I fear we are well into the fourth movement.
~Programming note: Tomorrow, Tuesday, Mark returns to one of his favorite TV shows, "Varney & Company" on Fox Business, live across America at just after 11.30am Eastern/8.30am Pacific. Hope you can join him!
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from Steyn on Culture, July 10, 2017
What the well-dressed Islamophile wears to march in the gay parade
It is foolish and complacent to assume that the most effective techniques will remain forever the monopoly of one side...
Steyn's campaign for the decriminalization of Kinder Eggs in America wins a hollow victory...
John Bloom (who's better known as Joe Bob Briggs of drive-in fame) comes north to interview Steyn for the current issue of the indispensable Aussie publication Quadrant...
Steyn revisits The Closing of the American Mind
Kellogg's extends the nation's political divisions into your cereal bowl
Today is Armistice Day, when the guns fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. We know it as Veterans Day in America, or, across the Commonwealth, Remembrance Day. Here is that most famous Canadian war poem, by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, as recited by a far more famous Canadian poet, Leonard Cohen...
Step forward, Richard Dreyfuss, star of Jaws and fan of America Alone...
Islamophobia, deluded parochialism, and the setting sun
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For John Oliver, to say anything other than "f**k" might offend someone...
'Why do they hate us?' was never the right question. 'Why do they despise us?' is a better one...
Back to where it all began, with 007 on the page - and his creator, Ian Fleming...
Islam is playing for tomorrow, whereas the west has given up on the future
A uniquely American evil: the billion-dollar baby-parts conglomerate
If abortion were the respectable medical procedure its proponents insist it is, there would be no such thing as "Planned Parenthood", anymore than there is a Planned Hernia megacorp...
Last week, I swung by the Bill Bennett show to chew over the news of the hour. A few minutes before my grand entrance, one of Bill's listeners had taken issue with the idea that these Supreme Court decisions weren't the end and, if you just got on with your life and tended to your garden, things wouldn't be so bad: Claudine came on and said that's what Germans reckoned in the 1930s: just keep your head down and the storm will pass. How'd that work out? David Kelsey writes from the University of South Carolina to scoff at that: In one corner, we have government recognition of marriage contracts between gays. In the other corner, we have Jews, Catholics, gays, their sympathizes [sic] and other undesirables being put in Nazi concentration ...
I started the day on Bill Bennett's radio show, which is always fun. Jonah Goldberg was on before me, and advanced the proposition, after the Supreme Court's almighty constitutional bender, that it wasn't so bad; conservatives who just pottered around in their own world and tended to their families could still lead lives largely unbattered by the forces of "progress". A few minutes later...
Two resignations, and very different reactions
This is not your father's sex change
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As we announced earlier, SteynOnline is marking the official launch of Hillary 2016! by rerunning some favorites of mine since I first started writing about Mrs Clinton back in the Nineties. So, as we pitch base camp on the Hill to die on, here's my review of her memoirs, Living History, from Britain's Sunday Telegraph of June 16th 2003.
Why are media feminists more agitated over fake rape than real rape?
The murder of Matthew Shepard 17 years ago - is the clearest example of what happens when a favored lobby group inserts itself between the news coverage and reality
So, just as President Obama is giving a big speech on cyber-security, the jihackists of the Islamic State manage to take over the Twitter and YouTube accounts of the Pentagon's Central Command...
America's federal-motorcade hooker-culture is depraved
A superpower unmatched at everything - except winning
The courage of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the cowardice of Brandeis University
Here are two jokes one can no longer tell on American TV...
From two years ago, here's Mark's first thoughts on the Kermit Gosnell case
He who controls the language shapes the debate: In the same week the Associated Press announced that it would no longer describe illegal immigrants as "illegal immigrants," the star columnist of The New York Times fretted that the Supreme Court seemed to have misplaced the style book on another fashionable minority. "I am worried," wrote Maureen Dowd, "about how the justices can properly debate same-sex marriage when some don't even seem to realize that most Americans use the word 'gay' now instead of 'homosexual'..."
To modify Lord Acton, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, but aldermanic power corrupts all der more manically. Proco "Joe" Moreno is Alderman of the First Ward of Chicago, and last week, in a city with an Aurora-size body count every weekend, his priority was to take the municipal tire-iron to the owners of a chain of fast-food restaurants. "Because of this man's ignorance," said Alderman Moreno, "I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward." "This man's ignorance"? You mean, of the City of Chicago permit process? Zoning regulations? Health and safety ordinances? No, Alderman Moreno means "this man's ignorance" of the approved position on same-sex marriage.
Media types like to talk about "the narrative": News is just another form of storytelling, and certain plot lines grab you more than others. The easiest narrative of all is anything involving young people. "I believe that children are our future," as the late Whitney Houston once asserted. And, even if Whitney hadn't believed it, it would still, as a point of fact, be true. Any media narrative involving young people presupposes that they are the forces of progress, wresting the world from the grasping clutches of mean, vengeful old men and making it a better place...
Unlike the government of the United States, I can't claim any hands-on experience with Colombian hookers. But I was impressed by the rates charged by Miss Dania Suarez, and even more impressed by the U.S. Secret Service's response to them...
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Have you seen the official White House version of what the New York Times headline writers call "A Responsible Budget"? My favorite bit is Chart 5-1 on Page 58 of their 500-page appendix on "Analytical Perspectives." This is entitled "Publicly Held Debt Under 2013 Budget Policy Projections." It's a straight line going straight up before disappearing off the top right hand corner of the graph in the year 2084 and continuing northeast straight through your eye socket, out the back of your skull and zooming up to rendezvous with Newt's space colony on the moon circa 2100...
Announcing his support for Commissar Sebelius' edicts on contraception, sterilization, and pharmacological abortion, that noted theologian the Most Reverend Al Sharpton explained: "If we are going to have a separation of church and state, we're going to have a separation of church and state." Thanks for clarifying that. The church model the young American state wished to separate from was that of the British monarch, who remains to this day Supreme Governor of the Church of England. This convenient arrangement dates from the 1534 Act of Supremacy. The title of the law gives you the general upshot, but, just in case you're a bit slow on the uptake, the text proclaims "the King's Majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church of England." That's to say, the sovereign is "the only supreme head on earth of the Church" and he shall enjoy "all honors, dignities, pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities to the said dignity," not to mention His Majesty "shall have full power and authority from time to time to visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts and enormities, whatsoever they be." Welcome to Obamacare.
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For our Dutch readers...
VIDEO: Italy's Costa Concordia disaster has Mark Steyn mulling the "women and children first!" idea with Michael Coren on The Arena.
Abe Greenwald of Commentary magazine tweets: "Is there any chance that Mark Steyn won't use the Italian captain fleeing the sinking ship as the lead metaphor in a column on EU collapse?" Oh, dear. You've got to get up early in the morning to beat me to civilizational-collapse metaphors. Been there, done that.
When Christians take the Christ out of Christmas
Christmas in America is a season of time-honored traditions â€“ the sacred performance of the annual ACLU lawsuit over the presence of an insufficiently secular "holiday" tree; the ritual provocations of the atheist displays licensed by pitifully appeasing municipalities to sit between the menorah and the giant Frosty the Snowman; the familiar strains of every hack columnist's "war on Christmas" column rolling off the keyboard as easily as Richard Clayderman playing "Winter Wonderland"... This year has been a choice year. A crucified skeleton Santa Claus was erected as part of the "holiday" display outside the Loudoun County courthouse in Virginia â€“ because, let's face it, nothing cheers the hearts of moppets in the Old Dominion like telling ...
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