The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Friday, December 07, 2007
Defending Mark Steyn (and Ourselves) from Tyranny
Steyn's commentary is sharp but also funny, and his intuitive grasp of the problems we face--and how to articulate them perfectly--is rare indeed. So when Steyn (and the rest of us who wish to speak freely in a country where we are guaranteed that right) are under attack from Islamists for daring to exercise his free speech in his superb bestseller America Alone, we need to step up and insist that his rights (and ours) are vigorously defended. Especially in a society where Stalinist "PC-ism" is quickly becoming a pandemic.
I will let Kurtz explain the particular circumstances at play, rather than to try and recreate in my own words (emphases are mine, however):
Spot on. This morning Steyn posted this, also at The Corner (emphasis still mine):
Late yesterday I stumbled across an article about a "human rights complaint" filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) against Maclean’s, Canada’s most widely-read news magazine, for running a "flagrantly Islamophobic" excerpt from Mark Steyn’s book, America Alone. At least two Canadian Human Rights Commissions have agreed to hear these complaints. Only then did I find Steyn’s too-easily-missed late-night post from Wednesday on the controversy.
This is a big deal. The blogosphere has so far largely missed it, but this attack on Mark Steyn is very much our business. There may be an impulse to dismiss this assault on Steyn, on the assumption that it will fail, that Steyn is a big boy and can take care of himself, and that in any case this is crazy Canada, where political correctness rules, rather than the land of the free. That would be a mistake. The Canadian Islamic Congress’s war on Mark Steyn and Maclean’s is an attack on all of us. I’ll say more in a moment about how a Canadian case can reach into America, but let’s first take a look at the goings on up north.
The complaints against Maclean’s for publishing an excerpt from America Alone have been filed by several Canadian law students and by Faisal Joseph, a former crown attorney. Maclean’s published a total of 27 letters over two issues in response to Steyn’s piece–more responses than any Maclean’s cover story received over the past year. Yet when the law student’s demanded a longer response, Maclean’s was willing to consider it. The students then insisted that Maclean’s run a five-page article, written by an author of their choice, with no editing by the magazine. They also demanded that the reply to Steyn be a cover story, with art controlled by them, rather than the magazine. At this point, Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Whyte showed them the door, saying he would rather let Maclean’s go bankrupt than permit someone outside of operations dictate the magazine’s content. have been filed by several Canadian
The tiff over the excerpt from America Alone is only the tip of the iceberg. The Canadian Islamic Congress has actually accused several Canadian news outlets of Islamophobia. CIC issued a report entitled "Maclean’s Magazine: A Case Study of Media-Propogated Islamophobia," in which at least 18 articles were said to show anti-Muslim bias. Canada’s National Post has been similarly attacked. Here, journalist Andrew Coyne explains how he was accused of endangering Muslims merely for having penned the phrase: "...the massive backlash against innocent Muslims that failed to materialize..."
Although the more liberal Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has criticized CIC and defended Maclean’s, it’s worth noting that CIC has managed to successfully intimidate MCC in the past. Coyne notes that a spokesman for MCC resigned his post last year when the president of the CIC accused him of "smearing Islam." The charge of de facto apostasy left the MCC spokesman fearing for his safety.
What about the article in question–the actual excerpt from America Alone published in Maclean’s? Read it and you’ll see that Steyn is an equal opportunity savager. Enervated Europeans come in for every bit as much criticism as jihadi terrorists–more, really. The closer to home, the tougher Steyn gets. Of all European’s, Steyn is hardest on culturally "dead" Belgians, the country where Steyn’s mother and grandparents came from. The only really vicious insult in the piece is hurled at Steyn himself.
This piece by Ali Eteraz in the Guardian commendably repudiates CIC’s attack on free speech. Even so, none of Eteraz’s points against the actual substance of Steyn’s piece hold water. Steyn does not say that "all" Muslims are radicals. If anything, Steyn goes out of his way to say that matters are not so simple. For example, he notes that the radicalization of South Asian Muslims is recent, and explains that it’s the watery weakness of Europe’s own multicultural ideology that forces Muslim’s back onto radicalism for a sense of cultural coherence. If anything, the anti-free-speech attacks on Steyn and Maclean’s, by Western-trained lawyers, no less, show that Steyn’s concerns about poorly assimilated Western values are more than justified.
Ugly as this affair may be, can we assume that Steyn and Maclean’s will ultimately emerge unscathed–and that America, at least, is safe from this sort of crazy Canadian multiculturalism? No we cannot. However they’re resolved, these high profile cases take a toll on all concerned. More important, they send a chill over smaller fish.
Americans need to recognize the pattern here, and we also need to realize that it has already invaded the United States. American readers depend on international outlets. We often read our Steyn in Canadian publications. So an attack on Steyn in Canada is an attack on America. And recall the ongoing battle over "libel tourism," which resulted in attempts to use British law to pull Alms for Jihad from American library shelves. (Here’s the latest update on the libel tourism battle, and how it threatens free speech in America.) And take a look at this list of Muslim libel cases in America. (Be sure to read the end of that account for an understanding of how enervating and intimidating these cases can be–especially for targets less well-placed than Steyn or Maclean’s.)
Then consider my post from yesterday on the spread of "bias reporting systems" to American college campuses. As in Canada, these systems may begin in response to alleged "homophobia," (see the link to the article on Georgetown in my post), but they also open up opportunities for accusations of "Islamophobia." (The term itself shows the echo effect.) Making use of "bias reporting" to attack Georgetown’s Catholic culture will surely play into the hands of Georgetown’s Saudi-funded programs to promote "Muslim-Christian understanding." These programs are positive connoisseurs of "Islamophobia." Give them a bias reporting system–especially an anonymous one–and they could easily go to town. And for more on the influence of Saudi money on American education, sure to open the field to CIC-like attacks on "Islamophobia," see "Saudi in the Classroom."
Connect the dots and you will see that the attack on Mark Steyn in Canada is part and parcel of a world-wide assault on free speech that has already reached well into America. This is our battle. It is essential that there be widespread public condemnation of the attack on Mark Steyn. Not only does this "human rights" complaint have to fail, it has to fail miserably and with embarrassment. Otherwise, whatever the formal result, the chilling effect will be one more victory for the forces trying to destroy our rights.
Follow the links in the quoted pieces above, they lead to gold. Also there is more here, and here.
One of the critical differences between America and the rest of the west is that America has a First Amendment and the rest don't. And a lot of them are far too comfortable with the notion that in free societies it is right and proper for the state to regulate speech. The response of the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security to the Danish cartoons was to propose a press charter that would oblige newspapers to exercise "prudence" on, ah, certain controversial subjects. The response of Tony Blair's ministry to the problems of "Londonistan" was to propose a sweeping law dramatically constraining free discussion of religion. At the end of her life, Oriana Fallaci was being sued in France, Italy, Switzerland and sundry other jurisdictions by groups who believed her opinions were not merely disagreeable but criminal. In France, Michel Houellebecq was sued by Muslim and other "anti-racist" groups who believed opinions held by a fictional character in one of his novels were not merely disagreeable but criminal.
Up north, the Canadian Islamic Congress announced the other day that at least two of Canada’s “Human Rights Commissions” – one federal, one provincial – had agreed to hear their complaints that their “human rights” had been breached by this “flagrantly Islamophobic” excerpt from my book, as published in the country’s bestselling news magazine, Maclean’s. Several readers and various Canadian media outlets have enquired what my defense to the charges is. Here’s my answer:
I can defend myself if I have to. But I shouldn’t have to.
If the Canadian Islamic Congress wants to disagree with my book, fine. Join the club. But, if they want to criminalize it, nuts. That way lies madness. America Alone was a bestseller in Canada, made all the literary Top Ten hit parades, Number One at Amazon Canada, Number One on The National Post’s national bestseller list, Number One on various local sales charts from statist Quebec to cowboy Alberta, etc. I find it difficult to imagine that a Canadian “human rights” tribunal would rule that all those Canadians who bought the book were wrong and that it is beyond the bounds of acceptable (and legal) discourse in Canada.
As I say, I find it difficult to imagine. But not impossible. These "human rights" censors started with small fry - obscure websites, "homophobes" who made the mistake of writing letters to local newspapers or quoting the more robust chunks of Leviticus - and, because they got away with it, it now seems entirely reasonable for a Canadian pseudo-court to sit in judgment on the content of a mainstream magazine and put a big old "libel chill" over critical areas of public debate. The "progressive" left has grown accustomed to the regulation of speech, thinking it just a useful way of sticking it to Christian fundamentalists, right-wing columnists, and other despised groups. They don’t know they’re riding a tiger that in the end will devour them, too.
Kurtz is right: this is every bit as much an attack on us all. If we do not stand up with Mark Steyn against this type of Stalinist bullying, who will?
UPDATE: Speaking of Steyn, what Wretcherd said:
Pamela Bone to Germaine Greer in Melbourne last week:
I then asked why it was that Western feminists seemed so reluctant to speak out against things such as honour killings.
Greer: "It's very tricky. I am constantly being asked to go to Darfur to interview rape victims. I can talk to rape victims here. Why should I go to Darfur to talk to rape victims?"
Questioner (me): "Because it's so much worse there."
Greer: "Who says it is?"
Questioner: "I do, because I've been there."
Greer: "Well, it is just very tricky to try to change another culture. We let down the victims of rape here. We haven't got it right in our own courts. What good would it do for me to go over there and try to tell them what to do? I am just part of decadent Western culture and they think we're all going to hell fast and maybe we are all going to hell fast."
The left is too deeply invested in the narrative of self-hatred to ever hear danger approaching from without. They're stuck in an ultimate conflict of interest between their ideology and the survival of their ideology; between their freedom to destroy their culture and the freedoms that culture guarantees. That's why in Europe it is often only people like the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who can take up the cudgels for women being hunted down like animals in through the green fields of England by their Islamic relatives, even though theoretically a British Imam's daughter condemned for having converted to Christianity could have gone to Greer, not to Nazi-Ali, for help. Dr. Nazir-Ali doesn't have to protect a circle of leftist supporters nor a public record of foolish utterance from the danger of sudden common sense.
If the Left wants to be free to think again, it must first of all divest itself, in the way it encourages everyone to divest itself from Israel, of its own fascist ideology. Oops. I repeat myself. I already observed they're stuck in an ultimate conflict of interest between their ideology and the survival of their ideology. Reboot and try again.