Mark Steyn, Islam, Europe and free speech

The blurb accompanying the YouTube video of today’s speech gives us little information other than it is an old bit of film, that its subject is “Islam and the end of Europe“, and the speaker is Mark Steyn. It goes on to give you the otherwise illegible wording that covers the screen at the beginning. If you wish to read it you can find it here. Meanwhile I find myself fishing around for more information.

The backdrop tells us that he is speaking to The Heritage Foundation. When John Hilboldt is introducing the session we have a long shot of the platform and see that the banner on the front of the lectern is the artwork for the cover of Steyn’s book, America Alone, published in 2006, whose subtitle is “the end of the world as we know it”. If you pay close attention to what he says you will find that it emerges that this speech took place in 2007. Steyn begins speaking at 5:34 and finishes at 31:11. The rest is questions.

Before someone starts jumping up and down, accusing me of jumping on the publicity bandwagon accompanying the appalling and tragic events in and around Paris last week, let me hasten to plead guilty. Yes, of course. The subject matter is almost constantly in the news in some way or another, but at this time it is more sharply in focus. I have had this speech up my metaphorical sleeve for some time, holding back on covering it principally because there are no very striking lessons to be learnt in respect of public speaking. What has always been interesting about it – and it is always interesting about Mark Steyn anyway – is the Cassandra factor. When we have a clear record of unheeded prophesy, we need to recognize it. There is a particularly prescient passage here, in the Q&A beginning at 35:25.

Steyn carries pre-publicity baggage. Everyone ‘knows’ that he is a wicked ultra-right-wing hawk. He acknowledges this reputation at 16:25. The interesting thing is that it’s not altogether true. Yes he dares to address what too many commentators duck. Yes he is prepared to be very blunt, particularly in his dealings with those whose adherence to fashionable pieties causes them to snipe at him; and the power of his articulacy causes Steyn’s bluntness to be very sharp.

Listen to this speech, read what he writes, and unless blinded by prejudice against him you quickly learn that his target is not really Islam. It is the willful refusal by too many to realize that there are issues to be addressed, and the only way to address them is in open debate. That debate could be tough but it won’t be as tough as the consequences of ignoring it for political expediency, or burying it under asinine ‘hate speech’ laws.

We’re talking about free speech here. On Sunday there was a huge march through Paris. Everyone knows that it was set up by a tsunami-like popular movement in favour of free speech. Television shots of that march were heart-warming till ruined by the sight of that dreadful front row.

The march had its front row hijacked by politicians and its purpose hijacked by the main-stream media. Why did the media call it a ‘Unity March’? Where did that preposterous name come from? Was it dreamed up by pathetic spin-doctors for those politicians, most of whom have a record on free speech that bears no scrutiny? If ever there was something whose momentum could achieve something really important, this is it. It still could. As a fervent believer in people I think people untrammeled by the establishment have a better chance of pulling something good out of all this than all the self-serving politicians, their cheerleaders in the media, and least of all the dismal offenderati. What is needed is openness, fresh air and sunlight. What is needed is free speech.

I’ll give you an example of how the establishment consistently makes things worse. Every time something like this happens there is an immediate knee-jerk reaction in the media from some politico-jerk about ‘islamophobic backlash’. The interesting thing is that it never actually happens. The reason is that people in general don’t hate or blame Muslims in general, just the pricks that foment appalling stuff like Paris and Nigeria. People know Muslims and like Muslims.

Right now, my favourite Muslim is Aboutaleb, the Mayor of Rotterdam.

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