Readers’ comments on Steyn and Islam

My blog article, “Steyn calls for the destruction of Europe,” has triggered a bunch of excellent e-mails from readers which are posted below. I keep adding more as they come in.

A Swedish conservative writes:

Steyn says in his speech that the Muslim population of Rotterdam is 40%. Rotterdam and Marseille are the European cities with the highest share of Muslim population. But the figure I have seen is 25%. Where is his source?

And in his article, “Europe imploding,” he writes: “By some projections, the EU’s population will be 40 percent Muslim by 2025.” By what projections?

Look here. The Muslim population of Europe today is 4-7%. If every Muslim woman in Europe gives birth to four babies, and every Muslim man marries a Muslim woman outside of Europe and bring her to Europe through family reunification, and then get her pregnant with four babies, the Muslim population in Europe will quadruple in one generation. This exponential growth is certainly mind boggling, and it will give us a Muslim population of 15-23 percent by 2025-2030. But there’s no way there could be 40 percent. Not until a generation later, by 2050, and only if the current trends are just projected and nothing is changed in policy or behaviour. What’s the motive of Steyn for exaggerating this figure beyond what is possible?

The only way that it would at all be possible to reach 40 percent by 2025 would be to extend Europe to include Turkey. Is this what Steyn is basing his calculations on? If so, why doesn’t he say it? (Next we will include Iraq also?) And why on earth isn’t he bashing the Bush Administration for pushing for Turkey’s membership in the EU, since this would be the decisive factor for imploding Europe just the way he described? Why is he only interested in being the grinning dishonest doomsday prophet?

LA replies:

I think to understand Steyn, you need to think of him almost as a character in a 19th century American novel, like Melville’s The Confidence Man. Steyn’s whole gestalt—his multifaceted and confusing persona (for example, he says he’s of half-Jewish, half-Belgian Catholic ancestry, yet he looks like a Celtic rugby player, he sounds like a member of the British parliament, and he writes like a post-modern elf living somewhere off the planet), his game playing about his background and origins (see his confusing FAQs section at his website), his deliberate ambiguousness about his sexual orientation, his lack of any genuine country, the way he writes for several countries at once using the idiom of each one, and his ability to keep dazzling people with his prodigious output, as though he were a kind of magical being, he is, essentially, a con artist. A con artist is not a fully formed human being. He is someone who has found a trick that “works” for him, in this case winning him great popularity and success, and he’s playing it for all it’s worth. But there’s no actual substance to the man, he’s an empty shell. Notice that he never engages in intellectual argument. He doesn’t have the ability to, because he has no ideas. He wouldn’t know how to reply to my criticisms, for example.

But Steyn is not just a guy using a “trick” to gain personal success. On top of his relatively innocent, con-man aspect, there is his sinister, neocon aspect, in which he fools people into thinking that he’s standing up for the West, when in fact he’s doing just the opposite.

VFR’s Indian reader living in the West writes:

Your take on Steyn is brutal and precise.

But he has said many absurd things in the past that were so outrageously irrational that it beggars belief that he continues to enjoy the following that he does. In one column he said Jordan had a better future than France although Jordan is 100 percent Muslim and France 10 percent Muslim. And in general he says that the Middle East has a better future than Europe (provided the U.S. exports more democracy to the Middle East).

Sometimes I wonder if he is just an overgrown brat who likes saying cynical, sometimes funny and obviously outrageous things (which are utter nonsense) and is read by cynical, overgrown brats who like reading cynical, funny and obviously outrageous things not taken too seriously.

But the Claremont Institute’s Winston Churchill award proves that this is not true. They actually take his ideas seriously. Oh dear.

Swedish conservative to LA:

Yes, that’s who he is: a con artist. But I think you are too hard on him when saying that he’s doing the opposite of standing up for the West. Having said that, I have to admit that during this year it often made me depressed reading Steyn. It usually helped going to John Reilly’s blog, where John often made tempered comments to Steyn.

Clearly Steyn should stay away from commenting on geopolitical future scenarios. When doing that he very much lacks substance. But what neocon comments upon these things with substance?… I think maybe it is the big discrepancy between his excellent way of writing and his relative emptiness that is so striking. When he stays away from commenting on the larger picture and future scenarios I still think that he is good. For example when he comments upon the advantage of the U.S. gun laws and the absurdity of the European principle of proportional defense when you meet a burglar that has broken into your house. However, as you say, the fact that he never participates in any debate reveals him as lacking true intellectual substance.

Still, the question that is bugging me is: Aren’t the neocons in general as empty as Steyn is? That the emptiness of Steyn is just expressed in a wittier and more bombastic way.

LA to Swedish conservative:

Steyn said it: he WANTS your continent to be Islamized. He’s written off Europe. What more evidence do you need that he’s doing the opposite of standing up for the West?

Swedish conservative:


It’s just so hard to take it in that he’s really saying that. Incredibly hard. I still haven’t completed taking it in…. And I used to admire this man….

Paul Gottfried writes:

I agree with all your comments about Steyn and his ambiguous identity combined with a characteristically neocon gestalt.But is he really very different from a host of other publicists who have sold themselves to the neocon and/or Republican empire? Do you remember P.J. O’Rourke, who now seems to have disappeared but who twenty years ago played the same kind of neocon court jester role? It is even possible to compare Steyn to Coulter, whose main job seems to be beating up Democrats and proclaiming the virtues of American Republicans in strings of snide comments. Before Steyn, Coulter and O’Rourke there was Emmett Tyrell who exercised the same brainless function, going after the opposition party and the European center left without having to engage serious arguments. If Bush and the neocons came out for immigration restrictions and the Democrats were on the other side, do you doubt that Steyn would be far behind demanding that we and the Europeans shut down borders?


Good list. I agree with your points. But O’Rourke and Coulter, not to mention Tyrrell, have not had had anything like the uncanny prodigious ubiquitous identity-changing quality of Steyn (sort of like the Green Knight in Gawain and the Green Knight) nor this thing of invoking almost gleefully the death of Europe. But O’Rourke did have similar qualities of being clever but shallow and soulless—and no conservative. I remember once reading an O’Rourke column in a conservative magazine where he said that race doesn’t matter, and his proof of this was that he had slept with women of every race—which proved what? That women of every race have similar sexual responses? Apart from the sheer crassness of the argument, this is the kind of personal information about a political columnist that one does not wish to have. However, at least O’Rourke didn’t call himself a conservative, but a libertarian.

Rick Darby of the Reflecting Light blog writes:

Since both you and Mark Steyn are on my blogroll, I guess I have some explaining to do!

My tag line for the link to Steyn, “In a class of his own for the amount of wit and wisdom he can pack into a single article,” perhaps could use some reconstruction.

Wit, yes, absolutely. There is hardly a column of his that doesn’t contain a few terrific take-away zingers. All else aside for the moment, Steyn is a hoot to read.

My problem is possibly similar to his: I value a snappy phrase too much. The mistake is assuming that wit is wisdom. And I associate Mark Steyn with the exhilaration I felt when discovering the Internet. This was back about the turn of the millennium—the earliest I can recall reading him was in the 2000 campaign—and it was thrilling to discover people writing things that didn’t (wouldn’t be allowed to!) make it into any dead-tree media that I read regularly.

I guess some of that aura has clung to him ever since for me.

Although it’s somewhat intriguing to try to understand what lies underneath his various “voices,” or his most fundamental nationality (almost surely British, I’d say), it’s not terribly important whether he’s most American or Canadian or British, straight or gay. For a writing pro, it’s not that hard to switch between styles; I can write in British spellings and idioms myself, and in fact have written for a U.K. publication in its native “language.”

But your probe does go deeper than mine. You are quite right, I think, that Steyn doesn’t seem to have any serious ideas, or at least none that he wants to commit himself to. He is like an actor who can do various characters well—all right, brilliantly—without having any apparent core of his own.

He’s done good work in taking the stuffing out of politicians and various idiocies of the nanny state. But something more is called for from a commentator with his prodigious gifts of style.

Either Western civilization is in serious danger, or it isn’t; and if it is, either it deserves defending tooth and nail, or it doesn’t. Steyn does acknowledge the danger. It’s the second issue he won’t engage, as you perceive.

I’m glad he’s around, I’m glad he’s widely read. But like you, I’m disappointed Mark Steyn doesn’t seem to understand that purveying entertainment, however appropriate on one level, will not help hold off the darkness.

Carl Simpson writes:

I’m in the same boat as Rick Darby, though I think I need to re-evaluate thanks to the 2/28/05 Jewish World Review article, which I was unaware of. As you say, this goes quite beyond mere Schadenfreude over the laughable French response to the widespread Car-B-Qs of the “suburban Utes.” I think it even goes beyond my occasional thought that dhimmitude under the Muslims might be more survivable for the remnant of traditional European people (like your Swedish correspondent) than the totalitarianism of the leftist elite now in charge.

I would still mourn Europe’s loss if the Muslims take over—even if it is truthfully already lost thanks to the leftist elite and those who enable them. Steyn actually seems to think that Europe’s demise would be a good thing!…

Steyn, despite all his talent, is ultimately shallow. Just a court jester for the neocons. What a waste.

LA adds:

I may have been wrong about Steyn being born in Britain, but not very wrong. Wikipedia says he was born in Toronto, but spent his formative years and the first part of his career in Britain. That would explain his English accent and manner, and also why he’s never described himself as a Briton—he’s not one. Then he moved back to the New World, and New Hampshire. So he’s a native of Canada but basically has never lived in his actual country and, as far as one can judge from his writings, feels no connection with or affection for that country. His personality is far more British than Canadian—yet he’s a Canadian. The country he lives in and cares about is America—yet he’s a Canadian. No wonder he plays games around his identity.

Also, see an earlier article where I summed up Steyn’s various indeterminate identities.

I think this is enough on the subject of Steyn, at least from me, for a good long time!

But more readers keep coming in. An American former leftist now living in England writes:

I can’t believe you’ve wasted all that time going on about Mark Steyn who at least has brought the problem of Islamic takeover and influence to the fore for the mainstream newspaper/blog readers and in an extremely entertaining way. It reminds me of my Weatherman days where we criticised everyone who wasn’t as radical as us (almost everyone) and therefore destroyed “The Movement.” Plus like Bob Dylan’s lyrics compared with his real life views, one has to separate the “art” from the real flesh and blood man. Steyn is an artist and comedian as well as disseminator of viewpoints. And those anti-Islamic viewpoints, moderate as they are to people like us are more radical than most of the Mainstream. And he has grown more militant in the past year or two.

What the real problem is besides the obvious one of Islam is the weakness of the moral and spiritual and cultural condition of the West. Even if we have realisations about Islam we are too weak to truly defeat this enemy other than to launch a few military operations.

This enemy needs defeating mentally and spiritually and that’s where the decadent West falls down. How can “Moderate Muslims” (who are the real danger due to their numbers) around the world be convinced that the West is not weak when the West is too busy partying, engaging in pornography and prostitution, boycotting its own churches, taking huge amounts of drugs and condoning absentee fathers and same sex marriages etc….

But if Judaic-Christianity had some real life in it and the Churches were full it would send a message. But that ain’t gonna happen. So not only do they flock in huge numbers and reproduce in huge numbers, they find that nothing is stopping Islam from taking over from within. They probably couldn’t believe their luck…. Spurred on by the changes brought about in the ‘60s and ‘70s by people like myself, the West has fallen apart from within. And as Islam is a naturally expansive religion and culture, the West is seen as a prime target. Like hunting lions targeting the weakest zebra in the pack. So we must not only call for reduced Islamic immigration (yes please) and harder military action directly against extremist Muslim groups (yes please and preferably by other countries and governments) and even military action against Mecca (as last resort but must be seriously considered) but we must help build up and restore Western culture again, a very difficult task indeed.

A reader writes from Virginia:

Thank you for your recent entries about Mr. Steyn. I have read a few of his articles; he does seem like a deceiver of sorts. That is one thing I am suspicious of; someone who seems to make points, but when pushed is really just sitting on the fence. It reminds me of Jonah Goldberg and the subject of abortion. He always talks as if it might be wrong, but at bottom he … well who knows what he really thinks?

Maybe Mr. Steyn does not know himself. Maybe he is not there, so to speak.

Have you ever read Edith Hamilton? I picked up The Greek Way and The Roman Way a couple of years ago and was surprised by them. She was objective. Concrete. She seemed to know the Greeks the way they were, or at least she believed she did. I was just reading a preview of The Echo of Greece (on Amazon), it begins with a description of East and West, Greece against Persia. A little further on:

“The ancient civilizations were alike in one respect, in a refusal to recognize limits. Exaggeration was stamped upon them, a rejection of the limits of reality. It is plain to see in their art, in the monstrous Assyrian bird-and-beast statues, in the pyramids and the colossal images and the tremendous temples of Egypt, in the hanging gardens of Babylon. It is apparent, too, in the showers of barbaric pearl and gold, the heaped-up treasures on one hand and the wretched, helpless multitudes on the other, incredible magnificence side by side with incredible squalor. Eastern life was lived at extremes.”

I think that America has imbibed a lot of that “refusal to recognize limits.” We are getting all mixed up. America has to be a concrete thing or it will cease to exist. If it has no limits then it doesn’t exist.

Our Swedish conservative writes:

I must comment upon Steyn’s assertion that Europe will implode. It’s not going to happen. The only apocalypse we’ll see is the one that Lawrence talks about. And that’s a mental apocalypse, the apocalypse of liberalism as being our civic religion. For most people this is identical to the world falling apart, but the only thing that will actually happen is that they lose their “God.” People who imagine Europe disappearing, do so only because they have forgotten what Europe really is.

Europe won’t implode. Surely we will have to walk through fire. But Europe is not even close to getting lost. Surely we will lose many cities in the course of the century, but just as sure we will build new ones, while also conquering the old ones back. But only a coward in panic will scream “I’m dying!” because his leg needs to be amputated. Surely we will have to regroup—the countryside being our safest stronghold—and organize our societies differently than in “divine” units of democratic nation states. There are many traditional solutions to fall back on. For example small well- defended principalities and polities, that in turn form a union of Christendom. Also, to save Europe we should not think in terms of saving all of Europe, each of us much focus on saving our local community. Thus it would be possible to save all of Europe.

Surely Islam is a formidable enemy that has destroyed many other societies. But once we have defeated the enemy within us, there’s no one that can beat us. Samuel Huntington said, “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.” This is a pretty good record to fall back on. And this time we will be fighting for our homeland. So surely the West will turn around during this century. And Mark Steyn was right about one thing, Europe is first in line. The question is, will America be able to keep its moral leadership of the West? Not unless America turns around too.

Here’s a reader who sees in Steyn a kind of cowardice:

I read with interest your deconstruction of Mark Steyn. This is why I read your blog, for it helps me refine my understanding of the underlying philosophy that drives events and avoid swallowing anything, sweet to the tongue, that may eventually ream a hole in my gut.

I’ve often thought about the psychology of leftism in its gradations, from the bomb-thrower to the mushy fools like Johnelle Bryant, Mohammed Atta’s loan officer. One thing Mark Steyn did say that I believe is true is that multiculturalism is a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Where does the idea of the Noble Savage intersect in the minds of many with the raw fear of that same savage? Miss Bryant’s interaction with Atta at the Dept. of Agriculture seems a perfect example.

When Murray Kempton died there was a curious line in his fawning obituary in Newsday: “He was unafraid of Black people.” I grew up in East New York in Brooklyn in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when parts were still white and we defended our turf vigorously and unapologetically (no one thought to apologize yet). We white kids were not fooled by the nascent images on TV and in the movies of the “numinous black.” Yet kids I knew from Long Island had this ridiculous idea of the all-powerful black people that we, who had fought them on the street, laughed at (Shaft must have made a big impression on them).

I think this is where belief in appeasement begins. Cowardice informs everything the left does. And as cowardice is in part the denial of fear in one’s self this is why we get the most outlandish justifications for blatant threats to our civilization, from the unsubtle and sad extremism of Noel Ignatiev to the apparently subtle cynicism of Steyn (which yet hides a strange form of utopianism in it: “Yeah, it’ll be Eurabia. But it’ll be better then!”). As you said, yielding to the Other seems primary.

Anyway, thanks for the website. It’s educational value is very much appreciated.

LA to reader:

I like your point about cowards denying fear, which sounds like the opposite of what is supposed to be true, but is in fact the truth. This is a key point for me: The basis of courage is fear. I realized this consciously from reading Plato, when he speaks of the guardians of the city and says that their courage in defending the city comes from their fear of the things that could harm the city. Men are courageous when they fear things that they ought to fear.

Liberals deny the existence of evil and enemies, therefore they deny the objective basis of fear, and therefore they are without the virtue of courage.

The poster known as Fred Scrooby (formerly known as Unadorned) writes:

Thank you for forwarding the log entry on Steyn.

I know exactly what you’re talking about in it—as you mention, I’ve had reactions to a few of his columns that were similar to the ones you describe in the piece: I’ve viewed him as in part consisting of, or being afflicted with, a sort of “nothingness” in part—i.e., a sort of partial deficiency of “soul”—which makes him seem indifferent to the very real prospect of an irreversible transformation of Europe into something racially and ethnoculturally non-European. I for one couldn’t remain indifferent to the prospect of that happening to any of the world’s traditional cultures or races, let alone my own. How can he be like that?

When you think of all that Europe has been, all it has created, all it has given the world in the three thousand years since the Odyssey and the Iliad were written—all of it, the whole deal, the whole “shebang”: the philosophy, the political theory, the art, the poetry & literature of all the European languages ancient and modern, the music, the science & engineering, the architecture, the Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic religions, the innate personality-types and inborn physical/racial features of the people—the looks, inborn mannerisms and types of character traits of the various European races and sub-races, their individual national customs and traditions—when you consider all of that, it’s actually hard to comprehend how a highly intelligent and educated man could act so indifferent to its threatened demise through submergence in, then actual incorporation into, the Islamic world.

It’s so hard to comprehend, in fact, that I’m starting to suspect it’s not really indifference, so much as active dislike—dislike of Europe and, therefore, a certain sense of satisfaction at the prospect of its coming to an end.

I could be wrong. And why a highly educated white man as intelligent as Steyn is, one who isn’t a radical leftist, would dislike Europe so much, I can’t understand. But the more I think of it, the more I find it easier to believe he harbors a dislike of Europe than that he, an intelligent, cultured man, is sincerely indifferent to its present-day mortal peril. Again, I could be wrong.

LA replies:

Thank you for this excellent statement of what Europe and European man mean and should mean to us. That people don’t generally see this or are indifferent to it is one of the core, terrible facts of our age. It is the ultimate fruit of modernity and liberalism.

Also, it’s not an important point, but Steyn is not highly educated; in fact, he didn’t even go to college.

The reader who wrote earlier on cowardice has a thought provoking explanation of cowardice, that it comes from rejecting any transcendent or any larger world or society, so as to maintain one’s sense of autonomy. No larger world; no reason to fear anything that may happen to it; nothing to disturb one’s sense that all is well with oneself. These are really interesting insights. I don’t know that anyone ever thought of saying, first, that cowardice means denying fear in oneself, and, second, that this denial of fear comes from rejecting the transcendent.

The reader writes:

I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to expand a bit my thoughts on the nature of cowardice in light of your own definition of transcendence, without which there can be no courage or virtue, as you stated.

Cowardice seems to be rooted in narcissism, which by definition excludes any acknowledgment of the transcendental. The reason the coward denies any fear in himself is that it interferes with the infantile self-image of an all-powerful ego. His self-preservation instincts are limited strictly to his own physical/psychic person because belief in an expanded identity with something greater requires him to give up his childish notions of autonomy. Hence his reliance on increasingly untenable rationalizations [denying any objective danger to his society], to rescue the ego at all costs.

Cynicism seems nothing more than cowardice from afar masquerading as wisdom, savvy or world-weariness. The adolescent’s “been there, done that” is an expression of this and an attempt to appear as authority without actually having to take any of the responsibility real authority requires. The only difference between Mark Steyn and an openly leftist cynic is that he’s playing to a different crowd. He’ll wave around his conservative bona-fides (the bait) and then, in true Mt. Olympus fashion, off-handedly consign an entire culture and people to the dust-bin of history (the switch). By definition it can’t be conservatism if it is already planning for its own demise.

People like him do this because, not believing in the transcendental idea of a culture to which one belongs (yet benefiting from it), he really doesn’t believe he’ll be affected.

Behind that, however, no doubt exists the secret dread that the waters really will lap that far up the mountain. Yet he’ll cradle his surfboard and convince himself he can ride any wave.

Courage and virtue of course are the exact opposite. Men and women sure of their identity recognize their dependence on the greater self, the society in which they live and the traditions that have formed its character. They acknowledge fear and understand fully for what they sacrifice. They “put away childish things.”

Thanks and Happy New Year again.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 29, 2005 07:04 PM | Send

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