Explaining my criticism of Steyn
a copy of my article
on Mark Steyn’s New Criterion
piece to a correspondent with a cover note saying that the article was incoherent and defeatist. He replied that he thought the piece was “brilliant, perceptive, and eminently coherent. I especially don’t see the defeatism.”
Here’s my reply. It’s a bit repetitive, but repetitiveness may be needed in this case, partly because the superficial brilliance and desultory character of Steyn’s article may make it difficult for people to see the actual flaws in his argument.
LA to correspondent:
Here’s the essence of Steyn’s incoherence/defeatism: He keeps claiming to be warning Europe against a dread danger, but then he never says what to DO about that danger and in fact he says we’re finished anyway.
Thus he says,
On the contrary, one of the clearest signs of our decline is the way we expend so much energy worrying about the wrong things…. As Jean-François Revel wrote, “Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.” So he’s saying we need to defend ourselves. From what? And what should this self-defense consist of? He never says. All he does is go after the leftist elites (after making a nod to the idea that the elites are not the whole problem) who blame all problems in the world on Western perniciousness. His analysis of the left is true, of course. But still that leaves unaddressed the question: if the left always blames Western perniciousness instead of worrying about real threats to the West, what would the West do if it DID worry about threats to the West? In particular, what would it do about Islam? He never says. The most one can glean is that, since the Western suicide consists of low birth rates, PC, and excessive dependence on government, Western self-defense would consists of an increased birth rate, a rejection of PC, and less dependence on government. Fine. But the question remains, once the West does those necessary things, what does it do about Islam? He doesn’t address the issue. He tells his readers that rising Muslim numbers in Europe spell the death of Europe, he excoriates Europe for blaming itself and not defending itself, but then he doesn’t give any notion of what Europe ought to do to defend itself from Muslims assuming that it did regain the energy and conviction to defend itself. In fact, in some parts of the article, he denies that the Muslim presence is even a problem. As I pointed out, he only uses the word “immigration” twice in the whole article.
He endlessly mocks the PC surrender to and avoidance of the Islamic threat. But what would HE do about the Islamic threat? He doesn’t say. So, in regards to dealing with Muslims, how is he any different from the PC left that he mocks?
I agree that higher fertility among Europeans and a rejection of PC and statism are vitally necessary things that must happen if Europe is to survive. But they do not constitute Western defense against Islam. An increase in the numbers of white Europeans would do nothing to decrease the numbers of Muslims or rid the world of the threat of jihad. For example, a few thousand terrorist insurgents in Iraq, a country of 25 million, are enough to make it impossible for that country to maintain a stable government without the presence of U.S. forces. Muslims at present are still only a small proportion of the European population, but that is already enough to paralyze the Europeans in dealing with Islam. So this is not a matter of pure numbers. It’s a matter, as Steyn himself says, of confidence and will. But will to do what? That is what he won’t say. Even as he calls on Europeans to have confidence and will, he tells them that they’re finished.
I think I have sufficiently made my point that the article is both incoherent and defeatist.
A reader writes:
In fairness to Mark Steyn, I think one can read him as saying that the problem is that given the dominance of the European social democratic faith, there is no will to address the immigration issue. In fact, many European leftist leaders probably see it as an electoral plus. Further, if Steyn were any more blunt on this, how many papers would cancel his syndicated column?
Is uncontrolled mass immigration a discrete problem, or is it primarily a symptom of our failure to respect and elevate our own values that once made us what we are, or were? Isn’t the problem with us, more than people who simply want to come enjoy our prosperity if we are going to do nothing to stop them, that we lack the right reasoning and moral courage to address the issue?
I’ll ask you the same question I asked the correspondent I replied to earlier. Assuming that we did elevate our own values once again, what would we then do about Muslims and mass immigration? It is meaningless to say that “believing in our culture again” is the solution to the Islamic threat. Of course, believing in our culture again is the pre-requisite for dealing with the Muslim threat, but it does not constitute an actual response to the Muslim threat. In my view, if we really believed in our culture, then (1) we would understand and say out loud that Islam is incompatible with our civilization; (2) we wouldn’t have let the Muslims into our countries in the first place; and (3) having already let them in, we would stop admitting more of them, and start expelling many of those who are already here. These things would be the proof that we believe in ourselves. I call for those things. I’m saying we have to believe in our culture enough to do those things. So I’m the one who’s making renewed cultural confidence central to this problem. Steyn who says that renewed cultural confidence by itself is enough to deal with this problem is only pretending to deal with the problem, while actually assiduously avoiding it, and so further increasing the very defeatism and lack of confidence that he claims to be concerned about.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 02, 2006 09:39 AM | Send