The “conservative” without a country: what is his real aim?
As much as Mark Steyn has deliberately cultivated a sense of ambiguity and indeterminacy around his national, ethnic, religious, and even sexual identity, this evening at his blog, commenting on the Canadian election, he outdid himself. Look at this bizarre comment from the One-Man Global Content Provider:
If I were an anglo Montrealer—which, come to think of it, I am…He either can’t remember that he’s a Canadian and a Montrealer (for good reason—though purportedly born in Canada, he purportedly spent his formative years and his early career in Britain, and now purportedly lives in the U.S., though still purportedly holding Canadian citizenship), or he’s playing at not remembering. Either way, he is a Nowhere Man, continually underscoring his lack of attachment to any locality, country, or even civilization. This is the same “conservative” who recently told an interviewer that he couldn’t care less if there are any Belgians or other European peoples around in a hundred years’ time.
Which raises an interesting question: why is Steyn so open about his lack of normal identity and allegiances? Doesn’t he realize this will hurt him with his conservative fans? And the answer is, he realizes that it will not hurt him with his conservative fans. They are so gaga over him that he could tell them he’s a transvestite from Mars and they’d still think he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. So, it’s not precisely accurate to say that Steyn is a fraud; his conservative followers are so besotted that he doesn’t have to defraud them. In fact, it’s just the opposite. He keeps honestly telling them in all kinds of ways that he’s not a conservative and not on their side, but it doesn’t matter. They love him anyway. I suspect that he himself is astounded at the situation and even starts to wonder, how anti-conservative can I show myself to be to these suckers and still get away with it?
The above analysis of Steyn reminds me of Tom Tomorrow’s inspired cartoon a few months ago about the Bush administration and its relationship with its conservative base. In the cartoon, Bush, Cheney, and Rove are really radical leftists who decades ago went undercover in the Republican party with the aim of eventually taking over the party and then deliberately screwing things up so badly that people would leave the party in droves, thus destroying it as a party. They proceed with their decades-long plan of sabotage. But the joke is, once Bush gets into power, no matter what he does, no matter how badly he messes up, his devoted Republican supporters love him anyway. Finally, Bush erupts in frustration, “For Chrissakes—what do I have to DO to alienate these morons? Go on television and bite the head off a live bunny? And then declare my undying allegiance to Satan for good measure? What is it going to take?” The next panel, two weeks later, shows two blandly stalwart Bush supporters saying to each other, “You know, live bunnies really are an excellent source of nutrition.” “And Satan is widely misunderstood.”
Steyn’s equivalent to biting off the heads of live bunnies is to declare that he is completely indifferent to the survival of the historic nations and peoples of Europe. Unlike Bush in the cartoon, however, Steyn is not seeking to destroy conservatism by offending conservatives and driving them away from it; he is seeking to destroy conservatism by turning the conservatives into postmodern liberals like himself, detached from and indifferent to all historic allegiances (which also just happens to correspond with the neoconservative agenda as laid out by Irving Kristol and Fred Barnes). Each time Steyn makes some outrageous comment trampling on the most basic conservative attachments, such as the basic attachment of Americans to European civilization, and his readers keep applauding and cooing over him anyway, he realizes that he’s being more successful in his project than he could ever have imagined.
One final point. On the question of Steyn’s nationality, we now have an indication from him, not just a coy hint, but a statement of fact, that he is officially a Canadian citizen and officially a resident of Montreal, though, of course, he is actually, or at least purportedly, a resident of New Hampshire. Following his remark at 10:30 Monday night which I quoted earlier, “If I were an anglo Montrealer—which, come to think of it, I am…” he posted this at 10:35: “Just to underline my last point, my own MP—Lucienne Robillard—has been re-elected in Westmount-Ville-Marie. All over the province, there are new Tory MPs whose prospects were negligible a mere two weeks ago, and the city of Montreal has chosen to exclude itself from this story.”