The worst of Steyn, redux
Posted at year’s end one year ago was my discussion of Mark Steyn’s explicit call for the destruction of Europe at the hands of Muslims (followed by a must-read discussion by VFR readers). Steyn wrote:
Some of us think an Islamic Europe will be easier for America to deal with than the present Europe of cynical, wily, duplicitous pseudo-allies. But getting there is certain to be messy, and violent.From which I concluded:
… 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.Some found this hard to take. VFR’s Swedish conservative reader wrote:
… I think you are too hard on him when saying that he’s doing the opposite of standing up for the West…. 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.I replied:
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:
Touché!Jeff in England also objected to my attack on Steyn:
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.”Well, Jeff has come a long way since then, emerging as the strongest voice at VFR advocating a straightforward challenge to the inadequate or (in Steyn’s case) phony Islam critics. The larger conservative scene, however, hardly presents an edifying picture in this regard. The utterly appalling fact is that the popularity and influence of this half-trickster, half-traitor has actually been increasing over the past year, with many “conservatives” treating him as a major intellectual figure and frequently speaking of him in the adoring terms that are normally reserved for one’s favorite pop star. This is a deeply sick phenomenon, reflecting an advanced degeneration in the Western soul, and we can only hope for more awakenings and turnabouts in the year to come.
The bottom line is that this individual is bent on discrediting me, Steyn, Phillips, Pipes, etc. etc.—in short, everyone but himself, so that he will stand as the only trustworthy authority on Islamic and immigration issues. It is an unseemly exercise, embarrassing to watch. I am more interested in making common cause even with those with whom I do not agree on anything. In the larger struggle, we have few enough allies as it is—unless the struggle is to establish Austerism over the West.Leaving aside Spencer’s more grandiose imaginings about me and my supposed motivations, let’s focus on the charge of “discrediting.” I plead innocent to the charge of seeking to discredit Spencer and Phillips; I have challenged them, hard, on a couple of particular and central points, mainly the inadequacy of their respective positions (or rather non-positions) on Muslim immigration in light of their hair-raising warnings about the dangers of Islam (see this and this); but that is all. I read Phillips with profit, and admire Spencer’s invaluable expertise and insights on Islam (notwithstanding his continued personal attacks on me), and have often recommended their writings. I plead partly guilty to the charge of seeking to discredit Pipes, or, rather, I seek to discredit one aspect of his work, his outrageously contradictory and incoherent treatment of the nature of Islam, which I have critiqued at great length, and which, if we lived in a culture with intellectual standards, would not continue to be published. (And by the way, does Spencer himself think that Pipes’s writings on the nature of Islam have been coherent?) Besides that, Pipes makes an important positive contribution, as I have often said. Also, Pipes’s intentions are not bad, he’s just hopelessly confused on the subject of whether Islam is good or bad, reformable or unreformable, as many people besides myself have come to see. Pipes’s real strength is not as a thinker about Islam, but as an activist against the radical Muslim groups, and in there he makes a tremendous contribution. To say what I’ve just said is not to try to discredit him, but to urge that he focus his efforts in the area where he has something positive and useful to offer, instead of the area where he offers only confusion. However, I do plead guilty to the charge of seeking to discredit Steyn, because he is, as his writings attest over and over again, a traitor to Western civilization.
Even though I agree with many of your points about Steyn, I wouldn’t call him a “traitor” to Western civilisation…. that is going a “bit over the top” as the English would say. Plus he’s a funny great writer whom I enjoy reading even when he’s wrong. Oddly enough of all the Suspects, Steyn probably has the most impact in bringing the immigration/demographics issue to public attention as he is read by huge numbers of people.. Only yesterday in an Oxford bookstore my manager friend told me how Steyn’s book, America Alone, is flying off the shelves. While Horowitz and Spencer are not. By the way, we haven’t focused much on Horowitz…. is that for practical reasons?
His repeated act of either saying with gleeful satisfaction and no sorrow that Europe is imminently doomed to Islamization or positively wishing for Europe to be Islamized, even as he poses as a conservative standing against Islamization, combined with his call for higher birth rates as the sole method of American defense (he doesn’t care about European defense), a method that would have no effect for a generation, even as he says not a word about the one means of American defense that could take effect immediately, immigration, all add up in my mind to the conclusion that he’s a traitor.
Bruce B. writes:
In displaying indifference to Europe’s fate isn’t Steyn just displaying the essence of neo-conservative/Republican chauvinism ? That is, the belief in American (proposition nation, of course) exceptionalism with the corresponding contempt for “old Europe.”LA replies:
Spencer has an irrational animus against me, and it’s not fun to know there’s a person in the world who is against you that much that there’s nothing you can do about it. As Jeff has pointed out, Spencer turns the truth on its head with his scenario in which he has been nice to me and that I in return out of sheer nastiness or egotism have smeared him personally. Jeff says that because of Spencer’s prestige, he will get people to believe this crazy story, which will obviously have a harmful effect on me. The truth is that it is Spencer who has repeatedly made personal attacks against me, ranging from demeaning personal insults to his statement that I am a racist to whom it isn’t worth talking, to his repeated charge that my legitimate intellectual criticisms of him are “slurs,” “smears,” and “calumnies,” and those supposed “smears” by me then become his justification for his attacks.Jeff writes:
The reason people don’t jump on Steyn is that he’s a very funny writer. Humour will get you far in this game. It is possible that some of his serious views are there simply to “stir” so to speak. I don’t think Steyn seriously wants Europe to be Islamisised, c’mon Larry! You are taking his words too literally. I’ve already said I agree with much of your criticism of Steyn but calling him a “traitor” just strikes me as a Steynian parody term. He’d love that description methinks. In reality, he is not very different from many other of the “suspects.” But he is far funnier that’s for sure. These other “suspects” are not known for their humor! What’s the use of being Jewish (several “suspects” are) if you’re not going to put forth your views with a sense of humour. Anyone for cricket?Howard Sutherland writes:
I am not a Steyn fan, and really never have been. He is too glib, and his answers too pat. I think, though, you may be reading too much into:LA replies:
I’m responding to his plain meaning. Mr. Sutherland is claiming that that meaning isn’t what Steyn really means. But if someone had written in 1940:Mr. Sutherland writes:
Even with the 1940 paraphrase in mind, I think Steyn was just essaying what he thinks is realpolitik. It is cynicism, not treason. Enough defending Steyn, though. As I said, I’m not his fan anyway.Gintas writes:
I think Jeff made a good point about Steyn’s humor. I read a biography of Hitler that talked about an unappreciated aspect of his success: his humor. If you can make people laugh it’s a lot easier to win them over, especially in our comedy-addled culture.Under the subject line “WHAT DRIVES HIM TO INSULT AUSTER IS WHAT DRIVES HIM INSANE” (paraphrased from the Bob Dylan song “Isis“), Jeff in England writes,
Steyn may be a “traitor” but he is a relatively good natured sane “traitor,” even if his opinions are way wrong. Spencer, however, sounds pathological when he talks about you. Can he really believe the personal comments he is saying about you? The answer is obviously yes. The things he is saying about you are really off the compass. Maybe the Muslim religion and culture he writes so insightfully about are affecting his brain!LA replies to Jeff:
I saw Spencer last year on C-SPAN being interviewed and he seemed low-key and psychologically balanced as a person and effective as a spokesman. He’s dealing with some seriously bad people and he’s completely cool about it. Yet when I challenge him on a couple of his positions he becomes obsessed with me as though I threaten him more than the jihadists who have reportedly threatened his life.Jeff in England writes:
TO VFR READERS: Not in any way, shape, or form did I originally mention sexual metaphors to demean Spencer or any of the liberal conservative “usual suspects” in any personal sense. Nor did Lawrence Auster in his remarks about “not dealing with the issue in a manly way” etc. mean that in any personal sense apart from the issue.LA writes:
Also on the question of personal attacks, I’ve indicated before that my relentless criticisms of Daniel Pipes are not just about attacking his work as an individual. He is an emblematic figure, dramatically embodying within himself the paralyzing contradictions toward Islam that characterize the West as a whole.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 04, 2007 06:14 PM | Send