Even as Steyn gets more worried about Islam, he has not become more serious about Islam

Scott B. writes:

I think this article (“Mollifying Muslims, and Muslifying Mollies”) is one of Steyn’s best in some time.

LA replies:

I would say that it starts off very strongly (especially the third paragraph, beginning, “Take this no-name pastor from an obscure church who was threatening to burn the Koran”), but then commences wandering from one thing to another and ends with no point at all. And this shapeless article is 2,000 words long. If there is a common thread to his various anecdotes, it is that he is complaining about our leaders surrendering to Islam and even becoming Islam’s enforcers over us. But what is he doing? What does he offer against this surrender? Nothing. So the impact of his article is to solidify the very surrender he’s complaining about. To talk about a dread, growing problem like Islamization, and offer no response to it, not even a hint of a possibility of a response to it, is to demoralize his readers and make them surrender too, even while they imagine themselves to be bold foes of Islamization.

Which is what I’ve been saying about him for five years.

Here is the Steyn article (which has no permanent link yet at his site):

Mollifying Muslims, and Muslifying Mollies
Monday, 20 September 2010

While I’ve been talking about free speech in Copenhagen, several free speech issues arose in North America. I was asked about them both at the Sappho Award event and in various interviews, so here’s a few thoughts for what they’re worth:

Too many people in the free world have internalized Islam’s view of them. A couple of years ago, I visited Guantanamo and subsequently wrote that, if I had to summon up Gitmo in a single image, it would be the brand-new copy of the Koran in each cell: To reassure incoming prisoners that the filthy infidels haven’t touched the sacred book with their unclean hands, the Korans are hung from the walls in pristine, sterilized surgical masks. It’s one thing for Muslims to regard infidels as unclean, but it’s hard to see why it’s in the interests of us infidels to string along with it and thereby validate their bigotry. What does that degree of prostration before their prejudices tell them about us? It’s a problem that Muslims think we’re unclean. It’s a far worse problem that we go along with it.

Take this no-name pastor from an obscure church who was threatening to burn the Koran. He didn’t burn any buildings or women and children. He didn’t even burn a book. He hadn’t actually laid a finger on a Koran, and yet the mere suggestion that he might do so prompted the President of the United States to denounce him, and the Secretary of State, and the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, various G7 leaders, and golly, even Angelina Jolie. President Obama has never said a word about honor killings of Muslim women. Secretary Clinton has never said a word about female genital mutilation. General Petraeus has never said a word about the rampant buggery of pre-pubescent boys by Pushtun men in Kandahar. But let an obscure man in Florida so much as raise the possibility that he might disrespect a book—an inanimate object—and the most powerful figures in the western world feel they have to weigh in.

Aside from all that, this obscure church’s website has been shut down, its insurance policy has been canceled, its mortgage has been called in by its bankers. Why? As Diana West wrote, why was it necessary or even seemly to make this pastor a non-person? Another one of Obama’s famous “teaching moments”? In this case teaching us that Islamic law now applies to all? Only a couple of weeks ago, the President, at his most condescendingly ineffectual, presumed to lecture his moronic subjects about the First Amendment rights of Imam Rauf. Where’s the condescending lecture on Pastor Jones’ First Amendment rights?

When someone destroys a bible, US government officials don’t line up to attack him. President Obama bowed lower than a fawning maitre d’ before the King of Saudi Arabia, a man whose regime destroys bibles as a matter of state policy, and a man whose depraved religious police forces schoolgirls fleeing from a burning building back into the flames to die because they’d committed the sin of trying to escape without wearing their head scarves. If you show a representation of Mohammed, European commissioners and foreign ministers line up to denounce you. If you show a representation of Jesus Christ immersed in your own urine, you get a government grant for producing a widely admired work of art. Likewise, if you write a play about Jesus having gay sex with Judas Iscariot.

So just to clarify the ground rules, if you insult Christ, the media report the issue as freedom of expression: A healthy society has to have bold, brave, transgressive artists willing to question and challenge our assumptions, etc. But, if it’s Mohammed, the issue is no longer freedom of expression but the need for “respect” and “sensitivity” toward Islam, and all those bold brave transgressive artists don’t have a thing to say about it.

Maybe Pastor Jones doesn’t have any First Amendment rights. Musing on Koran burning, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer argued:

[Oliver Wendell] Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater … Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?

This is a particularly obtuse remark even by the standards of contemporary American jurists. As I’ve said before, the fire-in-a-crowded-theatre shtick is the first refuge of the brain-dead. But it’s worth noting the repellent modification Justice Breyer makes to Holmes’ argument: If someone shouts fire in a gaslit Broadway theatre of 1893, people will panic. By definition, panic is an involuntary reaction. If someone threatens to burn a Koran, belligerent Muslims do not panic—they bully, they intimidate, they threaten, they burn and they kill. Those are conscious acts, at least if you take the view that Muslims are as fully human as the rest of us and therefore responsible for their choices. As my colleague Jonah Goldberg points out, Justice Breyer’s remarks seem to assume that Muslims are not fully human.

More importantly, the logic of Breyer’s halfwit intervention is to incentivize violence, and undermine law itself. What he seems to be telling the world is that Americans’ constitutional rights will bend to intimidation. If Koran-burning rates a First Amendment exemption because Muslims are willing to kill over it, maybe Catholics should threaten to kill over the next gay-Jesus play, and Broadway could have its First Amendment rights reined in. Maybe the next time Janeane Garafolo goes on MSNBC and calls Obama’s opponents racists, the Tea Partiers should rampage around town and NBC’s free-speech rights would be withdrawn.

Meanwhile, in smaller ways, Islamic intimidation continues. One reason why I am skeptical that the Internet will prove the great beacon of liberty on our darkening planet is because most of the anonymous entities that make it happen are run by people marinated in jelly-spined political correctness. In Canada, an ISP called Bluehost knocked Marginalized Action Dinosaur off the air in response to a complaint by Asad Raza, a laughably litigious doctor in Brampton, Ontario. Had his name been Gordy McHoser, I doubt even the nancy boys at Bluehost would have given him the time of day. A similar fate briefly befell our old pal the Binksmeister at FreeMarkSteyn.com: In other words, a website set up to protest Islamic legal jihad was shut down by the same phenomenon. In America, The New York Times has already proposed giving “some government commission” control over Google’s search algorithm; the City of Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Constitution signed, is now so removed from the spirit of the First Amendment that it’s demanding bloggers pay a $300 “privilege” license for expressing their opinions online. The statists grow ever more comfortable in discussing openly the government management of your computer. But, even if they don’t formally take it over, look at the people who run publishing houses, movie studios, schools and universities, and ask yourself whether you really want to bet the future on the commitment to free speech of those who run ISPs. SteynOnline, for example, is already banned by the Internet gatekeepers from the computers at both Marriott Hotels and Toronto Airport.

But forget about notorious rightwing hatemongers like me. Look at how liberal progressives protect their own. Do you remember a lady called Molly Norris? She’s the dopey Seattle cartoonist who cooked up “Everybody Draws Mohammed” Day, and then, when she realized what she’d stumbled into, tried to back out of it. I regard Miss Norris as (to rewrite Stalin) a useless idiot, and she wrote to Mark’s Mailbox to object. I stand by what I wrote then, especially the bit about her crappy peace-sign T-shirt. Now The Seattle Weekly informs us:

You may have noticed that Molly Norris’ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly.

On the advice of the FBI, she’s been forced to go into hiding. If you want to measure the decline in western civilization’s sense of self-preservation, go back to Valentine’s Day 1989, get out the Fleet Street reports on the Salman Rushdie fatwa, and read the outrage of his fellow London literati at what was being done to one of the mainstays of the Hampstead dinner-party circuit. Then compare it with the feeble passivity of Molly Norris’ own colleagues at an American cartoonist being forced to abandon her life: “There is no more Molly”? That’s all the gutless pussies of The Seattle Weekly can say? As James Taranto notes in The Wall Street Journal, even much sought-after Ramadan-banquet constitutional scholar Barack Obama is remarkably silent:

Now Molly Norris, an American citizen, is forced into hiding because she exercised her right to free speech. Will President Obama say a word on her behalf? Does he believe in the First Amendment for anyone other than Muslims?

Who knows? Given his highly selective enthusiasms, you can hardly blame a third of Americans for figuring their president must be Muslim. In a way, that’s the least pathetic explanation: The alternative is that he’s just a craven squish. Which is an odd considering he is, supposedly, the most powerful man in the world.

Listen to what President Obama, Justice Breyer, General Petraeus, The Seattle Weekly and Bluehost internet services are telling us about where we’re headed. As I said in America Alone, multiculturalism seems to operate to the same even-handedness as the old Cold War joke in which the American tells the Soviet guy that “in my country everyone is free to criticize the President”, and the Soviet guy replies, “Same here. In my country everyone is free to criticize your President.” Under one-way multiculturalism, the Muslim world is free to revere Islam and belittle the west’s inheritance, and, likewise, the western world is free to revere Islam and belittle the west’s inheritance. If one has to choose, on balance Islam’s loathing of other cultures seems psychologically less damaging than western liberals’ loathing of their own.

It is a basic rule of life that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. Every time Muslims either commit violence or threatens it, we reward them by capitulating. Indeed, President Obama, Justice Breyer, General Petraeus, and all the rest are now telling Islam, you don’t have to kill anyone, you don’t even have to threaten to kill anyone. We’ll be your enforcers. We’ll demand that the most footling and insignificant of our own citizens submit to the universal jurisdiction of Islam. So Obama and Breyer are now the “good cop” to the crazies’ “bad cop”. Ooh, no, you can’t say anything about Islam, because my friend here gets a little excitable, and you really don’t want to get him worked up. The same people who tell us “Islam is a religion of peace” then turn around and tell us you have to be quiet, you have to shut up because otherwise these guys will go bananas and kill a bunch of people.

While I was in Denmark, one of the usual Islamobozos lit up prematurely in a Copenhagen hotel. Not mine, I’m happy to say. He wound up burning only himself, but his targets were my comrades at the newspaper Jyllands-Posten. I wouldn’t want to upset Justice Breyer by yelling “Fire!” over a smoldering jihadist, but one day even these idiots will get lucky. I didn’t like the Danish Security Police presence at the Copenhagen conference, and I preferred being footloose and fancy-free when I was prowling the more menacing parts of Rosengard across the water in Malmö the following evening. No one should lose their name, their home, their life, their liberty because ideological thugs are too insecure to take a joke. But Molly Norris is merely the latest squishy liberal to learn that, when the chips are down, your fellow lefties won’t be there for you.

[end of Steyn article]

- end of initial entry -

Chris H. writes:

This is off subject, but Steyn wrote:

“No one should lose their name, their home, their life, their liberty because ideological thugs are too insecure to take a joke.”

How can anyone think that “No one” is plural? It should be:

“No one should lose his name, his home, his life, his liberty … “

LA replies:

Of course you’re right. At this site I consistently use the generic male pronoun in cases like this, and I even correct readers’ comments, just as you have corrected the Steyn quote.

Hannon writes:

I agree with your reader that the Steyn piece is a good read, especially the first paragraphs. The problem with writers who become popular as he has is that their message and style both become familiar and pleasing, without any discomfort to the reader. Perhaps Mr. Steyn eschews resolution and solution to the problem of Islam in our midst for precisely this reason. Jihad Watch is similar in this way.

It reminds me of the applied and theoretical camps of science. So far we have stacks of analytical findings about Islam, and ideas supported by those findings, but real world applications are sorely lacking.

By contrast, one of VFR’s best attributes is that I can always depend on some level of philosophic tribulation.

Clark Coleman writes:

While reading your entry on Steyn’s column, I was reminded of a rather half-hearted defense that could be offered for those mainstream conservatives who lament Muslim inroads into the West but cannot bring themselves to call for an immigration reduction targeted at Muslims.

There is a sequence to persuading the nation that it needs a bold, controversial new policy. First, they have to be convinced that there is a problem. Second, they must be offered a solution, and along with that, an argument as to why this is the preferred solution (e.g. that other solutions won’t work).

Steyn, Melanie Phillips, et al. probably perceived a long time ago that most people have not yet been persuaded that Muslims are a problem. Until a person reaches that point, you really cannot persuade them to support shutting off Muslim immigration. So, they are stuck in stage one when you have long since gone on to stage two, partly because they are attempting to persuade a larger and more middle of the road audience.

As to whether these writings induce despair and defeatism, because they raise the alarm and offer no solution, that depends on who is reading them. If they are read only by those who are already convinced that Muslims in the West are generally a problem, then they might induce an attitude of helplessness. However, if Steyn is still being read by plenty of “mainstream” Republican types who still cannot bring themselves to say something so un-PC as “Muslims are a problem for the West. We need fewer of them here,” then his columns are educational rather than defeatist. I wish I knew what percentage of “mainstream” readers fell into these two categories right now.

The problem in Steyn’s case is that, unlike many other mainstream conservatives, he has written gleefully about how Europe will be Islamized. It is one thing to say that you are still in stage one of your persuasions and your audience is not yet ready for stage two, and another thing entirely to delight in the problem you are describing. I get the feeling that Steyn no longer feels this schadenfreude; I don’t recall such remarks in years. Of course, he will not write a column acknowledging that he used to feel this way but has repented; neither mainstream columnists nor politicians ever make an admission of error or of changing their firmly held opinions (and hence being wrong in the past). Columnists just quietly change their opinions with no confession and absolution needed, apparently. Hence, my defense of this style of persuasion is rather half-hearted when it comes to the particular case of Mark Steyn.

LA replies:

You argue that the reason Steyn and Phillips don’t talk about reducing Muslim immigration is that they privately believe in reducing Muslim immigration, but they think that their readership, or the world of opinion generally, is not ready for that message. I must disagree. I have repeatedly shown that the very idea of reducing Muslim immigration is not even on their radar screen. It is for them a terrifying, inconceivable notion, lying beyond their map of the known world, in the realm of dragons. When someone writes dozens of columns and a book on the growth of the Islamic presence in Europe and never once even uses the word immigration, that is not because he personally thinks immigration is very important but that other people aren’t ready to hear about it. It’s because he himself cannot deal with it. Indeed, the suppression is so total you would almost need Freudian terminology to account for it.

Further, when Steyn wrote his first-ever (and, I believe, still only) column mentioning Muslim immigration in McLean’s in August 2009, he admitted that in the past he was uncomfortable with the issue (“wimpy” and “cryptic” is the way he described himself) and had avoided it. Further, after that little admission, he went right back to avoiding it. See my detailed discussion of his McLean’s article.

September 24

Clark Coleman replies

Perhaps “wimpy” and “cryptic” are perfect descriptions of someone who is aware of the need to reduce Muslim immigration, but is afraid that, until the day when the solid majority of citizens have reached agreement that Muslims are a problem for our civilization, raising the issue of immigration reduction will bring a firestorm without achieving the ends. Hence, wimping out until the day comes when it takes less courage to speak about it.

As I said, I cannot wholeheartedly defend such people, but I also cannot be certain what is going on inside their heads. I do think it is generally true that people must go through two stages of understanding. While they are still in denial about the existence of a problem, they are not receptive to proposals to solve the problem which they refuse to admit is a problem.

Perhaps Melanie Phillips, Mark Steyn, et al. are infused with liberal ideas of non-discrimination and cannot stomach the idea of a discriminatory immigration policy. That is certainly credible. Or, perhaps they perceive that the general public will not accept a discriminatory policy due to our liberal culture, and they lack the courage to try to lead the public in that direction. After all, they could go from being affluent syndicated columnists to being bloggers (or just being a lot less widely syndicated) if they push too hard against the status quo of non-discrimination. Is there any doubt that, for example, a writer at National Review could lose his job for straying too far beyond the “mainstream” of contemporary “conservatism”? You and I have had email exchanges with Gary Bauer in which he explicitly said that he agreed with us on the subject of Muslims, but the public is not ready for that position.

It could be that certain ideas have to begin with those who are outside the mainstream and do not fear what newspaper editors and owners will say, and then move into the writings of less popular columnists, and then into the widely syndicated columnists, and then throughout the majority of the population, and finally to the cowardly politicians who follow rather than lead.

LA replies:

I would have thought our previous exchange was a sufficient treatment of this topic, which has also been tossed around in previous discussions here over the years. I feel as though I’m beating a dead horse, but here goes.

Human beings have a strong tendency to express what they think and feel. If they are prevented by circumstances from expressing it directly, they find ways to express it indirectly, to let out a hint of what they’re thinking. The idea that Steyn personally believed that Muslim immigration is a big problem and wanted to curb it, while not letting out a single word, not a single hint, about it through his all his many wordy articles and his book on the Islamization of Europe, is, in my view, extremely unlikely. Your hypothesis presumes that Steyn believed that even a passing mention of the subject, even a passing mention of the simple, non-controversial fact that it was immigration by which Muslim had first entered Europe—would destroy the career of one of the most popular columnists in the world, and therefore he ruthlessly suppressed any reference to that idea. In my view, the idea is so improbable that it refutes itself. The suppression of the topic did not come from outside Steyn. It came from within him.

And the same is true of Melanie Phillips, about whom people have also repeatedly argued here that it was only fear for her career that made her never say a single syllable about Muslim immigration. These people actually believe that Phillips, one of the most prominent opinion writers in Britain, believed that if she made even a single tentative passing comment that maybe it would be better if Muslim immigration were reduced (and she has never made such a comment), she would fired from the Mail, lose her spot on radio, and her career ended, and therefore she ruthlessly silenced her own “true” position on the subject. The truth is just the opposite. The issue of immigration is so alien to her that she even refused to explain to correspondents why she never discussed it. When they asked her, she cut them off. Her suppression of the topic was not imposed on her by forces external to her; it came from forces within her.

And let me speculate on why people keep making this, as seems to me, absurd excuse for Steyn and Phillips. They cannot accept that Steyn and Phillips have been guilty of the colossal intellectual bad faith on this topic that they have in fact been guilty of.

James P. writes:

Clark Coleman replies

Perhaps “wimpy” and “cryptic” are perfect descriptions of someone who is aware of the need to reduce Muslim immigration, but is afraid that, until the day when the solid majority of citizens have reached agreement that Muslims are a problem for our civilization, raising the issue of immigration reduction will bring a firestorm without achieving the ends.

If this were true, it would be particularly contemptible and illogical, because Steyn, as one of the most popular columnists in the world, is in an excellent position to bring us to that day when the solid majority of citizens agrees that Muslims are a problem for our civilization and their immigration must therefore be restricted. By speaking freely about Muslims, he can win people over, and thus enable himself to speak freely about Muslims! His path to freedom, in which he can say what he really thinks, is to say what he really thinks; if he does not take this path, then he is either a total moral coward or—more likely—he does not really think that Muslim immigration should be restricted.

I think that a large number of Americans already think that Muslims are a problem for our civilization. However, the average American believes there is nothing effective they can do about this problem. They know that if they speak up, they will be crushed, so they remain silent. It is therefore imperative that someone like Steyn should speak up about the problem. But we have no evidence to suggest Steyn actually wishes to restrict Muslim immigration. I can’t believe he has the superhuman self-discipline that would be required to think this and never say it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 21, 2010 09:23 AM | Send

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