Is Steyn finally getting the message?

For five years I have argued that Mark Steyn, for all his flair and wit, is a defeatist who, far from leading conservatives toward a useful and active stance on Islam, or on any important issue for that matter, constantly says or implies that there is nothing that can be done. The enormous popularity and respect he enjoys among conservatives has had the insidious effect of persuading many of them that being a conservative means making lots of funny remarks about the end of our world. There’s never been any sign that Steyn read me or heard my criticisms. But now look at a reader’s e-mail which Steyn himself has posted at the Corner. The e-mail comes in response to Steyn’s typical defeatist remark at the end of the original entry:

The question is whether opponents of Obama’s dependency culture are up to their own “long march.”

Steyn then posts the reader’s e-mail:

One thing is for sure though. You are certainly not up to the long march. Sitting around whining and feeling sorry for yourself, which is all you seem capable of doing in the last few weeks, is not going to get there. So, do us all a favor and either drop out or buck up. Your “we are all doomed” act has long since grown tiresome. We already have Derbyshire to whisper in our ears. We don’t need another. And he does it with a lot more flair than you do.

- end of initial entry -

Hannon writes:

I agree with your view that Steyn is polished in his revelations of doom and worry, without attention to any potential remedy.

Clark Coleman writes:

Perhaps Steyn is taking a baby step towards being courageous by posting his reader’s letter, but who knows when the next step will be taken, if ever. To allow others to speak is still cowardly. It reminds me of Brian McLaren, one of the leaders of the heterodox postmodern “emerging church” movement, who always phrases his heresies as coming from anonymous persons he supposedly had a conversation with. For example, he has decided that the substitutionary atonement of Christ is hard for the “unchurched” to accept, so he wants to abandon the doctrine in order to sell the church more successfully to the postmodern masses. But he does not come out and say so. Instead, he will say something like, “I was talking to a man at a church in the Midwest on a recent trip, and he said he could not understand how a loving God would require his own son to die.” He even speaks like this in interviews in response to a direct question about the atonement, making it obvious that this is HIS answer, not some anonymous man’s supposed concern.

I guess this is the preliminary step to actually speaking one’s own mind when the courage is not yet there. But Steyn’s posting of an email makes it less obvious that he is actually in agreement with the reader who emailed it. McLaren is obviously in agreement with his anonymous (and perhaps fictitious) conversation partner. But why would Steyn post this letter? If you were choosing to embrace slyly a new position, wouldn’t you just post a letter containing that new position, rather than a letter trashing you for your previous position?

The guy is just strange. If he is coming around to a position of some courage, he needs to do it while his influence can still accomplish something, not waiting until it is too late (the pattern of neocons, who then surrender because it is too late). What is he up to?

LA replies:

But there is no new, courageous position being outlined in the reader’s e-mail. The reader is simply chastizing Steyn for being a defeatist. Perhaps by posting it, and not replying to it, Steyn is acknowledging there is some truth to the charge.

Clark Coleman continues:

I was going to post a comment at NRO, but then I noticed that the Steyn entry was from April 4, 2010. In which case, what has he done in the almost six months since that time to indicate that he is awakening?

LA replies:

Ahh, it is so easy to miss it when an entry or article is not current. Someone sends you a link to an article, you read the article assuming it’s current, and so you don’t make a point of checking the date. However, in this instance, the date makes no substantive difference.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 28, 2010 10:39 AM | Send

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