Apparently the good folks at One Jerusalem wanted to make up for missing a week by giving the blogosphere an interview with a big name. So – Allen Roth and David Goder being who they are, they went out and got one of the biggest: author and columnist Mark Steyn. The call was so crowded that it went over the usual hour cutoff – and Mark Steyn being the gentleman that he is, he stayed on to make sure that everybody got a chance to ask a question. On the call: Allen Roth (One Jerusalem), Rick Richman (Jewish Current Issues), Pamela Geller (Atlas Shrugs), Jerry Gordon (IsraPundit), Avi Green (Tel-Chai Nation), Judith Weiss (Kesher Talk), Banagor (Broadsword), Kim Priestap (Wizbang), Barak Moore (IRIS Blog), Tigerhawk (Tigerhawk), Chad (Granddaddy Long Legs), Anne Lieberman (Boker Tov, Boulder), and bloggers from The American Thinker and (Infidel Bloggers Network). As always, audio will be up soon on the One Jerusalem frontpage and their blog post will be updated throughout the day with participants’ blog posts. We think that we missed at least one caller, so make sure you check in on OJ’s site throughout the day.
Mark Steyn. Holy hell. Mark Steyn. Women want him. Men want to be him. As a matter of fact, there are not a few men who certainly want him as well. If we were gay, we’d certainly want Mark Steyn. Hell, we’re not gay and… well, nevermind (in fairness to us, it was Allen Roth said that Steyn is “giving it to us” – don’t ask, it’ll just make things awkward).
Mark Steyn has a colorable claim to being the most important conservative journalist alive. Now he’s got his first major book out, titled America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. As it turns out, the title is actually one of the more cheerful parts. We’ll going to paste the Amazon book description below, but you really should click through to read the description on the inside flap. And while you’re there, you should obviously purchase the book:
In this, his first major book, Mark Steyn – probably the most widely read, and wittiest, columnist in the English-speaking world–takes on the great poison of the twenty-first century: the anti-Americanism that fuels both Old Europe and radical Islam. America, Steyn argues, will have to stand alone. The world will be divided between America and the rest; and for our sake America had better win.
Cliff notes version of the book: Europe is finished. Lots of reasons why, but the conclusion is the same. They’re done.
Will the pendulum of multiculturalism, which renders Europeans literally impotent in the face of radicalism and intolerance, swing back? No.
Will non-Muslims in Europe, driven either by primal instinct of political calculation, personally intervene to stop its demographic decline? No.
Will anything, even a renewed fascist movement, arise as an objection to Europe’s increasingly steep slide into outright primitivism? No.
In one way, Steyn’s got this kind of a VDH Nietzschean thing going, where multiculturalism has combined with civilizational weariness to effectively make Europeans no longer care about being European. He’s got a deep appreciation for the broad sweep of history and this poignancy when talking about the heyday of Europe: he was noticably saddened when talking about the loss of Shakespeare and Nelson’s England to political Islam. There’s also more than a little bit of West Is Best in his attitude: the inside flap of the book includes the line “America should proclaim the obvious: we do have a better government, religion, and culture than our enemies”.
Several bloggers asked him various questions about multiculturalism, which he sees as a defense mechanism that allowed Europeans to come to grips with more basic structural deficiencies. His read of the emergence of European multiculturalism is causal: “we need more plumbers, but we’re certainly not going to do that work… we’ll bring in kind of violent unassimilated immigrants, and to make ourselves feel better about their violent unassimilated we’ll celebrate our tolerance for it”. The causality between demographics, cultural exhaustion, and the welfare state is probably impossible to untangle, but his description is certainly how it happened on the ground. And it’s certainly why European journalists and authors find it so hard to criticize the “youths” that are rioting now.
On the other hand, he’s not trading on any simplistic nostalgia for a Europe that never existed. We’re not dealing here with a simple Huns-at-the-gate scenario: political Islam is not just barbaric primitivism. Instead, it is the intersection of the East and West, the Muslim world and the Christian world. In several places he alluded to the standard academic trope for this, which is that fundamentalist Islam is the intersection between the developing world and modernity. People driven by an ancient ideology now have access to planes. It seems like Steyn is still marked by the shock of traveling to Europe and the Middle East after 9/11 and discovering that France’s Muslims were far more hostile and alienated than any of the people that he met in the Arab world. Osama Bin Laden might have lived in a cave, but the Hamburg 9/11 terrorists and the French gangbanging rioters live in apartments, have televisions, and drink Coke.
Steyn is also quite skeptical about the potential for secular values or secular movements to form a bulwark against political Islam as it spreads across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He explicitly and extensively criticized the anti-theism of Chris Hitchens and the New Atheism of Richard Dawkins as empirical failures. He didn’t use either of those labels, although that’s what he was alluding to – Hitchens’s anti-theism is well-known, and Wired just posted an essential article on New Atheism if you’re getting caught up on the high-tide of broad Leftist anti-jihadism. A secular society might be sound in theory, but it’s simply not appealing enough to form the basis for an ideology. What’s needed is something that can provide a backbone to the people who’ll be fighting the good fight for the next two or three generations – if anything can. As Steyn said, “history is on the march very quickly in Europe”
There’s a ton of other good stuff in this interview: comments on blogging, skepticism about just how much European goodwill there was after 9/11, and the single best response to NYT-reading self-styled cocktail party sophistication that we’ve ever heard. The call lasted over an hour, and it’ll be an hour of your time well-spent to listen to the whole thing.