There is nobody quite like Mark Steyn, which is why he’s worth following. How the Left hate him. Ian Buruma, for instance, your pocket all-purpose lefty, has tried to dismiss him in a footnote merely as a humorous writer. (In a recent book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, Paul Berman goes to some lengths to show thoughtfully and fairly how Buruma attacks the worthy and defends the unworthy — but that’s another story.) Mark Steyn is a humorous writer, but he has a serious purpose, namely to point out that the Western world has Islamist enemies who wish it ill. We could deal with those Islamists except for one thing: A large segment of our fashionable opinion-makers, so to speak the Burumas of this world, think that Islamists aren’t as bad as all that; and if they are, then we are still worse, and what we stand for isn’t really worth defending. So the public doesn’t know what to think, and a few self-appointed custodians push them into all manner of doubt and guilt by accusing anyone who criticizes, or — horrors! — laughs at Islamists of Islamophobia, racism, fascism, etc. etc.
That’s what happened to Mark. Maclean’s, the prestigious Canadian magazine, published an extract from his well-known bestseller America Alone — there’s no doubting that he criticizes and even laughs at Islamists in the book — whereupon assorted Human Rights Commissions in Canada fell on Mark and Maclean’s: There’s a code with a Section 13 that prevents free speech, and there is someone called Richard Warman, a former employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission who has been a plaintiff on every single Section 13 case in the last six years. Where did this lord of the printed word spring from? He and several others badly wanted to suppress Mark, and they had Muslim accomplices.
Mark tells the whole extraordinary story in his latest book, Lights Out, whose subtitle is “Islam, Free Speech and the Twilight of the West” (the implication should provide Buruma with another scornful footnote).
Free speech is indispensable to freedom and a civilized society. If the Warmans and Section 13 busybodies have their way, then indeed Mark will be proved right and the lights will go out eventually. As far as I can judge, Mark has won his case at whatever financial and personal cost; he has certainly made the Canadian would-be censors look ridiculous. On the NR cruise earlier this year, he refused to let me buy a copy, but has sent me one instead, with a dedication to my wife and me as fellow cruisers “on a sea of despair.” No, no, he’s riding the waves.