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Steyn does it again

October 22nd, 2002

Even when he has a strong case, Mark Steyn can’t resist lying to make it look better. His piece in today’s Oz is a rehash of earlier criticism (his own and others) of those who are trying to blame the Bali bombings on some ‘root cause’ such as the Israel-Palestine dispute or support for war in Iraq. This is a pretty easy case to make – it’s done nicely by Alexander Downer in response to Archbishop Carnley (thanks to Ken Parish for this quote)
“If we don’t know who did it, then it’s pretty hard to know what their motives were and obviously if Archbishop Carnley’s Diocese has some information that can assist with the investigation then we would obviously appreciate that information.”
Of course, Steyn pushes the argument much further than it can run. It’s silly to present bin Laden as some sort of crusader (I use the term advisedly) for Palestine, but it’s equally silly to suggest, as Steyn does, that the support bin Laden has received is entirely the product of irrational hatred.
More importantly, Steyn throws in this aside: ‘But, if even this most elastic of root causes can be stretched halfway around the globe to a place conspicuously lacking Jews or Americans, then clearly it can apply to anyone or anything: my advice to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness is to put down the Omagh bombing as an understandable reaction to decades of frustration at Washington’s indulgence of the Zionist oppression of the Palestinian people. ”
I assume Steyn is aware that the Omagh bombing was carried out by a group calling itself the Real IRA (its jailed members just confessed the crime and announced the dissolution of the group) seeking to derail the peace process in which Adams and McGuinness were taking part. However, given Steyn’s ignorance of basic historical facts, this may be an unsafe assumption. The same point could have been made without lying if Steyn had named the Real IRA instead of Adams and McGuinness, or if he had referred to a crime in which Adams and McGuinness were actually complicit, like the bombing of the Conservative Party conference in Brighton . But Steyn can’t resist a lie if he thinks he can get away with it.
This is as good a time as any to announce the results of my Steyn competition, in which I asked readers to nominate a Steyn column that didn’t contain either a gross error or an unattributed and/or distorted quotation. Of course, there were no entries, but Tim Dunlop wins an award for coining the term “Steynwalling” (Definition: A failure to respond to repeated demonstrations of error, especially by right-wing bloggers).
Just to finish with Steyn I decided to go back to the eponymous ‘Fisking’ that made Steyn’s name in blogging circles, in which he recounted the famous incident where Fisk was set upon by a mob of Afghan refugees. It was a pretty lame piece of abuse in general, but there was one memorable line I wanted to check on:

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to weep with laughter.

This seemed well above Steyn’s usual standard and, sure enough, it was. Oscar Wilde, referrring to Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop said “you would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh” at the death of Little Nell. This quote is widely cited on the web (with attribution), but not, I think, so well known that Steyn could claim he didn’t need to acknowledge it.
Steyn’s plagiarism of Wilde gave rise to one final thought. If Oscar were going through his legal troubles today, who do you think would be at the head of the pack baying for his blood?
Update: Be sure to check the comments thread, especially Tim’s “acceptance speech”.

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