Voltaire, Mill and Steyn

Via Ken Parish at Troppo it appears that well-known bigot and war advocate Mark Steyn is being prosecuted under Canadian hate speech laws. At this point it’s customary to (mis)quote Voltaire about defending to the death his right to say things. It’s much better, in general, to point to John Stuart Mill whose works such as On Liberty provide an overwhelming case against restrictions on the freedom of speech, and particularly political speech.

In this case, there’s no need to go through Mill’s arguments in detail. A case like this is obviously going to turn out badly whether Steyn wins, and gets an undeserved triumph or loses and gets to paint himself as a martyr. It will certainly do nothing to refute his claims. Rather it’s better to point out his fraudulent bigotry, starting with this ludicrous 9/11 conspiracy theory. I had a few goes at this back in the day, when people other than RWDBs took Steyn seriously. At this point, refuting Steyn is scarcely necessary (or wasn’t until this silly prosecution gave him oxygen).

70 thoughts on “Voltaire, Mill and Steyn

  1. “back in the day, when people other than RWDBs took Steyn seriously”

    Unfortunately, Steyn carries some influence. It was only recently that Alexander Downer said he liked to relax at home by reading Steyn’s missives, which he admired greatly.

    Downer, lest it be forgotten, was our foreign minister for nearly 12 years. Now no doubt the wit and wisdom of Mark Steyn were not part of the briefings he got from his department, but still, who knows how much of Steynism permeated the Downer brain, such as it is, and how much of it influenced his decisions? It’s a scary thought.

  2. Apparently, there are some people who find Steyn funny. It is a funny old world.

  3. I’m not here to defend Steyn’s every utterance but his right to utter. Also the right of Islam to refute what he says in any way they like spoken and written. However I will judge them all more generally on their actions combined with their utterances. Actions speak louder than words for mine. Nowhere is Islam’s general apologia more see through than its treatment of its own Ahmadiyya sect. Truly there it shows its general intolerance and earns its rightful nickname-The Religion of Peace.

  4. Mark Steyn’s warped views are offset by Philip Adams. Both alleged journos are useful because their newspaper columns are aperient and we all need some help in that department.

  5. stunning stuff as usual,

    hundreds of millions of people across many countries criticised en masse by observa

    and then phillip adams used to counterpoint mark steyn by father mercy

    steyn relies on bigots and ignoramus’,
    seems to me theres plenty of potential readers in all sorts of unlikely places

  6. “Mark Steyn’s warped views are offset by Philip Adams.”
    Piffle! Like me, Steyn argues we judge the book of Marx, the Koran and the Bible by not only the beliefs of their followers, but the outcomes they advocate and produce and then goes on to rank their overall tenets accordingly. Adams is all over the shop on that. He’s a closet Marxist that can’t rank Christianity or Islam for his own obvious shortcomings in that regard.

  7. I would compare Steyn to Pilger rather than Adams. Adams isn’t really a journo, just a columnist (like the great Albrechtson). They don’t really count.

    Steyn is, however more stupid than any of the above-named. Stupid people who have a gift with the pen – they are a danger!

  8. I’ll qualify my last comment with some pertinent observations. The book of Marx doesn’t claim to be the direct word of God and neither does the Bible and hence both are open to interpretation, apart from those Ten Commandments God gave to Moses. Now whether you believe Moses or not, you can make your own judgement about what his followers advocate as a result. Not so with Muhammad’s words, because he apparently had a direct line to the Arch Angel Gabriel, so anyone who says he didn’t is an infidel. Stuff all room for interpretation too. Worse still for the Ahmadis who reckon Muhammad wasn’t the only Prophet with a hot line to Islam’s true God.

  9. Comparing histories is fine but we might all be more interested in current beliefs and advocacy, rather than much older interpretations, assuming such interpretations are permissible naturally.

  10. Unfortunately, for your line of argument, observa, the catastrophic war for which Steyn was one of the most prominent cheerleaders has made it rather difficult for him to claim the high moral ground as regards Islam, and the enthusiastic support of many US Christians for this venture (referred to by Bush as a crusade) makes even more problems. To be fair, plenty of Christians opposed the war too.

  11. This Steyn is guilty of lots of things. Supporting the war in Iraq, believing islam is producing crazed anarchists, propogating a loopy conspiracy theory, & so on.

    All his opinion, an opinion he is entitled to hold. None of this is what he is being “prosecuted” for.

    He is being “prosecuted” for a phrase in a magazine, a phrase which is quoted from a book authored by him, which phrase is in turn quoted verbatim from the words of an iman.

    This Steyn is not being prosecuted under hate speech “laws” in Canada. He is being pursued in provincial human rights “commission”.

    This is a risible kangaroo court. There are several provinces in Canada, each with a human rights commission, there is also a federal human rights commission.

    Despite an abundance of fora, Steyn is being pursued in only one provincial commission, & at that the furtherst one from where both he & the complainants live?

    These commissions are not “law”, and the outcome is appealable to a court (note: this commission is NOT a court, and rules of evidence do NOT apply).

    Steyn is the subject of a witch hunt.
    The strife Steyn is in is real. The forum in which he is being pursued is unfair and severely tainted.

    John Quiggin is being naughty by suggesting in this post that Steyn’s “prosecution” has the gravitas and legitimacy which would be present if the “prosecution” process was one which would pass muster with repuatable jurists, or representatives of the people.

    Which it has not.

  12. “John Quiggin is being naughty by suggesting in this post that Steyn’s “prosecutionâ€? has the gravitas and legitimacy which would be present if the “prosecutionâ€? process was one which would pass muster with repuatable jurists, or representatives of the people.’

    On what possible basis could you read the post as suggesting that “this silly prosecution” (my words) has gravitas and legitimacy?

  13. observa: “The book of Marx doesn’t claim to be the direct word of God and neither does the Bible and hence both are open to interpretation, apart from those Ten Commandments God gave to Moses.”

    2 Timothy 3
    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    The Greek reads closer to “All scripture is God-breathed”; “theopneustos”.

  14. “Unfortunately, for your line of argument, observa, the catastrophic war for which Steyn was one of the most prominent cheerleaders has made it rather difficult for him to claim the high moral ground as regards Islam”
    Perhaps not John, but then surely they’d see the difference between those who know their good wars from their bad wars? You know, those ones for the benefit of Islam and those that are not. It seems to me they can’t tell the difference.

  15. # Spiros Says: June 10th, 2008 at 9:31 am

    .Downer, lest it be forgotten, was our foreign minister for nearly 12 years. Now no doubt the wit and wisdom of Mark Steyn were not part of the briefings he got from his department, but still, who knows how much of Steynism permeated the Downer brain, such as it is, and how much of it influenced his decisions? It’s a scary thought.

    If Steyn influenced Downer’s policies in any material way then so much the better for Steyn.

    Downer, “lest it be forgotten”, was AUS’s most successful foreign minister since Gough Whitlam’s de facto crack at the job whilst Opposition leader. He actually got a huge number of good things done, with only the AWB rort as a material blot on his copybook.

    Downer administered (or ably assisted in, given the overlap with PM, DoD and IMM depts):

    – freeing us from the Bougainville quagmire,
    – coalition building in the Timor intervention,
    – rationalising and liberalising our immigration program,
    – overseeing our historic re-alignment towards the PRC,
    – bringing in hundreds of thousands of Asian students,
    – strengthening the US alliance whilst getting us through two tricky US-led wars in Southern Asia,
    – fostering a massive increase in our Asian mineral trade and investment,
    – stamping out people smuggling trade,
    – preventing terrorist attacks on the homeland and – over and above all things –
    – setting our relationship with INDON onto a fair but firm basis by putting the Jakarta lobby in its place and encouraging INDON civil society and constitutional polity.

    All this whilst occasionally meting out a good smack down to the idiotic multicultural fantasies indulged in by culturally-challenged liberal-Leftists. (A skill which Steyn should get some credit for imparting.)

    Its diagnostic of the delusional quality of liberal-Left foreign policy critiques of the previous govt that they have ignored or erased appreciation of Downers’s successful “quiet reformation”. Whilst obsessing over trivia, tokenism and titillation. That is a depressing, not “scary”, thought.

  16. Whilst repudiating “hate speech laws” we should also look at the laws of defamation, slander and libel.

  17. jack strocchi, your commentary really does get curioser and curioser…

    AWB was possibly the most corrupt, hypocritical cynical foreign policy/trade move this country ever made,
    its not a blot on a book, its a sky high stinking turd on the book,

    i notice you omit lying to the australian people to involve them in an unprovoked, unjustified war on a mostly civilian poulation

    as for list of downers accomplishments, it is truly strocchi in wonderland,
    i was going to critique them but they are too numerous and farcical to tackle,

    talk about ‘delusional quality’,

    and just remember jack when you use ‘the homeland’ in your diatribes where that one sprung from

  18. I’ve deleted this comment as a personal attack. If you want to rephrase it, without attacking my motives in posting, feel free.

  19. “Downer, “lest it be forgottenâ€?, was AUS’s most successful foreign minister”

    Jack, in response, just three words will suffice: Duke of Wellington.

    (Try googling if you don’t get it.)

  20. # smiths Says: June 10th, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    AWB was possibly the most corrupt, hypocritical cynical foreign policy/trade move this country ever made, its not a blot on a book, its a sky high stinking turd on the book,

    I grant you that Downer could have been handled AWB a lot better. But then again, anything organised by the UN, administered by a QANGO and directed to Saddam’s Baathists was bound to wind up more crooked than a dogs hind leg. Thats unaccountable international socialism for ya! At least our farmers got a few more quid in the kitty and some Iraqi kids got better nutrition.

    smiths Says:

    i notice you omit lying to the australian people to involve them in an unprovoked, unjustified war on a mostly civilian poulation

    I have long since given up on expecting politicians to tell the truth. I pin my hopes on them telling a better class of lies.

    In the case of Iraq attack Howard lied about the true justification for the ADF’s participation. As I argued six years ago, Iraq-attack was AUS payback for US help in dealing with the perilous situation to our Near North. This was a reasonable Machiavellian lie.

    But, more importantly, Howard also lied about the ADF’s supposed “combat” role. Our troops were never really put in harms way. (In Iraq they are “Koala soldiers”, not for export to danger zones and not to be shot at.) Mostly they were tasked to protect Jap Sappers building infrastructure for Shiites in Southern Iraq.

    Granted that operation puts Howard and Downer right up there with Mengele and Eichmann as war-criminals. “Hang the both of them!” I say, as a warning to other political leaders contemplating provision of civil re-construction aid to distressed nations.

    smiths Says:

    as for list of downers accomplishments, it is truly strocchi in wonderland, i was going to critique them but they are too numerous and farcical to tackle,

    No your werent. Your boast is transparent bluster. You are too incompetent and illiterate to produce such a critique. Stop bluffing.

    smiths Says:

    and just remember jack when you use ‘the homeland’ in your diatribes where that one sprung from

    I believe that is a Godwins Law violation. Automatic loss of debate.

  21. # Pr Q Says: June 10th, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    I’ve deleted this comment as a personal attack. If you want to rephrase it, without attacking my motives in posting, feel free.

    I am obviously out of touch with the new think-skinned form of moderation. I accused you of smearing Steyn and avoiding an ideologically embarassing question. Possibly playing the man but pretty tame compared to what I have to put up with from some quarters.

    I am sorry if you took offence because none serious was intended. I unreservedly withdraw any imputation of bad faith on your part.

    I would like to re-post it but did not keep a copy. I am happy to see substance of the comment published, minus my gratuitous argy-bargy if you can be bothered editing it out.

  22. “Despite an abundance of fora, Steyn is being pursued in only one provincial commission, & at that the furtherst one from where both he & the complainants live?”

    The British Columbia Human Rights Commission is set up slightly differently from the other provincial human right commissions, it is legally obligated to hear private complaints.

    All the other provinces give the HRCs more discretion and the complainants probably realised that any of them would have rejected this complaint out of hand.

    As it is, they’ll probably have to waste five minutes hearing the complaint before rejecting it out of hand.

    Regrettably the whole mess gives Steyn the chance to play martyr.

  23. “The book of Marx doesn’t claim to be the direct word of God and neither does the Bible …”

    Actually the Bible claims exactly that.

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “Since the Bible is the Word of God, it can be said that every canonical text is for us a Divine lesson, a revelation, even though it may have been written with the aid of inspiration only, and without a revelation properly so called. For this cause, also, it is clear that an inspired text cannot err. That the Bible is free from error is beyond all doubt…”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08045a.htm

  24. “Comparing histories is fine but we might all be more interested in current beliefs and advocacy, rather than much older interpretations,”

    Srebrica Massacre

  25. # Spiros Says: June 10th, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Jack, in response, just three words will suffice: Duke of Wellington.

    (Try googling if you don’t get it.)

    You omitted quoting my temporal qualifier. Possibly crucial if you want to put things in historical perspective.

    Otherwise your response did no more than construct a small target. Wisely, given the flimsy nature of your arguments.

  26. “At least our farmers got a few more quid in the kitty and some Iraqi kids got better nutrition.’

    No, AWB paid kickbacks to Saddam to get them to buy Australian wheat rather than US wheat.

    Since this raised the cost of providing the wheat it probably resulted in a lower return to Australian farmers AND less wheat actually making it to the Iraqis.

  27. # Ian Gould Says: June 10th, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    The British Columbia Human Rights Commission is set up slightly differently from the other provincial human right commissions, it is legally obligated to hear private complaints.

    Why bother with these institutions in the first place? They are notorious as mills for grinding out the fibre of the grievance industry.

    These so-called human rights commissions, and their attendant Bills of Social Rights, are just an excuse for New Leftists to go on a witchhunt whilst lawyers to make a killing. Just make work for Arts-Law graduates seeking an undemanding refuge from the rigours of the private sector and a sop to ethnic lobbies who exist to stir up trouble.

    They are part of the problem, not the solution. Since they institutionalise an entrench the low-status position of their “clients”, instead of encouraging diverse people to get on with their lives and make something of them. Hopefully this farcial episode will expose the ramshackle institutional charade of post-modern liberal victimology.

    There was much more progress towards the Open Society in the post-war period right up to the early seventies, long before they were established. Post-modern liberals are turning into liberalisms worst enemy.

  28. jack,
    having re-read the material on godwins law i am convinced i did not violate it,

    i did not go from an unrelated subject to suggesting you were hitler or a nazi,

    you used the term ‘the homeland’ whcih we have never used in australia before and i pointed out that it was a dangerously loaded term

    therefore i plead innocent

  29. # Ian Gould Says: June 10th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    No, AWB paid kickbacks to Saddam to get them to buy Australian wheat rather than US wheat.

    Since this raised the cost of providing the wheat it probably resulted in a lower return to Australian farmers AND less wheat actually making it to the Iraqis.

    That sounds about right. I concede my half-hearted defence of Downer is now collapsed.

    I felt most uncomfortable about AWB of all the nasty underhand things the Howard govt did during its tenure. It did not seem to be a policy well thought out or effective.

    I dont mind Machiavellianism so long as it gets useful things done. Perhaps the take-home lesson is the less we have to do with this region, either buying/selling or invading/inviting, the better.

  30. Well even though the Bible is considered the word of God andwithout error, study into christian scriptures does take into account the time, place it was written as well as who the authour was.

    For instance the prophetic nature of the book of revelations downplayed noting the fact it was written during the height of romes persecution As far as i am aware islam belives the quaran was written much more directly by god directly told to Mohammed by Gabriel and thus harder to put into context

  31. and to clarify i realize the book of revelations is about a visitation by the arc angel, it is a firt person anrrative of the visitation as apposed to a book narrated to the authour by the angel.

  32. “I dont mind Machiavellianism so long as it gets useful things done”

    What’s the quote from Churchill regarding appeasement: “It was worse than immoral, it was stupid”?

    The American attempt to kill Saddam via a bombing raid on a restaurant a couple of days before the start of the ground campaign in Iraq was arguably immoral (if only because it endangered Iraqi civilians) but had it succeeded I would have applauded it.

  33. Could you please stop with the pointless irrelevant snark, observa? If you have a point to make, make it, and otherwise wait until you have something to contribute. JQ

  34. Ian Gould Says: June 10th, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    What’s the quote from Churchill regarding appeasement: “It was worse than immoral, it was stupid�?

    No doubt influenced by Talleyrands Machiavellian take on foreign policy hanky-panky, spot on for the Gulf War.

    “It was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.”

  35. I believe Churchill adapted a remark of Metternich’s, “Italy is not a country but a geographical expression, like the equator”, applying it to India.

  36. “At this point, refuting Steyn is scarcely necessary (or wasn’t until this silly prosecution gave him oxygen).”

    Well John I suggest most emphatically the backlash beginning here-
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4083979.ece
    substantiates what Steyn has been saying for some time. In particular-

    ‘The policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have helped to generate a spiritual, civic and economic crisis in Britain, according to an important Church of England report.

    Labour is failing society and lacks the vision to restore a sense of British identity, the report says in the Church’s strongest attack on the Government for decades. It accuses the Government of “deep religious illiteracy� and of having “no convincing moral direction�.

    The report, commissioned for the Church of England and to be published on Monday, accuses the Government of discriminating against the Christian Churches in favour of other faiths, including Islam. It calls for the appointment of a “Minister for Religion�, who would act as the Prime Minister’s personal “faith envoy� and who would recognise the contribution of faith communities to Britain across every government department.

    The 180-page report, seen by The Times,describes the Government as moral, but lacking a “compass� and reflects an attempt by the Church to carve out an effective role for itself in the 21st century as a provider of welfare for young and old.

    The report was commissioned by the Bishop of Hulme, the Right Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop for Urban Life and Health, with the support of the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu.

    The report comes only days after Dr Sentamu accused Mr Brown of sacrificing liberty for misguided notions of equality and of betraying new Labour’s mantra of “rights and responsibilitiesâ€?. It shows the extent to which church leaders feel betrayed by the Government’s embrace of a secular agenda’

    Finally, this inevitable backlash from a very amenable ally that embraced the notions of ‘liberation theology’ and what I (and no doubt Steyn) would term ‘victim Creationism’ IMO this is only the beginning of that long heralded awakening Steyn has been urging. Care to refute the ‘fraudulent bigotry’ of these RWDB’s now John?

  37. Observa, I guess when the massive religious revival you are predicting is actually realised, we’ll be able to understand its impact. But I must say I find the link between this CoE bleat and Steyn to be so tenuous as to be impossible to grasp.

  38. “Rather it’s better to point out his fraudulent bigotry, starting with this ludicrous 9/11 conspiracy theory.”

    Does it matter that this story appears to be true? Or at least as best as I can find, it is not refuted. Steyn repeats a sourced story suggesting a wider circle of conspirators and because its Steyn then it miraculously becomes “ludicrous”.

    I find Steyn’s basic premise in “America Alone” et al to be convincing and as time goes by and we see more and more steps along to path to Eurabia, Steyn’s insights become even ore compelling.

  39. I’m no longer sure whether or not this is on topic, but here goes. I find Steyn funny and enraging by turns, much like (and for the same reasons as) P.J. O’Rourke. The principal differences between them are that O’Rourke is both considerably more intellegent (as he seems to be capable of modifying his opinions over time and doesn’t say quite so many quite so stupid things) and funnier.

  40. Well John it may be as simple as a patch tiff over market share for ministering to the poor and downtrodden, as the author describes when lapsing from straight reporting of fact to opinion in this sentence-
    “The 180-page report, seen by The Times,describes the Government as moral, but lacking a “compassâ€? and reflects an attempt by the Church to carve out an effective role for itself in the 21st century as a provider of welfare for young and old.”
    However I (and no doubt Steyn) would argue there was a certain inevitability about such an unholy marriage between the Christian church and the followers of Marx, albeit their followers both come in various degrees of commitment to the cause. Whilst there were similarities of purpose between the two and the church readily took on ‘liberation theology’, the secularism of Marx and the oppressor/victim divinity of its form of Creationism would inevitably see the parting of the ways. It was always one plank short of the holier trinity and its more complete Judeo Christian values. All religions are equal and to be pooh poohed by the followers of Marx, which because of the propensity for self-sacrifice and turning the other cheek of their christian partners was tolerable, but when some religions are suddenly more equal than others, the cracks begin to open. This self sacrificing Christian nature (JC was their ultimate role model remember) allowed the followers of Marx to continually chastise and beat up their partners in life regularly over the years, for everything from the missionaries’ responsibility for the plight of aboriginals to paedophilia within the church. Like a dutiful battered wife, they blithely soldiered on in this unholy marriage totally blind to the husband’s own shortcomings. The day she began to salt away the housekeeping, gather the children together and plan to walk out, was the day the left threw her ‘pisschrist’ cross on the ground and began to rant and rave about those who would dare to vilify and do the same to a Koran i.e. some religions are more equal than others.
    That begs the question whether they’ll ever get back together again, which might be possible if the husband could see the wife in a new light as victim here,(shiny new oppressed minority group perhaps) which of course all her family and friends could see so patently over the years. Not likely. Easier for the husband to blame the outspoken family friend in Steyn for all his problems and play the victim here. Well, perhaps Steyn and her uppity new local minister with his new, old fashioned religion can share that guernsey. My view is the husband will never get it, but we expert counsellors are persistent types who thrive on a challenge as you well know. No doubt that comes from many years experience learning to always be attuned and responsive to our customers welfare, rather than the bleak alternative.

  41. On that note here’s a glimpse of the cracks beginning to show in our own backyard-http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23844092-2682,00.html?from=public_rss
    No prizes for guessing which cultural byproduct the article is referring to here. Now it’s been a long time since the Christian church could take the blame for such byproduct, yet they share the current burden whilst they reamin welded to the clearly failing values of their more recent partners. What’s in the marriage for them now? Watch for the obvious answer coming here soon I suspect.

  42. “it may be as simple as a patch tiff over market share for ministering to the poor and downtrodden,”

    Indeed, that was pretty much what I got out of it. Apart from a complaint that recent entrants were getting more than their fair share of what was once a monopoly, the report was notably short on any link to Steyn, and totally lacking in the kind of paranoid fantasy he purveys (still selling to MHayes at #41, and no doubt plenty of others).

  43. Prof Quiggin,
    I think that Steyn’s postulations on the intersection of demography and ideology are ingenious and have not been followed by any similar works on the left of the political spectrum. That is anything that can be supported by raw data. Obviously Steyn sees fit to disregard the possibility of other rapid cultural and cross cultural trends apart from Islamisation emerging over the next few decades in Europe, Australia the US and elsewhere. But such speculation is the exclusive province of lunatics, hucksters and economists like you and I.

    His case is troubling because of the implications that it holds for common law and the relative positioning of rights in our society. Identity and group rights are rapidly superceding the rights of the indivdual upon which more conventional and traditional views of our body politic, and laws are based. And viewing the Macleans transcripts of the Kangaroo court that is the Canadian Human Rights Commission I am only more adament that this transformation is next to complete rather than simply underway.

    There is no suit against Mark Steyn only a complaint to a body that seems to have powers that supercede those of the police and the courts in Canada. Most of the cases in the Commission have had only one complainant – a former Commission employee Richard Warman. In a common law system this man would be regarded as a vexacious litigant. Calling the case “stupid” as you have Professor falls well and truly short of the mark. I would call it downright dangerous and an affront to democracy and rule of law. Let Mark Steyn gas bag away I agree with him on this one.

    Cheers,
    Reuben Horne.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s