Posted by: transcendingchaos | July 8, 2008

Interview with Mark Steyn – full text

Now that the magazine is out, I can finally post the interview here for your reading pleasure. The pdf version can be found here.

A Steyn of the times

Mark Steyn speaks out about his controversial Maclean’s article and Canada’s human rights tribunals

In October 2006, Maclean’s magazine published an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s  book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. The piece was titled, “The Future Belongs to Islam.”

In November 2007, the Canadian Islamic Congress filed human rights complaints against Maclean’s and its Editor-in-Chief, Kenneth Whyte, for publishing this piece (and others), accusing the magazine of being “flagrantly Islamophobic.”
These complaints were submitted to the human rights commissions in both British Columbia and Ontario.

In April 2008, the Ontario Human Rights Commission decided not to proceed with complaints, claiming it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Nevertheless, the Ontario commission issued a statement in which it accused Maclean’s of further perpetuating and promoting prejudice towards Muslims.

During the first week of June 2008, the case was heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal. At the time of publication, the Tribunal had not yet submitted its decision.

On May 26, 2008, the Fraser Institute hosted Mark Steyn as part of its ongoing Illuminismo speaker series. Prior to the event, Fraser Forum spoke with him about his book, Canada’s human rights commissions, and the future of the Western world.

Fraser Forum: What led you to write America Alone?

Mark Steyn: The seed of the book came about six months after September 11; the Afghan campaign had happened and the Taliban had fallen.
After the fall of the Taliban, I arranged to spend some time in the Middle East and, because that seemed a fairly depressing prospect, I thought I’d schedule a couple of weeks in Europe in advance.
When I was in Paris, I saw these Muslim ghettos, and similar ones in Brussels and Amsterdam. By comparison, the Muslims in the Middle East were far less alienated than those fellows in France and the Netherlands.
[Seeing this] I thought, “It’s not about Islam … It’s about the relationship between Islam and the West.”

FF: When the book was published (and the excerpt in Maclean’s), did you ever envision the reaction that has resulted in the complaints before the human rights commissions?

MS: I didn’t.
Because I’d been thinking about it for so long before the book was published, I kind of assumed it would be slightly obvious to other people—this structural weakness in the Western world, the huge demographic decline in Europe, Britain, and Canada, too.
It seemed to me that if you lived in some of these countries, including Canada, then what was happening was going on outside your front window. It shouldn’t have been the shattering news that it was. My publisher’s grateful for that, and I guess I am too because I do believe that, in a way, this is the biggest issue of our time—whether the Western world is at a point of entire civilizational exhaustion.

FF: How did you feel about the Ontario judgment, which dismissed the complaint but with the caveat that the articles were “inconsistent with the spirit” of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and doing “serious harm” to Canadian society by “promoting societal intolerance” and disseminating “destructive, xenophobic

MS: I’ve written in publications in dozens of different countries, and I’ve been doing it for long enough that I’ve attracted my fair share of legal attention in different legal systems. I’ve never had a situation where a quasi-judicial body rules that it does not have jurisdiction but decides to pronounce you guilty anyway. I’ve never had that.
The fact that Barbara Hall [Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission] and the Ontario commission are even wasting time with this issue testifies to how little real “hate” there is in Canada. These tribunals were created
so that if you went for a job and the guy wouldn’t hire you because you were black, you could go to the commission and seek redress for that. The fact is, there’s not a lot of that going on.
Ian Fine [Director General and Senior General Counsel, Dispute Resolution Branch] of the Canadian commission has said that he wants to stamp out hate. Not hate crimes, not hate speech. Hate. Hate is a human emotion. To have hate surgically removed is to become post-human, is to become dehumanized—unhuman. A society without hate is the definition of totalitarian.

FF: What are your thoughts regarding the upcoming BC Human Rights Commission hearing and its possible outcome(s)?

MS: The law is so broadly drawn that it’s essentially created a human right not to be offended. If one person is offended by my book, he can go to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal and complain about it. And, of course, if he’s offended, I can’t do anything about it. Offense is in the ear of the offended. And so if it is a human right not to be offended, and I have offended this person, then I am guilty, Maclean’s magazine is guilty, and my book is guilty.

I think we’ll be convicted, then we’ll appeal it up to the real court, and it will work its way through the system. At some point, it will eventually come to the Supreme Court of Canada and it will be decided 4-3, one way or the other.

But I am not confident that Canadians will come to understand the assault on their liberties—on some of the oldest liberties of this society—that these tribunals are engaged in. They have essentially created a parallel legal system that does away with real human rights, like the presumption of innocence, in
favour of cockamamie human rights like the human right not to be offended.

FF: You and Ezra Levant have written at length about the human rights commissions and their impact on free speech, but do you feel anyone is listening? What does this say about modern Canadian society?

MS: The Canadian Association of Journalists has joined in. They have no love for me but they understand ultimately that this is a threat. PEN Canada—again, they have no great love for me but they understand the threat this is to what they do. And I think principled liberals see the threat and see what’s wrong. Keith Martin, a Liberal MP, sees it and understands it.

Too many liberals think that if we just get rid of the neo-Nazis and the homophobes and the right-wing blowhards like Steyn and Ezra Levant, then we’ll have a perfect society and we won’t need to use this law anymore. They’re deluding themselves. A couple of years down the line it’s going to be Muslim
lobby groups making human rights complaints against gay groups. It’s all going to get more complicated for these liberals. The fact is, we need, and multicultural societies in particular need, to have a high degree of real tolerance—the thick skin which means that you do what adults do and shrug off disagreements rather than trying to criminalize them.

FF: You have written in your book that “big government is a national security threat.” How has this played out in Canada? Is the US in danger of succumbing to a similar threat?

MS: I think that if you have a nanny state, eventually you sever your population from all the most basic survival instincts. I think you see that in Western Europe most clearly where, effectively, the population lives as the wrinkliest generation of adolescents in history. Life in continental Europe is very agreeable. You’ve got loads of leisure time, you don’t have to work terribly hard—you have a 35-hour work week. Compared to North America, they have a very light load. What do they do with all this time?
If you have a government that effectively supplants other organic institutions of society, such as family or church or other civic institutions, I think you wind up with a sort of presenttense self-absorbed society, which is certainly the case in Europe, and I think there’s a big question mark over whether that is also the case in Canada and parts of the United States, too.
And that’s the weakness. Radical Islam, by any definition, is a weak enemy. But they don’t think they have to be that strong because they smell weakness and decay at the heart of the Western world. And I think it’s hard to argue with that.



  1. Kristin, I’ve posted some thoughts about Steyn’s book excerpt over on my blog – responding to some of the characterizations of Islam in the article with reference to Harry Potter.

    I guess while I feel like it’s disturbing that human rights tribunals can engulf Ezra Levant in years of quasi-legal wrangling; I also don’t think reprinting the highly provocative cartoons is particularly helpful for public discourse. Of course, the healthier response (if you found the cartoons offensive) would be to engage in some sort of public debate rather than try and silence your opponent – as attempts to silence and censor tend to glorify and glamorize.

    So I guess, my blog post is an amateurish and hurried attempt to provide an example of what might have been a better response to Steyn (possibly stir up some debate, offer some critique) than seeking the intervention of tribunals.

    Anyway, just thought I’d pass it along – I don’t know what your perspective on Steyn’s interpretation of current events is outside of our mutual support for his right to express it in Canada, but I wanted to offer the invitation for critque/support/expansion/clarification of my own response from your somewhat unique perspective as Fraser Forum editor…

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