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Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn, born in Canada in 1959, is a self-described conservative writer and commentator about politics, arts and culture. He has authored five books, including America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, a New York Times bestseller. He is published in newspapers and magazines and appears on politically conservative radio shows such as those of Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt.

Steyn, a Canadian citizen, now resides mainly in New Hampshire in the United States. He is married with three children.

Career

Although born in Toronto, Steyn was educated at the King Edward's School at Birmingham in the United Kingdom. He left school at 16 and worked as a disc-jockey before becoming musical theatre critic at the newly established The Independent in 1986. He was appointed film critic for The Spectator in 1992. After writing predominantly about the arts, Steyn's focus shifted to political commentary and moved to the conservative broadsheet The Daily Telegraph.

Since then, he has written for a wide range of mostly conservative publications, including The Jerusalem Post, The Orange County Register, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, The New York Sun, The Australian, Macleans, Irish Times, National Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Western Standard and New Criterion.

Steyn's website "SteynOnline" provides special commentary and access to many of his columns and other published work and offers books, t-shirts, mugs and other merchandise for sale. He occasionally posts to National Review Online group blog, The Corner.

Steyn's books include Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then and Now (a history of the musical theatre) and America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, a New York Times bestseller. He has also published collections of his columns and his celebrity obituaries and profiles from The Atlantic.

Writing Style

Steyn's writing draws supporters and detractors for content. His style was described by Robert Fulford as “bring[ing] to public affairs the dark comedy developed in the Theatre of the Absurd”. Longtime editor and admirer Fulford also wrote, "Steyn, a self-styled "right-wing bastard," violates everyone's sense of good taste." According to Simon Mann, Steyn “gives succour to the maxim the pen is mightier than the sword, though he is not averse to employing the former to advocate use of the latter.”

Susan Catto in Time noted his interest in controversy, "Instead of shying away from the appearance of conflict, Steyn positively revels in it. Canadian journalist Steve Burgess wrote "Steyn wields his rhetorical rapier with genuine skill" and that national disasters tended to cause Steyn "...to display his inner wingnut. Lionel Shriver wrote, ". . . I love Mark Steyn", adding, ". . . however you may deplore his opinions, Steyn is funny."

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair says that he asks himself, "how can one man be so wrong" when he reads "the latest dimestore prophesy from neocon jester Mark Steyn, whose occult powers of clairvoyance never fail to fail him. Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic wrote that Steyn was, "...long on colorful rhetoric but short on dry facts. British journalist Johann Hari wrote in the New Statesman: "Steyn's prose has a jangling musicality; like Ann Coulter, he writes in a demonic demotic that makes you chuckle even as you retch.

Positions

Criticism of media

In a May 2004 column Steyn stated that The Daily Mirror and the Boston Globe published false pictures of British and American soldiers abusing Iraqis because editors were encouraging anti-Bush sentiments. Steyn argues that media only wanted to show images to westerners "that will shame and demoralize them. Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy said that Steyn's column was an effort to "rally the spirits of his fellow warmongers: by demonizing anyone who dared to criticize the war.

In a July 2005 column for National Review, Steyn amplified his dislike for the media. He criticized Andrew Jaspan, the editor of the Australian newspaper, The Age. Jaspan was offended by Douglas Wood, an Australian kidnapped and held hostage in Iraq, who after his rescue referred to his captors as "arseholes." Jaspan claimed that “the issue is really largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.” Steyn responded in his column by arguing that insensitivity toward captors is not the most important, and that it was Jaspan, not Wood, who suffered from Stockholm syndrome. He said further, “A blindfolded Mr. Wood had to listen to his captors murder two of his colleagues a few inches away, but how crude and boorish would one have to be to hold that against one’s hosts?”

In a January 2007 column in the Chicago Sun-Times, Steyn wrote that Barack Obama was “black, and white, and Hawaiian, and Kansan, and charismatic, and Congregationalist, and Muslim. [...] He was raised in an Indonesian madrassah by radical imams, which is more than John Edwards can say.” He added, “The madrassah stuff was supposedly leaked to Insight Magazine… by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team.” Two days later, Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times responded to Steyn regarding what she called the smear on Obama and the attack on Clinton. She wrote, “And there is no evidence whatsoever that Clinton's campaign had anything to do with spreading the damaging rumor that Obama hid a Muslim background.” Sweet noted the visit by CNN's John Vause to the state-run elementary school in Indonesia that Obama attended from 1969 to 1971.

Steyn has been a vocal critic of American journalism and the so-called j-school culture ostensibly entrenched in the journalism departments of many American universities, describing American newspapers as "the dullest in the world", and dismissing the idea of journalism as a profession to be studied. "When I started out in journalism, in Fleet Street, everybody I knew was only doing journalism because their lives had gone horribly wrong...and that's what happened to me. I needed some money in a hurry and thought I'd do journalism for a few weeks until something better came along, and it never did so now I'm stuck with it."

Conrad Black trial

Steyn wrote articles and maintained a blog for Maclean's covering the 2007 business fraud trial of his friend Conrad Black in Chicago. Questions were raised in the media over the objectivity of Steyn's coverage, for example Andrew Clark of The Guardian, referring to Steyn as one of Black’s "loyal supporters", quoted from Steyn’s Blog, “If it is bad news, I'm sorry I won't be there to support my old boss…” Suanne Kelman wrote in the Literary Review of Canada that the leader of Black's media cheering section at his Chicago trial was "above all Maclean’s Mark Steyn, in both the magazine and his logorrheic blog." Kelman stated that Steyn began coverage with the view that Black's trial was a "cruel farce".

After Black's conviction, Steyn published a 7,500 word post mortem in Maclean's, excoriating Black's defense team and blaming them, with a list of others, for the outcome. Describing the article, Toronto Star business columnist Jennifer Wells said, "... columnist Mark Steyn lifts his leg and relieves himself with the force of a Clydesdale in the direction of Greenspan and his co-counsel Eddie Genson." Wells concludes that Steyn was "... stingingly absurd to suggest that Conrad Black was done in by his lawyers. He was done in by the facts."

Eurabia - inevitability or artifice

According to Mark Steyn, Eurabia – a continent dominated by Islam – is inevitable and imminent. He says,“The problem, after all, is not that the sons of Allah are 'long shots' but that they’re certainties: every Continental under the age of 40 – okay, make that 60, if not 75 – is all but guaranteed to end his days living in an Islamified Eurabia.” “On the Continent and elsewhere in the West, native populations are aging and fading and being supplanted remorselessly by a young Muslim demographic.”

Steyn claims that Muslims will account for perhaps 40 per cent of the population by 2020, but Globe and Mail correspondent Doug Saunders labels the assertion false:

"Slightly more than 4 per cent of Europe's population is 'Muslim', as defined by demographers (though about 80 per cent of these people are not religiously observant, so they are better defined as secular citizens who have escaped religious nations).

It is possible, though not certain, that this number could rise to 6 per cent by 2020. If current immigration and birth rates remain the same, it could even rise to 10 per cent within 100 years.

But it won't, because 'Muslims' don't actually have more babies than other populations do under the same circumstances. The declining population-growth rates ... are not confined to native populations. In fact, immigrants from Muslim countries are experiencing a faster drop in reproduction rates than the larger European population.”

In his book "America Alone", Steyn posits that Muslim population growth has already contributed to a modern European genocide:

“Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography—except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out—as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.”

Author and U.C.L.A. Public Policy Professor Mark Kleiman fears that, “Steyn is justifying genocide, both retrospectively in Bosnia and prospectively in the rest of Europe.” Andrew Sullivan calls Steyn's book "an intellectually vulgar diatribe based on the crudest demographic reductionism and also wonders, “Is Steyn actually advocating genocide? When you read the full context of the paragraph in the book (pages 4 - 6), there are no exculpatory words around it.”

Steyn responded to criticisms by saying,

"My book isn’t about what I want to happen but what I think will happen. Given Fascism, Communism and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, it’s not hard to foresee that the neo-nationalist resurgence already under way in parts of Europe will at some point take a violent form. That’s pretty much a given. . . . I think any descent into neo-Fascism will be ineffectual and therefore merely a temporary blip in the remorseless transformation of the Continent. “

Criticism of multiculturalism

Steyn has commented on divisions between the Western world and the Islamic World. He criticizes the tolerance of what he deems to be "Islamic cultural intolerance." Steyn says that multiculturalism only requires feeling good about other cultures and is "fundamentally a fraud... subliminally accepted on that basis. In Jewish World Review, Steyn argues "Multiculturalism means that the worst attributes of Muslim culture—the subjugation of women—combine with the worst attributes of Western culture—licence and self-gratification." He explains, "I'm not a racist, only a culturist. I believe Western culture—rule of law, universal suffrage, etc.—is preferable to Arab culture..."

Christopher Hitchens believes that Steyn errs by "considering European Muslim populations as one. Islam is as fissile as any other religion... and considerable friction exists among immigrant Muslim groups in many European countries. Moreover, many Muslims actually have come to Europe for the advertised purposes—seeking asylum and to build a better life."

Scott Horton, lawyer and Harper's writer, commented on Steyn's ethnic labels, including one that referred to Muslims as "sheep-shaggers. According to Horton, "It would be quite an understatement to call this language “intolerant.” Indeed it can easily be paralleled with ethnic stigmatization that has occurred in the most vicious societies in modern times."

Support of Iraq invasion and occupation

Steyn was an early proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2007 he reiterated his support while attacking Democrat John Murtha, stating that his plan for military action in Iraq was designed “to deny the president the possibility of victory while making sure Democrats don't have to share the blame for the defeat. … [Murtha] doesn't support them in the mission, but he'd like them to continue failing at it for a couple more years”.

Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald called Steyn a "faux warrior" who is “one of the most extremist warmongers in our country”, adding that Steyn has been “as fundamentally wrong as one can be about virtually every issue he has touched.”

Criticisms of Steyn

Some critics argue that Steyn disregards opposing arguments and events that contradict his earlier predictions. These include his repeated claims that Osama Bin Laden was "certainly" dead. His incorrect predictions have been widely mocked. For example, Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Guardian wrote,:
"Apart from predicting that George Bush would win the 2000 presidential election in a landslide, Steyn said at regular intervals that Osama bin Laden "will remain dead". Weeks after the invasion of Iraq he assured his readers that there would be "no widespread resentment at or resistance of the western military presence"; in December 2003 he wrote that "another six weeks of insurgency sounds about right, after which it will peter out"; and the following March he insisted that: "I don't think it's possible for anyone who looks at Iraq honestly to see it as anything other than a success story."

Johann Hari accused Steyn of falsely claiming that "[o]n September 10, 2001, a sixth-grade student of Middle Eastern origin at a Brooklyn high school that told his teacher the Twin Towers would collapse five days prior to 9/11. and that this was a common occurrence in New York City on the day of the attacks. Later, in a review of America Alone, Hari accused Steyn of "raw racism", pointing to a passage which he argues shows Steyn to be celebrating the birth of 'white' babies over those of other ethnicities. He also states that Steyn "describes as 'correct' a friend who talks about 'beturbanned prophet-monkeys'" and goes on to say that "for [Steyn], culture is merely a thinly veiled homologue for race.

Canadian Islamic Congress human rights complaint

In 2007, a complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission related to an article "The Future Belongs to Islam," written by Mark Steyn, published in Maclean's magazine. The complainants alleged that the article and Maclean’s refusal to provide space for a rebuttal violated their human rights. The complainants also claimed that the article was one of twenty-two (22) Maclean’s articles, many written by Steyn, targeting Muslims. Further complaints were filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission refused in April 2008 to proceed, saying it lacked jurisdiction to deal with magazine content. However, the Commission stated that it, “strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims . . . . Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.” Critics of the Commission claimed that Maclean’s and Steyn had been found guilty without a hearing. John Martin of The Province wrote, "There was no hearing, no evidence presented and no opportunity to offer a defence -- just a pronouncement of wrongdoing. The OHRC defended its right to comment by stating, "Like racial profiling and other types of discrimination, ascribing the behaviour of individuals to a group damages everyone in that group. We have always spoken out on such issues. Maclean’s and its writers are free to express their opinions. The OHRC is mandated to express what it sees as unfair and harmful comment or conduct that may lead to discrimination.

On April 2, 2008, the head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission issued a public letter to the editor of Maclean’s magazine. In it, Jennifer Lynch said, "Mr. Steyn would have us believe that words, however hateful, should be given free reign. History has shown us that hateful words sometimes lead to hurtful actions that undermine freedom and have led to unspeakable crimes. That is why Canada and most other democracies have enacted legislation to place reasonable limits on the expression of hatred.

The federal Canadian Human Rights Commission dismissed the Canadian Islamic Congress' complaint against Maclean’s in June 2008. The CHRC's ruling said of the article that, "the writing is polemical, colourful and emphatic, and was obviously calculated to excite discussion and even offend certain readers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike." However, the Commission ruled that overall, "the views expressed in the Steyn article, when considered as a whole and in context, are not of an extreme nature, as defined by the Supreme Court."

Award

Mark Steyn was awarded the 2006 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism The annual award recognizes the work of a columnist, editorialist or writer whose work defends and expresses admiration of the United States and its democratic institutions. Steyn's article "Be Glad the Flag Is Worth Burning was nominated for the award. The following is an extract: "One of the big lessons of these last four years is that many, many beneficiaries of Western civilization loathe that civilization, and the media are generally inclined to blur the extent of that loathing". Roger Ailes of Fox News presented the prize, which included a $20,000 check from an endowment founded by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Bibliography

  • The Story of Miss Saigon (by Edward Behr and Steyn; 1991, ISBN 1-55970-124-2)
  • Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then and Now (1997, ISBN 0-415-92286-0)
  • The Face of the Tiger (2002, ISBN 0-9731570-0-3; collected columns)
  • Mark Steyn From Head To Toe: An Anatomical Anthology (2004, ISBN 0-9731570-2-X; collected columns)
  • America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (2006, ISBN 0-89526-078-6)
  • Mark Steyn's Passing Parade (2006, ISBN 0-9731570-1-1; collected obituaries)

References

External links

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