October 14, 2006


The man who likes to poke the world in the eye
: Journalist Mark Steyn says being offensive has its merits (Linda Frum, October 14, 2006, National Post

Long-time readers of the National Post will know that former columnist Mark Steyn is one of Canada's most gifted political writers, a man weirdly able to provoke laughter while forecasting the end of the world.

In his newly released book, America Alone, he argues that without vigilance and the unapologetic assertion of American force, we will all soon be living under Sharia law. And while Mr. Steyn muses in his book that he may not mind picking up a few extra wives, he worries that the rest of us may not like the system as much.

Mr. Steyn lives in rural New Hampshire with his (only) wife and three children. [...]

LF In your new book America Alone you argue that: "America should proclaim the obvious: We do have a better government, religion and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America's influence around the world." On a spiritual/emotional level do you consider yourself an American?

MS Well, I don't want to get into a whole kind of Michael Ignatieff pronoun-trouble thing. I'm sympathetic to him on that, because when I say "we" I generally mean "the West," or "the civilized world," or -- more broadly -- "the good guys." I feel I've got a stake in the United States because I'm a resident and a taxpayer and I have my children in the public school system in the State of New Hampshire. So if I was writing about public education, I feel it would be quite reasonable to say "we." It doesn't mean I've tossed out my passport and signed up with the Great Satan once and for all.

LF Is there a quick answer as to why you live in New Hampshire of all places?

MS Long ago I was on an Amtrak overnight train from Montreal to New York and it broke down halfway, and they tossed us all off the train in the middle of the night. They sent a little bus to take us to a neighbouring inn, and I woke up the following morning and thought, "Actually, it's quite nice around here." I like New Hampshire because it doesn't have a state income tax or a state sales tax, and it has a very limited government done at a very local level, which is my preference. On the other hand, there are great disadvantages. If you want to get a decent dinner, your best bet is to drive an hour and a quarter up I-91 and eat in almost any small Quebec town. [...]

LF One of your best qualities is that you're so insensitive. For example, when writing about what you call the most important fact of our time -- the explosion of the Muslim global population -- you say: "Those self-detonating Islamists in London and Gaza are a literal baby boom." Making offensive jokes like that takes guts. Where do you get the courage?

MS Being offensive actually has its merits. An excessive deference to sensitivity is very harmful, particularly when you're dealing with people so ready to take offence. I didn't really think of it in an Islamist context until the fall of 2002, when I said in the National Post, something like: "Is it just me, or does Ramadan seem to come around quicker every year?" The point is Ramadan is every eleven and a half months. And of course I immediately got all these humourless letters from people saying, "Oh, you complete idiot! Are you not aware that under the Islamic calendar Ramadan comes..." Of course I'm aware! I'm making a cheap joke about it! It's my standard Ramadan joke, and I'm going to do it every 11-point-however-many-months for as long as I live. I seriously do believe that it's very hard to have a functioning society if you can't make cheap jokes about each other all the time. One of the key signs of a shared culture is if you can all cheerfully abuse each other. In the space of the last five years the multiculturalists seem to have internalized the psychology whereby it's taken for granted that you make whatever abusive jokes you want about Christians, but none of those same jokes can be made about Muslims. Well, the minute you accept that, I think you're doomed.

We'll excuse the food snobbery for a neighbor and one of our favorite authors (there's no food served in all of Quebec that's better than the Ramunto's pizza he could drive twenty minutes for). I keep two of Mr. Steyn's books ready to hand and dip into them for one essay at a time, Head to Toe, for a chuckle, and Face of the Tiger, for a periodic reminder of why our current fight matters so much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2006 9:47 AM

there's no food served in all of Quebec that's better than the Ramunto's pizza he could drive twenty minutes for

Oh, and you would know, eh state line boy?

Posted by: Peter B at October 14, 2006 10:55 AM

I dunno, can you get this in NH?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 14, 2006 11:34 AM


I know this much, if French food were any good they wouldn't need to glop it up with sauces. they make a nice loaf of bread--the rest is posing.

Posted by: oj at October 14, 2006 11:40 AM

C.mon man. Fries. Cheese. Gravy.

The only way you could improve on that is by molding the whole thing into a ball, breading it, and deep-frying it, with more gravy piled on top of it when it comes out.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 14, 2006 11:43 AM


You kidding? It's NH, you can't throw a rock without hitting a French-Canadian (fortunately they're as slow and unco-ordinated as any soccer playing people so they're easy to hit):


Posted by: oj at October 14, 2006 11:43 AM

The entire Cracker Barrel menu is just as good.

Posted by: oj at October 14, 2006 11:49 AM

Cracker Barrel also has a better gift section near the cashier's counter.

Posted by: John at October 14, 2006 2:15 PM

To be fair (and we Canadians are nothing if not fair), Cracker Barrel is wonderful, as are most U.S. chains that got their start in the South.

The secret to the poutine is freshly made curds and the fact that Quebec fries are the best in the world. When you are hungry after skiing, it is ambrosia.

But I doubt this is what Steyn was talking about.

Posted by: Peter B at October 14, 2006 2:22 PM

The Canoe Club in Hanover is also very nice but, my stars, is it expensive. I took a date there before I knew how swanky it was and my poor eyes just about fell out of my head when I saw the menu.

Posted by: Bryan at October 14, 2006 2:47 PM

I don't think Steyn's joke about Ramadan funny, not because I take offence simply because it isn't funny. Yes Muslims are defensive but considering we are targetted at every corner it is no wonder. Columnists in the USA say things about Islam they wouldn't dare say about Christianity or Judaism. Can you imagine anyone in the media asking if Judaism is evil? Yet several have about Islam.

I think when people are under seige it is in poor taste to make jokes about them. I don't imagine after the holocaust any jokes about Jewish holidays would have been taken well by Jewish people no matter how innocuous.

If you are of Jewish decent chances are it may be best to stay away from Ramadan jokes. I don't tell Passover jokes.

Lastly thanks to the National Post for taking yet another shot at Muslims. You never miss a chance.

Posted by: Mohamed Adil at October 19, 2006 11:40 AM