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Mark Steyn On Appeasing North Korea And Caving On Cuba

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HH: Of course that music means, as every Thursday when we are lucky, we are joined by Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. Hello, Mark, from Hawaii, how are you?

MS: Hey, greetings to you, Hugh. I am in Quebec at the moment. So from Quebec to Hawaii, Merry Christmas, pre-Christmas greetings to you.

HH: Well, my very favorite headline I think I’ve read in the last 48 hours is Norks Nix Yanks’ Pics. And this is over at Your reaction to the caving in of Sony Pictures to the demands of the cyber terrorists?

MS: Yeah, I think it’s actually a pretty serious story. We’re told all the time that American pop culture is the most influential force on the planet, and that basically, everyone around the world wants to be an American teenager. And this stuff is more influential than armies or any of that kind of thing. And the fact is that American pop culture went up against some nickel and dime dictator on the other side of the planet, and he won, and they caved in nothing flat. The piece you mentioned, that Norks Nix Yanks’ Pics thing, I began with, I didn’t really know anything about this movie, except my youngest kid and I were sitting through some lame trailer that looked just like any other vulgar shlocko-Hollywood comedy, and he mentioned to me that the North Koreans had declared this film to be an act of war. And we both had a good old laugh about it, thinking that you know, Hollywood may have nothing to say about Islam or the post-9/11 era, but they could still at least make some cheap, vulgar, crude cracks about Kim Jong Un. And no, they can’t even do that. They caved in nothing flat. And if you incentivize, if you reward people for threatening violence, you are going to get a lot more of it. That’s the lesson of our time, for novels, for movies, for plays, for art exhibitions, for cartoons. And at some point, somebody has to stand up to them. And the idea that Sony has less guts than a vulnerable Danish cartoonist who has Islamic thugs going to his daughter’s grade school to wait for her after school, the idea that the Sony Corporation has less guts than a septuagenarian Danish cartoonist threatened by these guys is very depressing.

HH: Yesterday, Ambassador Bolton made this point, that that which gets rewarded gets repeated, and talked in very dire terms about the significance of this episode, which is what you’re underscoring with alliterative fun, and in your undeniably unique style. Nevertheless, it is a very serious deal to collapse in the face of terrorist threats, and to expect that it won’t happen. Later on that same show, Mark, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, came on and casually mentioned that the North Koreans have been testing our electrical grid with their Bureau 121.

MS: Right.

HH: What is to persuade them that that’s not a good idea to take down New York City now?

MS: No, and I think that’s what’s interesting. If you look at the premise of this film, The Interview, I thought it was a kind of antiquated joke to begin with. The idea is that these two schlubs land an interview with Kim Jong Un, and the CIA has a quiet word with them and says you’ve got to kill him, when…you’ve got access to him, and we want you to kill him. And in Hollywood, that’s who the CIA are. They’re all-powerful. If you…they’re controlling things all over the planet. They’re doing stuff all over the planet. And that America, the idea of an America that in some cold, calculated way just takes out its enemies, I was listening, I said, mentioned I’m in Quebec. I was listening to the radio in Montreal, and a delightful lady was saying well, she doesn’t even think America should be making comedies like this, because America has killed so many foreign leaders. And of course, she can’t actually think of any, because you’ve got to go back decades to come up with any. But’s, that, I kind of agree with her, because I wished America was all-powerful and sinister as this stupid comedy thinks it is. We wouldn’t be in this mess.

HH: Yeah, we are so far from sinister.

MS: Why we’re in it is because the North Koreans are destabilizing us.

HH: We are so far from sinister, we are laughable. And I wrote today over at Townhall, I can’t imagine any of the last 11 presidents doing this. I can’t even imagine Jimmy Carter doing this, not saying anything, Mark Steyn. President Obama has said nothing.

MS: No, and I think what’s, given the stuff he does talk about all the time, I think that’s revealing. You know, 25 years ago during the Salman Rushdie business with the Satanic Verses, Rushdie hated Thatcher, and Thatcher and the Conservative Party had no use for Salman Rushdie. He called her Mrs. Torture. He was a typical left-wing novelist. But they nevertheless defended him on the grounds that no British subject should have his free speech rights circumscribed by some crazy ayatollah in Iran. Likewise, an American president should be saying that no Hollywood movie should be vaporized by some tin pot dictator on the other side of the planet. But this is a guy who doesn’t speak up for free speech. This is a guy who after Benghazi, quite shamefully, stood up at the United Nations and said the future will not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam. I’m sorry, but the right to slander the Prophet of Islam, and the right to make vulgar comedies about Kim Jong Un, is part of what it means to be American. It’s part of what it means to be a free person.

HH: Our friend, Kurt Schlichter, a great columnist for Townhall, a fine lawyer and an Army Colonel, reservist, has pointed out that the theater chains are so alarmed by liability in the aftermath of the Aurora thing that he can understand and sympathize with the liability typhoon that exists out there. But I think if the President had stood up and said we will back you on this, we will, that that would have put a defense in the hands of the theater owners and Sony Pictures, and that he let that opportunity go by, because he was busy, I think, Mark Steyn, giving everything away to Cuba. And the New York Times this afternoon has a story out, they’re prepared to give everything out to Iran, and to China as well, that this secret team of Hillary and Joe Biden aides have been advising the President on how to collapse everywhere simultaneously.

MS: Yeah, and it’s interesting that it all follows the same pattern. You know, sovereign states have their disagreements, and sovereign, because they have their own national interests. And they’re entitled to. And they’re entitled to their own calculation of their national interests. In the famous line of Lord Palmerston, England has no eternal friends and no eternal enemies, only eternal interests. What this president feels, though, is that regardless of whether you’re talking about the Middle East, whether you’re talking about Europe, whether you’re talking about Asia, whether you’re talking about Latin America, whether you’re talking about Russia, whether you’re talking about Cuba, when he sits down across the table from these other fellows, he basically takes their point of view that America is the problem in the relationship. And that’s why his pattern of behavior vis-à-vis Russia with the missile shield for Poland and the Czech Republic, whether it’s in the Middle East with Islam, whether it’s with China, whether it’s with Latin America, and now with Cuba, it’s always the same. There’s a consistent pattern. He shares their view that America has basically been at fault in the relationship.

HH: And very troubling. Now Mark Steyn, I believe that there’s a Reagan void that’s opened up in the Republican, and indeed in the country. And Bob Menendez just ripped, he’s a Democrat, just ripped the President today. And Marco Rubio stood tall yesterday and ripped the President. And I think that Reagan void is an opportunity for a Republican to step up. And it might be for James Webb to step into the Democratic primaries as well, and at least argue for the big stick approach, whatever the quiet factor is. What do you think?

MS: Yeah, I think there is a vacuum there, because I think, and oddly enough, just to go back to the Sony thing, I think that makes the point that it’s very easy not to be interested. Who can tell the different – Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, all these guys are crazy. Who cares? We’re just going to stay at home and go to the movies. We’re going to go to the multiplex and we’re going to watch the latest lousy Seth Rogan movie. But even the latest lousy Seth Rogan movie is at stake if you let the planet go to hell. And so you won’t even be able to go to the multiplex and watch the lousy movie of the week, because some guy you’ve never heard of on the other side of the planet has just fired a missile straight through the big Christmas Day box office movie. And I think that actually, that’s actually a very profound point that you can’t let the planet to go to hell and expect to lead a comfortable, consumeristic existence where you just go to the mall and to hell with the world

HH: And Rob Lowe said that, and 30 seconds, Mark, yesterday when he said Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud. That approach to foreign affairs has been tried before.

MS: Yes, it has. And I think the liability issue that you mentioned earlier is pathetic, because what you learn about this is that you can have theoretical free speech rights, but that an over-legalistic, risk-averse, liability prioritizing culture, in the end, that will kill movies, kill novels, kill plays, kill everything.

HH: And on that Merry Christmas note, head over to to get Mark’s CD or an autographed copy of his brand-new book, or something to celebrate the season with, because otherwise, it’s sort of grim.

End of interview.


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