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Mark Steyn Doesn’t Duck The Thought Police

Friday, December 20, 2013

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JC: Mark, before that music goes away, do you recognize that music?

MS: I recognize the warm vibrato of vocal stylist, Mark Steyn, singing there. That’s my recoding of Jingle Bells with my pal, Jessica Martin. The song was written in 1857, and I figure it’s about time somebody did it justice. So we went and made our own little record of it. You can get it at iTunes, you can get it at Amazon, and you can get it right at my website, too. We’re shipping for Christmas.

JC: At www.steynonline.com. While, Mark, we are on the subject of sort of entertainment or theatre, the Apollo Theatre in the west end of London partially collapsed during a performance today. There’s still a lot of conflicting information, but apparently, the roof sort of just fell in during a performance, and there are dozens of people injured. I would imagine you probably are very familiar with that place.

MS: Yeah, I know that theatre very well. The owners, Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer, are two of my oldest and dearest friends. Nica is British, Max is from Oklahoma. I introduced them to each other, and they formed a great business partnership and bought that theatre, and about a half a dozen other theatres, from Andrew Lloyd Webber a few years ago. And I was sitting with Nica during a production of Rain Man there with Josh Hartnett just a couple of years ago right under where that plaster came down. And Nica made the point to me that those are beautiful Victorian playhouses, and you’re, when you own them, in a sense, you don’t have full ownership, because they’re grade II listed buildings. You know, there’s something similar in the United States and most…

JC: Yeah, listed, and for those listening, that means it’s a historical building, right.

MS: Yeah, and that heritage sites, I mean, as I said, zoning requirements vary from town to town. But if it’s a designated heritage, protected, listed building, it means that you’re constrained in what you can do to it, including making improvements. I mean, and Nica pointed out to me the fire curtain there is actually the original 19th Century fire curtain that’s very difficult to raise up and down, because it’s actually full of water, because that’s what they used for fire curtains back in 18-whatever it was. And I think that’s one of the issues with those theatres. They look beautiful, but the kind of improvements that you need to make, they’re difficult to do when the government says, effectively means you need permission from the government to make little improvements and little safety fixings and features here and there.

JC: Yeah, and there are similar laws and rules here. But Mark, the other big story of today is the Duck Dynasty story, the story of Phil Robertson, the patriarch, I guess you could say, of the Duck Dynasty family, and all of the controversy about his remarks made in a GQ Magazine story. And apparently, A&E Network announced today that they have suspended him indefinitely. And the internet is ablaze on this thing. Give us your comments on all of this.

MS: Well, I think, actually, in a strange way, this is the biggest story of the day, the week, the month. I mean, in some ways, bigger than the biggest foreign policy stories. I’m actually quite worried that we’re moving into an age of extremely heavy-handed ideological compliance. There is nothing this guy said in GQ that I think should have rendered him banished from the airwaves. And in fact, I think it’s interesting that what he said, in fact, is consistent with his character. His show’s a big hit. I don’t watch it. I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’d love to switch on and find the Mary Tyler Moore show, but apparently it stopped 35 years ago. So I don’t watch a lot of TV.

JC: Yeah, they do have it, though, on some stations. There’s some old stations, because my wife and I watch it. But anyway, it’s still out there. You can find it.

MS: No, I know. I know, when I get up to Channel 457, there’ll be like an Andy Williams Christmas show rerun or something I can bear to sit through. So I don’t watch this show. But the fact is that it’s about a family of rednecks who pray a lot. And what he said, actually, is consistent with being a redneck who prays a lot. And what’s fascinating to me is that A&E wants to get the big bucks and the ratings from having, from praying rednecks, but they don’t want the praying rednecks to go too far. And I think, so I find it even, more bizarre. It’s a bit like the Paula Deen thing, where she had to be banished because she admitted she’d used the N word in 1963, or 1954, or 1928, or whenever it was. And I, this is one of the biggest stories of our time, the strange need by the bureau of gay compliance, or whatever the gay lobby is calling itself these days, and similar groups, to enforce the most tedious ideological compliance. It’s like something out of Milan Kundera’s great Eastern European novel about post-war communist Europe, The Joke. It’s where you make one little comment, and your life is over. And we’re getting to that stage.

JC: And it’s not even, either, is it, Mark Steyn, because Alec Baldwin can run off and say all kinds of things that people on the right side of the spectrum find offensive, but he just gets a bigger contract, then.

MS: Yeah, it’s a bit like the girl on whatever it was, Miss America, or the other, Miss Universe, or whatever it was called, a couple of years ago, Carrie Prejean, who said that she personally didn’t believe in same sex marriage. And exactly the same thing happened. She had to be destroyed for holding the same position then as President Obama, because the gay lobby knew that President Obama, when he said he didn’t believe in same sex marriage, was lying, and it was a lie of political convenience. And so they let him get away with that. And eventually, he said that his position had evolved. His position on gayness took longer to evolve than Ricky Martin. It was like watching it in slow motion coming down the track towards you. But the gay lobby let him get away with it, because they knew he was always faking it. They thought Carrie Prejean meant it, so they had to destroy her. And I don’t care about any of this stuff. I’d just like, I don’t want to live in a culture in which the bounds of discourse are drawn that narrowly. It’s nuts. It’s sick. And apart from anything else, it’s boring as hell.

JC: Don’t want to get you too worked up here, Mark, but on this same subject, I’ve actually now read through this GQ article, because I don’t ever read GQ, which is a miserable magazine, I think. But they’re now hitting him, other people are hitting him, because, and saying he’s racist as well. And I’m just going to read a little bit of what he said. He said, “I never with my eyes saw the mistreatment of any black person, not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I was with the blacks, because we were white trash. We were going across the field. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them say, ‘I tell you what, those doggone white people…,’” and he goes on. And that’s his view of what…and they’re calling him racist for that. What, you want to tell me where the racism was in that?

MS: No, no, look, look, America has a seriously racist past. It held slaves. It was a slave-owning society. A large chunk of America was a slave-owning society. Beyond that, it had lynchings, where it took people to the edge of town and strung them up from a tree. But this, the idea that somehow this guy needs to be banished from public life for saying, for giving his view of growing up as he did just there, that’s crazy. You know, one reason why we get into this trouble is because people go too far. It’s stupid to say people have to sit in different places at lunch counters, people have to ride in different places on buses. But it’s equally stupid, and actually just as stultifying and crippling to a society to say no, you can’t even express the mildest dissent from the stultifying and forced conformist of the age. Nuts to that. Every free, it’s about freedom. Every free person should say I’m not going to be told what to think by some gay lobby group, or race lobby group, or transgendered lobby group, or Muslim lobby group, or any of them. Nuts to the lot of them.

JC: So where do you think it goes, Mark Steyn, from here? You want to make a prediction? The lead sponsor came out and said we support Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty, and we don’t think he should be dropped out. There’s all kinds of stuff, I mean, this has exploded in social media, on the web, on everything. Will A&E have to back off? Will they back off? What’ll happen?

MS: Well, I don’t know what the terms of the contract these guys have with A&E, but you can’t have Duck Dynasty without this guy in it. The show isn’t the show. It’s Hamlet without the prince, to go back to our theatrical talk of earlier. You just can’t do it. And so they either have to have the courage of their conviction and kill the show, A&E have, or these guys, if they’ve got any sense, will be looking to take it somewhere else. It’s a hit show. And there’s 11 million viewers who don’t want to be told what to think, and to be told they can have some neutered eunuch version of the show imposed on them by A&E.

JC: How do we fight the thought police like this in 30 seconds?

MS: You just have to stand up and reject it, and say no, it’s my right to say this. And if you’re offended, so what? That’s not a dispositive argument. Everybody’s offended by everything. And if you’re going to have a multicultural society, it requires everybody, instead of tiptoeing on eggshells, to grow much thicker skins.

JC: Mark Steyn, thank you as always. We’ll be back with you again next week. And the rest of you listening in America, go get his Christmas CD at www.steynonline.com.

End of interview.

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