Mark Steyn from London
HH: Joined now from London by Mark Steyn. Mark, great to speak with you from a little bit later in the evening over there.
MS: Yes, it’s 11:00 at night, London time, and this is I think one of those big party nights in Central London, when they’re all having their office Christmas parties. So if rowdy English, boorish yabos break in doing conga lines and disrupts the program, that’ll be why, Hugh.
HH: I hope that happens, actually. That would be good to hear reported. Mark Steyn, I’ve been reading…I want to pause in the beginning and thank you for Passing Parade. I was laughing my head off, flying back from Washington, D.C. this morning, with the rest in peace you penned for Diana Mosely. I’d never heard of her. I really didn’t. I had no idea. There’s so much that Americans don’t know about these figures of Europe. And she was really…I didn’t know anything about the Mitford sisters, or anything like that. What an amazing person.
MS: Well, these were a group of sisters who are like a collective Zelig figure. They’re there in almost every aspect of 20th Century history, including right up to…Diana Mosely, Diana Mitford, as she was born, was a facist. Her sister, Jessica, was a communist, and emigrated to the West Coast of America, and ended up working in her law firm. She hired a bright, young student called Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham as she then was in the early 70’s. So they kind of embraced the whole of 20th Century history. You know, Diana Mosely, she married the leader of the British Union of Facists. She was a kind of society facist. Goebbles was her wedding planner. And that was really the kind of…she prided herself on being a kind of great political thinker. But you did get the feeling that it was a kind of society version of facism that she tapped into.
HH: It was appropriate to read her going off, because we’ve had all the facists gathering in Tehran this week. Was she a Holocaust denier as well? Or did she get round to that bit with Hitler?
MS: No, you know, whenever that subject came up, she can never quite bring herself to use the word, the Holocaust. She used to say how much she admired Jews, because they were so clever at keeping the thing, the thing as she always called it, in the public eye. And then she’d have this sort of…she had these beautiful blue limpid eyes, and they’d sort of glaze over, and she’d stare into the far distance, and she’d usually say something like so horrible, in that cut glass English voice, one really can’t imagine it. And in that sense, she was not like Ahmadinejad, you know, who actually sees facts, see established evidence, and utterly rejects it. You know, it’s one thing to be an anti-Semite. I mean, if you’re particularly in Europe, and particularly in Britain, sadly enough, there are an enormous number of people who just don’t like Jews. That is actually a fact of life. But to take it beyond that, as Ahmadinejad, so to say, you don’t like Jews, but to deny this central event in 20th Century history, I think, is a stage beyond that, because that’s not just hatred, that’s also a kind of madness.
HH: Mark Steyn, our friend James Lileks has written, “It’ll all make horrible sense in retrospect.”
MS: Yes, and I think that’s right. I think one of the horrible and contemptible aspects of our generation is that we’re posers. You know, after 1945, everybody said never again. It’s chiseled on the markers in front of concentration camps all over Europe. Never again. Never again. And we thought those words meant something. And in fact, the never again event turns up all the time. It turns up in Rwanda. It turns up in Darfur. it turns up when we sit by and listen to people like Ahmadinejad pledging to wipe Israel off the face of the map. And we think that that is just like a kind of rhetorical ploy in the opening of negotiations. We don’t understand that he does mean it, that he wants a world, and certainly a Middle East, but preferably a world, without Jews. And I think we are morals posers, and these are perhaps the most hollow words of our time, those words, never again.
HH: And as is, I think, increasingly hollow, the support that we had for the Cedar Revolution, as Hezbollah becomes more and more belligerent, and less and less inclined to do anything other than bring down the government of Lebanon.
MS: Yes, and I think there is a…Hezbollah is really a kind of model for the future, that you will have these institutions that prey on weak states, and take over sections of weak states, and yet have all the advantages of not being a state entity with the responsibility that imposes. One of the most disgusting things about this settlement of the Israeli-Hezbollah war, as it was, is that you had the U.N., and you have European nations, and other nations effectively treating Hezbollah as a quasi-state entity. And who’s fault is that? I mean, the U.N. gave the PLO, a terrorist organization, a seat at the United Nations. In a sense, we have made this rod for our own back.
HH: Now I want to contrast, and that’s the inversion of the serious with the silly, and how we’ve not done serious things. And I want to take it to the media. My friend, Dennis Prager, is under assault today by Ed Koch, because Dennis raised the question…I didn’t agree with him, but he raised the question of whether or not Keith Ellison, the Muslim Congressman from Minnesota, should be sworn in on a Koran. And Ed Koch is now calling him a bigot, and wants him off the Holocaust Memorial. On the same day that that’s unfolding, Tony Snow, believe it or not, is apologizing to David Gregory for having called him a partisan last week, and he wants people to understand that in this room, and these people here, are all professional collegial. Well, David Gregory’s, if he’s not partisan, he is certainly a belligerent overperformer. And Dennis Prager, it may not be right, but to try to silence him, it just seems to me that we’re elevating the silly and the empty, that would be David Gregory, and the angry, like Keith Olbermann, over the thoughtful like Dennis Prager, Mark Steyn.
MS: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think Dennis is a serious thinker about these issues, whereas I think David Gregory…you used the right words, an overperformer. He is like a terrible ham actor, and he goes into these press conferences every day, and he looks on Tony Snow and the President as basically supporting players in the David Gregory show.
MS: And I don’t think it’s actually of any interest to most TV viewers, who couldn’t care less about David Gregory. I mean, I’m all for personality TV, but I don’t think he’s got a personality. And if he wants one, he should go…I’d be happy to develop a pilot remaking the Mary Tyler Moore show with David Gregory in the leading role. I think that might be a big winner. But I think simply as a means of exploring a useful way for the White House to get out its message to the world, a room with David Gregory and Helen Thomas, that daily Vaudeville is a complete waste of time.
HH: Now we’ve talked often about the difference between American newspapers and British newspapers, and why the latter are so much more fun. Does the same distinction hold true for television news?
MS: No, I think the trouble in Britain…I’m always slightly taken aback by it whenever I’m here, is that the TV news is overwhelmingly left of center. And you know, it’s actually even worse on the Continent. I mean, a European discussion, a panel discussing, say, the American politics, or the war in Iraq, will have an interviewer, and then it’ll have a panelist from the left, one from the far left, and one from the lunatic left. And that would be what European television would regard as a balanced panel. The debate, I think, is…you get the feeling, particularly at the BBC, where I think there is a real hostility among a segment of the British people that just feels its views are not represented on television, not part of the cultural discourse. And I think that’s a real difference. People may loathe a lot of aspects about the American media, and certainly the newspapers are very dull. But the power that the BBC exerts over British TV news, I think, is terribly unhealthy.
HH: Just this week, a senior British official came out and said that there is a high likelihood of a terrorist attack in this Christmas season. Does that seem to you to be on many people’s minds, since you’ve been in London? I don’t know how long you’ve been there.
MS: Well, I think you’re always aware of it here, in the sense that there are…the security is very evident in all kinds of areas. And they have a sort of slogan for terrorism now, you know. If you suspect it, report it. So you hear these sort of bus conductors, and these guards on suburban commuter trains just suddenly reading out, advising people to report anything suspicious. If you suspect it, report it, they say. They kind of sound like the sort of dark brown voice on a TV commercial. And there’s something very weird to have a kind of war on terrorism, that’s got a slogan. It’s just bizarre.
HH: Last question. The New York Times today, I think it was today, began to report on Sarkozy as a threat to all things good and decent, and Le Pen is an even greater threat. Does it matter who wins in France, Mark Steyn?
MS: I don’t think so, because I think, as we’ve already seen with Sarkozy, and with some of the modest changes Jacques Chirac and Dominique deVillipin tried to do, that the French people…you know, when they say Sarkozy is America’s Reagan, he can’t be America’s Reagan, because the French people are not at the stage the American people were at in 1979-1980, when they knew the whole Carter thing was just a disaster, and that they could not afford another second term. The French people are not in that mood yet, and I’m sad to say the Americans, with the sort of reverence and indeed the sales of Jimmy Carter’s disgusting new book, seem to have forgotten him, too.
HH: We may have gone back through the time tunnel. Mark Steyn, a pleasure. We’ll talk to you again next week. From London, the great one, Mark Steyn.
End of interview.