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Mark Steyn on Canadian harrassment, Scottish haggis, and pardoning Keith Richards

Thursday, January 24, 2008
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HH: We begin as we do those Thursdays when we are lucky with Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn. Mark, I bring you news that the Italian government has fallen.

MS: Oh, really?

HH: Yes (laughing).

MS: I’m…I don’t know what to say about that. I used to be more au fait with the ins and outs of Italian governments, when they came and fell every two or three weeks. And now, they’re sufficiently stable to last a year or two. I’ve kind of taken my eye off the ball.

HH: (laughing) So have I. This one has been around since April of 2006, which may be a record for a lefty Italian government, I think.

MS: Yeah, yeah.

HH: Well, I was reading Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Sunburned Country, and he says that Australian politics are the most vicious in the world in terms of the debate that goes on within the Parliament. Do you agree with that?

MS: I think so. I think they’re so splendidly magnificently robust. When I was there, I went into the chamber during question time, Prime Minister’s question time, and the Prime Minister let the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, answer a couple of questions. And the then-leader of the opposition said, asked a question about Iraq. And Foreign Minister Downer just thwackted back at him, saying that this was the politics of surrender and appeasement, and that Australians would never march under that shabby banner.

HH: (laughing)

MS: And I was told afterwards that he put a particular spin on it, because he was seeing me afterwards, and he knew I’d appreciate the line. But whether that’s true or not, I left there thinking I wish, I would just love to see Condi Rice slap down Nancy Pelosi like that, and you never do. I love a lot of things about this country, but if you ever go into the Senate and watch some drone like John Kerry giving a speech, you really pine for the give and take of the Australian Parliament.

HH: Speaking of splendidly magnificently robust, Dennis Kucinich has bowed out of the presidential campaign, a loss for us all, I think.

MS: (laughing) Yes, I do think it’s a loss for us all. I liked the way his office in Manchester, New Hampshire, which I was walking past the other day, and his big thing, Strength Through Peace, and it’s like a magnificently robust, again, but meaningless, entirely, this time, entirely meaningless slogan.

HH: (laughing)

MS: And I love the way, I think it’s unfortunate, I mean, I know people like him and everything, but he does, in a sense, look like what you expect a sort of nebbish peacenik to look like.

HH: Agreed.

MS: And I will miss him for that reason. He looks the part.

HH: Give us an update on your travails with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Mark Steyn.

MS: Well, you know, this is, of course, immensely dreary from my point of view. I’m kind of modestly encouraged by the fact that almost all the commentary has been pro-Steyn. Or not exactly pro-Steyn, but they’ve tended to take the line, well, Mark Steyn may be an appalling, misguided, idiotic, racist buffoon. But on the hand, we still believe in free speech. And I think the plaintiffs have actually been a little rattled at the overwhelming support, and in fact, opposition, to the case they’re bringing. And they’ve been reduced, they keep changing their argument. Their argument now is that my insult of the Human Rights Commission process, I don’t believe that any court in Canada should have the right to decide whether any Canadians, whether free-born Canadian citizens are entitled to read my column. I was asked whether I wanted to get off the hook, and I said no. I wanted to take the hook and shove it up the collective butt of the Canadian thought police. And I was, and this was perhaps excessively magnificently robust.

HH: (laughing)

MS: But it was widely quoted in The Economist, and around the world, in fact, and The Australian. And so I’m obliged to stick by it now, and I mean it. And so the plaintiffs have taken the new line, that Mark Steyn’s attack on the Canadian Human Rights Commission is in fact an attack on all Canadians. So they’re defense is evolving in interesting ways.

HH: Oh, it is splendidly magnificently robust, and I hope you play the line out like tuna fishing or something, that they get the hook in and they swim against the current for a few hours.

MS: (laughing)

HH: Oh, they should be cutting the line as quickly as they can at this point.

MS: Yeah, I think they would like to. I’ve…I don’t normally pester government officials, but I wrote to the minister of justice a couple of days ago, and he seems in no hurry to respond to me, so I think the government recognizes that to a certain extent, this is something that the Human Right Commission’s not going to come well out of it, and quite rightly so. The lamps are going out on liberty all over the free world, and Americans should understand and value their 1st Amendment. And they should be very concerned that the free expression is not quite so easy, never mind in Europe, but even just north of the 48th parallel.

HH: You know, there’s a serious side to this, Mark, which is of course, they’re trying to silence you. Would there be a proceeding which would be televised? Will you be in the dock because…you know, I don’t want anyone shouting j’accuse at you, but I think that they are not equally matched. And the more attention that comes to this, the plaintiffs and the Commission are going to end up the laughing stocks of the world, and rightfully contemptible in the eyes of civilized people.

MS: Yes, I think so. I mean, I don’t…I’ve no delusion…I’m a big, nasty right wing hatemonger, and I take that for granted, so I understand I’m not a sympathetic witness. I think of Oscar Levant’s comment on why the autobiography, the biographical movie about George Gershwin had failed, and Oscar Levant said well, I played an unsympathetic part myself. And I’ll be playing an unsympathetic part myself, but I think the thing is here that their arguments are so weak. They complained, you remember that novel we talked about on this show a couple of years ago, Robert Ferrigno’s Prayers For The Assassin.

HH: Yes, I’m going to have him on soon with his sequel, another fine book.

MS: Yeah, exactly. But they complained about me mentioning plot twists of that book. You remember the Super Bowl, where it’s the all-male cheerleading team.

HH: Yup.

MS: And part of their official complaint to the Human Rights Commission is that Steyn says there will be all-male cheerleaders at the Super Bowl. Well, every left wing novelist on the planet should be extremely disturbed that you can take the plot twists of novels and make them actionable in pseudo-courts. Every left wing novelist should be on my side over this. Unfortunately, they won’t be, because they’re left wing novelists. But if they had any kind of insight as to where this is going to lead, they would be on my side.

HH: Has Rushdie been heard from yet?

MS: (laughing) Well, I would like…well you know, Margaret Atwood…

HH: Yes.

MS: …that wrote a novel about America living under a Christian theocracy…

HH: Yes.

MS: Well, any Christian could take her to a Canadian Human Rights Commission for the plot of that novel.

HH: You’re right.

MS: She should be first in line there.

HH: We’re going to have to do an entire hour or more on this, so that people understand. When’s the date? Is there a date on this that it comes to a head, Mark?

MS: Yeah, the first scheduled court date, or pseudo court date as I say, is June the 3rd in British Columbia. I think I’m due to give a speech a couple of days beforehand, and that will be the equivalent of my Barbra Streisand farewell tour type speech, because it may well be the final speech I give in Canada.

HH: I need to find someone who will send me up there to live blog it like you live blogged the trial in Chicago, because I think that’s going to be an extraordinary proceeding.

MS: Well, I think I might live blog my own trial.

HH: (laughing)

MS: I think that might be a media first.

HH: Oh, it’s funny, but it’s serious. It’s just ridiculous what these people are doing.

MS: Oh, no, and it actually is serious. I mean, I’m having a laugh with it, and I’m having fun with it, but there’s lots of people all over the world…you know, some guy in Afghanistan has just been sentenced to death for something he wrote. And that’s a terrible thing.

HH: Yup.

MS: It’s a terrible thing. But what’s terrible is not…in his case, the punishment is terrible and absolute. But the first thing that’s wrong is when you put people on trial for essentially expressing opinions and expressing their right to freedom of expression. And once you do that, then the punishment is a matter of degree.

HH: All right, I’ve got to get to a couple of very important subjects, Mark. We’ll revisit this. Scotland wants the United States to return to allowing them to import haggis here. What say you?

MS: Yes, I think I am a believer in federalism, and I think the federalization of food under the United States Department of Agriculture is disgusting. I’ve eaten what they call haggis at certain county fairs and things around here. It’s not haggis. I think Americans are man enough to be able to take their own chances, and eat real haggis. I also, I should say, you know, I take very strongly the prohibitions on cheese here. I occasionally smuggle in unpasteurized cheese across the border from Quebec.

HH: Uh-oh.

MS: I usually hide it under the dirty nuke, and that way, no one at the border spots it. But I do believe the federalization of food has destroyed the taste of an awful lot of American food.

HH: And a last comment. Mike Huckabee pardoned Keith Richards when he was governor. Will this come back to haunt him?

MS: (laughing) I really don’t know, I really don’t know what to say about that. I would have been more alarmed if he’d pardoned Englebert Humperdinck. But I guess every candidate has something going for him.

HH: (laughing) Mark Steyn, always a pleasure. www.steynonline.com, America. … Mark Steyn…oh, whatever pills he takes, I want some of them.

End of interview.

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