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Mark Steyn on when a bow’s a bow, and when a lie’s a lie

Friday, April 10, 2009

HH: As we are lucky, it’s a Thursday, we’ve got Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read everything Mark writes at And in anticipation of the weekend, Mark, a Happy Easter to you and yours.

MS: Yeah, Happy Easter to you, too, Hugh.

HH: A number of stories, but I want to start on the tech stuff. Today it came that Facebook has 200 million members, and that Twitter traffic in the United States is up 1,000% in a year. Are you a Twitterer yet, Mark Steyn?

MS: I’m not Twittering or tweeting yet. My friend, Rob Long, has a history, a Twitter history of the world in the current issue of National Review. And it’s very funny reading about everything from the fall of the dinosaurs all the way up to the Second World War and the Kennedy assassination as it would have been Twittered. So I’m…in 140 characters or less. I’m not sure I’m ready to go to 140 characters. I think I might rather, I’d find it easier to write a poem, I think.

HH: I’d like to see you do the Twitter history of Broadway. You could do every musical theatre thing ever in that. But every time I come on each week, the people listening at #hhrs, the dufflepuds and the tribbles all ask me to urge you to start tweeting, so I have officially done so. Now let’s move on to what do you make of 200 million users of Facebook?

MS: Well, I think this is the community now. In a sense, we have communities of interest rather than communities that are constrained by geography or your work patterns or whatever. And these are, in a sense, the core web of relationships in people’s lives. That changes the way a lot of things happen. It changes it for good, it changes it for bad. For example, if you’re a disaffected young Muslim man sitting in some public housing project in Europe, it enables you to keep in touch with all kinds of murky characters who might one day ask you to do a favor that will be highly inimical to the country of which you hold nominal citizenship. The jihad is just one of the kind of many malign examples that uses technology to very good effect.

HH: I am reading the report on the terror plot busted up yesterday by MI5 after it was unfortunately leaked by Bob Quick, the assistant police chief over there. And they had, it seems, though, to have passed by unnoticed in the United States that they had a dozen jihadis from Pakistan apparently planning something for this weekend, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yes, and the reality is that every terrorist plot is a joke until it goes off successfully. You know, when you consider the stories that we read about the 9/11 guys afterwards, that they’d been in a lap dancing club a couple of nights before, and the girls had complained that they were lousy tippers, you can imagine if they’d been arrested on September 10th, and all we’d had to go on would just be the lousy tippers in the lap dancing club. They would have seemed like a joke, and people would have been saying well, why are you making such a fuss about this? Bush is just whipping up a lot of fear for nothing about this. Every terrorist is a joke until he succeeds in blowing something up. And that’s why we pay no attention, and that’s why we will pay no attention until the next terrible murderous atrocity happens.

HH: I mean, speaking of jokes, I have linked over at a post by Exurban League titled Obama Reaches Out To Moderate Pirate Community. And sadly, I’m afraid he might after this week, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yeah, well, that is an excellent joke. I remember Colin Powell just after September 11th, when he was a bit concerned about Bush being quite so absolute about the unpleasantness of the Taliban, and he said on Meet The Press, I think it was, well, we’re very interested in reaching out and working with moderate Taliban. And then Bush switched to just referring to people as evil-doers, and I was expecting any moment Colin Powell to announce that he was looking forward to reaching out and working with moderate evil-doers. And that seems pretty much to have come to pass in the Obama way of looking at things. He does give the impression of being interested in working with moderate evil-doers.

HH: Moderate pirates…let’s talk about the bow. We talked about this a week ago, and then it went away. And then yesterday, the White House came out and denied that the President bowed to the Saudi king. Now I’ve watched that twenty, thirty times. If that’s not a bow, then this isn’t a radio show.

MS: No, it was a bow, and it was a bow at the waist. And the White House explanation that King Abdullah is shorter than the President, and the President had decided to shake hands with both hands, and so had reached down to take the hand of this shorter man is absurd, because it’s on video. The Queen is shorter, Queen Elizabeth is shorter than King Abdullah. And when he shook her hand, he didn’t bow at the waist and fold up like a Playboy centerfold who’s suddenly feeling the staple. This is completely ridiculous. And you know, there’s something pathetic about this. For whatever reason, the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media have decided that the bow did not take place. They’re not covering the story. The girlie men of the U.S. media have decided to do the bidding of the White House on this. But with this appalling statement that they issued, the White House is basically daring the citizenry who are you going to believe, us or your own lying eyes. And they’re asking us to be complicit in a lie. He bowed. None of us know why the President of the United States bowed before the Saudi Arabian dictator. But for the White House to then come up with a completely fatuous explanation and demand that the people of the United States sign onto it makes this episode not just weird and creepy, but now just deeply unpleasant.

HH: Let’s also move to another weird, creepy and deeply unpleasant episode. Rick Sanchez on CNN, you are now among the legion of talk show hosts, Mark Steyn, because you fill in so ably for Rush, and I really enjoy listening to you when you do that. And so you’re in the group that Rick Sanchez yesterday singled out as being responsible for the cold-blooded murder of three honorable, tremendous public servants in Pittsburgh, saying that this gunman had been watching Fox News and listening to right wing talk radio, no doubt. I’m paraphrasing Rick Sanchez here, but I heard Mike Gallagher play it this morning. I’m astonished that that went out over the air, and that Rick Sanchez is still broadcasting. By the way, I am told, I’m not sure it’s true, that Rick Sanchez has actually killed somebody, that he had a DUI and killed somebody in a tragic accident of the sort we had here in Anaheim last night in California. What do you make of such sort of hallucinatory accusations?

MS: Well, I think it is part of a conscious effort to discredit opposition. The point about people who get a gun, kill policemen, or as the case in Binghamton, go into a government office and kill a bunch of people, the minute you read anything about them, they are weird, they are deeply disturbed, they are not typical of anything. That is one reason why they’re mass murderers, in a way. They’re not typical of anybody. And this idea that somehow millions and millions of people can listen to you, and can listen to all the other talk radio hosts around the country without going and feeling the urge to gun down people, somehow that’s all got to be discounted, and because of one person, one person, the whole thing is discredited. You can make the same argument with the Unabomber. The Unabomber had Al Gore’s book in his cabin heavily annotated. There’s far more explicit connection between Al Gore’s book and the Unabomber than there is between talk radio and this guy in Pittsburgh.

HH: I also want to switch to a very serious thing. It’s going to be complicated, I’m going to be covering it a lot, which is the F-22 and the defense budget. Now I spent a lot of time yesterday talking about this. The F-22 is the backbone of our nation’s air superiority. And the first Obama budget declares we’re done. Four more and we’re done. What do you make of this, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, it’s very odd to me. Don Rumsfeld was a serious Pentagon reformer. And he realized that it’s incredibly difficult to do. Rumsfeld said to me once a couple of years back that the problem with the defense budget is that Congress always gives you money for things you don’t want to do, and won’t give you money for things you do want to do. So I understand that trying to reform and retune the military for the decades that lie ahead is a difficult thing to do. And if the administration was seriously engaged in that, I think that would be an exercise worth doing. This seems, this doesn’t seem to be like that. This seems to be just the fact that they’ve decided that they have their priorities, and their priorities do not include the United States military, and therefore, the military budget is going to be the one where insofar as there are any savings in this profligate administration, it’s going to be at the military they fall.

HH: 30 seconds, Mark Steyn, also in the New York Times today, Obama to push immigration bill as one priority. I’m not surprised by this. Are you?

MS: No, I think one of the things that I think one can respect about this man just in naked political terms is that he’s basically decided yes, he is going to be a radical president, and he’s going to move ahead and do it very fast. And that’s one thing, as I said, I do respect about the Democrats is that when they get power, they use it and they use it very fast. And Republicans tend not to do that.

HH: Mark Steyn of, thank you so much.

End of interview.

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