Mark Steyn’s exhilarating new book, America Alone – The End of the World as We Know It, is currently riding high in the New York Times’s bestseller list, and is top of the charts too in his native Canada. We were very pleased when Mark took some time out to talk to us.
NCF: Mark, when can we expect to see the book published in Britain?
MS: We hope to have the British edition out sometimes next year. I don’t want it to be the same experience poor old Melanie Phillips had. She was rejected by twenty publishers who basically didn’t want a controversy. So I’m being a little bit more careful than I would usually about some of these overseas rights. I want the publishers to be committed to it.
NCF: What do you think will be the reaction to it in Europe?
MS: I’m gratified in a way by the reaction so far. I’ve had really an incredible number of inquiries about overseas English rights, I’ve got many about foreign language rights from European countries where I wouldn’t have thought it was the kind of message they wanted to hear. So it seems that in the fullness of time, any language you want to read it, it will be available in. And I’m also glad of the number of sales you’ve had here to people in Denmark, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands and Spain, because I agree with Melanie, that if European populations get serious, there’s no need for them to lose their countries. If they don’t get serious, if they don’t correct force in the very near future, then I think it will be too late.
NCF: Speaking from the frontline here, what do you think the people who agree with you have to do here? I know you’re not a politician as such but it looks as if the way you describe it, it looks to be an absolutely hopeless situation here.
MS: I think that if you look at it historically, Islam is able to live in a kind of manageable situation with other cultures but that, generally, depends on how confident those other cultures are. At the extreme left for example, the Soviets had very little trouble with radical Islam when they ran central Asia. The minute Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan became independent, all the Iranian and Saudi money moved in and radicalised the population within a very short period of time. And I don’t think that becoming as aggressive as the Soviet Union is really an option that most British subjects would want to consider. But likewise, British India also very effectively managed Islam for a long time. So I think in a sense that if it is made clear to people that there is absolutely no possibility of living under Sharia, that it is just an absurd thing, the demand for Sharia and what is effectively a sort of creeping sharia where bit by bit the host nation effectively assimilates the Islamic law, by which I mean all these little things, eliminating pork from school and hospital menus - I think if you resist all those then there’s a possibility. But I think the danger is, unless it is clear that this is going to be resisted by society as a whole, then you get the kind of three way split where some people will do as the Dutch are already doing, and just sell up and look for a one-way ticket to Australia or Canada, or wherever will take them, and in a sense that’s easy for the British to do because there are more English-speaking countries. In a sense if you’re asking somebody whether they want to fight a battle with not terribly favourable odds or whether they’d rather spend the last half of their life in Australia, I think a lot of people would actually take the Australian option.
So I think there is a danger there, and there is also a danger that at the other extreme people will, as long as the political class maintains its sort of ostrich-like posture, be drawn to the kind of neo-nationalist, neo-fascist end of things, which I think honestly is very unlikely to offer any kind of long-term solution. So the trouble you might have, in so far as people want to do anything about it, is you might have this sort of three way split, which only accelerates the decline of the native European population.
NCF: There seems to be very little talk and discussion about these issues here. There is a new Conservative leader but there seems to be a kind of convergence of political parties in Britain, and these issues have been cast beyond the pale in terms of political discussion.
MS: My view of David Cameron is that he is a total disaster. The big difference between Britain and the principal English-speaking countries is that Canada, Australia and the United States all have conservative leaders and Britain doesn’t. And those conservative leaders didn’t get elected to the highest office by taking the David Cameron route which is mainly about the fact that he is the first Tory leader to look cool in jeans and an open-neck shirt, and the fact that he has embraced Al Gore’s movie…
NCF: That’s right, he went to the Arctic.
MS: This is rubbish. By the time the effect of the melting ice flows and the rising sea levels kick in, there will be no Britain and so no one is going to remember David Cameron having saved the Maldives islands when the rising sea level consumed them – which is on present trends going to be around the year 2500. All they will remember him as, so far as they do, will be this conservative leader who did not identify the real pressing threats to Britain’s national interest, as opposed to this modish piffle.
So I think he’s making no useful contribution to this cause, and I think that’s actually very disturbing. The fact of the matter is that the snob right in Britain, the Max Hastings crowd, who denounce American adventurism in Iraq and all this, the Michael Moore conservatives as they are sometimes known over here, basically their argument - that George W. Bush is engaged in a hopeless task in Iraq, that Islam and democracy is completely incompatible - that’s not a problem for Iraq, that’s a problem for Britain, and Belgium and the Netherlands and Scandinavia. And to airily make that statement about Iraq and not to see its implications for your own country is almost unbelievably crass.
NCF: Do you think that the penny has dropped in America about the truth about the actual situation in Europe?
MS: Yes, I do think so. You know there’s a theory in the media that the so-called realists, the stability fetishists as I call them in the book, are back in favour at Washington. In essence their complacency helped get us into the mess really. But I think if you do believe in stability and containment, then Europe is a very sobering lesson, because it is changing with bewildering speed.
NCF: One thing that has changed. If there’s still a kind of avoidance of the Islamic threat, at least multiculturalism is being discussed in a way you couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.
MS: I think that’s right. I was in Australia a few weeks ago and while I was there the Prime Minister – and I was very impressed by this man, I was very glad at the opportunity to congratulate him on this – because I think it’s an absolutely marvellous initiative where, they had this big education conference, in which they advocated teaching Australian history as a heroic national narrative. And I think that if your country has basically been on the right side on most of big clashes, you should be able to teach your history as an heroic national narrative. Britain has certainly got a better claim to that than almost any other country on the planet. Obviously it has his warts but there’s a difference between doing the painting warts and all, and doing it with just the warts, which I think is what a lot of British history has dwindled down to. I’m not surprised when they capture these fellows from the west Midlands on the battlefield in Afghanistan because if you’ve gone into the average English school in Pixton or West Bromwich, or whatever, in the last twenty five years it’s hardly surprising they were not exactly imbued with the love of country. That is actually where it starts, it starts in kindergarten where you’re raised not explicitly to hate your country but you’re raised just with that sort of vapid nullity, where effectively the tie that binds you to your national story should be.
NCF: What do you say to the argument that follows on that that if the population of a country shows very few sign of wanting to preserve its way of life then it’s not worth preserving?
MS: I certainly think in an electronic age it’s easier to live in the present tense as opposed to being aware of the seven eighths of the iceberg which is your accumulated inheritance. I think that if obviously you’re living in a kind of pre-mass culture society - you’re living, say, in a remote part of northern New England in 1850 - you’ve got much more sense of your part in a long epic story. If you’re in the year 2006, the new James Bond movie and the new Britney Spears CD and all the rest of it loom a lot larger because it’s much easier to live in the present tense. That’s all the more reason why government - I don’t much believe in big government, I believe in small government - but one of the critical things that a government ought to be there for is, instead of doing all this modish David Cameron piffle, is to connect people with the bigger story.
I think Britain is a real tragedy. Britain has been the single greatest force for good in the modern era, exporting its language, its legal system and its broader culture to every corner of the planet. I cannot understand it why the people who most disdain the Britannic inheritance is the mother country itself, the metropolis. It’s absurd.
NCF: We’re talking here about the culture wars. It’s a cliché that the right might have won the economic debate but that the left were victorious in the culture wars. Do you think that that is showing signs of changing? Or do we have to literally wait, to use your demographic analysis, for a generation – the so called sixty-eighters, the people who are now running the place – to, if you like, die out?
MS: Yes, I do think there is a huge problem with that generation. I think it’s almost impossible to get any sense out of them and, as you said, there are the generation which runs the Western world, which in part explains why Western civilization seems to have lost its confidence. I think that in Britain’s case there’s a danger of really appalling tragedy of a country that’s been hollowed out from within. I said the other day rather grimly that I thought it was in danger of turning into Somalia with chip shops, that’s to say a sort of husk of a state into which dangerous, malevolent, opportunist forces basically move in.
I think the scale of the problem should have been clearer to MI5 and the other authorities a lot sooner. Even today, there are far too many people at the highest level of the British State who think that it is an IRA kind of problem, that it will mean that every so often a bus will be blown up, a train will be blown up and a couple of dozen people will die but, as with the IRA, it will be manageable. And it is not, it is something far darker, more ambitious, and potentially far more transformative and I don’t see the point of spending huge sums of money on MI5 and other agencies if they can’t even get something that basic. And I think at heart reconstructing a British identity is critical to that – but you have to know what it is. But I think it’s very difficult to have any sense of tradition if basically you indicate all the time that you’re willing to put everything up for grabs. If you go to an Island Parliament in the Caribbean, if you go the parliament in Grenada, they’ve got their miniature Hansard, they’ve got their mace, they’ve got their wigs, and that is the kind of thing that Tony Blair wanted to abolish from the House of Commons at Westminster. The difference is that in Grenada, and St Kitts and St Lucia, they understand that all that stuff is what connects them to peaceful constitutional evolution across the centuries, and in that sense it is the difference between them and Cuba or Haiti, or these basket case states. They understand it but Tony Blair and Gordon Brown don’t, and David Cameron doesn’t.
NCF: Looking across now to France, with the Presidential election coming up. The Muslim population is actually far greater than in Britain. The country seems to believe that because it opposed the Iraq war, they will not be attacked. How do you see the situation there developing?
MS: I think the continental countries have particular problems. The idea that Mr Sarkozy can be France’s Reagan, or that Angela Merkel can be Germany’s Thatcher, I’ve never given much credence to, because the reality is that the German or French population are not yet in the situation that the British and the American electorates were at the end of the 70s. In other words, they have not yet accepted that the old way is kaput, and I think that, as far as the Germans and the French are concerned, yes it’s true that a lot of them think that there are far too many Muslims in their cities and they are getting pretty sick of the crime and all that, but they haven’t yet realised that one of the reason why they are in these situation is because of the unaffordable social programmes, welfare entitlements, the cradle-to-grave welfare, the paid vacations, the controlled job market and all the rest of it that’s created this situation.
If you are going to have immigration, at least you should have immigration from multiple sources. Once your immigration becomes overly dependent on a particular source then there’s a cultural component to it, effectively it becomes a demographic transformation. If your immigrants are drawn in equally from the two hundred countries on the planet, there is no cultural component to that issue. Once they become overwhelmingly drawn from one particular self-segregating demographic, there very much is.
It would seem odd that, let’s say, Latin Americans don’t emigrate to catholic Europe. They would seem on the face of it to fit in relatively easily. But one reason they don’t do it is because Europe is much less attractive to a skilled immigrant because it has higher taxes – and the taxes are likely to spread higher – and you will be going there and basically paying to keep Jacques and Gerhardt in their dotage. If you’re a skilled emigrant from Latin America or India or China that’s not very appealing. So while these immigrants go to North America and to Australia, Europe is left to take what it can get and what it can get is mainly Muslims. You cannot tackle the Islamic issue in isolation from the broader problems in the continental countries.
NCF: What’s your view on the idea that the Muslims coming into these countries are in a sense the foot soldiers of a much wider desire for caliphate? This is one view, isn’t it?
MS: I agree with that, it is no great secret. Imams in Europe say it and so do Muslim leaders in the Middle East, Colonel Gaddhafi said it, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran more or less signed on to the thesis. Basically, it is very hard to have a kind of Gates of Vienna scenario when the guys are already inside the gates. And I think that is the reality that when you poll western Muslims, a large number of them, effectively share the same goals as the September 11th ‘heroes’ – they don’t want to fly planes into skyscrapers but they support the basic idea of a western world under Islamic law, and in America that is still a very long shot, but in Europe it edges closer every day. We know from the people who are being arrested that the so-called War on Terror is not being waged against some fellow in some kind of smelly cave in Afghanistan, it is being waged against the educated groups of the most westernized Muslims. They are the one who carried on the Sept. 11th – it was a Hamburg cell -, the tube bombers were British subjects, so was the shoe bomber, Zacarias Moussaoui is a French citizen… It is a problem in the main that arises from the increasing alienation of western Muslim the longer they spend in western societies. So, when people say, well, another generation or two and these guys will be fully assimilated – a Dutch candidate Minister said to me what made him change his mind was when he realised that these young Muslims in the Netherlands today are far more radicalised, far more alienated than their parents when they came in 1970s. It’s reverse assimilation.
NCF: There is this Arab saying you quote in your book, that ‘a falling camel attracts many knives’.
MS: That’s a proverb that I came across – A falling camel attracts many knives. I kind of reformulated Donald Rumsfeld’s marvellous aphorism, Weakness is a provocation. I greatly regret the defenestration of Rumsfeld after the mid-term elections, because he was one of the few people who understood that in effect it is the perception that the West is weak that attracts these assaults. In other words, the more you try to accommodate and appease, the more they simple move on to the next alleged grievance. I saw the President a couple of weeks ago in the Oval Office, and the subject of these grievances and whether it is Iraq or Israel came up, and he was sort of riffing on the theme, and he said ‘oh, no, before Iraq, it was Israel’ and he listed various other things and eventually he wound up at the end of his great long laundry list by saying: ‘If it is not the Crusades, it is the cartoons’. That’s such a marvellous slogan, someone should print it up as bumper sticker, because it encapsulates perfectly not only the kind of total lack of proportion, in that on the kind of scale of grievances a bunch of cartoons in a Danish newspaper nobody reads can loom as large as the Crusades a millennium ago, but also it captures their readiness to take offence at every little itsy-bitsy thing, and if you can see that, as soon as you’ve started one week observing things – the Burger King removing the chocolate ice cream top looked a bit like the Arabic for Allah – as soon as you’ve done one of those, something else comes up. Or the Muslims objecting to the sex shops selling ‘Mustapha shag.’ If I lived in England that would really be a sobering thing – I mean, I’m not a great patron of the Ann Summer’s sex shops, or whatever, but it does tell you in a rather severe way where you headed, it shows that the whole comedy of English life is simply not possible once a confident Islam reaches a certain proportion. You’ll loose all the Phew-what-a-scorcher, red-top culture that English people love so much. I mean, I like it in very small doses, but that whole thing is not going to be possible once you’re in a semi-islamicised society.
NCF: Many thanks for that, Mark.
SteyOnLine, Mark Steyn's website
More from The New Culture Forum:
Douglas Murray on Intimidation, Censorship and Islam: Holland's experience, Britain's warning?
Melanie Phillips on Londonistan