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Home | 2016

Sharing the risk

Posted by Thersites on UTC 2016-01-09 17:00. Updated on UTC 2016-01-10

Mark Steyn and solidarity

For a number of years now the columnist Mark Steyn has put forward a doctrine of solidarity among media outlets as a response to attacks on free speech. His most recent statement of this doctrine came in a moving article he wrote on the occasion of the first anniversary of the bloody attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

He quoted remarks he made in an interview on Fox News on the evening of the attack:

STEYN: Yes, they were very brave. This was the only publication that was willing to publish the Muhammad — the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2006 because they decided to stand by those Danish cartoonists. I'm proud to have written for the only Canadian magazine to publish those Muhammad cartoons. And it's because The New York Times didn't and because Le Monde in Paris didn't, and the London Times didn't and all the other great newspapers of the world didn't - only Charlie Hebdo and my magazine in Canada and a few others did. But they were forced to bear a burden that should have been more widely dispersed...

We will be retreating into a lot more self-censorship if the pansified Western media doesn't man up and decide to disburse the risk so they can't kill one small, little French satirical magazine. They've gotta kill all of us.

A year later, he now added:

Instead of sharing the risk, the bigfoot media behaved exactly as they had ten years earlier. At my old London home The Daily Telegraph some gutless pansies decided that their reporting on the story could only be accompanied by carefully blurred images of the late cartoonists' work in order to avoid giving offense - turning Mohammed into a perpetually pixelated prophet, as if (to reprise a gag I did in 2005) poor ol' Mo's entered the witness protection program.

There is no question of Steyn's personal bravery: he is not advocating that others bear risks that he himself hasn't done for more than a decade. He is one of the dwindling band of people prepared to put their heads above the parapet and say what they think.

There can also be no question of Steyn's insight. The truth of his doom-laden predictions, some made a long time ago, becomes clearer with every year that goes by. It is telling that his most repeated phrase is 'As I wrote in [year]'.

It is indeed sickening – shameful, in fact – to observe media outlets pixelating themselves to peace. But the idea of risk sharing and solidarity, though it makes a fine battlecry in times when we really need one, just doesn't work once it goes beyond the personal sphere.

A single cartoonist or writer, or a small group in a small office such as Charlie Hebdo can be brave and show solidarity with their colleagues. The contributors on this tiny wriggling worm of a blog would be ashamed were we to exercise self censorship – this is not bravery, it's what we expect of ourselves.

A media company with hundreds or thousands of employees cannot show bravery. A large number of their staff have nothing to do with editorial decisions: they get the advertising in, answer phones, clean the offices and run the accounts system. Jim and Julie work on the web design team; they leave the office together and take buses and trains back to their families. I won't list what could happen to them during that time, work it out yourself. It's very low tech.

The point is that once a company gets larger than a roomful of people it becomes irremediably vulnerable to anyone who cares to keep an eye on the office at the end of the day. The innocents who run the mail room or make the tea are the soft underbelly of every company. A group of employees goes out for a drink after work; others share a tram or a subway compartment. Outside the company there are the newsagents and kiosks which stock print media and the people who deliver it. No one has asked them whether they want to stand up bravely for free speech. They are all totally vulnerable.

And what happens after something happens? We'll see how brave the owners and the editors and the business managers and the columnists and cartoonists are when the lawyers, acting on behalf of the victims' loved ones, are finished with them and their duty of care.

In short: there is no point waiting for solidarity from the mainstream media. It will never arrive. They are possibly more scared of the lawyers than the terrorists.

Must we just accept this state of affairs?

No. The answer to terrorism is neither a security lockdown of normal life, nor a spineless appeasement, but a much more active prosecution of the fight against terrorists. There is no fourth way. Robust profiling has to replace the current 'everyone is equal and we are all in the same boat' mentality. We have to care about self-preservation, because, if we don't, we really are a society ready for the scrapheap of history.

Update 10.01.2016

The louder our governments shout about their dedication to fighting Islamist extremism, the readier they are to Islamise our own society. The sheer size of the Muslim population compels them to do so.

That is why exams in England are to be moved to accommodate Muslim pupils taking part in the Ramadan fast. And it is why the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, reacted to the first reports of women being molested in her city by advising them: 'It is always possible to keep a certain distance that is longer than an arm's length.'

Of course she has now been mocked so much that she has backtracked. But the point is that it was her first instinct, and what she really felt.

Radical multicultural types will in the end destroy the things they claim to like, because they don't understand that liberty and reasonable equality are features of stable, free, conservative societies based on Christian ideas, which guard their borders and are proud of their civilisation.

The people who really want to defend our enlightened society, in the end, are dinosaurs like me.

Peter Hitchins, Only strong borders and pride in our civilisation can save us now, The Mail on Sunday, 10 January 2016.

Quite.