Saturday, August 19, 2006


Journalist and author Antony Loewenstein attended the recent Big Ideas Forum hosted in Sydney by The Centre for Independent Studies. He summarised the event in a post at his blog titled Small minds unite – later slightly reworked and published by Crikey (no link available). Here's what Loewenstein had to say about Mark Steyn's presentation:
Steyn’s speech was peppered with jibes at Islam, Muslims and the West itself, but strangely devoid of any sense that he had actually spent time with any Muslims to form his prejudiced views. For him, Islam is the enemy within, a religion that is insidiously undermining Western “values” and must be challenged and stopped. Islam is the “ideology du jour”, he joked. Multiculturalism is “based on lies” and is a “suicide pact.” As he progressed, his so-called insights became more ludicrous but the aging audience lapped it up.

He lovingly recalled English imperialism and its attitude towards the natives. They at least realised that some cultures were superior to others, Steyn said. “Islam hates other cultures”, he offered, without a whiff of evidence for such a preposterous claim. Perhaps he should have added that some Jews hate Arabs, but of course, Jews are now the favoured people of the Right.

Steyn rambled on about the West destroying fascism and communism, “but it will be much more difficult to combat multiculturalism.” He then concluded his speech with this: “The Western blessings since 1945 must be maintained. The freedom’s we’ve enjoyed since then will not continue unless we fight for them.” His profound hatred of anything or anybody non-Western was revealed, and yet he wore this badge proudly. He had no problem with the West humiliating or exploiting other cultures for his pleasure because, after all, we all want to maintain our cosy lives since 1945.
Loewenstein has accuracy issues. "Based on lies," "suicide pact," "Islam hates other cultures" and “but it will be much more difficult to combat multiculturalism” do not appear in the CIS transcript. The "Western blessings since 1945" quote actually reads as follows:
We don’t understand that the world we’ve lived in since 1945 is very precious, very unusual, and very rare and is at odds with most of human history. And if we want our world to continue, if we want our children to grow up in the kind of society we’ve lived in this last half-century, then we have to understand the blessings we enjoy are not an accident. If we don’t value it, we won’t have it.
Loewenstein also gets it wrong in describing a question from the audience:
One question, from Sydney lawyer, commentator and Muslim Irfan Yusuf, asked Steyn how much he actually knew about Islam and whether he’d simply updated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, such was his belief in a Muslim conspiracy to take over the West and destroy it from within.
Here's the actual question:
G’day. Um, I’m Australian and I also happen to be Muslim, and I’m second and third generation Muslim, and I just wanted to ask Mark Steyn this: In the event that what you’re saying is correct about all the second and third generation Muslims, that they’re all involved in this huge conspiracy to destroy Australia from within, and in the event that these people need to be expelled from the country, who would carry that out given that our immigration policy is the public servant who enforces that, and that is a gentleman by the name of Abul Rizvi who is a second or third generation Muslim, and who’s gonna finance that given that one of our largest banks, the National Australia Bank, the CEO (sic) is a second or third generation Muslim. Is it really a problem of Muslims or is the problem the fact that really what you’re talking about is or should be written in a book form and named ‘The Protocols of the Learned Mullahs of Tehran’?
It was Steyn, in his answer, who mentioned The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

Journalist and author Loewenstein can't sit in the audience over a few hours, take notes and get it roughly correct. Jeez, just imagine the errors the guy would have made in speaking to lots of people over the course of several years spent researching My Israel Question. His next book is, by the way, about the problems of journalism. Hell, he could write a book about the problems with his "journalism".

Doesn't this reflect rather badly on Melbourne University Publishing?

Update: Last night while I was putting this post together I had a really big decision to make: should I continue typing or watch the footy on TV? The TV was on in the background and Port Adelaide was making a comeback so I decided to devote my full attention to the game. Well, son-of-a-bitch if Collingwood didn't pull out a last minute win, mostly due to a questionable mark and goal by Nathan Buckley. The mark was questionable because Buckley used his hands to get a boost off the shoulders of the Port Adelaide defender but Buckley being the big star that he is, the umpires didn't see it my way. Anyway, back to the Big Ideas Forum.

As mentioned above, Loewenstein has trouble accurately reflecting Steyn's presentation. Here's Loewenstein on Steyn:
He lovingly recalled English imperialism and its attitude towards the natives.
That's a rather simplistic misrepresentation of what Steyn actually said:
Two hundred years ago, in a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of Sati—that’s the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husband. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural. He said: ‘You say that it’s your custom to burn widows, very well. We also have a custom. When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their neck and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it my carpenters will build a gallows; you may follow your custom, then we will follow ours.’ As it happens, my wife’s uncle was named after General Napier which I guess makes me a British Imperialist by marriage. But India today is better off without Sati. And what’s so strange about the times we live in is that even to say that is to invite accusations of cultural supremacy. If you don’t agree that India is better off without Sati, if you think that’s just dead white-male-euro-centricism, fine, but I don’t think you really do believe that. Non-judgemental multiculturalism, cultural relativism, is an obvious fraud and I think it’s subliminally accepted on that basis.
Steyn's citing of cultural change forced by hanging is hardly a loving recollection. Perhaps Loewenstein subscribes to a non-interventionist policy that would see widows cremated alive with their dead husbands.

Back to Loewenstein:
Steyn’s speech was peppered with jibes at Islam, Muslims and the West itself, but strangely devoid of any sense that he had actually spent time with any Muslims to form his prejudiced views.
The word Islam appears in Steyn's presentation only twice with Muslim mentioned six times.

Here's a suggestion, read Loewenstein's post, compare what he wrote to what was actually said and then decide for yourself if the guy's a journalist, or nothing more than a partisan hack.

Update II: Loewenstein's accuracy problem is causing family strife.


Anonymous Theo said...

Thanks for the exmaple of Loewenstein's Strawman. He's a tool.

9:21 PM  

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