You'd think that if a mass murderer cited you and your ideas for helping to inspire one of the worst shooting rampages of the 21st century, you'd make every effort to condemn his actions, and try to explain why your ideas are better than that.
Not if you're Mark Steyn.
If you're Mark Steyn, you reload and go on the attack.
The paleoconservative polemicist, in this column in the National Review, says he resents "being fitted out for a supporting role" in last week's rampage in Norway carried out by Anders Behring Breivik. Steyn is mentioned approvingly in the gunman's 1,500-page manifesto entitled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence." It refers to the year Breivik (but almost no one else) believes Muslims will become a majority in Europe and a bloody racial war will be necessary to defend traditionally white society.
Hmmm, that sounds remarkably similar to the thesis of Steyn's book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. He argues that "Eurabia" is on the verge of being overrun by Muslim demographics, and the takeover is likely to be bloody. One reviewer in The Globe and Mail described it as "quite possibly the most crass and vulgar book about the West's relationship with the Islamic world I have ever encountered."
But this isn't a literary criticism. Let's examine what Steyn really thinks about Breivik's dreadful rampage.
Besides mention of him in the manifesto, what evidence does Steyn give for thinking he's been "fitted out" for blame? He links to this Globe and Mail story by Doug Saunders, but it makes no such claim. It merely cites the fact, in the 12th paragraph, that Breivik mentions several people by name: "His manifesto draws approvingly on the ideas of popular anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism writers and figureheads such as Geert Wilders, Bruce Bawer, Melanie Phillips, Theodore Dalrymple, and Canadian Mark Steyn in order to characterize Muslims as being united in an ideological conspiracy to impose a 'Eurabia' through 'demographic warfare' and dominate the population."
Steyn thickens his cover by adding several other names he found in Breivik's writings, like David Pipes, Churchill, Gandhi, Orwell, Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw. Then he makes this bizarre argument: "Any of us who write are obliged to weigh our words, and accept the consequences of them. But, when a Norwegian man is citing Locke and Burke as a prelude to gunning down dozens of Norwegian teenagers, he is lost in his own psychoses."
Wait a minute. Is Steyn saying that if anyone was stupid enough to believe a word he wrote in his book, and acted on it, that person must be psychotic? What a fine sense of responsibility. What a sophisticated weighing of words.
Then he seems to take issue with whether Breivik was even motivated by dislike of Muslims. He singles out the lead of a story he found in USA Today: " Islamophobia has reached a mass murder level in Norway as the confessed killer claims he sought to combat encroachment by Muslims into his country and Europe."
"So," Steyn writes, "if a blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavian kills dozens of other blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavians, that's now an 'Islamophobic' mass murder? As far as we know, not a single Muslim was among the victims."
He calls it Post 9/11 Syndrome: "Muslims are now the preferred victims even in a story in which they are entirely absent."
Absent from Steyn's comments, I must point out here, are any condemnation of Breivik, any sympathy for the victims, any understanding of the stigma Muslims have experienced for the last decade, or any iota of responsibility he feels for what he writes. As his reader, how does this make you feel?
"Free societies can survive the occasional Breivik," Steyn has the insensitivity to write. "If Norway responds to this as the Left appears to wish, by shriveling even further the bounds of public discourse, freedom will have a tougher time."
That is just ignorant. It ignores the steadfast and principled response of the Norwegian government, which has won praise and admiration around the world.
Full disclosure: Steyn and I have had our disagreements. I've told him I'm disappointed that he has chosen to use his considerable writing talent to such distorted and hateful ends, and he has told me to "Fuck off." He justifiably defended himself when I accused him of inventing a quotation from the Ayatollah Khomeini. I was wrong and he was correct. I apologized to him in my blog and I apologize for it again here. But his flimsy attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility for what happened in Norway is astounding.
Steyn often recycles his columns, using great swaths of his own words in different markets. He normally writes a column for Maclean's. I hope they don't have the bad taste next week to use any bit of what he wrote in the National Review.