Why is the pop-pundit Mark Steyn so popular, in addition to his above-average writing and use of often genuinely funny witticisms?
Why is he — of all people — accepted as something of an authority on the conflict between Islam and the West?
Why do American (neo)conservatives worship him so?
Also, Glaivester has tackled Steyn, more specifically his vague, unspecific support for Iraq War. Again, I don’t have much to add.
What I will do, however, is to analyze why Steyn writes what he writes, and how do these things manage to make him popular and respected.
To do this, I will break up Steyn’s neoconservative agenda into three parts:
1) Support for imperialist wars to spread “freedom and democracy”.
2) Support for open borders and unlimited immigration, without account to what cultures are the ones immigrating to West
3) Opposition to birth control, contraception and family planning
First ought to be self-evident, and the true reasons for those wars are up for speculation.
Second and third — while being interlinked — I suspect, those on the left of Steyn and to the Right of him (respectively) may find odd. Isn’t Steyn anti-immigration? Obviously not (see Auster’s take on him), in fact, he fully endorses the myth that the immigration of non-Westerners is caused by low Western birthrates rather than being a political decision. Third may be hard (obviously, Steyn doesn’t oppose the family plan to have as many babies as possible) to those who themselves oppose these same things (I don’t, for the record), but it is rather evident, considering his focus on the failings on Western women in the demographic battle. It is also evident on Bush administration’s attack on these things.
So this is his agenda, in a nutshell, stripped out of its deceptively beautiful wrappings and word play.
Why does it work, then? What sentiments does Steyn appeal to, what are the things he “milks” to make himself a bestseller:
Again, three things:
1) Often legitimate fear created by Islamic terrorism and spread of Anti-Western Islamic values
2) American sense of superiority towards Europe
3) Concern toward birthrates
First, again, is very clear and requires no further explanation. Second point is clearly evidenced on the tone of his writings, and his doomsday predictions for Europe. I suspect many Americans feel Europeans as preachy, ungrateful and elitist (a perception fueled largely by the self-proclaimed upholders of European High Culture, the French. Can’t blame you there, guys). Quite frankly, his writings about Europe’s lack of civilizational confidence are little more than an intellectual version of the “surrender-monkeys” -meme, this time just toward the whole Europe.
Third, concern toward birthrates is deeply appealing on base level. Are we dying out? And lo and behold, he may be wrong even there.
Perhaps I have read too many feminist blogs, but I’m also quite certain that the last point appeals to longing towards simpler times when women gave birth to lot of babies and stayed home. Reproduction is a strong evolutionary drive, after all, and in the modern world, women are the ones who control it (which, IMO, is fair considering they get pregnant).
I don’t, however, think that it is racist or that Steyn is racist — as in white racism towards non-whites — (although it may appeal to racists and racialists). It takes too much intellectual acrobatics to construct Steyn as seeing everyone else (Chinese, African Christians, Hispanics, Northern Europeans) as “white” and just Muslims despite their color as “non-white” or “brown”.
Is this everything Steyn is and writes? Probably not. But it is my humble effort to dissect his motivations and the causes for his befuddling popularity.