Marked for Death

Mark Steyn is one of the greatest communicators in the world today. He can distil the absurdity of almost any situation into a cornucopia of politically incorrect truth. His writing is laugh-out-loud funny while capturing the essence of very serious situations. In person, his humour is infectious as is the seriousness of his message.

Steyn has been feted by conservatives across the world as one who dares to take on the establishment left and is prepared to slaughter a few of their sacred cows. The Howard Government even financially supported a speaking visit to Australia where he addressed a packed house of politicians, public and political staffers.

He has enjoyed meetings with leaders, prime ministers and presidents across the globe.

Steyn has also been an unapologetic critic of Islam and what it is doing to his native Canada. He has been prosecuted through the courts for hate speech and emerged out the other side, bloodied but not beaten.

He was recently asked to write the foreword for Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ new book Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me – an offer he accepted with some hesitation.

He contemplated that “as someone who’s attracted more than enough homicidal attention over the years … sharing space in these pages was likely to lead to an uptick in my own death threats. Who needs it?”

There is no doubt that Wilders is a polarising figure. His own views on Islam and what it is doing to his country have been labelled inflammatory, divisive, extreme and racist. Mostly these labels are attached by people who haven’t even bothered to consider the accuracy of Wilders’ statements or the context in which they have been made. Interestingly, many of them have been made by the same people who consider Mark Steyn a cultural genius and doyen of conservative wisdom.

I always thought it was the realm of the uninformed to decry that of which they have limited, if any, knowledge. That certainly seems the case with many of Wilders’ critics who have sought to demonise him as some sort of extreme lunatic, refusing to even acknowledge the high level of mainstream public support he commands in the Netherlands.

I should know, as I was on the end of their hysterical vitriol simply for bothering to meet with him.

Steyn sums it up nicely in his foreword:

“Yet it’s not enough to denormalize the man [Wilders] himself, you also have to make an example of those who decide to find out what he’s like for themselves. The South Australian senator Cory Bernardi met Mr. Wilders on a trip to the Netherlands and came home to headlines like “Senator Under Fire For Ties To Wilders” (The Sydney Morning Herald) and “Calls For Cory Bernardi’s Scalp Over Geert Wilders” (The Australian). Members not only of the opposing party but even of his own called for Senator Bernardi to be fired from his post as parliamentary secretary to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. And why stop there? A government spokesman “declined to say if he believed Mr Abbott should have Senator Bernardi expelled from the Liberal Party.” If only Bernardi had shot the breeze with more respectable figures — Hugo Chávez, say, or a spokesperson for Hamas. I’m pleased to report that, while sharing a platform with me in Adelaide some months later, Bernardi declared that, as a freeborn citizen, he wasn’t going to be told who he’s allowed to meet with.”

It would be a safe bet to assume that many of the critics Steyn speaks of have never bothered to look past the mostly slanted media reporting of Wilders’ concerns. As such, they most likely have no understanding of the veracity or otherwise of his comments.

More importantly, in this upside down world of political correctness, many champions of free speech celebrate people like Mark Steyn for lampooning the left, yet condemn Wilders for daring to speak up in defence of freedom and against anti-Semitism, gay hate and totalitarianism.

A similar case can be made for another Dutch politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She too has been marked for death for speaking out about the dangers of Islam. Yet rather than being condemned, she is celebrated as being strong and independent.

Her books, like Steyn’s, are lauded through many literary circles and have achieved best seller status. Frankly, they deserve to. They are interesting and thought-provoking. Both authors have been invited to Australia to discuss their contents. 

Irrespective of the merits or otherwise of his book, I can’t imagine that Wilders will be asked to do the same.

As someone who genuinely celebrates the battle of ideas and the virtue of free speech, I cannot help but wonder why some who profess to share similar ideals are prepared to demonstrate such double standards.

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