Mark Steyn discussing Brendan O’Neill interviewing George Brandis

A bit convoluted, but here goes. Mark Steyn has an article, Medieval Moralists, in which he quotes from an interview with George Brandis conducted by Brendan O’Neill which may be found in a posting with the heading, Free Speech Now. This is the passage Steyn has taken from that Brandis interview with O’Neill:

Brandis says he’s been a fan of free speech for ages. He reminds me that in his maiden speech to the Senate, given 14 years ago when he was first elected as senator for Queensland, he let everyone know that ‘one of my most fundamental objectives would be to protect freedom of thought and expression’. He tells me he has long been agitated by ‘the cultural tyranny of political correctness’. But there were two recent, specific things that made him realise just what a mortal threat freedom of speech faces in the modern era and that he would have to dust down his Mill, reread his Voltaire, and up the ante in his war of words against, as he puts it, the transformation of the state into ‘the arbiter of what might be thought’. The first thing was the climate-change debate; and the second is what is known down here as The Andrew Bolt Case.

He describes the climate-change debate – or non-debate, or anti-debate, to be really pedantic but also accurate – as one of the ‘great catalysing moments’ in his views about the importance of free speech. He isn’t a climate-change denier; he says he was ‘on the side of those who believed in anthropogenic global warming and who believed something ought to be done about it’. But he has nonetheless found himself ‘really shocked by the sheer authoritarianism of those who would have excluded from the debate the point of view of people who were climate-change deniers’. He describes as ‘deplorable’ the way climate change has become a gospel truth that you deny or mock at your peril, ‘where one side [has] the orthodoxy on its side and delegitimises the views of those who disagree, rather than engaging with them intellectually and showing them why they are wrong’.

He describes how Penny Wong, the Labor Party senator for South Australia and minister for climate change in the Julia Gillard government, would ‘stand up in the Senate and say “The science is settled”. In other words, “I am not even going to engage in a debate with you”. It was ignorant, it was medieval, the approach of these true believers in climate change…’

The great irony to this new ‘habit of mind’, he says, is that the eco-correct think of themselves as enlightened and their critics as ‘throwbacks’, when actually ‘they themselves are the throwbacks, because they adopt this almost theological view, this cosmology that eliminates from consideration the possibility of an alternative opinion’. The moral straitjacketing of anyone who raises a critical peep about eco-orthodoxies is part of a growing ‘new secular public morality’, he says, ‘which seeks to impose its views on others, even at the cost of political censorship’.

And as for free speech being free, if you go to the article you can find a bit of first-person experience shared by Steyn in replying to some Canadian nong, Adam Stirling, who finds it a bit tedious to hear Steyn go on about free speech:

The only reason Master Stirling can read me in a Canadian national newspaper is because Maclean’s and I fought a long, hard public battle and won it! And we’ve got seven-figure legal bills to prove it! How funny is that?

And therein lies a tale, which Steyn’s article also discusses.

UPDATE: Here is Mark Steyn again discussing The slow death of free speech. It all needs to be read but here is a bit from the middle:

I’m opposed to the notion of official ideology — not just fascism, Communism and Baathism, but the fluffier ones, too, like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘climate change’ and ‘marriage equality’. Because the more topics you rule out of discussion — immigration, Islam, ‘gender fluidity’ — the more you delegitimise the political system. As your cynical political consultant sees it, a commitment to abolish Section 18C is more trouble than it’s worth: you’ll just spends weeks getting damned as cobwebbed racists seeking to impose a bigots’ charter when you could be moving the meter with swing voters by announcing a federal programmne of transgendered bathroom construction. But, beyond the shrunken horizons of spinmeisters, the inability to roll back something like 18C says something profound about where we’re headed: a world where real, primal, universal rights — like freedom of expression — come a distant second to the new tribalism of identity-group rights.

“A lot of these guys are basically shysters and crooks”

James Delingpole has a new book out, The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism: The Left’s Plan to Frighten Your Kids, Drive Up Energy Costs, and Hike Your Taxes!. He is being interviewed here by Ed Driscoll.

“I’m not a scientist and actually given what I’ve seen of scientists in my experiences following the global warming scam, I’m glad I’m not a scientist because a lot of these guys are basically shysters and crooks. They’re not some kind of white-coated elite with a special hotline to the truth. In fact, they’re just ordinary guys and girls trying to earn a living like the rest of us but slightly more dodgily than the rest of us in the one or two egregious cases.”

The left seems to have a system for achieving power by finding some element in every issue that is a giant step too far and then harping on it. No one is uninterested in “the environment” and everyone wants to preserve the planet whatever that might mean. But global warming is so inane and so lacking in evidence that it separates those who have common sense from some kind of herd of conformity. But it also absorbs almost all of the attention so that people who are not interested in seeing the Great Barrier Reef, let us say, ruined if it is in danger from some commercial proposal are still seen as outsiders to these crusaders for a green environment. Their extremism is the problem and their leaders are to an incredible extent in it for the money and political power it gives.

The solitary life meets longevity

This is such a depressing story, Hooray for sexual liberation! Now I can die lonely and poor. The central point:

I am a feminist, I really am (I’ve never let a man pay for anything), but feel the current generation of women in their 60s, the first to abandon the way of life of their mothers, which meant they pursued careers, married and had children late, had affairs then got divorced, all in the name of liberation, are now imprisoned in debt, alcohol abuse and loneliness, wishing they could die, and do it soon.

Long life only works if you are in the middle of a village-like family atmosphere. Old age has only terrors for those who must do it on their own.

[From FiveFeetofFury]

100-year collection of 85,000 historic films now on youtube

This is quite extraordinary if you are the sort of person for whom history is of interest. The above video of the Rolling Stones arriving in Sydney in 1965 is one example out of 85,000 news reels that are now on Youtube. This is the full story found in Variety under the heading, British Pathé Uploads Entire 85,000-Film Archive to YouTube in HD:

British Pathé, the U.K. newsreel archive company, has uploaded its entire 100-year collection of 85,000 historic films in high resolution to YouTube.

The collection, which spans 1896 to 1976, comprises some 3,500 hours of historical footage of major events, notable figures, fashion, travel, sports and culture. It includes extensive film from both World War I and World War II.

“Our hope is that everyone, everywhere who has a computer will see these films and enjoy them,” British Pathé GM Alastair White said in a statement. “This archive is a treasure trove unrivaled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that.”

Personalities captured in the newsreels include Princess Diana, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro, John Lennon, Salvador Dali, Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali and Charlie Chaplin. British Pathé already makes numerous clips available on its website free for personal use, and it licenses the archive to TV and film producers and other companies and organizations.

This is the link to the entire collection.

Without God, people can do as they please

china christianity

One of the most enlightening books I have ever come across was The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark. And at the very end of this book there is a quote from a Chinese scholar who had been part of an investigation into the causes of Western economic success. This is a direct quote of what this Chinese scholar had said:

One of the things we were asked to look at was the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West, all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.

I was reminded of this by an article in London’s The Telegraph with the self-explanatory heading, China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years. And while you may be sure the Chinese government has been keeping a watchful eye on where this might go, they have also not been attempting to stamp it out. And there are reasons for this, in keeping with that earlier study:

Some officials argue that religious groups can provide social services the government cannot, while simultaneously helping reverse a growing moral crisis in a land where cash, not Communism, has now become king.

They appear to agree with David Cameron, the British prime minister, who said last week that Christianity could help boost Britain’s “spiritual, physical and moral” state.

Ms Shi, Liushi’s preacher, who is careful to describe her church as “patriotic”, said: “We have two motivations: one is our gospel mission and the other is serving society. Christianity can also play a role in maintaining peace and stability in society. Without God, people can do as they please.”

In place of a moral order we now have political correctness and the pagan religion of Gaia and the environment. China, meanwhile, may become a Christian nation as we in the West depart from what may be the single most important part of the inheritance we have.

The land of missed opportunity

From two articles picked up at Instapundit. First this, the conclusion to an article titled, The United States of Envy:

Voters who will hear the Obama call for envy and redistribution should ask themselves and others: Would you prefer to live in an America where the market is dynamic and opportunity abounds, or in France, where unemployment is high and tax rates are crushing? Don’t you prefer opportunity to envy?

And then this from an article with the title, Growing-ups which is subtitled, “Living with your parents, single and with no clear career. Is this a failure to grow up or a whole new stage of life’?”:

The ‘selfish’ slur also ignores how idealistic and generous-hearted today’s emerging adults are. In the national Clark poll, 86 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed that: ‘It is important to me to have a career that does some good in the world.’ And it is not just an idealistic aspiration: they are, in fact, more likely to volunteer their time and energy for serving others than their parents did at the same age, according to national surveys by the US Higher Education Research Institute.

As for the claim that they never want to grow up, it’s true that entering the full range of adult responsibilities comes later than it did before, in terms of completing education and entering marriage and parenthood. Many emerging adults are ambivalent about adulthood and in no hurry to get there. In the national Clark poll, 35 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed with the statement: ‘If I could have my way, I would never become an adult.’

Read both articles but the second shows such a high proportion of bone-headed youths who are not interested in “dead-end” jobs that you really do have to wonder about not just how dynamic the US is and but how much of that opportunity there actually any longer is.

Income distribution, envy and investment

income distribution

Alan Meltzer has written an article he has titled, The United States of Envy about the distribution of income across the past century. Here’s his main point:

Taxing the rich to redistribute did not produce growth. On the contrary, growth reduced the share earned by the highest earners.

Rapid growth comes from investment in new and better productive assets taking place more rapidly than existing assets are eaten away by use and decay. More saving and less consumption is what is required and nothing else will do. But here’s the catch. If investment projects are actually going to create value and raise living standards, they will have to be chosen by individual entrepreneurs – not governments who know only how to squander. Therefore, these individual entrepreneurs, to the extent they are actually successful, become wealthy. There is no way to succeed at some entrepreneurial innovation without becoming wealthy, and there is no means to organise an economy that will encourage entrepreneurial innovation without offering wealth to those who succeed. Hence envy.

But the envy is not just at wealth. No one cares about the wealth of movie stars or sports stars. They are amongst the wealthiest people in every society. But they do things that people admire and wish they could do themselves and tend to be young or at least glamorous. People who run businesses, however, are old and boring, hardworking and stodgy. Numbers people who may hire but will also fire. They focus on costs and sell what they produce at a profit. Their value system, whatever charitable work they may do and philanthropy they may spread, is still essentially Protestant work ethic irrespective of their actual religious beliefs.

But suppose it is drive, intelligence, personal ambition, an eye for detail, a grand vision and other such characteristics that matter and make all the difference. These traits are unevenly distributed across every population and thus not everyone has them to the same extent. Some people are lazy, not very bright, unambitious, slothful and without ideas, any single one of which will keep you from excelling. Well whose fault is that and why should these people be made to suffer for it? Why should the unequal distribution, not of wealth and income but of personal characteristics, determine not just your financial position but actual status in life?

So when we talk about the distribution of income we are really talking about the distribution of personal characteristics, with a tremendous amount of resentment directed towards those who actually do succeed. But what social policy has now done is to finance the lazy, the less intelligent, the unambitious, slothful and those without ideas with just enough of the earth’s worldly goods to keep them alive. But it has also vastly undermined those who might have been more ambitious, more creative, more productive with the result that individuals in great numbers fall into the abyss of non-achievement. And once in such condition, there is almost no means to pull oneself upwards. And so the envy and with it the socialism of the modern day whose greatest enemy is commercial and financial success driven by the resentment of those who can do more than they can and who are far more likely to lead lives of integrity and self-fulfilment.

Just remember, they’re going to get old too

My own moment when I’m teaching about structural employment, I always use as an example the “typing pool” which has zero meaning to every student I teach. Even the words don’t quite fit themselves into a coherent phrase from which they can conjure up an actual productive activity. I actually tried to buy a cassette player not long ago and they are nowhere to be had, not even in an op shop. Time I threw out my cassettes, I guess, but they’ll only go after I first get rid of my records.

Picked up at Hot Air

A failed state to be

Picked up from Small Dead Animals with the following text:

Here’s a review on the HuffPo of the same. There’s little doubt that Jeff Daniels’ rant was written by a Leftist for a Leftist audience. However, if one were to look critically at what has destroyed so much in America – just read SDA for a week! – the blame mostly sits squarely with Leftists, their policies, and the institutions they’ve set up. Clearly they don’t see it that way but their reticence to admit failure – as has been observed recently with Obamacare – should not let them off the proverbial hook one iota.

A leftist trope, all right, with the stupidest line on why liberals don’t win any more when they no longer seem able to lose even as they drive the US into the ditch. I can hardly think of a single thing I admire about the US any more and there is nothing it does that makes me wish we did the same here. It is a failed society and seems to me to be doomed. It will soon be flanked, north AND south by countries which are richer and more at peace with themselves. How the US reclaims itself and returns to what it once so recently was I cannot even begin to imagine.

No guts, no spine, and no conviction

I stopped reading National Review ages ago for reasons I would be hard pressed to explain other than to say that aside from Mark Steyn and one or two others, it no longer represented my core beliefs. But this article, What’s Wrong with the Right, by Pam Geller, gets very close to stating what I think:

National Review Online took another gratuitous shot at me Thursday in an article defending Ayaan Hirsi Ali, saying: “Hirsi Ali is no Pamela Geller. On the contrary, for her whole life, Hirsi Ali has used anger as a catalyst to great good.” Is it necessary to smear me in order to defend Hirsi Ali? And this is not the first time that NRO has allowed insults and defamation against me and other freedom fighters to run unedited. I hardly know why. But I do know that NRO has no guts, no spine, and no conviction.

And while every word she writes is dead on the mark, this is particularly accurate and important:

Once again, the establishment right takes its marching orders from what the destroyers on the left dictate. The right consistently allows the left to destroy our most effective voices – Sarah Palin is a major example. Unequivocal voices like Palin’s are tarred and smeared, while the right instead offers up weak and meandering fools like John McCain – and stands by him even when he poses with al-Qaida leaders in Syria and insists that they’re “moderates” . . .

This is how the establishment right makes it bones: on the bones of the principled right. This is how the establishment right gets legitimacy: by pandering to the left and selling out the clear, uncompromised voices on the right. Instead of destroying our philosophical enemies in the war of individualism vs. statism, the establishment right trims its message, then trims it some more, desperately hoping to appease leftists and their media lapdogs.

Is it any wonder that we can’t win elections? McCain? Romney? We can’t win until we find our spine. NRO best represents the abject failure on the right.

I’m not with her about Mitt Romney but am with her about all of the rest. And she could not be more right about what she says. If you take a stand on the left you have comrades at every side. If you take a stand on the right, there are cowards who flee the field before even the first shot is fired.

The leadership on the right does not understand its own philosophy. They do not understand free markets, capitalism and individual rights. If they did, they would be more ferocious, fiercer and more courageous in the fight for freedom and equality of rights before the law against the second-handers, moochers, and looters on the left.

I am not into symbolism and suicidal grandstanding so I don’t always say what I wish I could. There are a few who do, but only a few, who are in positions to take up this fight, most of whom are in established positions associated with the media or have made particular issues their vocation. For anyone outside these kinds of precincts, the vulnerabilities are immense and the rewards non-existent.