Friday, March 16, 2007

Johann Hari review of America Alone

Johann Hari, in his nearly interminable review of America Alone, criticizes Mark Steyn's supposed "gaping holes of logic and fact”. He knows something on that score: he brazenly asserts that Steyn predicts a European Muslim population of 200 million by 2020; in fact that prediction is Hari’s own manufactured straw-man of Steyn’s thesis.

He goes on (and on and on and on and on) to trot out the usual liberal debate-stopper: racism. But here Hari is faced with a problem. Unable to find any actual examples from the book, he resorts to psychoanalysis and innuendo. He writes that Steyn "… uses openly racialized language, albeit with a post-ironic smirk" (what's a "post-ironic smirk"? Comes after the pre-ironic and ironic smirks, I guess), then produces as evidence out-of-context quotes wherein Steyn was deriding previous generation’s explicitly racist alarums about the “Yellow peril”; or he has Steyn invoking “shades of Enoch Powell's untraceable ‘grinning picanninies’” -- needless to say, it’s quite a stretch.

In the book, Steyn predicted the “racism” attack and carried out a pre-emptive strike (now there’s a tactic sure to agitate liberals): it’s not about race, it’s about culture. Hari counters that “for [Steyn], culture is merely a thinly veiled homologue for race” and proceeds to roll out his “gotcha” quote --

[Steyn] writes: "Those who pooh-pooh the United States' comparatively robust demographics say they reflect nothing more than the fecundity of Hispanic immigration... In fact, white women in America still breed at a greater rate - 1.85 or so - than white women in Europe or Canada." So after saying it is "grotesque" to count out "white" babies, he does just that.

But hang on a second. Is Steyn really counting out white babies? A closer look reveals that he does no such thing. It is those who “pooh-pooh the United States' comparatively robust demographics” who are doing the counting. Their argument, not Steyn’s, is that America’s birth-rate is higher than Europe’s solely because of the Hispanic birth rate; it is they who separate American and European birth rates into white vs. non-white; Steyn merely refutes that thesis by pointing out that even adjusted for non-whites, America’s birth rate beats Europe’s.

Hari continues at great length (did I mention that the review is really, really long?) in this vein before finally allowing that Steyn is right in branding multiculturalism as an obstacle to fighting radical Islamism and in calling (“half-heartedly”) for Muslim women’s rights. Of course Hari won’t concede for a moment that Steyn, being a “religious follower”, might really believe in women’s rights, since he has failed to endorse abortion, which, to liberals, is the hallmark of authentic concern for women.

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