Ed Driscoll

Better Dead Than Rude

Mark Steyn unloads a corker on the pitfalls of multiculturalism in The Australian:

The Age’s editor Andrew Jaspan still lives in another world. You’ll recall that it was Jaspan who objected to the energy and conviction of certain freed Australian hostage, at least when it comes to disrespecting their captors: “I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood’s use of the ‘arsehole’ word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through … As I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.”

And heaven forbid we’re insensitive about terrorists. True, a blindfolded Wood had to listen to his jailers murder two of his colleagues a few inches away, but how boorish would one have to be to hold that against one’s captors? A few months after 9/11, National Review’s John Derbyshire dusted off the old Cold War mantra “Better dead than red” and modified it to mock the squeamishness of politically correct warfare: “Better dead than rude”. But even he would be surprised to see it taken up quite so literally by Andrew Jaspan.

Usually it’s the hostage who gets Stockholm Syndrome, but the newly liberated Wood must occasionally reflect that in this instance the entire culture seems to have caught a dose. And, in a sense, we have: multiculturalism is a kind of societal Stockholm Syndrome. Atta’s meetings with Bryant are emblematic: He wasn’t a genius, a master of disguise in deep cover; indeed, he was barely covered at all, he was the Leslie Nielsen of terrorist masterminds – but the more he stuck out, the more Bryant was trained not to notice, or to put it all down to his vibrant cultural tradition.

That’s the great thing about multiculturalism: it doesn’t involve knowing anything about other cultures – like, say, the capital of Bhutan or the principal exports of Malaysia, the sort of stuff the old imperialist wallahs used to be well up on. Instead, it just involves feeling warm and fluffy, making bliss out of ignorance. And one notices a subtle evolution in multicultural pieties since the Islamists came along. It was most explicitly addressed by the eminent British lawyer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, who thought that it was too easy to disparage “Islamic fundamentalists”. “We as western liberals too often are fundamentalist ourselves. We don’t look at our own fundamentalisms.”

And what exactly would those western liberal fundamentalisms be? “One of the things that we are too ready to insist upon is that we are the tolerant people and that the intolerance is something that belongs to other countries like Islam. And I’m not sure that’s true.”

Hmm. Kennedy appears to be arguing that our tolerance of our own tolerance is making us intolerant of other people’s intolerance, which is intolerable. Thus the lop-sided valse macabre of our times: the more the Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily round the room. I would like to think that the newly fortified Age columnists are representative of the culture’s mood, but, if I had to bet, I’d put my money on Kennedy: anyone can be tolerant of the tolerant, but tolerance of intolerance gives an even more intense frisson of pleasure to the multiculti masochists. Australia’s old cultural cringe had a certain market rationality; the new multicultural cringe is pure nihilism.

Needless to say, read the rest.

Update (1/15/06): The above link to Steyn’s article in The Australian has expired, but full text available here.