Thursday, May 08, 2008

Yesterday in Steyn

Attended last night's interview and book signing at the Manulife Indigo and thought I'd relay a couple of observations as they relate to the Steyn-in-Toronto phenomenon thus far:

The moment at which I realized the interview between Heather Reisman and Mark Steyn was going to be, shall we say, an odd one, occurred within the first twenty seconds of the event. Ms. Reisman's opening palaver ran something like this:
Can we, for a moment, set aside the discussion of your book and the various controversies that you are involved in to talk about the Democratic Nomination Race? It is, I think you'll agree, one of the most exciting times ever in the United States, indeed in the whole history of the world, and I was just wondering how much you, Mark Steyn, admire the two candidates?
This is to exaggerate very, very little. A palpably uneasy feeling ran through the audience at this point: does this woman have any idea who she's talking to?

Well, suffice it to say that she very clearly didn't, as the talk went on and on pretty much in that vein--resulting in one of the more unintentionally funny interviews I've ever seen (if extremely annoying given that I came more for what was intended). When Mr. Steyn was given the opportunity to speak--between the rambling, paper cut-out insights delivered semi-intelligibly by Ms. Reisman in her best approximation of Oprah Winfrey--he was engaging and enlightening. But the event would've been far more accurately described (at least for the first forty minutes) as an interview between Heather Reisman and herself, with Mark Steyn standing-in in a kind of Ed McMahon capacity.

Kathy Shaidle sums it up fairly handily thus: "[Heather Reisman]. Does. Not. Get. It."

No she doesn't. But I thought this extraordinary demonstration of just how much people like Heather Reisman don't get it extremely instructive. The thing to be taken from this--and the thing to be taken from the outstandingly moderated debate between Steyn and the Osgoode 3 on Tuesday night--is not that the bog-standard of left-liberals disagree with the arguments put forward by such as Mark Steyn, but that they don't understand them at the most basic level.

How else to explain Ms. Reisman's--not disgust, not principled disagreement--but utter mystification at Steyn's suggestion that the EU be dissolved? Pace Seraphic Single, Ms. Reisman's wasn't outrage at the suggestion, it was complete incomprehension.

This will, of course, strike some people as depressing--it certainly did me at first--but I think there is something to be hoped for from it too. I doubt I'm the only person thinking that the shining light from Tuesday night's Agenda was not Mark Steyn, but Steve Paikin. Now, Mr. Paikin, as I understand it, is not a conservative in any sense of the term, but he is that very rare breed (amongst liberals, and even conservatives): a man of discernment. Put the wounded feelings of such as the Osgoode 3 (whose ignorance--like Ms. Reisman's--might better be described as bewilderment) next their source in the cold, hard selection of facts presented by Mark Steyn, and somebody like Mr. Paikin is going to see the imbalance and make it clear to his audience.

Which he did!

Which is to say, it would appear that conservatives still have more to have faith in in the quality of their arguments than they do in the meagre consolations offered by partisanship. And the more people hear the likes of the Osgoode 3 and Heather Reisman broadcast their basic ignorance of the rules of reasonable debate the better. For it is not conviction that we are battling here, so much as it is mere vacancy. And so long as there are Steve Paikins in the world, the imbalance between rational and non-rational argument (as distinct from irrational argument) will be evident.

So, really, it is the dearth of Steve Paikins about that should be the focus of our concern. To wit:

Shortly after Mark Steyn's appearance at Indigo, the CBC broadcast its interview between him and George Stromboul- opoulos on The Hour.

It seems to me that the most that can be said about that exchange is: 1) that Strombo managed to read as far as page 5 of America Alone; 2) that he is very very concerned that Steyn's criticisms of mass immigration "make it sound like a bad thing." God forbid that little George recognize that immigration, of itself, is a totally indifferent thing until it is made (by the participants) either "bad" or "good". And 3) failing his capacity to formulate and deliver a clear and coherent question in the form of a grammatical sentence, he was only too willing to let Mark Steyn bail him out of his blitherings, only to then smirk back perfunctory insinuations that his guest was just one of those dubious and scary right- wingers.

Canada's preoccupation with diversity, it would appear, stretches far beyond the categories of race, culture and creed. Apparently idiots should be given equal preference with competents for t.v. hosting jobs too.

But plod on, oh nation of mine. Plod on. I am, for the first time in a long time, full of hope.

UPDATE (May 9th): Got a bit of a ticking-off here, which I accept. But the point wasn't so much to give Ms. Reisman a hard time, as it was to point out that default left-liberals aren't, strictly speaking, what they appear to be. But yes, touché.