I first came across Mark Steyn’s writing more
than a decade ago in Julie Burchill’s magnificent magazine The Modern Review (“Low culture for highbrows” was the strap
line). His arts writing back then was individual. Now that he’s tackling very
different kinds of cultural issues, it’s incendiary.

I was lucky enough to hear Steyn at a
private gig last week, but couldn’t make Monday’s “It’s Not Them, It’s Us: The need to regain
confidence in Western Culture”
forum in Sydney. Not a
problem. It’s all over the blogosphere – helped on by Antony Loewenstein’s review in Crikey yesterday.

The best place to read about the uproar is
at the three ring circus of the Australian right – Tim Blair’s blog.
Like all good circuses, you’ll find both lions and clowns there.

One of the bigger beasts at Blair’s blog is
the organiser of Monday’s do, CIS executive director Greg Lindsay. He takes exception to Loewenstein’s
characterisation of the audience as “largely old, white males”:

Just so people
will know who was at the Steyn function, I just did a count on the registration
list… Of the 530 registered, about a third were female; students registered
about 10%; and the under 40 population of the audience was about a third also.
This was a public function and anybody who registered got a seat until we ran
out of them, which we did…

And you’ve got to wonder about “the need to
regain culture in western culture”. For the past few weeks, the frontline
between liberal democracy – Israel –
and Islamic terror – Hezbollah – has been Lebanon.

The Independent‘s Robert Fisk is regarded
as one of the sages of Middle East reporting. Yet his article yesterday was headlined “In the face of Bush’s lies,
it’s left to Assad to tell the truth”. Trust the President of Syria?
Here’s the summary of Amnesty International’s latest report on what he and his
regime stand for:

Freedom of expression and association remained severely restricted. Scores of
people were arrested and hundreds remained imprisoned for political reasons,
including prisoners of conscience and others sentenced after unfair trials.
However, about 500 political prisoners were released under two amnesties.
Torture and ill-treatment were common. Human rights defenders continued to face
harassment. Women and members of the Kurdish minority continued to face
discrimination.

Give me western culture any day. Even if it
is just Mark Steyn’s Song of the Week.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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