Of David Archuleta, Mark Steyn, and Reason
May 7, 2008 by Paul McKeever
Your author is writing just after midnight, having watched two programs on the tellie: “American Idol” (one of Mrs. McKeever’s favourites) and TV Ontario’s “The Agenda” with Steve Paikin (one of mine: a current affairs show for the ivory-tower sort). It’s been moving, and wonderful.
First, let me say this. I am a great lover of music. It was my first calling, and arguably remains my greatest love. On tonight’s “American Idol”, Simon Cowell had it right (as usual). From the first note of David Cook’s “Baba O’Reilly”, I knew he had found his niche. Being a person entirely swayed by Sam Cooke’s never-to-be-repeated (except by Steve Perry) vocal stylings, I was utterly gripped by Syesha Mercado’s rendition of Sam Cook’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” (thumbs down to Randy Jackson who, clearly, was just plain wrong in his assessment). But David Archuleta left me with a smile on my face so unconscious it compelled me to think something (once I realized that I was smiling): it is human to feel good; to feel happy; to be filled with an admiration for another that is rewarding to oneself; when one witnesses greatness. David’s performances of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” had me standing by him, and loving him tenderly. My comment to Mrs. McKeever, regarding the second performance, was that David’s performance was “so sincere”. I believe it is wonderfully human when, in his choice of songs and manner of performance, an artist delivers a vocal performance of the highest technical quality without any spiritual pretense, and with an expression of an honestly-felt joy. But Mrs. McKeever qualified my rosy assessment: she rightly pointed out that, although I was smiling, there are those who will condemn Archuleta’s performance out of sheer hatred for the good; out of envy; out of a belief that survival requires one to tear down good work and happiness and to equate it with the mediocre and the false. A wise woman that Mrs. McKeever.
Second: TVO is a television station in Ontario, Canada, that is funded by the Ontario taxpayer. Despite the latter fact, its finest program, “The Agenda“, is actually…fine (NOTE: I’ve been interviewed by The Agenda’s host, Steve Paikin, twice: see here and here). Tonight, The Agenda’s topic was free speech and Canada’s Human Rights regimes. The guests were internationally-renowned columnist Mark Steyn, and three Muslim graduates of Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) who complained to Ontario’s Human Rights Commission about Maclean’s Magazine‘s publication of excerpts from Mark Steyn’s popular recent book, America Alone. I agree with the students that the views of many Muslims are not the same as those of many Islamic theocrats and terrorists who live in Canada and abroad. I agree that Mr. Steyn’s articles give people information pursuant to which they worry about – even hate – Islam, and those who, favourable to Islam, want to eliminate Western philosophy, individual freedom, the separation of irrationality and state etc. from the West. I agree that some people will over-generalize, and become hostile even to Islamics who truly respect and want the separation of god/religion/the supernatural/mysticism and state. And, to the extent that the students and those they defend are being painted with the wrong brush, I regard them as having been misrepresented. However, that misrepresentation – so long as it does not amount to defamation of a particular individual – is not something about which the government ought to be involved. Accordingly, the students’ assertion that Mark Steyn was misrepresenting things when he referred to the government’s actions as being a matter of criminal law rather than human rights law is entirely irrelevant and misleading. The issue is not criminal law vs. human rights law but: law vs. no law in respect of speech such as that which is at issue with Steyn and Maclean’s Magazine.
Part 6 of TVO’s program last night.
In the West, according to Western philosophy, the government ought not to prohibit speech on the basis that it is merely false, that it is hurtful to ones feelings, or that it might give some moron a reason to violate another person’s freedom. In the West, according to Western philosophy, we punish the violation of a person’s freedom, not the speech pursuant to which a moron might violate a person’s freedom. For students who distinguish themselves from Islamic Jihadists to argue that the government ought to punish or prohibit such speech is for them to condemn Western philosophy, and – even if unwittingly – to wage a war against the West. Given the ferocity with which they asserted their views, dare I say, a “Holy War”?
And so it was with great admiration that I watched Mark Steyn expose the three students for what they were: young people engaged in an effort that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, serves not the interests of Western philosophy, individual freedom, and the West, but of the Jihadists. Had these three students spent as much time denouncing theocracy, and defending the West’s commitment to free speech, as they spent trying to force private publications to print their articles, they would have done for Muslims in the West a much greater service than they have done. At the end of the day, their efforts instead merely prove Mark Steyn to be right.
David, a youthful and shining example of greatness succeeding and rousing the happiness of those of moral soul, refueling them for another day of pursuing their own happiness; Mark ensuring that such happiness remains possible by giving no quarter to those who, feared because of the statements of theocrats and Islamic terrorists around the world, call upon Western governments to condemn Western philosophy. To each I say “Thank-you”.
David Cook sings “Baba O’Reilly”
Syesha Mercado sings “A Change is Gonna Come”
David Archuleta sings “Stand By Me”
David Archuleta sings “Love Me Tender”