Mark Steyn gets it

The following is adapted from a recent speech given by Mark Steyn at a Hillsdale College seminar in Franklin, Tennessee. Hillsdale College is in Hillsdale, Michigan. It’s a superlative Liberal Arts college and an increasingly rare bastion of clear thinking and open discourse in America.

What struck me most about his speech is that Steyn actually gets it, the serious trouble that Western Civilization is now in. I look around and see that even most political conservatives are unaware of the trouble we face.

Most people know that civilizations rise and fall, but most people also think that their own civilization is an exception. But it almost never is. And at times, civilizations have collapsed very suddenly.

Now I hand you over to Mr. Steyn:


I live about 20 minutes south of the Canadian border, which used to be called the longest undefended frontier in the world. People moved freely back and forth across it all day every day. But now it’s been closed for over a year. At one point my daughter asked me to drive her up there, because there was a 30-minute opportunity for people on one side to talk to their friends on the other. “Sad!” as President Trump would say. It was like Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin during the Cold War, except that both sides are now like East Berlin. 

I don’t know how this happened, but it is just one indication that America, and the West in general, have become almost unrecognizable from what they were not that long ago.

Look at just three things we have lost. 

One is equality before the law, something absolutely essential to a free society. In its place, we now have politicized law. If a policeman fatally shoots someone, whether his name is released to the public depends on whether the shooting is consistent with the preferred narrative of the ruling class.

A policeman recently took down a young woman who was threatening the life of another young woman with a knife, and that policeman was immediately identified — indeed, his photo was posted and he was threatened by NBA superstar LeBron James on Twitter. On the other hand, we know nothing of the policeman who shot dead an unarmed woman in the U.S. Capitol on January 6. His name will apparently never be released to the public.

Second, border control. Functioning societies, at least since the Peace of Westphalia three centuries ago, have borders. America has no southern border and no plans to get one. The official position of our government seems to be that any of the seven billion persons on this planet has a right to come and stay in the U.S. for three years, until his or her assigned court date comes up. As the number of people with pending cases continues to grow, that three years will extend out to five or seven or 15 years

America has no southern border and no plans to get one.

If we get all seven billion people to come here, the court system will break down entirely and maybe we can go back to having a functioning border.

And third, dare I bring up the fact that it is a real question whether we can go back to agreeing to have open and honest elections? And if we don’t have open and honest elections, control of our borders, and equality before the law, then we don’t have the conditions for politics or free government. 

And here’s the thing. It is not at all clear to me that many of America’s conservative politicians understand the seriousness of all this. You can see it in the fact that they go around trying to scare people with the specter of a “radical socialist agenda.” For well over a year now, we have been living in a world in which it’s accepted as normal that the state has essentially unlimited power — and in which our freedom to decide for ourselves has been diminished almost to invisibility.

Why do these conservative politicians think the words “radical socialist agenda” still scare anyone in a time when the state can tell us whether we can have Aunt Mabel over for Christmas? They are completely out of touch.

Over the same period as the pandemic lockdowns, we have seen an escalation of so-called wokeness. And if you look at one of the most startling manifestations of this, transgender fanaticism — which involves, after all, the abolition of biological sex and, I’m sorry to have to say it, the physical mutilation of children — one notices that America is farther down this road than any other country in the Western world. In other words, at this moment of crisis for Western Civilization, or for what we used to call Christendom, the leading country of the free world is pulling the wrong way.

Think of it. Your daughter has been training since she was a little girl to run in school sports. Now at 17, she’s in the state high school track championships, and you are forbidden even to notice that she’s competing against a woman who is 6’2” with thighs like tugboats, a great touch of five o’clock shadow on her face, and the most muscular bosom you’ve ever seen. You’re not supposed to notice the craziness of this, and the craziness is at its craziest right here in America.

The craziness is at its craziest right here in America.

We traditionally think of France as being a bit screwy, but today there are French intellectuals who regard themselves as hardcore leftists and yet who think America has gone bonkers on this transgender issue.

President Macron himself has said that American wokeness is an existential threat to the French Republic, and he even found bureaucrats in France’s education bureaucracy who agreed. There is not a single bureaucrat in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., who would agree, but there are apparently a few in Paris.

If you look further east in Europe to the lands that were once behind the Iron Curtain — to Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, which still function as conventional nation-states calculating their best interests — you find tremendous fear of the threat of wokeness that is being exported, sometimes aggressively, from America. So it is here in the U.S. where we have to put the stake through these ideas. 

But again, even most of our conservative leaders and institutions seem oblivious. School districts in America are talking about revising their curricula to cover transgender issues from grade school on. Now, I went to an English boys’ school, and we were expected to pick up sexuality on our own time. In those days people would have looked puzzled if you had said, “We’re going to have to cancel geography or Latin, because we need to put gay studies in there.”

These days, instead of going off behind the bike shed during recess to learn about sex, kids need to sneak behind the bike shed to do a little bit of closeted geography or closeted Latin. It’s completely backwards. And yet what do we hear from most conservative politicians? That it would be nice to offer people a tax cut! 

We are way beyond tax cuts. We’re broke. We’re just a smidgen away from $30 trillion in federal debt — something with no historical precedent. Talking about tax cuts today is like talking about VAT tax refunds on the Titanic. It’s not actually what’s necessary at the moment.

Talking about tax cuts today is like talking about VAT tax refunds on the Titanic.

Another big issue that should take our minds off tax cuts is China. I can’t get over the way we in the U.S. have been ordered by our governors and the CDC to punish ourselves by living small, shrunken lives, while the people in China who loosed this pandemic on the world have paid no price for it. 

Dr. Fauci has been a federal government bureaucrat since 1968. He’s the J. Edgar Hoover of public health. He talks about the COVID virus as if we’re at war. But he seems to think a country wins a war by taking it out on its own population rather than the enemy, which is what we’ve done.

Which do you think was the only major economy to grow in 2020? It’s not a hard question. America’s economy shrank 3.5 percent last year. The economies of Germany and Japan shrank almost five percent. France’s, Italy’s, and India’s economies all shrank over eight percent, and the economy of the United Kingdom was down ten percent. China’s economy, on the other hand, grew 2.3 percent in 2020, and first quarter growth for 2021 in China set a new world record — it was up over 18.3 percent. The COVID pandemic has been hugely profitable for China. 

The COVID pandemic has been hugely profitable for China.

U.S. policy towards China since the 1990s represents perhaps the biggest strategic miscalculation by any great power in human history. Just as communism was wobbling and beginning to fall everywhere else, we helped Beijing come up with the first economically viable form of communism.

At first we were told it was only our manufacturing that we would ship to China. After all, we were told, it wasn’t economically viable for Americans to make widgets. Remember the talk in the ’90s? We were going to be the “knowledge economy.” All the clever people told us this. We weren’t going to have mills and factories, but we were going to be the knowledge economy.

Well, in case you haven’t noticed, China’s got the entire knowledge economy for itself now. It makes our laptops and our smartphones and it’s out front with Huawei and 5G. It also makes the batteries that power our gizmos and the chips that run our cars. When COVID struck, we found out fast that the Chinese not only make our viruses, they also make the personal protective equipment that protects us against the viruses — and all of our medicines to boot! Those wily Chinese get you both coming and going.

China is now the number one global power. You can define this militarily, where it now has the largest surface fleet on the planet. You can define it economically. But the way I define it is to look at who gets its way in the world.

New Zealand has just effectively pulled out of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement—an arrangement between the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the oldest such arrangement on the planet. New Zealand has pulled out with respect to China because it doesn’t want to offend China. I would think Canada might be the next to go. Or look at the World Health Organization. America pays for it, but Chairman Xi in Beijing calls the shots. China gets its way now, and the U.S. doesn’t.

We need politicians with a sense of urgency about these problems, but all they seem to have is urgency about things that aren’t urgent. Look at climate change. People say we need to take action over climate change or else rising sea levels are going to overwhelm the Maldives in the Indian Ocean in the 22nd century. That’s the century after this one, which is still quite young.

These same people say about the immediate crisis on the southern border that it’s “a natural phenomenon beyond the control of politicians.” But changing the weather in order to lower the sea levels that will threaten the Maldives in the Indian Ocean in the next century is within the power of politicians? In general, our leaders are urgent about nothing that matters and not in the least bit urgent about things that matter very much. 

Our leaders are urgent about nothing that matters and not in the least bit urgent about things that matter very much.

The things our news media talks about incessantly, whether it’s transgender bathrooms or Confederate statues being toppled or the totally dishonest national conversation on race — nothing like this is heard in China as it goes along steadily strengthening its position as the world’s leading power. The Chinese don’t find themselves stuck in these sterile, drain-circling, dishonest public conversations about identity politics. These conversations are a waste of time. And one thing we should demand of our politicians is that they talk about things that aren’t a waste of time. 

At the root of our problems is that we have seen the emergence of a true ruling class, like Grand Dukes in medieval Europe. Its members intermarry. They send their kids to the same schools. They circulate back and forth between government and the private sector. And over time it has become increasingly easy to identify members of this class.

John Kerry gave a commencement address a couple of years ago in which he told the students, “You are going to be the first generation to live in a borderless world.” And for the elite, the idea of a borderless world rings true. A typical member of the ruling class will get a job with a firm like Goldman Sachs, work for a couple of years in Hong Kong, then move on for a couple of years in Geneva, and then maybe come back to America. What are borders to such a person?

Meanwhile, for the common American, COVID has literally ended, to a large degree, any freedom of movement. They live in the farthest thing from a borderless world. Oftentimes they’re trapped in a town that is dying because of the open-border, cheap-labor policies advocated by people like John Kerry. 

Our political division in America today is a class division, and we need to expose it as such whenever we see it. The ruling class tries to keep racial and other forms of division stirred up in our politics so that we don’t notice the class protection racket they are running. Look at that guy from Twitter, Jack Dorsey, who wears a beard like he’s playing the hobo in a Charlie Chaplin silent film. Our elites have become incredibly good at theater.

Getting back to the southern border, it perfectly symbolizes the bifurcation of our society. We’re told there’s a health emergency. We’re told we can’t open our businesses or attend weddings or funerals. Yet at the same time, every day, thousands of people pour across the southern border, test positive for COVID, and are then driven to a nice hotel and put up there at taxpayers’ expense. 

Education is the biggest structural defect in our society. We have an almost entirely corrupt and abusive education establishment. Cromwell told his portrait painter, “Paint me, warts and all.” That’s not what is happening in America, where the trend in education is to paint only America’s warts. So even the great Kate Smith, who sang “God Bless America” for years, is having her statue taken down because she made a racially insensitive record in 1931. Well you know who really had a racially insensitive record in 1931? The Democratic Party. But unlike Kate Smith’s statue, it’s still around. 

Education is the biggest structural defect in our society. We have an almost entirely corrupt and abusive education establishment.

President Macron of France is not my favorite chap — he’s a sinister globalist for one thing. But he made an admirable stand when he announced that not one French statue would be taken down and not a single French street name would be changed because they are all part of French history.

And Bingo! The statue toppling and street-name changing in France went away. Why can’t American conservatives show that kind of strength?

I’ll end by pointing out that the Left wins because it seizes language. If we don’t take back the language, we will lose the truth. Even on FOX News, I have noticed, news anchors now talk about “gender assigned at birth,” as if that’s something different from one’s biological sex. There may be 57 genders, but there are only two biological sexes. 

The Left wins because it seizes language.*

Don’t surrender the language. Reclaim the language. It’s the first step to recovering our civilization.


*Felipe’s two cents: The most blatant examples of this now is “liberal” and “progressive” being used to label leftists. i.e. today’s radicalized Democrat Party. John F. Kennedy was a liberal, and he believed, as do all true liberals, myself included, in free speech, American exceptionalism, capitalism, border control, etc. Today’s fake “liberals” believe in none of that.

The power of words

One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of leftist skullduggery and conservative naiveté than what has been done with the words “liberal” and “progressive.”

Among the quotes you’ll find elsewhere on this website — the right side if you’re using a PC — is this from Dennis Prager:

The usurpation of the word “liberal” by the left has been a catastrophe.

In spite of what you may read or hear elsewhere, there is only one sort of liberal, the classical variety. Liberals believe in freedom of speech, capitalism, nation-states, etc., traits not embraced by leftists. Quite the contrary.

I’ve had people tell me that liberalism used to mean one thing, but now it’s another. That is not true. What we have now are leftists wrapping the cloak of “liberalism,” the word, around their shoulders. Think wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Being” liberal” sounds sweet. Almost everyone wants to think of themselves as liberal because the opposite would be tight-minded, a nasty individual, and who wants to be seen that way? We all want to be liberal, right? And progressive! Who’s not for progress?

I am. You are.

So leftists have stolen and embraced these adjectives as their own, which makes perfect sense. What makes no sense whatsoever is that conservatives, nincompoops as we so often are, go along with the wordplay, the fraud, the theft.

In this six-minute video, Prager illustrates the stark differences between leftists and liberals. Do you call Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris liberals? If so, stop it right now. Sleepy Joe doesn’t know what he is. He reads his script, written by leftists. Not liberals.

JFK and FDR were liberals. Today, they’d be tarred and feathered by the Democrat Party.

The swamp creature

That would be Kamala Harris, the vice president, a pol as corrupt as a Tammany Hall ward heeler. Just watch the first 20 seconds of the above video. The rest is interesting, but it’s the first 20 seconds that are appalling. And consider that this “woman of color” will soon be the “leader of the free world,” God help us.

I mention “woman of color” because it’s the sole reason she is where she is.

She was also criticized this week for climbing the stairs into her now-personal aircraft, Air Force Two, a Boeing 757, without saluting the honor guard, something all previous vice presidents have done, including Sleepy Joe.

Harris was so unpopular during the Democrat presidential debates that she washed out early on, and who can forget when Tulsi Gabbard ripped her a new one during that debate. You can watch that here. The ripping starts at the video’s 3:50 mark. See Kamala squirm.

One of the panelists on the show in the top video remarks that Harris is a “very unserious person.” Actually, she is serious, seriously bad, seriously dangerous.


Moving on now from that unserious person of color to another one, who is not only serious but one of the world’s most brilliant, Thomas Sowell, a political philosopher and economist with the Hoover Institution. The video is a montage of interview clips over recent years.

I share his pessimism about America and the Biden Administration or, as the White House recently instructed federal departments, the Biden-Harris Administration.

Trump, counterrevolutionary

Until Donald Trump’s arrival, the globalist revolution was almost solidified and institutionalized — with the United States increasingly its greatest and most “woke” advocate. We know its bipartisan establishment contours.

China would inherit the world in 20 or 30 years. The self-appointed task of American elites — many of whom had already been enriched and compromised by Chinese partners and joint ventures — was to facilitate this all-in-the-family transition in the manner of the imperial British hand-off of hegemony to the United States in the late 1940s.

Our best and brightest like the Biden family, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg would enlighten us about the “real” China, so we yokels would not fall into Neanderthal bitterness as they managed our foreordained decline.

We would usher China into “the world community” — grimacing at, but overlooking the destruction it wrought on the global commercial order and the American interior.

We would politely forget about Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and the Uyghurs. Hollywood would nod as it put out more lucrative comic-book and cartoonish films for the Chinese markets, albeit with mandated lighter-skinned actors.

The NBA would nod twice and trash a democratic United States, while praising genocidal China — becoming richer and more esteemed abroad to make up for becoming boring and poorer at home. The universities would nod three times, and see a crime not in Chinese espionage and security breaches, but in the reporting of them as crimes.

So our revolutionary role would be to play stuffy and snooty Athenian philosophers to the new muscular Roman legions of China.

Given our elites’ superior morality, genius, and sense of self, we would gently chide and cajole our Chinese masters into becoming enlightened world overseers and democrats — all the easier, the richer and more affluent Chinese became. 

For now, Trump has stopped that revolution.

Internal counterrevolutions

Until Trump’s arrival, Big Tech was three-quarters home on the road to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Five or six companies monopolized most American — and indeed the world’s — access and use of the internet.

In cynical fashion, Silicon Valley grandees patronized naïve conservatives that they were the supposed embodiment of Milton Friedman libertarianism and 19th century robber baron daring. Yet to their leftist kindred, the moguls of Menlo Park simultaneously whispered, “Don’t worry about such necessary disinformation: we will enrich only your candidates, only your agendas, only your foundations, only your universities — in exchange for your exemptions.”

Antitrust legislation was as much an anathema to good liberals as rigging searches, institutionalizing the cancel culture, and censoring thoughts and ideas were welcomed. For now Trump, almost alone, is battling that revolution.

Until Trump’s arrival, there was increasingly no border at all. Fifty-million foreign-born resided, both legally and illegally, in the United States. Nearly a million annually walked northward across the border with ease and without legal sanction or invitation.

Until Trump’s arrival, there was increasingly no border at all.

To object to illegal immigration and decry its deleterious effects on the entry-level wages of our working poor, on the social safety net of the American needy, and on the sanctity of the law was to be smeared as racist, xenophobic, and nativist.

More than a quarter of California’s current resident population were not born in the United States. That desirous “new demography” since 1988 had flipped California into a caring blue state. Open borders and the end of immigration law enforcement had pushed Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado into just Democratic societies, and was supposedly soon to transform Texas and Arizona into enlightened states.

For now, Trump — with his soon-to-be 400-mile wall, his beefed up ICE, and his war on sanctuary nullification zones — has nearly stopped the revolution to end borders.

Until Trump, the American interior was loser country. In-between the two gilded coasts resided the deplorables, irredeemables, clingers, the smelly Walmart patrons decried in the Page-Strzok text echanges, those John McCain called “crazies,” and Joe Biden has variously called the “dregs,” the “chumps” and the “ugly folks.” They were written off as Morlocks, who were occasionally seen poking about the rotting, rusting skeletons of abandoned steel plants, and for some reason never had proper orthodontics as children.

Obama laughed about the “magic wand” needed to revive these unrevivable people. Larry Summers reportedly called such an idea a “fantasy.” He was said to have  praised the meritocracy that properly gives to such losers what they justly deserve. Very caring and very humane elites felt very little for supposedly very expendable riffraff.

Translated, that meant on the eve of the Chinese takeover, our clueless deplorables never learned to code, or to borrow $200,000 to get a woke-studies education, and so deserved the opioids they took and the trailers they crashed in.

Few apostates said, “Wait a minute! The United States has cheaper energy than anywhere on earth, a skilled workforce, a huge domestic market, and a still-viable infrastructure. There was a reason why Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania once led the world and why they can again.” Through tax reform, deregulation, trade rebooting, a new foreign policy, and loud jawboning, Trump for a while has stopped the revolution that was destroying our once greatest states.

Until Trump, the woke cultural wars were just about won by the elites. Seeking unity was dead; chest-pounding diversity, often the spark that had ignited history’s multiracial societies, was ascendent. (Note from Felipe: He means ignited literally, i.e. murder and mayhem.)

Trump for a while has stopped the revolution that was destroying our once greatest states.

The melting pot that sought to make race incidental was deemed racist; the salad bowl that made our superficial appearances essential was celebrated. Quite affluent, self-appointed minority leaders, with their quite wealthy white liberal counterparts, established who is, and who “ain’t,” “really” black — the definition resting on whether one was loyally left-wing or disloyally independent-minded.

The success of civil rights was not to be calibrated by black unemployment figures, household income, family businesses, dignity in having leverage over employers, access to competitive parochial and charter schools, or descending abortion rates, but in electing more activists as progressive mayors, liberal city councilmembers, and leftist district attorneys to garner more redistributive state money to hire more careerists like themselves. 

Trump, branded a bigot and racist, for now has sought to end that revolution, and measure race relations not by how many minority elites have choice jobs and high incomes, but by how well the entire minority community reaches income and employment parity with the general population — an idea that will earn the “racist” Trump far greater minority support than was expressed for John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Can the revolution be stopped?

We are in the midst of a cultural revolution, for the most part driven by angry middle- and upper-class white youth of Antifa and its sympathizers, wannabes and enablers. Many are humiliated that they have college pedigrees, lots of multi-thousand-dollar debt, plenty of woke-studies classes to their credit, but still have no real jobs, no real knowledge, and no real immediate chances of buying a house, marrying, and raising a family in their 20s.

Nothing in history is more dangerous than the underemployed wannabe intellectual or college graduate, whose cultivated sense of superiority is not matched by his income or standard of living, but who blames “them” for his own self-inflicted miseries and unappreciated genius.

The revolution toppled statues, renamed what it did not like, Trotskyized the past, photoshopped the present, and used language, government, and cultural intimidation to do its best to make America into Animal Farm.

Corporate CEOs in terror washed the feet of the woke. University presidents, fearful for their status and careers, wrote incomprehensible memos admitting their past sins and asking how best to do present penance. Hollywood studio owners promised race and gender quotas, with ample provisions that — in the manner of NBA and NFL owners — adjustments and exceptions could be worked out for themselves.

Somewhere, somehow graduations, dorms, and campus spaces, all segregated by race, became “liberal.” Intermarriage, integration, and assimilation were shamefully illiberal. Standing for the National Anthem was unpatriotic; sitting in disdain for it, cool. Donald Trump fought that revolution too. 

What tools did Donald Trump have to wage these many counterrevolutions?

The media? America’s Fortune 400? Academia? The great foundations? The nation’s think tanks? The bipartisan government establishment? The international community? The banks? Wall Street? Corporate CEOs? Silicon Valley? Professional sports? The entertainment industry? Hollywood? The intelligence community? The current and retired top military brass?

In fact, none of them. All had joined or enabled the revolution, on the theory either that their wealth and influence would shield them and their own from its excesses, or like naïve Kerenskyites their status would impress and win over even those who targeted them, or they were inner revolutionaries themselves all along, just waiting to be freed at last by BLM and Antifa.

Against all that money and clout, the counterrevolutionary Trump had only one asset, the proverbial people. He had solely the under-polled and the written-off. They came out to his rallies in the tens of thousands, deluded the pollsters, and told the media less than nothing, but voted and will vote in waves to save America from what it was becoming.


(This guest post was written by Victor Davis Hanson,  the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College.)