Q & A: Mark Steyn

by Bailey Pritchett on February 7, 2013

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You grew up in Canada. Do you live there now or in the United States?

I live in New Hampshire. Basically 20 minutes south of the border. There’s two kinds of immigrants: there’s those who super assimilate and there’s others who think if you ever need to head for the exit you ought to make sure you’re near it. I’m 20 minutes from Canada.

Where did you go to school in England?

I attended J.R.R. Tolkien’s old school, which is kind of refreshing. No matter how well I do, I could never hope to be more than the second-best author to emerge from that school.  I had his Greek dictionary. Books were passed along for generations. When I was at school, it was normal. Your third-year Latin textbook would be passed down until the thing physically disintegrated. I remember a lot of the Greek and Latin I learned. At that time, Latin was compulsory.

How did you get into the disc jockey gig?

I love radio, and I was very happy I could come in the tail-end of the golden age of the disc jockey, when there were still celebrity disc jockeys. I like radio, because it’s in your head- it’s different from television. I’ve done both since I was a teenager. TV has a boring reality. When you look at a television show, it’s more ordinary than life. Radio exists in your head. I played a lot of music. Classical, country, all kinds of music, some of which I like, some of which I didn’t like. A good disc jockey should be able to play anything.

Do you speak French?

I do. If you would have asked me a couple years ago, I would have been more sheepish, but my French is fluent and conversational. I sing French. I love to sing French. My sung

French is far better than my spoken French.

Any advice for a budding journalist?

In career terms, I’d say it’s really hard to make a living. That whole world in the United States is dead. All these papers, they forgot the knack. They don’t attract talented people.

It has nothing to do with the Internet. It’s not the technology. Their product is objectively boring. But people have found ways to work around it. If you want to write, and you want to write and you have something to say, there will always be an economic model that will work for you.

The great advantage you have over me is when you started out, you had no access to the space. You would have to submit a piece to an editor you would always be asking the gatekeepers is if you could go through the gates and have access to the space.

There are parts of the old world that I miss. They had a nostalgic appeal, but in the end, if you want to write, or broadcast, or make a CD you can. I’m amazed by that.

What are your observations of the courtroom?

A courtroom trial is like storytelling. Every lawyer wants to tell the best story. Each party has a narrative that they want the jury to buy. No judge ever likes me in traffic court cases. I walk in and the judge thinks: “You’re a snub-nose foreigner.” The way you beat the regulatory state is that you prove it can’t follow it’s own rules. I love it, because it’s a place of combat within constraints.

Which lawsuit was your greatest triumph?

The Canadian one was a serious one. It was a free speech thing, and I’ve taken modest pride in that that disgraceful law had a 100 percent conviction rate until they came up against me. That’s not a small thing. It’s time-consuming and its expensive, but somebody had to get involved. I have deep pockets and have a certain level of prominence. There are far too many laws, far too many regulations, and every time you can push back one of them — you’re doing a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. (10748)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 steve baker February 8, 2013 at 6:04 am

Thank you, Mr Steyn, and Hillsdale.

That’s all. Just, “Thank You”.

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2 christopher swift February 8, 2013 at 8:04 am

Good interview with some questions I’d always wanted answered about Steyn. Up here in Canadaland we will always owe him for not yielding to the speech police and helping to change the law.
BTW, I’m a former journalist and was quite impressed by the appearance and content of your paper.

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3 David Ferguson February 8, 2013 at 8:45 am

Tolkien’s Greek dictionary! That’s a neat little tid-bit. Still, I must ask, was it Greek to English or Greek to Elvish?

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