Steyn's showdown with the sockpuppets on The Agenda last night was entertaining enough but, after all the hype, it fell a little flat. On the one hand, it appeared to register with Steyn that the three complainants were, in fact, just kids toeing the ideological line and so, although his patented righteous indignation was out in full force, his quippy discourse was limited by circumstances. On the other hand, the kids were a mess. Completely incoherent. They didn't seem to understand the most fundamental implications of the case, they overtly attempted to manipulate the conversation away from any substantive discussion of the ideological issues at hand (much to the host Steve Paikin's irritation), and they repeatedly allowed laughable lines like "Mark Steyn wants to be a martyr" to slip into their bromide-laden rants. Steyn came out looking much better than they did.
I was, however, surprised at the conciliatory tone of Steyn's post-show musings:
We didn't go for dinner, but we did have a relatively pleasant conversation after the broadcast that I thought was much more productive than the show. Khurrum was a bit chippy but the two ladies, Muneeza Sheikh and Naseem Mithoowani, are rather cute, even when they're damning me as a racist and hater. (Years ago, the BBC used to keep putting me up against humourless Marxist feminists only to find that on air I'd go all sweet on them and just make goo-goo eyes.) One confessed to finding me "mildly funny", which I took as a tremendous compliment until she remarked that she found "Little Mosque On The Prairie" funnier. Evidently by "mildly funny", she sets the bar down at world-champion limbo level. Heigh-ho. Still, even with dear old Khurrum, if I'd met him in an airport lounge on the other side of the world and we were stuck waiting for a flight, I think the conversation would go okayish. The post-show chit-chat was a useful reminder that everybody's media image is a reductio.
Fair enough, I suppose.
The show itself was poorly organized and moderated. It became nearly unwatchable at several points when the debate descended into a shouting match, each trying to make their point louder than the next. This can hardly be blamed on the host, though. Paikin was forced to find an ad hoc solution to Steyn's demand for a debate. Thinking like a moderator, Paikin commented that there weren't enough chairs which lead to Steyn's uproarious retort that "this isn't a chair issue."
Getting back to the point, however, I suspect Steyn's confrontation with the sockpuppets drove home the fact that these really are just kids. Their performances were eloquent demonstrations of their muddied understanding of the issues in the case. For his part, Steyn wasn't quite as sharp as usual. In light of the confused format and time limitations, it was understandably difficult to hit upon all of the major talking points but, that said, I wish he had been a little more aggressive in demanding straight answers from the sockpuppets. The three kids danced around the issues with all the subtlety of a punch to the teeth but Steyn didn't really manage to press them on anything in particular. Specifically, the sockpuppets whined for several minutes about their "right of reply" but Steyn didn't have the chance to patiently explain that such a right cannot be used as an instrument of blunt force to undermine a publisher's right to control the contents of his or her property. At least, not in Canada.
As Steyn himself was the first to admit, it wasn't exactly "Must-See TV" but it was enough to clearly illustrate the characters on both sides of the case. In this corner, wearing the sanctimonious and confused trunks, are three kids with no clue what they're saying. And in this corner, wearing the belligerent and borderline pompous trunks, is the titan with an ax to grind. The kids never had a chance. It wasn't a fair fight. But, then again, they don't deserve a fair fight after the trouble they've caused him.
ALSO: If anyone knows where to find the video for last night's show, please post the link in the comments.
UPDATE: Tip of the hat to Frank Cybulski for pointing me towards the video of last night's show. To watch it, follow the link and click on "What Is Wrong With Mark Steyn's View of the World."
UPDATE II: The show is also available on YouTube with a little right-wing commentary to boot. Follow the link. H/t jckirlan.
UPDATE III: Welcome, Mark Steyn readers!