By Lin Abdul Rahman
The Sputnik, Issue 6, Fall 2010
Plans for Mark Steyn’s talk titled, “Head for the Hills: Why everything in your world is doomed,” has encountered a hiccup. But since the speaker is Steyn and the group under attack is Muslims, the matter that is a molehill is fast growing into a mountain.
The talk, organized by three right-wing bloggers from strictlyright.com, was originally scheduled to be held at the University of Western Ontario. Due to swift ticket sales, the organizers booked the London Convention Centre in anticipation of a bigger crowd. Their reservation was later turned down when the LCC’s operators discovered who the speaker was.
According to the LCC’s general manager Lori Da Silva, Steyn poses a bigger security concern than what the center is able to handle.
Protesters were expected to be present at the talk and the LCC worried that the potentially rowdy crowd would make their other clients uncomfortable.
Da Silva insisted to the Toronto Sun that the decision to pull the venue was purely a business one; the LCC didn’t want to alienate its clients by hosting the talk.
That concern is justifiable, given Steyn’s controversial views on Islam and the fact that London has a sizable Muslim population.
However, the bloggers, along with conservative news sources such as the National Post and the London Free Press, claim that the LCC caved in to pressures from local Islamic groups; the only clients that the LCC is afraid of offending are Muslims.
One of the writers on strictlyright.com, Andrew Lawton, pointed out that the LCC is owned by the City of London and, as such, should not be made to cater only to a specific part of the city’s demographic.
True, the LCC is a city-owned operation and its business decisions are catered towards the interests of its clients. However, for Lawton to say that the LCC’s refusal to host Steyn’s talk as serving the interests of only its Muslim clients is to say that LCC has no clients other than Muslims.
Since the LCC is a premier conference facility and caters to the needs of the entire London demographic, perhaps even those living outside of London.
Furthermore, by demanding that the LCC disregard the alleged pressure by Islamic groups, the organizers are assuming that the only people opposed to Steyn’s talk are Muslims, which does not make sense either.
It’s important to note at this point that the organizers did not submit a required ‘client profile’ to the LCC as part of the process of booking the venue. The LCC’s operators discovered the identity of the speaker through a newspaper article and subsequently called the talk’s organizers to confirm.
Is it possible that the bloggers knew that Steyn’s appearance at the LCC would be an issue and were trying to pull a fast one?
Anyone who has ever tried to organize an event can attest to the fact that logistical problems occur no matter how meticulous you are. Last minute changes have to be made; speakers get delayed or sometimes even cancel their appearance; and some venues have their own policies as to whom they choose to host.
Experienced organizers such as the trio at strictlyright.com should be well aware that the potential for problems increases tenfold in the case of controversial speakers such as Steyn.
I mean, come on - even the peace-loving, guitar-waving Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) has been banned from entering the US, and all he does is sing and play music.
Furthermore, the talk’s organizers have had experience dealing with such problems. Their recent attempt to bring Anne Coulter to UWO faced similarly controversial roadblocks. So why are they making such a big issue of this matter?
Judging from the responses of local Londoners on this issue, it seems that they’d be willing to camp out on a soccer field to hear Steyn talk.
I, for one, would love to hear what he has to say. Even though I disagree with Steyn’s views 99-percent of the time, I religiously follow his column in Maclean’s. To me, his criticism of Islam and Muslims, however inaccurate or misguided, are tethered to some sort of reality.
The least I can do is to stay informed. Plus, he’s a damn good writer.
Interestingly, since this issue hit the news, Lawton proudly reported that the event has been moved to a bigger, albeit more expensive venue and the number of attendants has risen to around 1000 people. I guess the saying is true then; no publicity is bad publicity.
There’s a happy ending for everyone involved in this matter, after all.