These are boom-times for doom-mongers. And nobody mongers doom like Mark Steyn.
The premise of his last book, America Alone (2006), was that the demographic situation in Europe was so catastrophic that within our lifetimes America would be the only country in the world still capable of holding the torch of human freedom. Now Steyn's back with After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (Regnery Publishing, £19.99) to point out that actually he'd been way too optimistic: we should count America out too.
The word iconoclasm is a little overused, and tends to be used in journalism of people who are dully uniform. But Steyn really does deserve the label. When he was writing about demographics not only was it not talked about, it wasn't even whispered about — even behind closed doors. At the end of his time as Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that it was "a subterranean conversation". That it's even got that far is largely due to Steyn.
Until he left these journalistic shores a few years back, Steyn was a familiar name to British newspaper readers. But now he's more likely to appear in the British press as a leading hate-figure of the official and unofficial speech-and-ideas-correction-units that have sprung up across Europe and flabby democracies elsewhere.
In 2007 a complaint was lodged at something called the Ontario Human Rights Commission (HRC) by a number of Canadian Muslims who claimed that their feelings had been hurt by his writings. The Canadian HRCs had been racketeering with peoples' grievances for some years, but when they came after Steyn (and fellow writer Ezra Levant) they came after the wrong people. At great expense of time and money Steyn and Levant fought back and won, in the process shining a light on the Alice in Wonderland-style parody of justice going on in the name of Canada's citizenry.
Among the Canadian complaints against Steyn was the "tone" of some of his jokes. But this July a much more serious accusation arose. Like that of a number of other prominent journalists, Steyn's work was among the listed sources of the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik's online "manifesto". Pointing out that Edmund Burke and the Unabomber were also quoted, Steyn replied to claims that the Norwegian horror was an "Islamophobic incident" by writing: "Muslims are now the preferred victims even in a story in which they are entirely absent." Steyn is not for cowing.
In After America he looks at the causes and results of another elite-ignored catastrophe: the manner in which the world's hyperpower has followed Europe's failed societal models and spending behaviour, using borrowed money to live out a failed idea on borrowed time. Steyn is, as has frequently been said, one of the few writers who can make you laugh about things that should make you cry. And as After America reminds us, when all the voices in the city are mad, those from the wilderness (in this case New Hampshire) might just be worth heeding.