MONTREAL – Pity Sorya Ingrid Gaulin. Her role as VP of Public Relations at Indigo Books and Music demanded she confront the wrathful public face of North America’s most formidable conservative tiger, Mark Steyn. In a November 4 letter to the National Post, she rebutted Steyn’s “ludicrous” claim in Maclean’s that Indigo deliberately under-ordered copies of his new, widely heralded book, America Alone: The End of the World as we Know it. Gaulin admits there are none available at the moment, but claims Steyn already knew more copies were on order. Steyn, however, asserts that his publishers had warned Chapters that its initial order was woefully inadequate to meet the (correctly) predicted huge demand.
Gaulin’s wounded tone may reflect Indigo’s innocence in this particular affair. But from my observation of Indigo/Chapters stores’ promotional tables (ongoing, monotonous Bush-whacking, just as Steyn notes), I find the tiger’s’ irritable growl understandable.
Indigo isn’t biased against Steyn in particular. They don’t stock many—and certainly don’t promote any—conservative books. America Alone is published by Regnery, America’s premier conservative press. Other books on Regnery’s 2006 list you’re unlikely to see on Indigo’s front tables: The President, The Pope and the Prime Minister, by John O’Sullivan (a paean to Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher); Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, by David Horowitz; Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should know, by Meg Meeker; or any of their Politically Incorrect Guides—to Women, Sex and Feminism/American History/Islam (and the Crusades)/English and American Literature.
Margie Ross, president of Regnery Press, has pretty well given up on our country. Even though Regnery’s sales rep here is “indefatigable,” Ross emphasized in a telephone interview, “Our experience meeting with sales reps from Canada has confirmed that there is not a conservative alive in the book business in Canada.”
Conservative books are a tough institutional sell everywhere. A library-dependent Toronto reader wrote me, “It is frustrating to find that conservative books [in libraries] now require special pleading or determined searching.” My curiosity piqued by her exasperation, I keyed “Regnery Publishing” into an electronic search of selected public library catalogues across Canada. Some less than encouraging results: Toronto—16; Vancouver—12; Calgary—7.
I visited my local Westmount library, which caters to a highly educated demographic. Lots of liberal anti-Americanism, a tiny paucity of conservative texts. Its director tells me her purchases are guided by reviews in library journals, as well as those in The Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and the Times of London, all centre-left to far-left publications. Moreover, there is no “equity” Canadian magazine policy in their reading room. The Westmount Library stocks the Walrus, but the director had never heard of, let alone considered subscribing to, the Western Standard magazine.
But should we be surprised? Librarians are extremely liberal and, thanks to our tax dollars, insulated from their consumers’ preferences. Much was made in the 2004 presidential election of the 11-1 ratio of university professors’ donations to Kerry’s campaign over Bush’s. Compared to librarians, however, academics are Rush Limbaugh’s fan club, for the Kerry-Bush ratio of librarians’ donations was a stunning 223-1.
Are Canadian librarians less ideologically monolithic than their U.S. colleagues? Not on the evidence. At the Toronto Public Library (TPL), Canada’s largest, The Bush-Haters Handbook is readily available, but not Steyn’s The Face of the Tiger, which, by the way, is not carried in the public libraries of Winnipeg, Montreal or Fredericton, or in the university libraries of Toronto, British Columbia and McGill.
As of this writing, I’m informed that Steyn’s America Alone is on order at the TPL, so there is another small victory for Regnery Publishing. Michael Moore’s Dude Where’s My Country and Stupid White Men can be found in every major library in Canada (including universities); David Horowitz’ Left Illusions is in two.
The Ontario Library Association’s “Hippocratic oath,” i.e. their mandate concerning “The Intellectual Rights of the Individual” includes “the freedom to examine other ideas and other interpretations of life than those currently approved by the local community or by society in general, and including those ideas and interpretations which may be unconventional or unpopular.”
At present this lofty ideal seems to be honoured more in the breach than the observance. As for bricks-and-mortar book stores. I, for one, ordered my copy of America Alone (autographed!) directly from SteynOnline.com. Ms. Gaulin may be interested to find out how many other Canadians do likewise.