June 16, 2006


The multicultural menace, anti-semitism and me: Once a woman of liberal views, Melanie Phillips is now known for her scathing criticism of modern Britain. In her new book, she turns her outrage on multiculturalism, immigration and the anti-semitism she believes has turned London into Europe's 'epicentre of Islamic militancy'. What's all that about? And what drives such fury? Jackie Ashley braves her wrath (Jackie Ashley, June 16, 2006, The Guardian)

Driving to my rendezvous with Melanie Phillips, scourge of the Guardian-reading liberal establishment, voice of rightwing moral outrage, and reflecting on her relationship with this paper, it seemed to me like the aftermath of a vicious divorce, in which both parties were obsessed with the other. Phillips, once a Guardian staffer, now star columnist at the Daily Mail, as well as being a regular on The Moral Maze and Question Time, is renowned for her scathing criticism of this country's moral and cultural malaise. Her world view, whether she is writing about the inadequacies of the education system or the sanctity of marriage, seem a world away from Guardian values now. She clearly sees the split in the same way.

"I worked for Guardian Newspapers for the best part of 20 years and I regard it as a bit like a family from whom one has had a terrible divorce. I look back with enormous affection at what was, and yet the relationship broke down, and that's very sad." Acknowledging the mutual fascination, she adds: "I think that's simply because I am an apostate and there is no one who is more hated than an apostate." She goes on to talk of the Guardian's "rage" and "vilification". Within minutes she is repeatedly accusing me of misrepresenting her views and failing to understand her new book. Almost as soon as I get home, a long protest email has arrived, copied to the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, claiming that I had misunderstood almost everything she stands for and warning about "the possible inflammatory consequences of any misrepresentation of my views".

Well, perhaps I should have expected that. Phillips is a renowned controversialist whose spare, lean frame seems to be sustained by argument rather than food and drink. She arrives, at a French cafe in Chiswick, west London, tense and intense, in a pink shirt, and orders only black coffee.

We are here to discuss her new book, titled Londonistan: How Britain Is Creating a Terror State Within. It argues that anti-semitism and liberal weakness have turned London into "the epicentre of Islamic militancy in Europe". Britain, she says, "is currently locked into such a spiral of decadence, self-loathing and sentimentality that it is incapable of seeing that it is setting itself up for cultural immolation". She concludes that "the emergence of Londonistan should be of the greatest concern to the free world".

This danger has been caused by decadence: "Among Britain's governing class - the intelligentsia, its media, its politicians, its judiciary, its church and even its police - a broader and deeper pathology has allowed and even encouraged Londonistan to develop."

Throughout the book there are shards of evidence and penetrating questions that deserve to be at the centre of political debate. Did the security services in the 80s and 90s take a naive and complacent view of the growth of extreme Islamist cells run from London by political exiles, thinking that they wouldn't bite the hand that fed them? Have we got the right balance between protecting and promoting the rights and languages of minorities on the one hand, and the safety and culture of the majority on the other? Is the left overinfluenced by the Palestinian question, and too ready to close its eyes to the brutal realities of extreme Islamist thinking and practice?

While the Islamophobic Right is indeed often hysterical, it's worth remembering Flannery O'Connor: "You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."

MORE (via The Mother Judd):
A feminist success story (Caryl Rivers, June 16, 2006, Boston Globe)

Coulter's newest book once again takes on her favorite bete noir, those liberals. In ``Godless," she says they will burn in hell for casual sex, opposing school prayer, not believing that the world was created in six days, or not thinking that sex education is the handiwork of Satan. In her last book, ``Treason," anti-Communist crusader Joe McCarthy was the good guy and all Democrats, she said, were anti-America Benedict Arnolds.

She's had her own Time magazine cover, something akin to beatification on planet Infotainment. The Time piece was a cotton-candy valentine, basically writing off her racial and Arab-bashing remarks as rather adorable. Time said, ``It would be easier to accept Coulter's reasoning if a shadow of bigotry didn't attach to many of her statements about Arabs and Muslims." Not to mention blacks. Coulter once wrote that school desegregation has led to ``illiterate students knifing one another between acts of sodomy in the stairwell." She also noted in a speech, ``Liberals are about to become the last people to figure out that Arabs lie," and said that airports should establish separate security lines for men and boys who look dark enough to be from the Middle East. ``Swarthy men . . . We'd be searching, you know, Italians, Spanish, Jews."

Coulter's books are a mishmash, seemingly put together with a trowel instead of a pen, a blend of invective, jokes, outrageous statements, and, from time to time, a modicum of sense. She's much more fun on television, where she can make grown men gasp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2006 7:45 AM

In war, said Napoleon, who knew something about the subject, the moral is to the material as ten is to one.

To neglect rage is to abandon victory. You can't win without getting mad at the enemy. It is not "hysterical" to seek his overthrow. There will be time enough for mercy, compassion and even generosity when the sword has dropped from his hand.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 16, 2006 8:24 AM

Napoleon lost.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2006 8:40 AM

I heard Phillips interview on the radio, don't remember the show. She's witty and knowledgeable and passionate, anything but hysterical.

Posted by: erp at June 16, 2006 8:41 AM

"Once a woman of liberal views, Melanie Phillips is now known for her scathing criticism of modern Britain."

Non sequitur alert.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 16, 2006 10:14 AM

She's witty and knowledgeable and passionate, anything but hysterical.

In other words, nothing like Ann Coulter or Ann's twin sister Maureen Dowd.

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 16, 2006 10:38 AM

Coulter is merely a book-writing Michael Savage (why she isn't on talk radio is a puzzle).

That said, after seeing her on Leno, and watching her defend the supposedly offensive language, I must say she knocked it out of the park.

The limits define the center, and Coulter benefits the conservative cause. We can all appear more "moderate" by chiding her aggressive language while more and more people take notice the she's actually right on the most of the issues at hand.

Posted by: Bruno at June 16, 2006 11:12 AM

No one listens--they're just scoping her out.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2006 12:55 PM


Yes, but who's done better with a French army?

Posted by: Mike Earl at June 16, 2006 2:21 PM

Little girls have done as well.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2006 2:27 PM

Melanie Philips was interviewed on C-Span. Her message is much the same as Theodore Dalrymple's.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at June 16, 2006 6:23 PM

I emailed her a few times back when she was working for the Sunday Times and got some nice replies.

She is a good writer but has a tendency to exaggerate the nature of the Islamist threat. I was a little flummoxed by an article of hers in the Mail which asserted the French riots were the product of an organised and directed Muslim conspiracy to take over Europe as opposed to a load of angry, unemployed yobs who were up for a fight.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at June 16, 2006 7:59 PM

"school desegregation has led to ``illiterate students knifing one another between acts of sodomy in the stairwell." She is right of course.
The failure with school desegregation is that it decimated every large city in America. It is not that desegregation is a bad thing; America is built on assimilation of different cultures, it is that the method used was short sighted and once implemented never questioned. School bussing was originally an experiment to see if it was the best way to achieve the goals of integration. What it did was tear apart neighborhood schools, which were the adhesive element the neighborhood was built around. It was the place, usually within walking distance, where parents could be involved in their children’s learning. Making it difficult for parents to reach distant schools released them from some of their responsibility and accountability and put it on to the government. Neighborhoods also held its inhabitants to a form of social accountability where families knew each other and held each other and each other’s children to certain social moirés. It can be argued that this disruption to the neighborhood, significantly contributed to soaring rates of drug use, inner-city crime, minority drop out rates and lower overall achievement in the black community. At what point do you stop an experiment that has gone terribly wrong and is doing the opposite of what was its intent.

Posted by: Jay Ostrander at June 17, 2006 11:46 AM

It ended. No one gets bussed anymore and the problem was that they bussed white kids out of their neighborhoods against their will instead of just letting black kids attend any school they wanted to.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2006 12:25 PM