Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Melanie Phillips, right wing commentators and the terrorist Breivik

Melanie Phillips complains that she is being "smeared" by Sunny Hundal in Liberal Conspiracy, who shows that the right-wing terrorist Breivik pasted into his "manifesto" two quotes from Phillips, one about the "fatherless" culture, and one about immigration, entitled "The outrageous truth slips out:Labour cynically plotted to transform the entire make-up of Britain without telling us"

Phillips begins her defence with : "there are only two references to me or my work in its 1500 pages."

Er. Yes. OK. But that is two more than she would really be happy with in an ideal world.

She list the following other writers quoted by Breivik: "Bernard Lewis, Roger Scruton, Ibn Warraq, Mark Steyn, Theodore Dalrymple, Daniel Hannan, Diana West, Lars Hedegaard, Frank Field, Nicolas Soames, Keith Windschuttle, Edmund Burke, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Friedrich Hayek, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi, George Orwell and many others; indeed, it’s a roll call of western thinking and beyond, past and present". 

She leaves Jeremy Clarkson off the list. Fair enough. Not a thinker.

OK. Scruton, Warrraq, Steyn, Darymple, Hannan and West - all conservative commentators - have some soul-searching to do, along with Phillips. 

As do the tabloid press generally. 

She goes for the psychopath diagnosis: "the words of a deranged individual are being cited by people like Hundal who are taking them entirely seriously". As a psychiatrist, I doubt that he is psychopathic or psychotic, but we must await the psychiatrists' report for that. From what I have seen so far, I would say he is intelligent,  highly controlling, a political activist with an over-valued idea that European culture is under threat from Islam.

With her customary belief that attack is the best form of defence, Phillips says "The supposed beliefs of the Norway massacre’s perpetrator has got the left in general wetting itself in delirium at this apparently heaven-sent opportunity to take down those who fight for life, liberty and western civilisation against those who would destroy it. "

Phillips' belief that there is a war on for western civilisation encapsulates Breivik's Manifesto in a nutshell. 

A PhD could be written on parallels between Phillips' writings and Breivik's. He killed the Labour young people because they were "traitors" to Christian Europe by allowing immigration and promoting multi-culturalism. And here is Phillips calling the Conservatives a "quisling" party because of signing up to the Lisbon Treaty. (For younger readers, Quisling was a Norwegian traitor in WWII. Ironically, she wrote this years before Breivik's Norweigian massacre).

The parallels are there. Phillips may protest that she is being subjected to the Guilt by Association fallacy, but guilt by association is exactly how Phillips and her fellow Islamophobes work. 

They love putting the heat on all Muslims because of the actions of a few fanatics. 
They love putting the heat on all immigrants by publicising the crimes of a few. 
And they love putting the heat on all benefits claimants by publicising the fraudulent activities of a few.

Phillips and the tabloids generally share another feature with Breivik. 
They have an over-valued idea, the idea that immigration is the main problem that we face as a society.

Immigration is indeed a  problem, if only because it causes so much anger in the minds of many people, but let us put it in context.  

In 2011 we face the following domestic problems. (This is not a full list, just things off the top of my head) 
  • deficit
  • near-recession  
  • unemployment 
  • poverty 
  • crime
  • rising fuel prices
  • rising food prices 
  • homelessness 
  • absurd penal system 
  • militarism 
  • a set of overbearingly powerful media barons
  • police corruption. 
Then the broader problems: 
  • biodiversity loss
  • soil loss
  • pollution
  • a major nuclear leak that has still not been plugged
  • overfishing 
  • Peak Oil
  • exponential population growth
  • ocean acidification
  • and above all, looming across our children's future, global warming.

Abroad, we have 
  • wars
  • dictatorships
  • torture
  • famines
  • drought 
  • poverty

Note that the last six are major drivers of immigration into this country. 

Which problems are the tabloids concerned about? Crime, benefits scroungers, and immigration. The other problems are ignored, under treated, or, in the case of global warming, denied. (Phillips is an AGW denier, as are most right wing journalists).

Even the problems they do highlight are not given an in-depth treatment. Never do they look at causes or reasonable solutions. They just run stories designed to make people angry. I recall Kelvin MacKenzie saying on TV that the whole point of his journalism is to "Make people angry".  

They are certainly succeeding. Tabloid readers are angry. Right wing blog commenters are consistently angry. 

Breivik shared the anger of the right wing commentators and tabloid readers, but he did something about it. 
It was controlled and diverted into his grand 9-year plan to start the 21st century Crusade, a war between "Christian" Europe and the Islamic jihad, and eventually expressed in his horrific terrorist act.  

Phillips and the whole crew of right wing apologists and commentators have some distancing to do. 
In an ideal world, they would also have some re-thinking to do. They should ask themselves questions like:
  • Are my writings calculated to make people angry, pure and simple?
  • What is the cause of immigration? 
  • What can we do politically to reduce the causes of immigration?
  • What can we do to help communities understand each other?
Let us hope that the Norwegian tragedy will cause the whole of the right wing press, including Melanie Phillips, to examine what they are writing about, cause them to ask themselves whether they are giving the full picture of the problems that the world faces. 

Maybe a critical point has been reached, when the right wing press stops trying to make its readers angry over a handful of problems, and begins to explore the whole range of interconnected problems that we face.



Anonymous No. 6 said...

Valid points, well made , but surely I ought to be able to voice my opinion that Islamic fascists get an easy ride from left-leaning bloggers? It has always bugged me - I just don't get it. We should be rounding on people with obnoxious opinions whether they're muslim-hating edl type loons, gay-hating christian type loons or jew-hating muslim type loons or whatever type of hate they have. Why do people have to turn it into some sort of pedantic point-scoring game?

Both the right and the left are selling the ordinary, decent folks who are just trying to muddle through life, very short indeed.

Yes, Philipps is an idiot, but so is the dozy woman who blamed it all on Israel. What's her excuse?

DocRichard said...

Hi Anon6

I agree. Criticism where it's due, and the Mad Mullahs need confronting too, but at this point in time, it is appropriate that the Right should come in for a bit of stick.

After all, if it was some Spart Trotskyite who had just killed 86 young people, the Right would not be pulling their punches would they?

nigel said...

A Psychiatrist you may be; a philosopher you are not. You make a series of errors in logic, for example claiming that a cause may be derived from an effect, together with wide use of fallacious syllogisms. If you are a Freudian (which makes some sense insofar as you seem obsessd with MP), perhaps motves are indeed made manifest in the consequences of our actions. To impute whatever motives Breivik had to Phillips is weak thinking.

scott said...

Melanie Phillips doesn't do measured responses, she can only write in florid exaggerated hyperbole. This speaks directly to a conspiratorial mind set in her right wing readers, it goads them, it angers them, and for Breivik it led to action. To be fair, it isn't just Phillips, apocalyptic rhetoric and wild exaggeration is a common theme on many right wing blogs.

As a further example of her style, she goes on to say On Twitter and the net and in the liberal media, the forces of spite, malice and venom have been unleashed in a terrifying display of irrationality.

Really? Being called names on some internet blog is a 'terrifying display of irrationality'? To my mind a 'terrifying display of irrationality' would be a good description of what those children experienced on that island. Perhaps what she is experiencing is more likely to be the guilty realisation that her overblown rhetoric played a part in justifying that terror.

Anonymous said...

You're only discussing this because it was a relatively successful terrorism attack. I didn't see anyone going into so much detail on (for example) what motivated the Glasgow Airport bunglers. I guess they weren't so successful.

DocRichard said...

Nigel, you will have to do better than that to merit a response.
agreed. Phillips is projecting her own issues onto those who disagree with her.
I'm discussing this because it is current news. I have discussed terrorism many times in this blog. Hit the Terrorism tag at the foot of the post.

Thom said...

"Note that the last six are major drivers of immigration into this country."

So, why don't you teach this immigrants to leave behind the culture and religion that bring to their countries the problems you mentioned? What do they need a mosque for? Isn't clear by now that the main problems are mosques?

DocRichard said...

Thom, I think you need to re-read the original post to get a grasp of what I am saying.

Would you be interested at all in slowing down the motivation for people to leave their mother country, or are you exclusively interested in being angry with the immigrants that are driven here?