Mel P: Stupid Spice
A rather haphazard article on the Australian riots by Melanie Phillips today shows her best and worst sides. She veers on the side of common sense and moderation on a few occasions, but the overall tone of the article is yet another swipe at multi-culturalism, with question marks hanging over her proposed solution to violence by Muslim immigrants (send them all to the Middle East? Ban them coming in?) and what her precise feelings are over a religion which is practiced in a largely peaceful manner. But worst of all, she repeatedly shows what a twisted bigot she can be, in an article that could offend Arabs, Muslims, Aborigines, Swedes and the Danish. Oh, and me. Nice work.
She starts off by writing the few facts we know for sure, and then quotes, at great length, a retired policeman and a journalist. After doing her usual cut and paste job she concludes:
"As in Britain, the white racists in Australia appear to be exploiting a situation which has been allowed to get completely out of hand. Racists are parasites who attach themselves to a decaying organism and feed off it. But the organism wouldn't attract them if it wasn't already decaying. Britain, France, Australia, Sweden — variations of the same phenomenon are happening all over the western world. Aggression and denial, creating a spiral of ever-worsening aggression, all because of a paralysis in acknowledging, let alone dealing with, the true nature of what we are all facing."
~and now, the part where she is taken apart~
Firstly, what is this "organism?" Speak in metaphors all you like love, we can't figure out what you want if you don't state it clearly. We can reconstruct CSI-style, what she might be on about by consulting her previous written crimes. She, like many other more reasonable commentators, demands a reassessment of Islam by people across the world. She wants states in the Middle East to get with the times and the Muslims living here to adopt our values. Putting to what extent this has actually happened aside, how would she want this change effected? Islam is not like Catholicism, where a central authority can decree appropriate behaviour and pass it off as God’s word. Its practitioners are as diffuse as they are voluminous, with liberal movements contrasting with the fanatical terrorists with which we are all well-acquainted. The extent to which Islam can be reconciled with decent values is getting to be a rather tiresome debate these days, but, as always, it might help to bear in mind that the problems come from a tiny sector of Muslims. This is oft-repeated but true.
Not that Islam is the issue. When Jason Burke flayed Melanie Phillips for her drivel on the Parisian riots, one major criticism he had (and which she never responded to) was the way that she repeatedly leapt between labelling the perpetrators Muslims (their religion, apparently. I mean, did some researcher go out into the flames and ask the faith of every dark-skinned man kicking up a fuss?) and Arabs (their ethnicity). He called it “dangerous nonsense” and he is not far wrong. She does it again here, writing:
"These gangs were involved in heroin smuggling, extortion, armed robbery, gun running, organised factory and warehouse break-ins and large-scale car theft and conversion."
Wow, heroin smuggling. Armed robbery. Warehouse break-ins. Gasp! I know the term for these guys. Criminals. That’s what we call them when they are white Brits. Does the fact that these criminals are Arabs prove that multi-culturalism is failing? Does she want multi-culturalism to fail? Her desire to attack Islam with almost any pretext is a sight to behold. The repeated accusations of Islamophobia levelled at her may or may not be unfair (though given her repeated use of the term "anti-semite" against reasonable and moderate commentators she is hardly displaying firm principles when she claims those accusing her are crying over spilt milk). She herself seems to believe that Islam is a largely violent religion and that reasonable practioners are in the minority, writing last year:
"There was a Muslim enlightenment, they both said, and it was the duty of the west to help and protect its proponents. Absolutely right; but in reality, how many moderates are there? Given the terror, no-one knows".
Now, one area that is important is how the initial small-scale crime flared up into several days worth of violence. This will become known in time, and I suspect the answer will be a bit more intricate and demanding of context than multi-culturalism beig intrinsically flawed and a security blanket for liberal sissies.
And what is she referring by including Sweden in the above list? Have there been country-wide riots in Sweden by Muslims? Because if there were, they slipped through mainstream reporting. Last month, when Swedish Prime Minister Persson was warned that it could be worth preparing for riots like those seen in France he called the alarm "unnecessary". Little has changed since then. Could be wrong, but I suspect she meant Denmark, which both she and the media covered quite liberally. Still, Swedes, Danes, same thing I suppose. As long as you are a bigot.
But the worst error of all is her use of the word "indigenous" to describe white Australians. Obviously somebody writes such poisonous garbage about the Palestinians is going to struggle with that particular word. Does she know who the aborigines are? And the conditions they live in for that matter? She also writes that: "the current unrest was sparked by Lebanese Muslim attacks on two indigenous lifeguards", which correlates with what the mainstream media has claimed and so far is as accurate as we can get. Well, accurate if you exclude a second use of the word "indigenous", which clearly shows how badly she wants to differentiate between two groups of immigrants. Commendably, she buttresses the outburst of common sense by stating that "As in Britain, the white racists in Australia appear to be exploiting a situation which has been allowed to get completely out of hand." But since this is with the context of another article that seeks to divide rather than unite people, it should receive only faint praise. The true nature of the Sydney riots will become known, but we know that Melanie Phillips has once again already made her mind up.
"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." - George W. Bush (March 24, 2004)