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Wednesday, August 03, 2011 

The depressing adventures of Melanie Phillips, pt 95.

As Sunny is learning the hard way, getting into a fight with Melanie Phillips might be many things, but funny or enlightening it is certainly not. The best way to understand just where she comes without going through her entire oeuvre is almost certainly to read Jackie Ashley's wonderful interview with her shortly after the publication of her book Londonistan, an interview Ashley had not even written up before Phillips was emailing Alan Rusbridger complaining about how she was about to be misrepresented and "the possible inflammatory consequences" if she was. Remarkably similar to how anyone suggesting that she has "blood on her hands" will have blood on theirs if anything happens to her.

The first and most important thing to note is that Phillips doesn't do irony, doesn't do humour, doesn't do understatement. As Ashley writes, while other columnists, especially on the tabloids don't always believe what they say and then feel they have to keep going rather than back down (Richard Littlejohn, git though he is, probably falls into this category), Phillips really, and I mean really believes every single word she puts down. Her way of responding to criticism, of any sort, but especially that which suggests she's going over-the-top, is to scream and scream about being smeared, about debate being shut down and about how totalitarians of both stripes used to describe dissidents as paranoid, delusional, or worse locked them up under the pretence of madness.

What makes this all the more surprising is that she personally has no compunction about using highly similar terminology to describe both those she opposes and the world as she sees it. Hence her first response to those pointing out she was among those quoted in Anders Breivik's manifesto was titled "a wider pathology". Her latest piece on Sunny accuses him of a "weird obsession". As Aaronovitch Watch details, to her Western society has not just become morally decayed, it has lost its mind and with it the will to survive. Her latest book is called "The World Turned Upside Down", and again, it's a title without the slightest hint of irony.

The fact is that Phillips is in a bind. She could almost certainly be more of an influence or aspire to a slightly more salubrious location than the Daily Mail, having apparently been kicked off the Spectator's website for having a cavalier approach to facts, if she toned down her rhetoric slightly. Despite the leftist, dhimmi BBC being kind enough to keep hosting her on Question Time (where she mostly does indeed manage to come across as reasonable, meaning she can do it if she wants to) and the Moral Maze, the very reason why she found herself among those being quoted by Breivik at length is that regardless of the very real concerns she has raised, she does it in such a way that it means she can only be fully embraced by the hard right in America and the similar outliers we have in Europe. Yet because she so deeply believes every word she types, her blood and soul poured into it regardless of the topic, she is denied a position that could so easily be hers. This only leads her further down the same, relatively friendless path.

Despite insisting to Ashley that she does constantly ask herself whether she's wrong, the apparent lack of self-doubt combined with the absence of any humour is what makes her writing so chilling, so apocalyptic, and also so dead. Arguing with her then is all but pointless; responding to it with mockery or parody though certainly isn't. I can then only sign off with this from the latest Private Eye:

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