i hope you get cancer™

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Melanie Phillips' favourite words: 'yet' and 'but'

Depressingly predictable response to Thursday's post. It is intriguing that the racist will always deny their own racism, no matter how core to their beliefs it is or how readily they will share their prejudices in private company. So, in public discourse, the racist will use coded language to signal their views while maintaining what the jargon terms 'plausible deniability'. Notice how often people like Melanie Phillips use the word 'yet', and the proposition-qualification structure to their argument. "I'm not racist but..." begins the Mail-reading pub bore, and Phillips uses her columns in that benighted organ to feed them that night's script: "People who were not supposed to be here because they were illegal immigrants posing as asylum seekers have simply been allowed to disappear into the country in their thousands. Clearly, the vast majority of such people pose no security threat; [if you say so, Melanie, but we can't let that get in our way, can we?] but it is equally obvious that it is not possible to make a country safe if its borders are so permeable and administrative chaos allows people simply to vanish below the official radar." (The jihad comes to Britain, 8 July) This was 24 hours after the London bombings, when the attack was believed to be the work of people from overseas. The dead were still unidentified, indeed had still to be reached in some cases in underground tunnels that must have resembled scenes from hell. Yet Phillips was happy to use the horror, dressed with generous amounts of speculation and guesswork, as a platform for (yawn) another attack on immigration policy. Warming to her theme over that weekend, she began to zone in her attack on British Muslims the following Monday: "...up to an estimated 16,000 British Muslims are said to be sympathetic to terrorism and and, according to fomer Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens, up to 3000 British born or British based people have passed through al Qaeda training camps over the years. Of course, the vast majority of Muslims are undoubtedly decent, law-abiding, peaceful citizens. [so help us out Melanie - how can we get them?] But since only one bomber needs to get lucky in order to cause death and destruction, these statistics are clearly absolutely horrifying." (No surrender, July 11) So, what are we saying Melanie? What exactly is your point? Religious profiling? Her point is that Islam, quite simply, is the 'root cause' of murders such as these, and that failing to fight back against Islam is akin to appeasement. She accuses the government, in attempting "to reduce discrimination and promote integration", of doing just that. Of course this is a cheap and disingenuous distortion, more suited to a first year undergraduate than a highly-paid newspaper columnist. But her false duality - unless you oppose efforts to reduce discrimination, etc., you are an appeaser of the tube bombers - is a simple message, easily and widely repeated. By the time of her next Mail piece, the bombers had been identified as British. Of course this offered Phillips the perfect opportunity to build on her implicit calls for a witch-hunt: "Obviously, it is important to prevent any retribution against ordinary Muslims, the vast majority of whom are utterly appalled at what has happened and who themselves live blameless, law-abiding lives. [yes, yes, Melanie, but surely we're allowed some acts of retribution?] But what has happened has gone much further than that. [phew!] This lethal moral madness, July 14) It is the grammar, the codes, the oppositions she sets up which communicate racism - not, as some previous respondents suggested, any explicit incitements to racial hatred. Technorati tag: