A couple of new pieces by Melanie Phillips are out. The first one covers very important issues and I commend it to this house.
Isn’t it odd how many below the line contributors respond to Melanie’s pieces with a preliminary disclaimer that goes something like: “I don’t usually agree with Melanie Phillips, but…”
The other one, which appears in The Times (£) addresses Andrew Neil’s confrontational head-to-head with Ben Shapiro. It’s an interesting read, but I think Melanie was being over-generous to Andrew Neil, who subsequently seemed quite taken aback by the negative reaction to his interviewing style, while Shapiro’s critics were thrown into confusion by his abject, post-interview apology.
Below the line opinion is divided. Towards the end of the article, she describes audiences’ inability to accept nuance and subtlety, especially in America, where you’re rigidly viewed as either one thing or the other; no room for Mr In between. I totally get that. I litter everything with ‘on the one hand, and on the other.’ ‘I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure’-ism.
One paragraph in Melanie’s article that caught my eye was:
“In similar vein, I’ve found to my cost that among many conservatively minded Americans it is not acceptable, for example, to oppose Tommy Robinson for his thuggish approach to Muslims in general and the rule of law; ….”
Obviously, the confusing bit is:
“Tommy Robinson for his thuggish approach to Muslims in general”
because ‘the rule of law’ could be: ‘potentially causing a trial to collapse’. However, I understood that that allegation was thrown out by the court. I’m still genuinely wondering what she means by ‘his thuggish approach to Muslims in general”
I’d really like to know, because it seems to me that Tommy Robinson is a critic of Islam, just as Melanie herself is, and, like Melanie, Tommy Robinson takes pains to point out that he’s not a racist and he’s not simply “against Muslims”.
I’d also like to know - perhaps someone will explain it to me - why critics of Islam, or as some would have it, the Islamophobic community, are, to a man, loath to be caught out expressing anything less than outright hostility towards “the thug Stephen Yaxley”.
Is there one ’mainstream’ critic of Islam who hasn’t distanced him/herself from Tommy Robinson? Brendan O’Neill, Melanie Phillips, the entire Jewish community, Nigel Farage, I can’t quite remember what Douglas Murray has said but I’m betting it ain’t complimentary - and now Rod Liddle. His piece was particularly sour, and below the line, he got a jolly good hammering for it.
One often thinks that the terrifying rise of Islam would be better countered if all its critics were able to band together. Take, purely as a model, our traditional political system. Both main parties describe themselves as broad churches; both are made up of individuals from all corners of the political spectrum, but at least they all recognise that ‘united you stand, divided you fall’. The only other anti-Islam politician I’ve heard not criticising Tommy Robinson is Anne Marie Waters, and now I come to think of it, it was the other way round. He said nice things about her.
Of course, there’s Gerard Batten, and his relationship with TR has done him nothing but damage.
Maybe that’s what they’re all afraid of. “Frit,” as Margaret Thatcher might say. I do realise that Tommy Robinson can be embarrassingly impetuous and reckless. But he’s fundamentally rowing the same boat as the rest of them, which suggests they’re either huge snobs or plain frit.