If Cassandra were a liberal
In the passage by Melanie Phillips that I discuss in the previous entry, she considers the opinion
that the human bomb death cult will be brought to an end not by intelligence or defensive actions by its victims—necessary as those are—but by the Muslim world itself reaching into its own theology to cast it out. Whether this is indeed possible is the great issue of our time.For Phillips, the great issue of our time is not whether the West will finally defend itself from Islam, but whether Islam will reform itself. This explains the very thing I’ve always criticized about Phillips, her failure to call on Britain to DO anything to turn back the Islamic menace about which she is constantly warning. For Phillips, any self-defensive action by Britain and the West against Islam is only of secondary importance. For her, the only real way the Islam menace can be removed is if Islam reforms itself and becomes moderate.
But of course that is not something the West can make happen. It is up to the Muslims. Which means that Phillips, for all her intensity, would leave us helpless against the very threat to which she is trying to alert us. Just as with President Bush, whose promised “victory” in Iraq depends not on something we can do, but on something the Iraqis must do, but do not have the will and ability to do, and just as with Bernard Lewis, who bases the sole chance for Western survival not on something Westerners can do, but on Muslims’ decision to “embrace freedom,” which they will never do, in the same way Phillips bases our civilizational survival not on something we can do, but on something the Muslims must do—something that, by the nature of Islam, they can never do.
If Melanie Phillips were Cassandra, the tragic heroine of Greek myth whom she must feel at times she resembles more than a little, here is what she would say to the people of Troy:
“Trojans! Listen to my warning! There are Greek soldiers hidden inside that giant horse. If you bring that horse into the city, the Greeks inside will come out in the middle of the night and kill all our men and burn Troy to the ground and take away the women and children as slaves. But don’t misunderstand me! This doesn’t mean you should keep the horse out of the city! That would not be in keeping with our liberal and pluralist Trojan values! No, what we must do is bring the horse into the city, and then go back to our homes and pray all night long that the Greeks inside the horse have a change of heart and become moderate Greeks. Then, when they emerge from the horse, it will not be to kill us and burn our city, but to be our friends. Whether this is indeed possible is the great issue of our time.”
Ben W. writes:
Why do people like Melanie Phillips expect “the other” to act but not the West? It is because they do not believe that the West has anything intrinsically valuable to act on—in an active and extensive way. There are no longer any metaphysical concepts or transcendent beliefs pertaining to the West that are absolute and critically important to convey or communicate to “the other.” The West can only react passively like a sponge.
The strangeness of the Melanie Phillips phenomenon cannot be overstated. I was just listening to a brief but powerful tv interview Phillips gave Paul Gigot in August 2006. No one in the mainstream media says things as strong as she does about Islam. Gigot (who remained clueless from beginning to end) asked her, since Britain was able to weather the IRA terrorism, couldn’t it do the same with Islamic terrorism? And Phillips answered, they’re not the same thing. The IRA had a limited, and negotiable, goal, independence of Northern Ireland. But the goal of the jihadists is unlimited and non-negotiable: to destroy Britain, destroy America, destroy Western society, and kill a lot of people to accomplish that.
That’s strong stuff. Very bracing to hear on tv. But (here comes the LA question) what did Phillips say ought to be DONE about this? She said that Britain must “stop tolerating” the hate speech against Britain and America and Israel which leads to terrorist acts. She seemed to be saying that the laws against incitement to hatred ought to be applied to Muslim preachers. And that was it. Here she was, talking about a movement aimed at our absolute destruction, a movement consisting of people who are either recent immigrants to Britain or the children of immigrants, and her only practical proposal was to stop the most extreme exponents of this movement from speaking. What it came down to was applying the same anti-“hate-speech” laws to Muslims that are already applied to whites.
Excuse me, but that is a no-brainer position.
Yet Phillips, compared to some “conservatives,” is extreme. In his introduction to the interview clip at HotAir, the blogger with the unfunny and uncute name AllahPundit writes:
I’m giving you the whole clip, only because she doesn’t get many invites to do American TV. For reasons that will soon become apparent. Kudos to Paul Gigot and the Journal Editorial Report for having her on.
Do you believe that? All that Melanie said was that Muslim preachers calling for the destruction of Britain and America should be prosecuted for hate speech, yet AllahPundit—a guy whose “I’m dissing Islam” pseudonym makes him seem like a tough guy, a hard-liner—says that Phillips’s minimal proposal is going too far for him!
In other words, AllahPundit is a typical conservative: All hat, no cattle.
One of the commenters at HotAir similarly overstated Phillips’s position:
Finally a voice of reason about the war on terror. Melanie Phillips understands who the enemy is and what is needed to win.
Given the jihadist threat Phillips described so vividly, does the commenter really think that stopping a few people from speaking will be enough to end the threat? Does Phillips?
Whoops. We now know that she does not think that her proposals are enough to end the threat, because, as she just said, the “great issue of our time” is whether the Muslims can reform themselves. Meaning that our salvation depends on what Muslims do, not on what we do to defend ourselves from them.
Melanie Phillips: so serious in her diagnosis, so unserious in her recommendations.
Robert B. writes:
I don’t see why anyone expects anything different from women—this is part of their nature, just as it is man’s nature to be the warrior. This is why the rest of the world laughs at the West—we have allowed women an equal (indeed, greater) voice in our affairs, which will always lead to a passive response to perceived superior force. Granted, there is the occasional Elizabeth, Catherine the Great, Thatcher, etc. But these women of historical note are the exception that proves the rule. If they were not the exception, then they would not have been as noteworthy, now would they?LA replies:
I don’t see it. Phillips is stronger on the dangers of Islam than 99.9 percent of the population. Ok, so she’s weak on what to do about it. Still,, how do you turn statements by a woman that are stronger than what 99.9 percent of people say, into a case that women lack the aggression to be leaders? Not that I don’t agree with your general proposition, but I don’t see how Phillips’s comments support it.Robert B. replies:
“I don’t see it. Phillips is stronger on the dangers of Islam than 99.9 percent of the population.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 14, 2007 08:50 PM | Send