The other day, I was unfortunate enough to purchase a copy of the book, "Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within", by Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips. I was, admittedly, somewhat intrigued by the promising, almost imposing, one word reviews. "Explosive" said the Observer, for example, or so we're told. I tried to find the original review, but could only locate the following passage prefaced to an Observer piece by Phillips, published in May. What the Observer actually said was: "... In this explosive extract she [Phillips] traces the impact of one disturbing episode." OK - so it's the extract that's "explosive", not the book.
Moving on, apparently the Guardian describes the book as "Penetrating". Sounds good I suppose, unless there are hidden Freudian connotations, in which case it might be disturbingly bizarre... So I google again and find the review which says: "Throughout the book there are shards of evidence and penetrating questions..." This wouldn't be too bad apart from the fact that reviewer Jackie Ashley complains: "The problem is that Phillips's hysterical tone repels frank and thoughtful argument..." I won't quote anymore you can read the rest of the review here, which is pretty hilarious.
The next resounding review is by none other than Mel P's own newspaper, the Daily Mail, which describes her book as "Well researched" and "finely written". Well I won't bother checking up on that effective piece of self-congratulation, especially after having flicked through most of the book. A preliminary skim read shows that the research behind the book is unfortunately sloppy, as are most of Mel P's arguments. And her writing is more a continuous diatribe than "fine."
One set of passages I just read now strikes me as exceptionally weird, and representative of Mel P's contradictory state of mind. On p. 28, she says: "Britain... has effectively allowed itself to be taken hostage by militant gays, feminists or 'antiracists' who used weapons such as public vilification, moral blackmail and threats to peoples' livelihoods to force the majority to give in to their demands. And these demands were identical to those made by the Islamists..."
Wait a minute... am I reading correctly?
At this point I felt like nominating Mel P for this year's British Comedy Award, except that after reading a bit more the inclination to laugh gets replaced by a sense of disbelief, confusion, incredulity, and nausea.
How can you take seriously someone who believes that:
1) The United Kingdom has been taken hostage by gays, no, not just gays, militant gays (gays with guns?, what the hell is that supposed to mean???), feminists and antiracists, no wait we have to put that in inverted commas, "antiracists". Is she trying to describe the Blair Cabinet?
2) These illegitimate "minorities" have "forced the majority to give in to their demands". OK people: let's be frank here, you can open your heart when you leave your blog comments... when you wake up in the morning, do you feel that you've been subjugated by a scary group of gays, feminists and antiracists who've just taken over your country and are now threatening to take your job too?
3) The demands of this scary group are "identical" to the demands of "Islamists", and by Islamists, Mel P means, basically terrorists.
The logical implications of this totally bizarre set of axioms is that gays, feminists and antiracists are in the same boat as al-Qaeda terrorists.
Are you getting that laughing feeling now? Or have you passed into the nausea phase (or have you just passed out...?)
Well the comedy and tragedy does, unfortunately, continue along the same lines on the next page (29), where the process Mel P outlines above with some elaboration in between "has produced", she says, "the extraordinary phenomenon of radical Islam - which denies female equality and preaches death to gays..." But I thought gays, feminists and Islamist terrorists are making "identical" demands on "the majority"?
Suffice it to say, this book really is a bit bizarre. That's not to say that Mel P doesn't touch on some interesting truths and half-decent questions. The problem is that most of the book is invested in engaging in an extended paranoid diatribe with no connection to reality. I'm going to dissect the arguments in this book as I continue reading, as it seems a lot of people are reading it, and I'm genuinely concerned about the impact such a book might have in the UK, by increasing racial and religious hatred, particularly against Muslim communities.
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