Or read the transcript below:
(Transcription by J. C. Hendershot)
Interview with Melanie Phillips by Roger Aronoff
The “Take AIM” shows on BlogTalkRadio, December 16 and December 21, 2010.
Take AIM, 12/16/10: Melanie Phillips, Part I
ROGER ARONOFF: Good morning, and welcome to Take AIM, Accuracy in Media’s weekly talk show on BlogTalkRadio. Today we have with us Melanie Phillips, a British journalist and 1996 Orwell Prize winner for journalism, and author of several books, including her latest book, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power. Her 2006 bestseller, Londonistan, and America’s Social Revolution, are other books of hers. Mrs. Phillips’ columns appear in the Daily Mail, and her commentaries can also be read on her blog, melaniephillips.com, and on the Spectator website at spectator.co.uk. Good morning, Melanie. We’re pleased to have you with us on Take AIM!
MELANIE PHILLIPS: Good morning! It’s a pleasure to speak to you.
ARONOFF: Great. Before we discuss your book and some current events—your book, The World Turned Upside Down, was published back in April—I want to tell our listeners a little more about you. Melanie Phillips joined the Guardian newspaper in 1977, where she worked as a correspondent, later as an editor, and then a columnist starting in 1987. Then she went to The Observer and The Sunday Times before starting to write for the Daily Mail in December of 2001. Among her earlier books is All Must Have Prizes, a devastating critique of Britain’s education system. She’s also the author of The Sex Change Society, Feminized Britain and the Neutered Male, and The Ascent of Woman, a history of the ideas behind the female suffrage campaign. In your new book, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power, you do, really, an amazing job of explaining a lot of what is going on in the world today, and why so much of what is held up as “conventional wisdom” is just plain wrong—not backed up by evidence or reason. How did you come to write this book? Describe the thesis.
PHILLIPS: For me, it was very much a question of joining up the dots. I had been writing about various aspects that I cover in the book for a very long time in my journalism, but it took me quite a while to work out that these were not discrete issues that I was writing about, but there were connections between them all. For example, I was writing, from twenty years back, about, as you said before, the continued collapse of British educational standards. I was writing about family breakdown. I was then writing about the development of multiculturalism, and then the development, arriving out of the obsession with multiculturalism, of the phenomenon of radical Islam coming into Britain and not being dealt with properly.
And then I started writing and talking about Israel, and the fact, that seemed to me extraordinary, that here you had a country which had been under existential siege for six decades of its existence—six decades of its existence!—and yet it was being blamed for being the aggressor in the region. It took me quite a while to realize that these apparently quite different issues, plus other issues, such as the way in which the war in Iraq was reported, and the issue of what’s called “scientism”—that’s the belief that everything in the world, in life on Earth, the universe, and beyond, can be explained by material explanations, including the origins of life on Earth, the universe and beyond—I came to the view that all these things were actually linked: They were all issues on which it was not possible, any longer, to have a proper discussion or debate; they were all issues on which the progressive side of politics took the view that it wasn’t simply that they believed that people who dissented from their point of view were wrong, they believed that they shouldn’t be allowed to speak at all. I came to believe that all these issues were linked by many amazing, common factors. They were all linked by the fact that they were all ideologies—that is to say, they were all governed by ideologies such as a whole range of –isms: Feminism, anti-Americanism, environmentalism, anti-Zionism, moral and cultural relativism, and so on. And all these ideologies, because they’re ideologies, basically, they start with the belief that the idea is not only correct, but can’t be challenged, whatever that idea is, and then they force evidence to fit the idea.
So anyone who subscribes to any of these ideologies basically cannot accept reality or truth, and, consequently, it’s like having a dialogue of the demented. If you’re trying to bring forward actual evidence of what actually going on—actual reality, actual truth, actual facts, historical facts, present day facts—you’re told, “No, no, no, that’s simply an opinion, because there is no truth any more.” If there are no truths, then there are no lies—so everything is simply, in the jargon of today, “competing narratives.” So you can’t have the debate, and, more than that, if you question things—such as, for example, manmade global warming theory; if you support the fate of Israel in Britain, I know there’s a difference in America; if you question the idea that Darwinian evolution might not account for the origin of everything—you find that you lose your friends, that your professional situation becomes very difficult, you lose your chance of promotion, you don’t get the job, you don’t get the government grant, whatever it is. It’s quite an extraordinary situation. You have a kind of totalitarian situation. So I realized that this was a kind of wholesale denial of reason that was going on, and that led me to ask why this was all going on, and how this could possibly have come about in the era in which we tell ourselves we’re living through the most advanced era of mankind, an era which is governed entirely by reason. So I asked myself, “What on Earth had caused all this?” All that led to this book.
ARONOFF: Okay. I want to touch on a few of those specifics that you mentioned, but a couple more things. Tell us a little more about your personal political journey from The Guardian—clearly on the Left—to a more conservative viewpoint. Was there an epiphany? Did something happen that sort of led you in that direction?
PHILLIPS: There was not a sudden epiphany. In fact, it took me a very long time to realize that I had reached a point in my intellectual journey which meant that I had to leave The Guardian. I worked for Guardian newspapers for about twenty years—The Observer was bought by The Guardian, so, in total, I worked for Guardian newspapers for about twenty years—but for about half that time, from the time that I started writing the column on The Guardian, in 1987, I fell out of favor with them very badly because of what I was writing. The second column that I wrote was on the subject of education. This was in the period of Mrs. Thatcher’s government, Mrs. Thatcher’s Conservative government. Mrs. Thatcher, at the time, was a complete “Boo!” figure for the Left, for liberals and the Left, and I took the view, in this column—this was the second column I wrote for The Guardian—that something was going very badly wrong with the education system which could not be put down to Mrs. Thatcher’s fault. It was not heartless Conservative government depriving schools of money that was the problem. Something was going wrong with education itself, and with the way in which teachers were teaching. To my amazement, I discovered that, virtually overnight, I was deemed to have basically gone potty, gone mad—I couldn’t possibly be thinking this! I plowed on, through all kinds of subjects, and, basically, I was sent into a kind of internal exile at The Guardian. I lost my friends—they stopped being nice to me, they stopped inviting me out to lunch—and it was only when they started, in The Observer, running pieces in the paper denouncing me that I finally said, “Enough is enough!”—and went to The Sunday Times.
ARONOFF: Okay. You talk in the book about the deep division in world views, and you say it’s not so much between Left and Right as it is between the intelligentsia and ordinary people. Would you explain that?
PHILLIPS: Yes. It’s something that I’ve discovered in recent years, to my astonishment, and I think it’s actually quite a significant point—a very significant point—that the people who deny reality are almost always part of the intelligentsia, that the lower down the social and educational scale you go, you find that people there are very rooted in reality. They’ve got their feet on the ground, they have no truck with silly ideas, and you find that they are sane and decent and moral. The higher up the social and educational scale you go, particularly people who have been educated in universities in the last decade or two, you find that they are people who are much more likely to have a highly ideological view of the world, to be anti-America, anti-West, anti-capitalism, and to have—most importantly— no idea what truth and objectivity actually are. They disdain the whole notion of truth and objectivity, and they’re the people who are the most vicious and venomous towards Israel, a subject I care about very deeply. I am, myself, a Jew, but I also believe that Israel should be supported not simply in its own right, but because I believe Israel is a kind of paradigm issue of our time, that as far as Britain and Europe are concerned, it’s where the most irrational and bigoted views coalesce under the umbrella of “being rational” and “progressive.” It’s a kind of symbol, if you like, of where we’ve lost the plot over a whole range of issues.
And all these ideologies are centered in the universities, so the universities, far from being the crucibles of reason, have become the destroyers of reason, and the intelligentsia have become the destroyers of reason. It’s because the intelligentsia—historically, I think this is true—people who live in the world of ideas, are particularly prone to believe those ideas even when they depart from reality, to believe in theory. They’re also the people who tend to be, because they’re well-educated, high-minded—and high-minded people tend to be drawn to the idea that the world can be perfected in some way. So all these ideologies—look at environmentalism, look at anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism—we may think that some of them, or all of them, are horrible and destructive, but from the point of view of people who believe in them, they are all ways in which they think the world can be perfected. For example: Anti-capitalism—if there was no capitalism, there would be no nastiness in the world. Anti-Zionism—if Israel didn’t exist, then the Muslim world wouldn’t be making war upon the West. Environmentalism—if only there weren’t people in the world, if only there weren’t machinery, if only there wasn’t a capitalist technology, if only we could go back to living in mud huts and having a primitive barter system, then the planet would be saved. They’re all Utopian ideologies. But we all know, from history, that Utopia always fails—by definition, it’s an impossibility. We also know, from history, that from the French Revolution onwards—indeed, before the French Revolution, if you think of Millenarian Christians, who believed in the perfection of life on Earth because they wanted to realize the Kingdom of God on Earth, then, in the secular mode, you have the French Revolution, which believed in the “Era of Reason”—whenever you have Utopias that proceed to fail, their adherents always turn upon—always make scapegoats upon whom they turn, with great venom, to express their rage at the thwarting of the establishment of Utopia. We’re living through a period in which secular Utopias are mirroring the appalling totalitarian and fascistic movements of the past, in which the thwarting, the perceived thwarting, of the perfection of life on Earth led—in different ways, very different ways—their adherents to take it out on scapegoats. We see this today. We see this in—certainly, as far as these ideologies of anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, environmentalism, and scientism are concerned, you see the scapegoating of people, and the venom expressed towards them for apparently standing in the way of Utopia.
ARONOFF: Tie this into your previous book, Londonistan, which made a huge impression and served as a wake-up call that something very serious was happening to Western countries—in this case, to your home country of England. How is it that the Islamist movement that you’re talking about there, ties itself to the Left? Talk about that alliance, and what that situation was, and what’s happened since you wrote that book. Has it gotten better, or worse?
PHILLIPS: The alliance between the Left and the Islamists is pretty eye-watering, because the Left hold it as articles of faith that there should be, for example, sexual freedom, equality for women, gay rights, and these are all issues on which the Islamists not only have different views, but they actually stone women to death if they’re suspected of committing adultery, they would kill homosexuals, and there is no freedom of thinking, and no equality. So it is extraordinary that the Left literally march on the streets of London, literally march shoulder to shoulder with the Islamists. I think there are a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is that they are both revolutionary movements wanting to overturn Western society and its culture, and replace it by something else. Now, it’s perfectly true that the Islamists want something radically different from the Left, in terms of what they want to replace it by, but they are happy to use each other as troops in the common cause of defeating the West. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that they are all Utopian creeds, what I was saying earlier, and I think that the Left, the progressive side of Western politics, is drawn to Islamists in a strange kind of way, even though their agenda is so radically different. They are all governed by this idea of the realization of some kind of paradise on Earth, and that gives them a kind of common cause. The third thing is that the idea that people on the Left have always been against violence, against tyranny, and against fascism is wrong. People on the Left have a great deal in common with tyranny and fascism. People on the Left obviously have lent themselves to tyranny during the Communist period, and, as I say, you go back to the French Revolution, you find the progressive side of politics lent itself to mass murder. The Left has always been drawn to violence, it’s drawn to the exercise of brute power, and it’s drawn to people who extol that. In my view, the Islamists are a kind of religious—they represent a kind of religious fascism, and the Left comes from that tradition. The far left and fascism have common roots going back to the Counter-Enlightenment, the movement of force which set itself against reason and tolerance in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
It was those thinkers who spawned a way of looking at the world which then took two different pathways—one was fascism, one was Communism—but they actually have the same root, which is against reason, and against liberty. So it’s not really a surprise to me that these people all march together. The final thing to say is, if you look at the Islamists—by Islamists I mean the people who are the modern Islamic ideologues who have given modern expression to the ancient idea embedded in the Islamic world that it should conquer the non-Islamic world for Islam—now, if you look at the ideologues of the 20th century, the early 20th century, the ’20s and ’30s they were writing, people like Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maududi and several others in this whole way of thinking. Post-colonialism, these people came out and developed a kind of movement of radicalized, aggressive Islam which is behind the problems that we have in the world today. Now, if you look at those ideologues, it’s very, very striking how much they drew upon Communist thinking, quite explicitly drew upon Communist thinking. So it’s absolutely no surprise—and I go into this in my book—that the Left is marching, literally, shoulder-to-shoulder with what I would call Islamofascists.
ARONOFF: In a column this week, you say that—again, talking about Islamization—“most of the British establishment is in denial about what it is up against. Our leaders know there is a major threat of terrorism. But they remain willfully blind to the fact that the terrorists’ ultimate aim, the Islamization of Britain and the West, is being pursued by Islamic groups that are not violent, as well as those that are.”
ARONOFF: What is the scenario? What should we be looking for and concerned about—as far as this? And with sharia law, in the West—
PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes. You have the same problem developing very fast in America. You’re quite behind us in Britain because we’re so far in advance because of our demographic situation, but, unfortunately, you’re going down exactly the same route, because you’re too frightened, collectively—as we are in Britain, collectively—to acknowledge that this thing we’re facing is not simply a problem of terrorism, it’s also a problem of cultural takeover which is rooted in religious fanaticism. Now, how we should be dealing with it, in my view, is this: We should be expecting Muslims who live in Britain and America to adhere to exactly the same standards as every other minority. In other words, our attitude to Muslims should be “You’re very welcome to live here, and to contribute to our society and economy, and to become American or British citizens—that’s absolutely fine! You will add a great deal to our cultures, just as other immigrant and minority groups have done.” But until this moment, every single immigrant and minority has accepted that they live under the rule of law, which applies to everyone. In other words, that they are welcome and free to practice their minority faith, their minority culture, and to form communities of minority faith and culture, that’s fine, but where those minority faiths or cultures conflict with core principles of the society in which they are living, they must give way.
Now, there are many Muslims in Britain—and I’m sure this is true in America, too—who are very happy with that arrangement. Indeed, they have come to the West, they’ve come to Britain and America, precisely because they want to live under Western freedoms, Western human rights, one law for all, and all the rest of it. But there are others who will not accept that, and they want to live under Islamic law. Now, this, to me, is the dividing point, because sharia law, which you mentioned, Islamic religious law, in essence, does not recognize any superior authority to itself. It believes it is the Word of God, and will not recognize a secular authority. So anybody who wants to live under sharia law, by definition, is saying they will not accept the democratic principle of one law for all. Now that’s where we in the West should say, “That’s where we draw the line,” because every other minority group accepts one law for all, every other minority group lives as British or American citizens under one law for all—so must Muslims. But, in Britain, we’ve given a lot of ground to sharia law. We’re turning a blind eye to it. So we are tolerating, in Britain, for example, polygamy. We are giving welfare benefits to polygamous households. We are tolerating, and even tolerating, sharia courts. Now, sharia courts, they are courts which do not recognize a superior law of the land, and, consequently, we have the terrible phenomenon developing in Britain of parallel jurisdictions in which British Muslim women, who are British citizens, are effectively being forced to live under a rule of law administered informally within their communities which makes them into second-class citizens. One cannot have that. One cannot have a society where you have a parallel jurisdiction, because if you have a situation developing in which you do not enforce the principle of one law for all, then you stop being a democratic society, and you become, instead, a kind of Balkanized country in which you have different groups jostling with each other but are not part of the same society. This is intolerable—it’s inimical to the core principle of a democratic, liberal society, which is one law for all, and where we have unchallengeable bedrock beliefs in equality, freedom, and so on.
ARONOFF: I’m afraid we’re starting to run out of time. Maybe we can touch on a few things briefly, but I just want to say about this book—I’d hoped to get into a number of these things—that what you do is, you take an issue like global warming, or the war in Iraq, and you describe how the Left, or the conventional wisdom, treats it—we were lied into the war in Iraq, with global warming we’re facing environmental catastrophe if we don’t change our ways—and then you use reason and facts, and explain what really happened there. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to examine those, so let’s just touch on a few things. In another chapter, you talk about “scientific triumphalism,” and you talk about Darwinism and how that’s treated. I’m really recommending this book to people, and I’m hoping they’ll want to get into it and learn about these things, because it’s really fascinating. But let’s just touch on a couple of quick current events. One is the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” The “Cordoba Project” is what it was called, and there’s a big question, a debate: Was this about a triumphal move for Islamists? Give us a quick take on that one, please.
PHILLIPS: Yes. We in the West don’t understand that the Islamic world operates under a different way of thinking from us. We try to impose on the Islamic world our Western way of thinking. In the Islamic world, symbols are very, very important. Consequently, to erect near or very near the site, which is a graveyard, of a terrorist attack—conducted under the aegis of Islamic jihad—a mosque which is particularly large is very, very significant in the Islamic world, because the symbol, the signal, that gives to the Islamic world is that on the site where the Islamic world attacked America, it has kind of planted a flag in triumph. That’s what that mosque symbolizes to the Islamic world. So the idea that we shouldn’t be horrible to Muslims, and we should say they can have their mosque wherever—of course people should be able to practice their faith, and erect mosques and so on. But the point of this mosque is its symbolism, and what it symbolizes, and the message that’s being refracted back to the Islamic world, that’s the real importance of it. It tells the Islamic world “We are winning over America—we are winning,” and that will recruit many, many more millions to the cause of the jihad against America. That’s what that mosque will do.
ARONOFF: Unfortunately, I think we’re going to have to leave it there. Maybe you can give me one quick comment on the media, and its role in spreading this point of view that you’re talking about. Then we’ll let it go there. Go ahead.
PHILLIPS: Right. The British media are worse than your American media. At least in America you have Fox News, you have talk radio, which can challenge the otherwise unchallenged worldview of the Left represented in organizations like CNN, ABC, and so on—and our BBC. But the fact is, most journalists are on the Left, and most journalists, I think, are acting as fifth columnists in the war against the West, a war waged both from within and from without.
ARONOFF: Our guest has been Melanie Phillips. I hope we can get her back on here for another half hour or so some time in the near future. We’ve only scratched the surface of her latest book, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power. You can go to her website, melaniephillips.com—or Amazon to find her books. Any short, final comment before we go?
PHILLIPS: People who are interested in reading more of my work can read it on the Spectator website. My blog—I blog, more or less, every day—on the Spectator website is spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips.
ARONOFF: Okay. Thank you so much, Melanie. Best to you! Good luck, congratulations on this latest book. We’ll be in touch. Okay?
PHILLIPS: Thank you so much. Pleasure to speak to you!
Take AIM, 12/21/10: Melanie Phillips, Part II
ROGER ARONOFF: I’m Roger Aronoff, now Editor of Accuracy in Media, and today we’re continuing our conversation with Melanie Phillips, a British journalist and author of the new book The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power. Good morning, Melanie—we’re pleased to have you back with us on Take AIM!
PHILLIPS: Good morning. Nice to speak to you again.
ARONOFF: Thank you. In your new book, The World Turned Upside Down, you do really quite an amazing job of explaining a lot of what is going on in the world today, and why so much of what is being held up as “conventional wisdom” is just wrong—and not really backed up by the evidence, or reason and logic. Today, I want to explore more of those issues. But you had a column this week about something we’ve been writing about here, too. I want to talk to you a little about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. He remains in England, waiting to see if he will be extradited to Sweden to face rape and molestation charges. You wrote this week about how The Guardian—which is the paper there that he’s sort of partnered with on his WikiLeak documents—and he have split over the issue of the rape allegations. Tell us what’s going on there.
PHILLIPS: Well, The Guardian made a tremendous song and dance about the fact that they had obtained exclusive access to these WikiLeaked documents by working closely with Assange, and have been publishing, every day, various extracts from these documents. Until very recently, they took the view that the charges laid against him in Sweden of rape and sexual assault were a, quote, “witch hunt.” Then, suddenly, on Saturday, they did a screeching [reversal], and published what had been leaked to them, from the Swedish prosecution side, it would appear, which was, in detail, explicit and sordid detail, the allegations made by the two women who claim that he assaulted them. The reason The Guardian did this is because they have turned against Assange. Now, they say that’s because they’re fed up with him, they think he’s untrustworthy, he’s betrayed them, he’s double-crossed them—who knows? But it struck me that The Guardian had taken a much more strategic decision, which in a way is quite comical, and it’s this: Assange embodies, as it were, two articles of politically correct faith. The WikiLeaks leaks are designed to hurt America—very explicitly designed to hurt America, and that fills The Guardian with great glee, fills the Left with great glee, because they believe that America is the fount of all evil in the world, and they want to see America humbled and brought low. So from that point of view, Assange was a hero. But he also has fallen foul, however, of a politically correct shibboleth, which is the belief that men are intrinsically violent, and if a woman accuses a man of rape or sexual assault, she is incapable of telling a lie. It’s quite comical to see that people have been tying themselves up in knots because of this. On the one hand, they support Julian Assange as a hero of the century because of the harm he is doing to America. On the other hand, there is this inconvenient—for them—set of claims that he has committed rape and sexual assault.
So they’ve got round this, the Left, by saying, “Oh, well, these ‘claims’ are themselves absurd! These ‘claims’ themselves show that the Swedes are in league with the Americans to concoct these spurious allegations in order to bring him down!” Well, this is clearly ridiculous. Sweden is one of the most politically correct countries on the planet, and until this all happened Sweden was one of the Left’s great role models as a country. I think what The Guardian has realized is that they were heading for trouble by taking the view that these claims in Sweden were to be dismissed. They were falling foul of the feminist lobby, which for them is extremely important, and, perhaps more hard-headedly, they may have taken the view that it’s just possible that Assange will end up being convicted of rape and sexual assault—in which case The Guardian, the politically correct Guardian, will be seen to have backed, and, indeed, helped create—and eulogized, fawned over—a man who is a convicted rapist. Now, we don’t know if Assange is guilty of these allegations or not—I haven’t got the faintest idea. But the fact is, the Left has tied itself in knots over this, and The Guardian has obviously decided that it’s cutting him loose, that it can’t take the risk of backing someone who stands accused of rape, someone who is so running counter to the feminist lobby—because the feminist lobby is so very, very powerful. So, in a way, The Guardian has taken the view that “All men are rapists” trumps “All Americans are war criminals.”
ARONOFF: Right. Sexual politics over the anti-American politics.
PHILLIPS: That’s right.
ARONOFF: What I find interesting here is that The New York Times had received the previous documents on the Afghan war and the Iraqi war directly from WikiLeaks, but in this case they were partnered with The Guardian because they’d been cut off by WikiLeaks because of a rather unflattering profile they had written of him. So I’m wondering, if The Guardian and The New York Times are cut off from WikiLeaks, and only one percent, approximately, of these 250,000 cables from the State Department have been released, how this will impact the release of the remaining cables.
PHILLIPS: I really don’t know. I haven’t got the faintest idea.
ARONOFF: Okay. And how do you think that Assange should be viewed and treated? In other words, there’s a big debate going on, here in the States, about how to go about trying to bring him to justice, so to speak, whether under the 1917 Espionage Act, whether they can try to, somehow, show that he had worked with this Bradley Manning. So I’m wondering, what are your thoughts? Should he be viewed as “media,” like a publisher, and sort of exempt from prosecution in this case?
PHILLIPS: I think he should be viewed in a very harsh light, because what he’s done is designed to hurt America. He’s not interested in freedom of information, because he’s only publishing very selective information—only information which hurts America. He’s not publishing stuff that shows the inner workings of other countries, or non-democratic countries, only insofar as they relate to America. But the question is what offense he may have committed under American law. I have no idea what offense he may have committed, and I suspect that it would be quite difficult to find one, but if he has committed an offense under American law, then he should be brought to justice under American law. But it seems to me that the real fault here is with the American authorities. I mean, it is absolutely staggering that all this material could be downloaded so easily. I don’t know whether this Bradley Manning fellow was the guy who leaked all this—we’ve been told he was, but I don’t know, I just know what I’m reading in the media, like all of us—but whoever it was clearly was able to get a hold of this stuff very easily. It almost defies belief—it does defy belief—that America can be so sloppy in leaving this stuff so unprotected, in the sense that it didn’t take much to download all this. I mean, given the number of people who we’re told had access to it all, it’s astonishing that this hasn’t leaked before. All it needs is, as you can see, one with a grudge against America, and the whole thing is broadcast for all to see. Now, this is immensely sloppy of the government of America, it seems to me. It’s just incredibly incompetent.
ARONOFF: Now one issue that comes up through this: Even if we’re sort of outraged by what happened, and shocked—as I am, like you are—about how this could happen, that three million people would have access to these files somehow, then of course it’s going to get out. But one of the things is—and we’re going to talk about this later—Israel. With Israel, in many ways, people seem to be quite pleased by what they’re seeing here, because what the WikiLeaks cables seem to show is that some of the countries really aren’t that interested in helping the Palestinians, that that’s all, basically, a ruse, and that, really, their bigger concern is the same concern that Israel has, and that’s Iran. What are your thoughts on that one?
PHILLIPS: None of that came as news to me, and it didn’t come as news to anyone who has kept a cool head throughout all these years of propaganda about Israel and the Middle East, and who has actually looked at what’s actually happening. It’s been absolutely, overwhelmingly obvious that the more secular Islamic states, which are not theocracies, like Saudi Arabia—well, no, Saudi Arabia is a theocracy—like the Gulf states, and also Saudi Arabia, which is indeed a theocracy, but which is very, very frightened by Iran—all these Arab or Muslim states, they wanted America to actually take out Iran. I knew that years ago! I’ve been reading all kinds of authoritative people who have been saying that for years. You’ve only got to read anybody who has any kind of authoritative knowledge about the Middle East, about the Muslim world, about Saudi Arabia, about Iran to know that that is what’s been happening for years. The trouble is that our media in America and in Britain don’t report this. They are so incredibly biased and prejudiced against Israel and against America—but, in this respect, against Israel—that they dwell obsessively and viciously on Israel, and they produce this incredibly distorted picture which puts Israel at the center of the problem, whereas, in fact, it is not—it is Iran that is the problem. It is Iran that is the strategic menace to the region, and to the free world. The media simply refuse to report that. So it’s been rather amusing—the WikiLeaks leaks have come as a bolt from the blue for the Left, for whom this is a really inconvenient truth. But to the rest of us, who actually have seen through all the propaganda, it wasn’t a shock at all.
ARONOFF: And the thing about it is, it seems to undercut the basis for the U.S. pressure on Israel, which has been, “Look, we need to solve this situation between you and the Palestinians, and that way, then we’ll be able to get other Arab nations on our side, and—”
ARONOFF: “—go up against—”
PHILLIPS: Indeed. And that is what the WikiLeaks leaks have thrown into such very stark relief, that President Obama’s administration has been acting in bad faith. It has been telling everybody that if you can solve Israel/Palestine, then you have a much better chance of getting all these countries, like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, on one side against Iran. This was always patently ridiculous. But now, it has been shown to be absolutely true that it was ridiculous, because now we can see that it was a lie, that Obama’s whole approach has been based on a lie, a very cynical lie—because he knew perfectly well. He was being told by these countries, “What we want you to do is take out Iran.” They weren’t even bothered about Israel. So he knew that, and yet he told the world a lie. And his whole strategy is based on a lie, a very wicked lie, because what he’s done is, he’s put pressure on, and weakened, the potential victim, the actual and potential victim of Iran, which is Israel. He has weakened the defenses of the West, because he has shown the West—particularly America—to be so weak. He has driven the so-called “moderate” Arab and Muslim states, such as the Gulf states, and, indeed, Saudi Arabia, not into an alliance with Iran, but he’s driven them towards Iran, because they will go with, always, the strong horse. They wanted America to be the strong horse, because America is, of course, the strong horse in the world; they wanted it to take out Iran. When Obama showed that he was, first of all, not going to do that, and, secondly, was making America so weak, and building up Iran, they had no choice, in their minds, but to throw in their lot, to a certain extent, with Iran. So what Obama has done has been absolutely catastrophic for the free world—and not just for the free world, but also for the region, for the Middle East. All this we can now see, in stark relief, through WikiLeaks.
ARONOFF: So how is this going to be reflected in change of policy? In other words, so far the only thing we’ve seen is the Obama administration has backed off this demand that Israel freeze its settlements again, as they had done before. Then we saw this scene where Ehud Barak and Livni were here in the States recently and just getting these meetings with Hillary Clinton and all this attention and approval, and they were all sort of bashing Netanyahu. So it’s going to be interesting to see, now that this has been peeled back and we’re all seeing what you were just talking about, what kinds of changes in the policy there are going to be, or if everyone is going to continue to play this game and pretend as if that’s the most vital thing that has to happen, that Israel has to reach agreement with the Palestinians.
PHILLIPS: I don’t think the policy will change at all. I think that Obama is set upon using Israel as the scapegoat in the region for a whole variety of reasons. He had a setback, because his strategy over the settlements has run into the ground, but he will find other ways of hurting Israel. This is a very, very anti-Israel President. He is hurting the West’s major strategic ally—only strategic ally, only unambiguous, strategic ally—in the Middle East, he’s weakening the West as a result, and he’s dumping on the victims of genocidal terror. It is absolutely obscene. What’s going to happen, I don’t know. I mean, Obama clearly has been weakened by the midterms, but he still has power, as we know, over foreign policy. I don’t know whether Congress could rein him in if it wanted to. In a democracy, if the people are sufficiently roused to make their disapproval heard, then I suppose that might have an effect—but the people have got to be told what he’s doing, and I don’t think the American media is telling them what he’s doing. I don’t think the American media is telling the American public the extent of the perfidy that is going on here, which is almost unbelievable, the extent to which he’s putting the thumbscrews on Israel, and he’s simply finding new ways of doing so.
ARONOFF: Again, the theme of your book, The World Turned Upside Down, is these situations that are—I guess we’ll call them “conventional wisdom”—and one is about Israel, that Israel is engaged in “genocide”—or, as Jimmy Carter described it, “apartheid”—and that they illegally occupy Palestine, or the West Bank. So turn the world rightside up: What do you say?
PHILLIPS: These things that are being said—“genocide,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing”—are obscenities. They are absolute obscenities. First of all, they are completely, and demonstrably, untrue. A moment’s thought would tell one these are barking mad claims. I mean, it’s a very strange sort of genocide of the Palestinians which has resulted in, during the period, six decades or more that Israel has been in existence, the population of Palestinians has increased by—oh, I don’t know what the number is, but it’s astonishingly large, three times, four times, five times. Genocide? Genocide is the wiping out of an entire people. This is completely barking mad! As for “apartheid,” it’s simply not true—it’s a very wicked lie. It’s based on the fact that there is a degree of separation. For example, roads are different in Israel and the Palestinian territory. There are restrictions on Palestinians going on certain Israeli roads, and so on and so forth. The only reason for that is to defend Israelis from being murdered by Palestinians. There is no apartheid. Israeli Arabs have full civil rights. There are Israeli Arabs who are members of the courts. They are lawyers. They are judges. They are politicians. They are members of the Knesset. There is no apartheid at all! These are the most wicked lies, and the Western intelligentsia has been consumed by these lies. These are lies which have come out from the Muslim and Arab world, who are employing, literally, Nazi-style vilification of Jews rooted in Islamic theology, but also having derived from Nazi propaganda, because in Palestine, the Palestinian Arabs, before Israel was created during the ’30s and the ’40s, were in alliance with Hitler. This is historical fact.
What we’re dealing with today are the heirs to that tradition, who are drawing upon the vile, unspeakable, genocidal hatred and bigotry towards Jews, which is based on not just one lie after another, but accusing Jews of perpetrating what Jews themselves are the victims of. You talk about “ethnic cleansing”—no Arabs have been ethnically cleansed from Israel, but the Jews were ethnically cleansed after 1948, when they were driven out of Arab countries. A future state of Palestine, according to the Palestinians, must have not one Jew in it. That is apartheid. That is ethnic cleansing. That is racism. So this is why I think it really is a world turned upside down, where you have people who are the victims of these terrible things—apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide—who are accused of perpetrating it. The appalling thing is that the West can’t see this for what it is. Bad enough this is coming out of the Muslim and Arab world—which tends to invert reality because it is based on the belief that everything that happens in the Islamic world is perfect, because it’s based on the Word of God, and everything that happens outside the Islamic world is awful, so it tends to invert truth and lies virtually as a matter of course—but the terrible and terrifying thing is that the West, America—America’s President, for heaven’s sake!—the British government, governments of Europe, instead of saying, “This is intolerable, we’re not having this,” they are buying into that particular narrative of lies. This is what is so terrifying, and it scrambles everyone’s brains, because it defines the terms under which public discourse happens. The media, the intelligentsia, take their cue from this mad inside-out kind of thinking, and, consequently, ordinary people—very often down the food chain, as it were—have no idea of the extent of the lies they are being told. So a lot of them come to believe, over a period of time, at least some of these lies. This is a terrible thing. We’re dealing with a totalitarian mindset here, I’m afraid.
ARONOFF: Three of the chapters in your book deal with hatred of Jews. One is Islamic, one is Christian, one is Western. We could easily take up the rest of our time, but what do those three have in common in terms of their hatred of Jews? How is that different from hatred of Israel?
PHILLIPS: Well . . .
ARONOFF: [Chuckles.] That’s a big question, isn’t it?
PHILLIPS: It’s a big question. The hatred of Jews being, first of all, Muslim, then Christian, then Western—well, the Muslim hatred of Jews is fundamentally theological. It’s rooted in the Qu’ran. The Christian hatred of Jews is fundamentally theological. It is rooted in the New Testament, a particular understanding of the New Testament. The Western hatred of Jews—that is, the Western secular hatred of Jews—comes from a whole range of ideologies which are fundamentally Communist. They are ideologies which all have, at their root, an animus against the Judeo-Christian heritage, and at the root of the Judeo-Christian heritage is Judaism, the Hebrew Bible. So they all have a sort of common root, but, basically, they all have universalizing ideologies—they all believe that they are the one truth, and that the world should accord with that one truth. Now it’s perfectly true that Christianity has reined in the degree that it proselytizes; it doesn’t go round converting people at knife-point, as it did in the Middle Ages. It’s had a reformation. It doesn’t pose a threat to people in the way that it used to do. But nevertheless, as a kind of way of thinking, it is universalizing, and Islam certainly is universalizing—Islam believes there can be nothing else other than Islam anywhere—and these secular ideologies are also universalizing: They believe there is no contrary story to be told to moral relativism, multiculturalism, environmentalism, anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism—all these isms, they brook no contradiction. Now the people who are always, always, always in the way of universalizing ideologies are the Jews. They get in the way of all these universalizing utopias—and these are all utopias that are being sought after, secular and religious—and we know that when people who adhere to utopian ideologies are frustrated, they make scapegoats. This goes back to the millenarian Christians in the Middle Ages who believed that the Kingdom of God was about to happen. Fast forward to the French Revolution, fast forward again to Communism, to fascism—these are all, basically, ideologies which believe that the world should be reshaped according to some idea of perfection—and when that doesn’t happen, they create scapegoats, and they turn upon those scapegoats with unparalleled venom. I’m afraid Jews and Israel are the contemporary scapegoats. Jews have always been the scapegoat, but old-fashioned Jew hatred has now mutated again. Instead of being against Jews as a religion, or against Jews as a race, it’s now against Jews as a collective, as a nation.
ARONOFF: Unfortunately, we’re running out of time again, but I want people to read this because, again, your world turned upside down applies to global warming, the war in Iraq—just great analysis, I was hoping we could get into those, but in our last minute or so, what about the historic relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain? From Reagan and Thatcher to, now, Obama and Cameron—what’s happened to that relationship? Where is it headed?
PHILLIPS: A certain amount of readjustment, I think, is taking place. Britain’s population is very anti-American, and David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain, is responding to that. So there’s a certain cooling. There’s also, I think, a perception in Britain that America is not in a happy place, and that American power is waning, and Britain should look to the rising powers in the world, such as China and India. I’m not saying that’s correct, but nevertheless that’s the kind of perception. So there is a bit of a cooling. On the other hand, Britain and America are locked together. The intelligence sharing between them is extremely important, and that remains the case. They both need each other. Britain needs America more, I think, than America needs Britain. But nevertheless there is a cooling taking place.
ARONOFF: There never seems to be enough time. Our guest today has been Melanie Phillips, author and journalist. You can find her work at melaniephillips.com, or spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips. It’s been wonderful having you on for these two shows. Again, the book, The World Turned Upside Down—go to Amazon, you can find all of her books there. Any final word before we go here?
PHILLIPS: Just thank you very much, indeed for your time. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
ARONOFF: Okay. Thank you, and take care. That’s going to be it for this week on Take AIM. We won’t be on next week, so happy holidays, Merry Christmas to everyone. We’ll be back with you in the new year. So long! Thank you!