Is Melanie Phillips racist? Judge for yourself.

On 13 March 2011 Melanie Phillips published an article entitled "Armchair Barbarism" in which she wrote about the brutal massacre of an Israeli family in the West Bank.

On 18 March 2011, the Guardian reported that Melanie Phillips had been referred to the Press Complaints Commission over this article.

Today,28 March 2011, Melanie Phillips defends herself: How I became a hate 'suspect'

So I thought I'd try a little experiment. I've taken Melanie Phillips's article and reversed it: swapping "Jew" for "Arab" and "Israeli" for "Palestinian". I've also had to change a few other details (see especially numbered annotations) to make the "reversed" "article" make sense.

NB1 I would never have written an article like this myself.
NB2 I do NOT mean to suggest that any of the substitutions I have inserted in this "article" are equivalent to the items I have replaced.

Armchair barbarism

Today the massacred al-Badoui[1] family was buried in Jerusalem. And as anticipated, the moral depravity of the Jews is finding a grotesque echo in the moral bankruptcy and worse of the British and American ‘liberal’ media – a sickening form of armchair barbarism which is also in evidence, it has to be said, on the comment thread beneath my post below.

Overwhelmingly, the media have either ignored or downplayed the atrocity – or worse, effectively blamed the victims for bringing it on themselves, describing them as ‘hard-line land thieves’[2] or 'extremists'. Given that three of the victims were children, one a baby of three months whose throat was cut, such a response is utterly degraded.

The New York Times blamed Palestinian ‘defiance’ over renewed ‘illegal Arab sector construction’[2] in the wake of the massacre for throwing already shaky peace efforts into a new tailspin.

So to the New York Times, it’s not the Jewish massacre of an Arab family which has jeopardised ‘peace prospects’ -- because the Palestinians will quite rightly never trust any agreement with such savages -- but instead Palestinian policy on building more homes, on land to which it is legally and morally entitled, which is responsible instead for making peace elusive. Twisted, and sick.

Both CNN and the BBC, meanwhile, along with Harriet Sherwood in the Guardian, gave the impression that this was not a terrorist attack but the actions of an ‘intruder’ -- for all the world as if this was a burglary that got out of hand. CNN said:

Five members of an Palestinian family were killed in East Jerusalem early Saturday morning in what the Palestinian Authority is calling a ‘terror attack’...According to a spokeswoman, an intruder entered the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Hanina near the Israeli settlement at Neve Ya'akov around 1 am, made his way into a family home and killed two parents and their three children.

The BBC similarly reported:

The family - including three children -- were stabbed to death by an intruder who broke into their home, Palestinian media reported...

Honest Reporting finds the BBC treatment of this massacre, all but burying the details of the attack on the al-Badoui family beneath a story about those wicked illegal builders, the most shocking and callous of all this dreadful coverage.

For those who don’t appreciate the role played by the ‘moderate’ Israeli Government in glorifying terrorism and inciting the mass murder of Palestinians, Israeli Media Watch has assembled some recent examples here – including the praise by Netanyah of a soldier who attacked and tried to kill Palestinians two months ago.

(Graphic pictures of the bodies of the slain al-Badoui family are circulating on the net and on YouTube. The relatives of the massacre victims have made them publicly available in order to show the world the full horror of the Jewish barbarism in Beit Hanina. However, I have decided not to link to these pictures. The reported wishes of a distraught family cannot in my view justify what is inescapably a gratuitous invasion of the privacy and dignity of the dead. But read this, and weep.)

What is being deliberately ignored through this travesty of reporting is not just the human tragedy of this terrible massacre. It is the politically crucial fact that it was apparently carried out not by Irgun[3] but by the IDF, the official army of Israeli's Likud government. Likud is the party of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Nakba[4] denier who is the allegedly ‘moderate’ Prime Minster of the Israeli Government – and who not surprisingly couldn’t even bring himself to express unequivocal horror at the atrocity.

This diabolical deed therefore gives the lie to all those who have been supporting, promoting and funding the Israeli Government as ‘moderates’ who deserve to keep the land they have annexed and settled. The fact is that America, Britain and the EU have been not only promoting this bunch of neo-Nazi fanatics and baby murderers. They have also been forcing their putative victim, the Palestinians, to offer them their own throats to be cut, along with that of Arab babies. And these craven governments in turn are being egged on by the bigots, useful idiots and worse of the British, European and -- it has to be said loud and clear -- Palestinian ‘liberal’ intelligentsia.

Truly, this is beyond desolation.

If I had read the above "article", I would have described it as "revoltingly anti-semitic". Over to you Melanie.

[1] This Arab name is taken from one of the victims of the Qibya Incident where Israeli troops under the command of Ariel Sharon massacred 69 Arabs [Ref].
[2] The notion of Arab "land thieves" is take from this article on "illegal Arab construction" in areas of Jerusalem annexed by Israel [Ref]
[3] Irgun was an Israeli terrorist organization responsible (inter alia) for bombing Arab buses [Ref]
[4] The "Nakba" or "Catastrophe" is the term Palestinians use to describe the episode when approximately 725,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were expelled from their homes, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. [Ref]

NB3 For the avoidance of doubt, I do NOT assert any sort of moral equivalence between the Nakba and the Holocaust.


Talking Bollocks about Cox

Physicist Brian Cox's current Wonders of the Universe series seems to have set off a chain reaction amongst UK journalists. I can't be arsed to link to all the articles I've read (one exception below) but some common themes emerge. I think the claims made in the press should be subjected to some rational (and empirical) scrutiny..

1) "This mop-topped stargazer revels in the insignificance of mankind"

This from Brendan O'Neill of the Frank Furedi Cult writing in the Telegraph. Brendan continues: "In contrast, today’s cod-Copernicans in the Cox lobby are drawn to the cosmos because its weirdness and bigness feeds their drab, down-to-earth belief that there isn’t much point to life." Hmmm, there must be some more words beginning with “c” one could insert into this sentence to help the alliteration along …. Hey, I’ve just thought of one!

I suppose Brendan would prefer it if Brian revised modern physics and cosmology in order to recognize just how important Brendan O'Neill really is. In any case, the claim that Brian "revels in the insignificance of mankind" is simply false. Utterly false! Brian repeatedly and enthusiastically revels in the fact that mankind is around to witness this stage of cosmological evolution and award it the significance it deserves – read his books!

2) Brian wears GoreTex

The “most expensive GoreTex money can buy” in some accounts. Indeed! He’s on top of a fucking mountain. You don’t need to spend long looking at what Brian normally wears to notice that he is not the sort of chap who gets off on sporting expensive designer clothes. I’m sure he has a mucky old cagoule with rips in it in his wardrobe, but I’m guessing the film crew thought it best if he wore something that would look better on camera. I dread to think what the hacks would have said if he’d worn his own cagoule.

3) Brian is standing with his legs apart

Again, he’s on top of a fucking mountain. There’s a sheer drop of several thousand meters on all sides. It’s windy. He’s being buzzed by a helicopter that has rotor blades and a down-draft.He’s talking about gravity which, I expect, kind of concentrates the mind in such circumstances. Of course it’s possible, in spite of all this that Brian’s just trying to pose in the style of Joe Strummer on the original Clash album but, on the other hand, Brian (as again we are constantly reminded in the media) was in a rock band. In fact he was in two. If he’d wanted to “pose” with his legs apart, he really has had his chances before. He really didn’t need to wait until they put him on top of a fucking mountain.

4) Brian is standing on top of a fucking mountain

I’m sure they’d have preferred to film him on the surface of the planet Zog in the constellation of Hyperbole but I think that was probably beyond the budget.

A lot of science education is about relating weird and wonderful concepts to stuff with which we earthlings are familiar. There’s an interesting and instructive analogy between the 4D geometry of space-time (versus the 3D geometry with which our intuitions are more familiar) and the 3D geometry of a mountainous landscape (versus the 2D landscape you’d see on a map).

Moreover, there are any number of (more subjective) analogies between the grandeur and scale and beauty and longevity of a mountainous landscape and the cosmos as a whole.

Putting Brian on top of a mountain got all this across succinctly and poetically and cleverly in a televisual way which (I hope we all hope) will inspire young people watching to appreciate the wonders of science and consider science as a career.

Nuff said.

5) Brian was dumbing down

A tricky area I admit, but are we really suggesting Brian should have stood in front of a white- board detailing the differences between Mesons and Leptons? In any case, many of the most baffling puzzles of modern physics and cosmology can be appreciated (though, of course, not solved) without understanding the details.

When they are engaging with the general public, it’s the job of scientists to and stay interesting and comprehensible for long enough to inspire that general public. It’s easy to be snobbish about Brian writing for the Sun or appearing on popular radio and TV, but as long as he does not misrepresent his subject through oversimplification (which he is careful never to do) it’s highly laudable that he makes the effort to appeal to a wider audience.

6) Brian has an ego the size of a planet


Watch his body language! He walks on stage looking as self-conscious as any of us, less used to the limelight, would. He is self-deprecating and always ready to laugh at himself. All this slips away completely, however, when he starts talking, not about himself, but about the ideas that interest him and move him. At such moments he oozes confidence and (yes) shines like a star. He becomes Pete Towshend. Get him back on to the subject of Brian Cox and he reverts to John Entwistle (with a hint of Tommy Cooper thrown in). Funny sort of egotism.

7) Me

You could, I suppose, call me a “fan” of Brian Cox (though my respect for him predates his current TV star status). I do not, however, fancy Brian or have a “man-crush” on him or regard him as some kind of saint. I am sure he has all the failings and annoying habits that the rest of us mere mortals have. All this said, I get deeply pissed off when journalists (who typically understand about as much about science as I understand about the rules of American Football or the plot of Emmerdale Farm) traduce a fellow geek as a substitute for doing something that would – if they were capable of doing it – actually be interesting: Engaging with the fucking ideas!