Homage a Melanie Phllips (65), commentator.
My father’s father – who, according to family mythology, was given the name Phillips because the immigration officer couldn’t pronounce his Polish name – would stand on the street corner every week in the often unrealised hope of being selected for work.
[From her “Guardian Angel: My story, my Britain”, 2013, revised for CreateSpace Aug 2016]
It is just over two weeks ago that we heard the bizarre story of the six-hour closure of London City Airport (LCY). It has proved a magnet for commentators. Nine people rowed across to the runway and chained themselves in a line as a protest that “Black Lives Matter”. So far, so good.
We all have our hobby horses. One of mine is the bizarre length of time it takes the police and other authorities to clear away obstructions to transport links. I am in danger of apoplexy every time I read yet another account of the police closing a motorway or other key link for hours whilst they prat about collecting evidence about the death of one of those involved. Just as bad are the endless delays whilst London Underground gets a “sick” passenger off a tube train (although to be fair that one has speeded up a little over the last few years). Any attempts to protest about this nonsense tends to bring outrage from those who think I should have more concern for the dead or sick. It has nothing to do with that; it is about devising and implementing procedures to avoid holding up thousands of people (at huge cost) unnecessarily.
But even by normal standards leaving the protesters alone for six hours seems to me completely bizarre. I would have thought a runway was a protected space under the Terrorism Acts, but even if not there is clearly good reason to clear them away in the first five minutes. The idea that a chain is a significant problem is ludicrous. Any cycle thief can give you a pair of bolt cutters that will cut through almost any chain effortlessly. For once I agree with Jeremy Clarkson who published a rant about it at the weekend. He could even be right that the basic reason for this kind of nonsense is the self-importance of the minor officials involved who see it as their moment of glory.
So my main interest when I first heard about LCY was why on earth it had taken so long to clear away nine protesters. But there soon turned out to be some other odd features. News junkies and others will know that Black Lives Matter started in 2013 with the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a security guard at a gated community in Florida, for killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2012.
Black Lives Matter is not an organized protest movement. According to Wikipedia, the moniker first appeared as hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter. I first noticed it after the 2014 incident in Ferguson, Missouri when the local police apparently shot and killed Michael Brown (18) as he was running away. After endless investigations it seems (from blood spatter evidence) that Brown was actually moving towards the shooter (see Wikipedia for more details).
[a CNN interview in July 2016 with a London activist supporting the US protests]
Clearly too many black Americans are getting shot by the authorities. Of course, the picture is complicated and protesters are often getting it wrong, but on the whole they seem to have a good deal to protest about. A few months ago, we started to get “solidarity” protests in Europe. Fair enough.
But early radio accounts suggested that the nine at LCY were protesting about the lack of respect for Black Lives in the UK. Specifically, global warming was killing disproportionately many blacks because the resulting smog was worse in London than elsewhere and blacks lived disproportionately in London. So bizarrely mad as to defy rational comment. Bring on the comedians.
Indeed, there was a kind of stunned silence for a few days. Then the first comment I saw in the serious press was by a comedian with a comment column. Then two days ago came a lengthy article by Melanie Phillips (MP) in the Times.
I quite enjoy listening to MP – she is a regular on Radio 4 – and reading the occasional article, although she seems to suffer from a common tendency amongst those with Jewish ancestry of being over-eager to excuse Israel’s failings. On this occasion she started by referring to Radical Chic ( pdf ), a 1970 essay by Tom Wolfe on how New York’s cultural elite ludicrously lionised the Black Panthers.
She went on to name one of the Nine as Natalie Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes. The surname will be familiar to Old Wykehamists. I am fairly sure that the boy who at the end of the half offered the entire Odyssey, Iliad and Aeneid, plus several other works, all in the original Greek and Latin, as the lines he had learnt during the half, was a Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (but I have just spent five minutes failing to pin down the name, or indeed find the story online).
In any case, it emerged the day after the incident that none of the Nine was actually black. MP’s headline was
MP claims that the rationale was not the effect of global warming on London, but its disproportionate effect on sub-Saharan Africa and hence on blacks. That makes slightly more sense, although still bizarre. But MP was unsympathetic. After noting that a colleague of the Nine in the self-elected Black Lives Matter UK had jetted off to a luxurious beach resort in Brazil to address a crowd of feminists, she continued
… such people want to do good but their hypocrisy is epic. Posing as anti-racists, they stigmatise the whole of white society by smearing it as institutionally hostile to black people. Yet they themselves hardly achieve what they aim to do …
I think I can live with being smeared by the likes of Natalie TWF, but MP’s basic point is correct. She goes on to quote from Shelby Steele (70), whom I had not previously heard about. He claims white anti-racists have turned black people into permanent victims and that
no group in human history has been lifted to excellence or competitiveness by another group
So I have just ordered
to find out more …
Unfortunately MP then starts to go slightly off the rails. After
Obviously, only the spoilt and self-indulgent can afford to posture in this way
which borders on the gratuitously insulting, she goes on to berate Robert Fisk, one of my favourite Middle East correspondents:
This pathology of self-hatred was brought into ironic relief in 2001 when … Robert Fisk was beaten up in Afghanistan by a gang of young robbers who smashed stones into his face and head. Whom did Fisk blame for this brutal assault? Why the West, of course, for inflicting humiliation and misery on the Muslim world.
That is not quite the way I read him. I thought he was attacking Western policy in Afghanistan. There is then a bizarre finale in which she claims that
… white guilt creates disorder … The weaker society is, the more protest is likely even when there is no injustice.
That seems to me fairly confused. Maybe it is influenced by her “Israel can do no wrong” credo.