There are few more trenchant, fearless, and necessary cultural critics than Melanie Phillips. A columnist for London’s Daily Mail and winner of the 1996 Orwell Prize for journalism, she is the author of a number of books, most notably the brilliant Londonistan (2006), which chronicled the cultural decay that paved the way for England to become the epicenter of “Eurabia.”
Now her wide-ranging new book, The World Turned Upside Down, provocatively subtitled “The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power,” chronicles how the West has moved from the Enlightenment to the Age of Unreason, when rationality and truth have given way to ideology and propaganda. “Power,” she writes, “has now hijacked truth and made it subservient to its own ends. The result is a world turned upside down.”
I was honored to meet Melanie Phillips at her speaking engagement Monday at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel, and she graciously agreed to an interview.
MT: Ms. Phillips, you begin your new book by saying that on diverse issues ranging from Princess Diana to the war in Iraq to global warming, “society seems to be in the grip of a mass derangement.” What made you suspect that these random issues might be connected, and what explanation did you find for this phenomenon?
MP: Over many years, I wrote about a number of controversial issues which appeared to be all different from each other — ‘child-centered’ education theory, the consequences of divorce and lone parenthood, immigration, multiculturalism, minority rights, man-made global warming, the war in Iraq, Israel and the origin of the universe. Because they were all so disparate, it took me some time to realize that they had a couple of big things in common. They were fundamentally anti-west (yes, even the militant atheists who were after all gunning for the core beliefs of western civilization). And they were all issues on which, in the progressive circles that controlled public discourse, only one point of view was permitted. All dissent was mocked, vilified, and treated as totally beyond the pale. But since that dissent very often consisted of stating the facts in the face of ideology, prejudice or even – as with the deranged and obsessional hysteria against Israel – genocidal bigotry, reason itself along with the defense of life and liberty seemed to be turning into truths that dared not speak their name.
Please don’t mistake me – I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate differences of opinion on such issues. But what I’m talking about goes beyond genuine disagreement. I’m talking about the sheer impossibility of bringing facts and evidence to the table, as it were, because the ‘progressives‘ hold that there simply cannot be any alternative to their ‘received truth’. They are in short impervious to reason, so that those who try to inject some evidence or alternative ways of thinking into the debate are demonized as evil or insane. These ideologies rest very often upon distortions, fabrications and lies, and yet intimidate opposition into silence. And that’s very frightening. It’s a totalitarian mindset.
At the same time, I also noticed that society seemed to be becoming generally more and more irrational. Emotion was increasingly taking the place of reason. There were displays of mass hysteria, as seen on the streets of Britain with the death of Princess Diana when epidemic ‘grief’ over someone no one knew other than through her carefully manipulated (and distorted) media image created an ugly mood that even threatened the monarchy itself. A very similar mass irrationality around a cult of personality onto whom people projected their hopes and fears took hold in America, when Barack Obama gained the Presidency having been portrayed, literally, as a second Jesus Christ – and during a campaign in which the copious evidence of his extremist background and associations was simply air-brushed out of the picture.
In addition, more and more people were subscribing to a range of weird and wacky beliefs, superstitions and cults, ranging from parapsychology, séances and ‘healing’ crystals to bizarre conspiracy theories involving the US government, UFOs and – almost invariably – the Jews.
I came to the conclusion that these apparently disparate issues and phenomena were intimately connected. Western society – particularly in Britain, but many of these trends were also on display in the US and other western countries – was just losing the plot wholesale. It seemed to be experiencing a wholesale repudiation of reason and progress, and was moving backwards into a darker, pre-modern pattern of anti-enlightenment and bigotry.
This was particularly striking, since western society tells itself that it is the very acme of reason – so much so that, particularly in Britain, progressives dismiss organized religion as just so much irrational mumbo-jumbo which stands in opposition to science, human rights and modernity. Yet these very people want to return the west to some pre-industrial nirvana of mud huts and communal living in order to ‘save the planet’, take the side of jihadists who want to destroy human rights, and mount a kind of secular inquisition to destroy the careers and reputations of those who dare assert scientific evidence against ideological dogma.
I came eventually to the conclusion that, far from ushering in an age of perfect reason, equality and human rights, the secular onslaught against the Judeo-Christian heritage had seriously undermined rationality, the equal dignity of all human beings and their human rights. And indeed – curious as this may seem – at the very core of all these civilization-busting ideologies lies an animus against Jews, the religious codes of Judaism or the right to national self-realization of the Jewish people.
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