Reading Melanie Phillips denouncing multiculturalism in the LA Times, an irony occurs to me. Her stuff falls into a very familiar category of bad foreign correspondence: it sounds perfectly credible unless you actually live in the country concerned or speak the language. There is obviously a market in the USA at the moment for Europeans prepared to denounce Europe as weak, spineless, appeasing, practically occupied by the Muslim hordes already. It is an explanation for what is happening that has the merit of casting America as uniquely virtuous.
There’s nothing new about this, of course. Flattering the imperial power is a time-honoured and often successful strategy. It suits both sides. In fact, our rule in India depended on this mechanism, which evolved, over time, into the idea that religious comunities should police themselves and produce their own leaders (dependent, of course, on our favour) to run themselves. This was the matrix from which “multiculturalism” in Britain evolved, and the people most loudly denouncing it in the American newspapers stand, in relation to their American paymasters, exactly as the multicultural specialists like the Muslim Council of Britain stand in relation to the Blair government.
The analogy gets richer than that. It has clearly been the aim of Amercan, and in British terms Atlanticist, foreign policy for the last fifty or so years to weaken the Europen Union and prevent the emergence of anything like a federal states of Europe. Again, this is hardly new. It’s called “divide and rule”. It’s what empires do. So the denunciations of the Dutch, Germans, French, etc as appeasing traitors to civilisation are not in any significant way different to the denunciations that you get from one Muslim sect of all the other ones as “not really Islamic” and so on and so forth. Just as some forms of multi-culturalism within Britain promote distrust and disharmony between communities, which in turn increases the importance of the “community leaders”, so do people like Phillips, and, presumably, AHA, increase their own importance and power in America by making Europe a slightly worse place for everyone else who has to live in it.
Actually, I am ambivalent about Melanie Phillips. If she could inhale without outrage, and exhale without hyperbole, I would listen a lot more. But then, I suppose, she would be poor and obscure.