Posted on | March 20, 2011 | 16 Comments
A Melanie Phillips blogpost on the [U.K.] Spectator website which referred to the “moral depravity” of Arab “savages” is being investigated by the Press Complaints Commission.
The online comment piece, headlined “Armchair barbarism”, focused on media coverage of the murder of five members of a Jewish family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar by Palestinian militants earlier this month.
“The moral depravity of the Arabs is finding a grotesque echo in the moral bankruptcy and worse of the British and American ‘liberal’ media,” wrote Phillips. . . .
“To the New York Times, it’s not the Arab massacre of a Jewish family which has jeopardised ‘peace prospects’ — because the Israelis will quite rightly never trust any agreement with such savages — but instead Israeli policy on building more homes, on land to which it is legally and morally entitled, which is responsible instead for making peace elusive. . . .”
Let us mentally transport ourselves back to the civil rights era, and suppose that a columnist used a phrase like “redneck savages” or the “moral depravity of Mississippians” to condemn violence against blacks. We might imagine that some would complain that this language unfairly implicated all Southern whites in the crimes of a hateful few. But there would have been no possibility of official sanction against such a columnist, as is the case with this British “Press Complaints Commission” that is investigating Melanie Phillips.
What is this commission? It was established in 1991 to stave off Parliamentary complaints about the media and is tasked with exercising “non-statutory self-regulation” in the press. I’m insufficiently familiar with the PCC to know whether it routinely acts to enforce political correctness.
Go read the entirety of Phillips’s column and you will see that what she was actually writing about — the object of her wrath — was a blame-the-victims attitude in some quarters of the media, and their willingness to justify the slaughter of the Fogel family in the context of the presumably greater political victimhood of Palestinian Arabs.
One need take no side in the larger dispute over Israeli settlements to say that this act of lawless brutality against the Fogel family (killing the parents and three children, including an infant) was committed by “savages.” And that the savages in question were Arabs, there is no dispute. Furthermore, given the long history of terrorist bombings and other anti-Israeli violence committed by Palestinians, is “moral depravity” too strong a condemnation? Or rather, is it a condemnation so egregiously unfair as to merit a PCC investigation?
This appears to be nothing less than an attempt to intimidate Phillips and her publisher, and to make an example of Phillips: “Don’t speak too harshly against Arab terrorism, or we’ll report you, too!”
Whatever happened to writing a letter to the editor? Or why can’t Phillips’s critics be satisfied to condemn her on their own blogs? Why this hasty resort to the quasi-official authority of the PCC? A free press is too valuable to let it be squelched by such bullying tactics at these.
UPDATE: Mark Steyn notes that the complaint against Phillips was brought by Inayat Bunglawala, chairman of Muslims4UK, “a man who called the blind sheikh behind the first World Trade Center bombing ‘courageous’ and Osama bin Laden a ‘freedom fighter.'”
UPDATE II: Linked by Jeff G. at Protein Wisdom — thanks!