Melanie Phillips is a tiring read. Her style is like a jack-hammer, driving her ideas into your head. I want to find fault, because she is so bloody irritating. Unfortunately, in this book at least, she is almost completely right.
Her central thesis is that Britain has failed to defend herself against forces which seek to destroy her, because she has trapped herself in a strait-jacket of multiculturalism.
This has gone beyond an updating of classical liberalism to embrace other cultures. It has become a quasi-religious belief. The heretics who oppose it are called racists. In modern Britain, to be called a racist is rather like being called a witch in 17th Century Salem. It's not something you can just laugh off.
This constraint on political thought has permitted the mass immigration of people inimical to the British way of life and most of all - ironically - to British liberalism. To question the wisdom of admitting fanatics of a foreign faith was racist. It couldn't be said, so it wasn't.
This same constraint allowed those enemies, once inside the country, to trap the majority into appeasing their every demand. Require that they learn English History? Racist. Expect them to respect English laws and customs? Racist. Expect them to integrate with the rest of the population? Racist.
The cult of the victim which underlies multiculturalism demonises the majority. The minority are victims. Victims are morally superior. Of whom are they victims? The majority. Who else? And what does that make the majority? The oppressors. QED.
Question whether you are racist and you are just expressing your subconscious racism. Accept it and you are (of course) racist. Float, you are a witch and cannot be suffered to live. Drown, and you are innocent. We have been here before.
Such thinking is so pathetic that it might almost be thought amusing. The non-PC have long joked of the ideal Conservative candidate being a one-eyed Muslim lesbian living on disability benefits. But Phillips points out that this has been far from harmless lunacy.
The young men who blew themselves up on London's trains and buses on 7th July 2005 were murderers. But they saw themselves as victims. They were prosperous beneficiaries of Britain'’s open society, but they saw themselves as oppressed. They were British, but when their leader's video tape was broadcast posthumously, he spoke of the British as "you" and the Muslims of the world as "we".
Scarily, the spokesmen of Britain's Muslims - while distancing themselves from murder - continued to portray themselves as victims. It was a technique that worked and they were not giving it up. Although - amazingly - there were no significant attacks on Muslims in the wake of 7/7, both Muslims and the media focussed on the supposed Islamophobia of the majority population.
To have your sons commit mass murder, and then win sympathy for your fear of reprisals is surely the greatest success in the history of PR.
From Melanie Phillips' main thesis, I cannot demur. "Multiculti" is not a joke, but an abomination. Immigrants should be welcomed, according to the nation's economic needs, by all means. But they should always be screened on national security grounds. Blindly admitting people raised in backward societies with views incompatible with our liberties was, and is, criminally negligent.
But Phillips goes too far. She sees a conspiracy where there is only amiable incompetence. Like Tony Blair she sees opposition to any legal measure labelled "anti-terrorist" as being evidence of treachery; whether the proposed measure would be effective or not, and regardless of the costs to the innocent.
Like Tony Blair, she blames judges for their unwillingness to give effect to repressive measures against terror suspects on "human rights" grounds. Like Tony Blair, therefore, she fails to distinguish between a suspect (still innocent until proven guilty) and a convicted terrorist.
In her sweeping rhetoric, she brands many of her natural allies as traitors - including those libertarians and believers in the Rule of Law who have most to lose and are most fiercely inclined to resist. I think it would be easier for a social conservative such as Melanie Phillips (hijab apart) to live as a dhimmi under the Caliphate than it would be for me or my thoroughly modern daughters.
I resent her implication that libertarian objections to the introduction of a police state are mere weakness in the face of terror.
There is one more respect in which I disagree with Melanie Phillips. She concludes her book pessimistically, saying that
“Britain is currently locked into such a spiral of decadence, self-loathing and sentimentality that it is incapable of seeing that it is setting itself up for cultural immolation.In consequence, she feels there is “little chance”. I cannot blame her. Readers of my blog know that I wrestle with the same pessimism.
However, I keep writing - and I think Phillips does too - as a small token of a deeply-held conviction that "there is life in the old girl yet." England has given the world a great deal. I believe that - before it is too late - she will wake up from her torpor and give more.
Already the ordinary people have cast off multiculturalism. To start up a random conversation in a taxi or a bar is to become encouraged. After a ritual disclaimer of racism, common-sense will ensue more often than not. That gives me hope that, despite the best efforts of our leaders, Islam will not triumph, though the way to its defeat will be bloody.