Anders Breivik’s ‘spider web of hate’ includes Melanie Phillips

Melanie Phillips Jihad in BritainOver at Comment is Free Andrew Brown introduces a Linkfluence map based on a list of the websites to which Anders Breivik’s manifesto provides links and the sites to which they link in turn. Maybe I’m just a technophobic old fart, but I’m not convinced that this adds much to our understanding of the ideological inspiration behind Breivik’s terrorist acts.

Brown’s own interpretation of the data is hardly flawless either. He states that it is particularly “unfair to blame Melanie Phillips” for Breivik’s crimes, adding: “Although she was cited by Breivik at length for an article claiming that the British elite had deliberately encouraged immigration in order to break down traditional society and she has written that ‘Bat Ye’or’s scholarship is awesome and her analysis is as persuasive as it is terrifying’, she has also argued, with nearly equal ferocity, against the ‘counter-jihad’ belief that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim.”

But Phillips’s definition of a “moderate Muslim” is highly restrictive to say the least. The one prominent Muslim she has a good word for is Irshad Manji, whom Phillips applauds for “her passionate defence of Israel and her attack on the lies told about it by the Arab world”. And that’s how you get to qualify as a “moderate Muslim” as far as Mad Mel is concerned. Show the slightest hostility towards Israel and you’re an extremist. She even accused Ed Husain, of all people, of having “adopted the very narrative and rhetoric that are driving Muslims to mass murder” after he criticised the British government for failing to condemn Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. This position may not be quite identical to “the ‘counter-jihad’ belief that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim”, but the difference is clearly marginal.

And while nobody is accusing Phillips of supporting Breivik’s terrorist attacks, the reality is that it was her inflammatory rhetoric, along with that of Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, which helped fill him with the hatred that led to those attacks. Just try reading through Phillips’s Daily Mail article that Breivik reproduced in full in his manifesto. According to Phillips, the then Labour government had “engaged upon a deliberate and secret policy of national cultural sabotage”, having “secretly plotted to flood the country with immigrants to change its very character and identity”, in “an act of unalloyed treachery to the entire nation”. This is the language of the far right, given legitimacy through its appearance in a mainstream newspaper under the by-line of a well-known journalist.

Paraphrasing Phillips’s own attack on Ed Husain, you can only conclude that her Daily Mail article adopted the very narrative and rhetoric that drove Breivik to mass murder.