Mad Mel update

"Old Testament brutality" is an antisemitic phrase, according to Melanie Phillips. Wow.

(NB I originally transcribed this as ‘Old Testament justice’. To me, this makes fuck-all difference. To anyone who gives a monkey’s about the distinction, feel free to whip my ass.)

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28 thoughts on “Mad Mel update

  1. Looks like a bit of a Mongolian clusterfuck in your factchecking dept, John. The phrase that got Mel’s goat was "Old Testament-style brutality." It’s surely far less absurd to claim that that’s antisemitic than to claim that "Old Testament justice" is. How would Christians feel about "New Testament-style wimpishness," or Muslims about "Koran-style blind dogmatism"?

  2. Amusingly, Melanie uses the technique of posting a reply from the BBC, and then commenting on it. The has the sole effect of making the BBC reply seem like a paradigm of reason compared to here insane rant.

    I agree with Jimmy that John mis-quoted. But it is still insane to suggest that "Old Testament-style brutality" is anti-semitic! Also, in context (see BBC story) makes it even more insane to suggest it’s anti-semitic. Erm, it’s also been published by the Telegraph (before people start sounding off about the BBC being biased).

  3. Yes, I noticed this. The irony of someone who so often rails hysterically and indolently against "political correctness", attacking the BBC for using an epithet that is common in standard English and is in no conceivable way offensive to anyone who hasn’t been dead for thousands of years, brought tears of joy to my eyes.

  4. She’s is a tad over the top.

    Can we have her hubby on here for an explanation?

    Joshua, old boy, where are you?

  5. "Joshua, old boy, where are you?"

    Probably busy composing something like this:

    "Those bloody Indians, wouldn’t let me in the country for not having a Visa. Better when we ruled the place, you know. "

  6. There’s something dangerously counterproductive about Mel’s views. Could she be arrested for incitement to racial hatred perhaps? It’s just that whenever I read something like this, I develop a bizarre, morbid, (and I should say entirely uncharacteristic) urge to draw to her something really heinously antisemitic, just to see how she’d cope. Luckily for everyone I’ve got enough self-control to stop myself.

    dsqaured: Not a Fast Show character, she reminds me of the Viz character "Millie Tant" – a militant feminist who spends all her time working herself up into a Mel-style self-righteous fury about total trivia: the fact that the pedestrian crossing signal is referred to as a "green man" rather than a "green person" for instance. After lots of that sort of thing the strip usually ends with her being confonted by a genuine case of misogyny, a bloke pinching her on the arse and saying "cor luvverly tits love, let’s cop a feel", or something, at which stage her brain self-destructs out of total incomprehension.

  7. Actually, I was wondering about Joshua and Mel.

    Do you think he is the traditional hen-pecked husband?

    Do you reckon she wears the trousers?

  8. One more thought: do you think Mel would consider the phrase "of Biblical proportions" to be antisemitic? I mean it could be implying that all Jews are colossally fat couldn’t it?

  9. My little son once caused me no bloody end of embarrassment once in a cafe in Hampstead by loudly refusing orange juice saying "No I don’t like juice, I hate juice, I can’t stand juice". A three-year-old doesn”t really make much of a distinction between aspirated and plosive dipthongs (or whatever), and we were right next to a table of Orthodox Juice.

  10. The woman’s clearly as mad as a chestnut in a tutu.

    How do people like that get into journalism?

    Hold on, maybe her biography will tell us…..

    Or not, as the case may be. Only clue is that she went to Oxford and is therefore likely to be rather posh and well-connected.

  11. Well, she’s right about "an eye for an eye", but it’s hardly the BBC’s fault that the phrase is so widely misunderstood throughout the entire English-speaking world. I think the BBC (and most other people) are sincere in their lack of realisation that the Old Testament is the Jewish holy book and that it’s less acceptable to Jews to associate the book with slurs than it is to other people. But Melanie certainly does get one thing dead right: can you imagine the BBC daring to use the phrase "Koran-style brutality"? I can’t.

  12. Yeah, but does anyone have the slightest idea what "Koran-style brutality" means? And if so, why is it any different from "Sharia law", which is already a nice way to conjure up images of stoning people to dead? Gregg got it dead right when he said "epithet that is common in standard English": it’s a bit late now to start suggesting that it’s anti-Semitic!

  13. > does anyone have the slightest idea what "Koran-style brutality" means?

    I think people have a pretty good idea, yes. You clearly do:

    > And if so, why is it any different from "Sharia law", which is already a nice way to conjure up images of stoning people to dead?

    OK, so do you think the BBC would use the phrase "Sharia-style brutality"? Because, again, I don’t think they’d dare.

  14. Hang on – the Old Testament is full of brutality, and almost everyone in the UK knows it. If you don’t like "an eye for an eye" then try Sodom and Gomorrah, or Noah’s flood, or the plagues of Egypt, or just about any of it. This fact is well-known and indisputable, and has therefore passed into the language. If using it is antisemitic then I’m a zebra’s grandad.

    Far fewer people in the UK have any idea what’s in the Koran, so unsurprisingly nothing equivalent has filtered into the language. Thus "Koran-style-brutality" would be a far more pointed and inflammatory phrase to use.

  15. Furthermore, and let’s get this straight, Melanie Phillips would not think twice about describing something as ‘Sharia-style’, or ‘Koran-style’ brutality. And when she uses this, she is engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric. As posters here have pointed out, the vast majority of the uses of ‘Old Testament style brutality’ have no anti-semitic motivation or intent.

    It seems, therefore, that Melanie Phillips is lambasting largely innocent people in a manner designed to deflect attention from her own prejudices and hatreds.

  16. Larry,

    Five years ago, you’d've had a point. Regardless of whether people are aware of exactly what’s in the Koran, the public have become very aware of late that there are a sizable number of exceedingly devout Muslims who are convinced that the Koran tells them to kill us. People notice things like Sudan and Beslan, too.

  17. Squander Two: I don’t get your point. What has Sudan or Beslan got to do with "Koran-style brutality"? Or are you saying that "Koran-style brutality" should always be paired with the recent actions of muslims (or, well, people who call themselves notionally muslim)? I’ll ignore the somewhat more complicated issues in those two examples for this argument.

    In which case you somewhat make the point I and others have been trying to make: "Old Testament-style brutality" has a meaning in modern English devoid of looking at some particular religious group and saying: "Look, I mean, like them there savages!" This is the mistake Mel made, and it’s something not true of mentioning the Koran. Hence, yes, the BBC wouldn’t dare. But then neither would the Telegraph (love the way everyone has ignored my point that they published this piece too) or anywhere else, except, as Andrew says, perhaps Mel herself (as it’s okay to hate Muslims, apparently).

  18. I’m quite sure people would understand what "Koran-style" means, but it just isn’t a phrase that is in use. You’ll have to popularise it for at least a generation before it becomes something that a BBC reporter is going to use automatically when describing a brutal situation. The BBC can’t be expected to go around all on its own, changing the English language because loud-mouthed self-important newspaper columnists don’t like it. Everyone knows the Hutton Inquiry was a whitewash, that doesn’t mean a BBC weather reporter can refer to the next blinding snow storm as "Hutton-like". If it really bugs you, start a grassroots social campaign to make the term you don’t like, unacceptable – or the term you prefer or want to see used alongside the existing one, an actual common term, rather than just a term you made up, up there, in that comment, to try and score a partisan point.

  19. > The BBC can’t be expected to go around all on its own, changing the English language …

    Why on Earth not? They do exactly that with all sorts of words and phrases, such as "terrorism", "insurgency", "militant", "fundamentalist", "neo-conservative", "quality entertainment", "free of advertising".

    Meanwhile, you seem to have progressed from claiming that everyone has a rough idea of the content of the Old Testament and that people therefore understand what is meant by "Old Testament brutality", which is true, to claiming that "Old Testament brutality" is a common everyday expression, which isn’t.

    Anyway, let’s just imagine that the phrase "Sharia-style brutality" had been used by a substantial portion of the British population for the last, say, twenty years. Reckon the BBC would use the expression? I don’t. The broad point here is that the BBC have a lot more respect for some holy books and religions than others.

    > If it really bugs you …

    It doesn’t. If you read my comment, you’ll see that I agreed that Phillips was broadly wrong on this one, and merely pointed out that, in amongst the wrong bits, she had made one correct point. And it is correct, as no-one here, you included, has yet disputed.

    > … to try and score a partisan point.

    Really? Which party would that be?

  20. The broad point here is that the BBC have a lot more respect for some holy books and religions than others.

    I just think the current evidence doesn’t come close to showing this. As I’ve pointed out the Old Testament is a damn brutal book, as just about everyone in the UK knows. I fail to see why appealing to this well-known truth is "disrespectful" to anyone. If Jews can’t cope with people occasionally pointing out the fact that the OT is brutal, then they should get a new holy book. Of course the sensible majority can, but MP is an exception.

    Mel’s further suggestion (I know that you’re not with her on this S2) that the phrase "Old Testament Brutality" implies "Jewish Brutality" is simply breath-taking in its disingenuity. How the fuck this demented frothing maniac gets to pretend to be a serious journalist I can’t imagine. ‘snot fair.

  21. The broad point here is that the BBC have a lot more respect for some holy books and religions than others.

    Also, if you do wish to conclude this, (as Matt points out) you also have to conclude the same thing for the Daily Telegraph.

  22. Anyway, let’s just imagine that the phrase "Sharia-style brutality" had been used by a substantial portion of the British population for the last, say, twenty years. Reckon the BBC would use the expression? I don’t. The broad point here is that the BBC have a lot more respect for some holy books and religions than others.

    No, I completely disagree. Is your argument really coming down to complete hypotheticals? Much as it pains me to say it, the UK is, culturally, a Christian nation: most of us have some exposure to the Bible, whether it be at school (I know I did, despite never going to a church school) or just from the media and culture in general. Similarly, as I was trying to point out above, no culture today uses "old-testament style brutality" (unless my understanding of, say, Israeli law and order is completely and utterly wrong), as it’s "safe" to use the phrase without immediately bringing a group of people to mind (unless you’re Mel). The same is not true of Sharia law.

    If you think that the BBC invented or altered the meaning of the term "neo-conservative", then you might want to look at Wikipedia

    Again, will you attack the Telegraph in the same way?

  23. All sorts of people altered the meaning of the term "neo-conservative". The BBC were happy to go along with the change of meaning. They didn’t wait for a whole generation, was my point.

    > Again, will you attack the Telegraph in the same way?

    Yes, of course. Why would you think that that’s so unlikely? What tiresome tribal reasoning we see in politics. Right-wingers must never criticise the Telegraph and left-wingers must stand united with the Guardian. I really have no time for such bollocks.

    Perhaps I should have spelt this out earlier, but I didn’t realise I was making an even vaguely controversial point. All I’m saying is that, post-Rushdie, virtually no media organisation ever dares publish anything that could be even obliquely construed as anti-Islam or anti-Koran. Personally, it pisses me off, because the media’s capitulation to the threat of threats encourages the culture that makes the threats. Of course, it’s easy for me to say: I’m not the editor who could end up with a fatwa on my head. But still. To point out this fact isn’t a right-wing thing. Famed commie Iain Banks mentioned it in The Business. And Rushdie, hardly a right-winger, has been known to mention it now and then.

  24. Ah, okay. I absolutely agree with you on the Anti-Islam point: Islam is a load of old bollocks (as are all religions, IMHO). But I think you’ve picked a really bad point to pick upon here: I just find it soooo unlikely that anyone would use the phrase "Sharia-style brutality" or "Koran-style" etc. when not actually refering to a going on in, say, Nigeria. But yes, why don’t we have "Ayatollah Khomeini: The Opera"???

    As for the Telegraph: I wasn’t trying to be tribal, but you did keep mentioning the BBC by name (okay, to be fair, maybe because everyone else did), as if they were to blame: actually, it was a freelance writer (who also works for the BBC) and the article was published in the Telegraph as well.

  25. virtually no media organisation ever dares publish anything that could be even obliquely construed as anti-Islam or anti-Koran

    I think you overstate the case, but basically I agree. I’d like to see all major religions being thoroughly trashed in the media on a regular basis. At the moment only Christianity ever gets that treatment, presumably (and peversely) because this is notionally a Christian country. Despite Mel’s histrionics it’s wrong to suggest that Judaism (as a religion) gets taken to the cleaners with any regularity, and this is a religion which genitally mutilates babies (it’s not alone in that but still…) I think it’s fair to say that the more extreme parts of Islam get (deservedly) bashed pretty frequently, but I agree with S2 that more mainstream Islam could easily do with the odd good kicking.

  26. > you did keep mentioning the BBC by name (okay, to be fair, maybe because everyone else did)

    Well, yeah; I didn’t start this discussion; I merely joined in what others had started.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’ve all agreed that I am, as ever, absolutely right about everything. Now, about those economic reforms….

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