Nothing excites Melanie Phillips more than the chance to be transphobic. She is a tedious writer, repetitively hyperbolic, whose prose soon revolts anyone who does not agree with her or is not addicted to pointless moral outrage. If you don’t want to get high on rage at the “culture wars”, she will bore you silly. Here’s a representative sample:
At long last, an English court has struck a blow against the cultural tyranny of thought-crime and in support of freedom of speech, reason and sanity. Well, that’s not what the court said. Harry Miller tweeted in a way a judge called opaque, profane, unsophisticated and abusive, and sought to have the police hate crime guidelines declared unlawful. He failed, but the judge said the police had not, on the evidence shown, demonstrated it was right to pay him a visit about his transphobic tweets.
I’ve just watched a video in which Phillips claims that she can’t say “I’m a woman” in case it offends someone. Don’t watch it. She speaks in a weird, enraged monotone, and her words are divorced from reality. The issue was how to make the census more accurate when recording trans and non-binary people. The video was posted by some right-wing nutter, who thinks Phillips won because he’s too blinkered to listen to opposing views, but Dawn Butler MP skewers them: Every time we talk about someone’s equality rights there’s an uproar- when it’s about women, or people of colour. Now it’s about transgender people, and we just need to take it with care and compassion as we talk about these issues.
When it seemed like the last Conservative government might reform Gender Recognition law, Phillips screeched This is why the Conservative Party has lost its way. For her, it’s not just a government she basically agrees with doing something she does not agree with, it’s proof that the government is no longer conservative.
This ‘binary’ distinction is accepted as a given by the vast majority of the human race. No matter. It is now being categorised as a form of bigotry. No-one is saying you can’t say you are a woman or a man, or even that you can’t say a trans woman is a man, only that trans women exist and are generally treated as women by reasonable people. I now find I can’t read her prose without hearing her hectoring voice in my head. She is careful to distance herself from Germaine Greer- a baffling skirmish on the wilder shores of victim culture has now turned into something more menacing.
She uses words to evoke a sense of threat- the Conservative government will legalise lying, enemy, battleground, enforceable orthodoxy, the crime being committed by society, their prime target will be children, dangerous frivolity, supine surrender, hijack, totalitarian- and to ridicule- bizarre, scoff at your peril, obsessed, logic doesn’t come into this. She claims, contrary to evidence, that trans people are the bullies.
She indulges paranoia freely. The intention is to break down [cis] children’s sense of what sex they are and also wipe from their minds any notion of gender norms. She supports gender stereotypes: Gender derives from a complex relationship between biological sex and behaviour. And nature and nurture are not easily separable.
She generalises from the particular transphobic moan to the general: Indeed, you could say the West is very much on a journey. From divorce and lone parenthood to gay marriage, what was once regarded as a source of disadvantage or category error has been transformed into a human right. In the process, compassion has turned into oppression. She reads something she does not like, and immediately screeches “Help Help the sky is falling!”
Don’t read Melanie Phillips if you want to be informed, as all she does is rant. Recently she has ranted about Trump’s ending the Iran nuclear agreement- she argues that Britain supported President Obama’s treaty though its effect was to target Israel, and complains of sneers about an Israeli warmongering agenda from people for whom the threat of another Jewish genocide occasions at best an eye-roll. She stands up for Jews, though does not want mere “equality rights” but the collective punishment of the Iranian people. Trump’s reneging had the effect of encouraging further Iranian work on nuclear weapons, but Phillips is merely a propagandist, uninterested in facts. Decriminalising abortion is, she says, a grim elision between abortion and infanticide, ignoring the reasons for abortions, and the fact that late term abortions don’t happen.
I hope in ten years we can watch Phillips’ rants and laugh. Now, they are too threatening. Don’t get wound up by them, because she makes her money out of people being enraged, and she does not care on which side they are.
And yet, I envy her. I watched her on video in this strange rant, enacting rage and righteous indignation about the ridiculous vileness of trans people, and it was so articulate! It came out in complete sentences, even complete paragraphs. You could take it down and it would almost be publishable as it was. I love the practised way her words flow.
The people who communicate professionally learn, practise and craft their words, not from the heart but from the bank balance, as professional writers. Some produce articles and books at a rate of knots, about anything, convincingly. Phillips has a simple shtick, making culture war issues out of news, and it gets her publicity and a good income, however much harm she does.