The empire whisperer

Andrew Brown
May 23, 2006 11:30 AM

Reading Melanie Phillips denouncing multiculturalism in the LA Times, an irony occurs to me. Her stuff falls into a very familiar category of bad foreign correspondence: it sounds perfectly credible unless you actually live in the country concerned or speak the language.

There is obviously a market in the US at the moment for Europeans prepared to denounce their continent as weak, spineless, appeasing and practically occupied by the Muslim hordes already. This is an explanation for what is happening that has the merit of casting America as uniquely virtuous.

There is nothing new about this, of course. Flattering the imperial power is a time-honoured and often successful strategy. It suits both sides. In fact, our rule in India depended on this mechanism, which evolved over time into the idea that religious communities should police themselves and produce their own leaders - dependent, of course, on our favour.

This was the matrix from which "multiculturalism" in Britain emerged, and the people denouncing it in the American newspapers find themselves, in relation to their US paymasters, in roughly the same position in which multicultural spokespeople in Britain stand in relation to the UK newspapers for which they explain Islam. No one in the US press is going to fact-check Melanie Phillips on Holland any more than we here are going to discover what is going on in the Urdu-speaking communities.

The analogy gets richer than that. It has clearly been an aim of American - in British terms, Atlanticist - foreign policy for the last 50 or so years to weaken the Europen Union and prevent the emergence of anything like a federal states of Europe. Again, this is hardly new: it is called "divide and rule", and it is what empires do.

So the denunciations of the Dutch, Germans, French etc as appeasing traitors to civilisation are not in any significant way different to the denunciations you get from one Muslim sect of all the other ones as "not really Islamic" and so on and so forth.

Just as some forms of multiculturalism within Britain promote distrust and disharmony between communities, which in turn increases the importance of "community leaders", so people like Phillips magnify their own importance and power in America by making Europe a slightly worse place for everyone else who has to live in it.

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