Like bookends at the beginning and end of a week, two significant events occurred recently which, because they conflicted with the received unwisdom, were simply ignored by the mainstream media. The first, reported below, was the Dispatches TV documentary about Britain’s radical mosques. This provoked virtually no comment from either the media or politicians. The second was the encounter between the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and the American scholar of Islam and director of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes, at a day-long event organised by the Mayor to discuss whether or not there was a clash of civilisations. Since this was an enormous left-fest on Livingstone’s home turf, with virtually no speakers other than Pipes and his seconder Douglas Murray (and elsewhere in this jamboree, Oliver Kamm) to put up any opposition, and with an audience overwhelmingly composed of people who thought that American neoconservatives had horns and a tail, it was assumed that Pipes would be disembowelled and his head stuck on a Greater London Authority turnpike. So great was this certainty that Pipes was advised of his terminal foolishness in accepting Livingstone’s deadly invitation.
How wrong everyone was. By all accounts, it was Livingstone and his seconder, Birmingham councillor Salma Yaqoob, who were eviscerated by Pipes and Murray. Pipes, with his gentle, scholarly demeanour and authoritative learning, would doubtless have disarmed his audience by his steadfast refusal to demonise Islam and all Muslims; not at all what would have been expected by those who had previously been fed the ludicrous propaganda caricature of the ‘Islamophobic’ anti-jihadi. Murray, meanwhile, went straight onto the attack and in a series of devastating blows apparently took apart both Livingstone and Yaqoob and brought the audience cheering to its feet.
The blogosphere has duly recorded this victory; you can see the links here on Pipes’s website, as well as his own take on the event. But although, as he writes, some 150 journalists attended the day, not a single word has been written about this in the British press. To read a mainstream press account by a British writer of this British event, you have to go to America. In the New York Sun, Daniel Johnson entertainingly notes:
The audience — eccentrically attired and coiffed, sporting cranky badges and sandals — were atypical political activists, and to judge from their questions, heavily inclined to the left. ‘This is liberal hell!’ muttered one New Yorker, contemplating the ‘Free Palestine’ and anti-racism stalls to which the mayor was giving house room. Yet the loudest cheers were not for him, but for the Daniel who had ventured into this lions’ den. As soon as the self-styled ‘young British mom’ in a hijab who was seconding the mayor, Salma Yaqoob, referred to the July 7 London suicide bombings as ‘reprisal events,’ I felt the audience shudder. There was another shudder when Ms. Yaqoob refused to utter the word ‘Israel.’
The victory by Pipes and Murray was surely a development of no small significance in these savage and degraded times. Here were two neoconservatives, both staunch anti-jihadis and robust supporters of Israel and America, making the case to thousands of progressives in a left-wing bear-pit that London’s very own version of Che Guevara was helping promote and endorse an evil ideology — and the audience, which might have been assumed to be viscerally anti-America, anti-neocon and anti-Israel duly turned not on them but on Livingstone.
This remarkable reaction provokes two reflections. First, the reason why Livingstone has got away with it for so long is simply because he has been allowed to do so. Thanks to a media that slavishly laps up his every utterance and largely supports his odious world-view, and opponents who tend to be intellectually spineless (think of the Tories, who can’t find one single candidate able enough to stand against him) he has never effectively been held to account. Faced with opponents who are formidably well-informed and intellectually fearless, he is promptly exposed for the empty ideologue that he is and duly crumples.
The second reflection is that, despite all the opprobrium that fashionable opinion generally heaps upon the Pipes/Murray view of the world, despite all the name-calling of ‘Islamophobe’ and all the rest of it, below the surface at least some people have clearly been listening hard and thinking for themselves. They have undoubtedly noted that the Islamists are not exactly committed to fundamental human rights, and that the alliance between sections of the left and those committed to the genocide of the Jews, the killing of homosexuals, the beating of women and the extinction of individual liberty is as loathsome as it is lethal. In other words, opinion has shifted. That’s why they cheered. And that is immensely cheering.
It was a defeat for the totalitarian left and a move towards sanity and decency. And that, no doubt, is why it has not been reported.