Melanie Phillips on the London riots

“The chickens come frighteningly home to roost”

Melanie Phillips, a British author and columnist for the Daily Mail, has written a blog post expressing dismay over police forces’ inability to put a stop to the ferocious rioting raging in the streets of cities across the UK. Phillips also enumerates some of the societal phenomena she believes have contributed to the violence and chaos:

I have written for more than two decades on the various elements that have contributed to this collapse of order: family breakdown and mass fatherlessness; the toleration and even encouragement of grossly inadequate parenting; educational collapse which damages most those at the bottom of the social heap; welfare dependency; political correctness and the vicious injustices and moral inversion of victim culture; the grossly irresponsible toleration of soft drug-taking; the shuddering distaste at the notion of punishment and the consequent collapse of authority in the entire criminal justice system; the implosion of the policing ethic and the police retreat from the streets; the increasing organisation and boldness of anarchist and left-wing subversive activity; and the growth of irrationality, narcissistic self-centredness and mob rule and the near-certainty of a fundamental breakdown of morality and order.

To every one of these arguments that I have made over the years, the left has responded with jeers and smears. Now, as terrified citizens see their homes and businesses torched, looters queue up in order more efficiently to steal from shattered shops and passing motor-cyclists are dragged off their machines and beaten up and robbed –all with near-total impunity — we can see all these chickens coming so frighteningly home to roost.

Last summer, CWR published an interview with Phillips, which in light of these recent events seems quite prescient in places, including here:

Phillips: If we carry on as we are at the moment, then we almost by definition are not going to be able to continue with the principles that we hold most dear, like freedom of thought and the ability to defend ourselves.


Britain is already destroying itself. Family life has fallen apart. We have geographic deserts of fatherlessness. We have an education system that is de-educating so that young people are coming out of school literally unable to read and write in some cases, and even when they go to university everything is being dumbed down. To a certain extent they end up knowing less and less, and are less able to think for themselves. …


Now there are two examples before us of societies that are in this kind of trouble. Britain in the 18th century was a kind of society marked by great licentiousness and disorder in which people like me were sitting around saying, “It’s all over, we can’t survive.” But that society did actually stop at the brink, looked over the edge and said, “We have to repair ourselves.” And that turned into the 19th century—the great period of Victorian England in which, led by the churches, Britain did repair itself. It went in for moral and intellectual repair and ended the century tremendously strong, with a great deal of order where there was disorder. So it’s possible that we can do that again.


Or you also have from history the examples of societies and cultures like ancient Rome, which did in fact collapse. I can’t say which one this will be. Certainly we would have to do something quite drastic as a society and culture to pull back from the brink.

All of Phillips’ 2010 interview with Daniel Allott can be read here.

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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.