Christina Patterson again: London’s human zoo

Since my last entry on the bigoted ravings of Christina Patterson in last week’s Independent, Patterson herself has written a follow-up piece on all the demented people who have written to her and blogged about her and called her a b*tch, etc., and of course there are a number who have written to her privately saying they’re thinking exactly what she’s thinking. There are also some letters in both yesterday’s and today’s paper, and those in today’s all pull apart claims made in Patterson’s original article as well as her defence against being regarded as Islamophobic or anti-Semitic.

Very little of “We need to talk about integration” is actually about that. It’s about all the people who’ve written to her or about her with abuse, their poor punctuation and grammar and what that reveals about the authors, then there were all the grateful respondents, with all their stories about people being told there was no meat in a well-stocked Hasidic-run butcher or not responded to by their Jewish neighbours, the Jews who said Hasidim lacked manners and the Hasidim who said they were taught nasty things about the “Goyim” and that outsiders hate them. And two Moroccans thanked her as well. Why? For bitching about the local Jews or railing against FGM?

This kind of talk is not all that uncommon among bigots in the media - they claim others are cheering them on and those who aren’t are semi-literate morons, and don’t have to prove anything of it. But some of the letters aren’t from semi-literate morons and make cogent points. Chaya Spitz, who is part of the Hasidic community herself, asserted that people get “treated with equal friendship and courtesy” in Hasidic shops, including the fish shop, while Daniel Sevitt in “a leafy suburb of Tel Aviv” said that the suggestion that boys were taught to flinch from women as they might be “dripping with menstrual blood” was something he had never heard of in all his 41 years and that a boy might have many reasons for recoiling from a grown woman (she was a stranger, after all).

Finally, Ed Zinkin questions how she can say she is neither anti-Semitic nor Islamophobic when she compares “nice C of E schools” with “the madrassa run by the mad Mullah next door” and the impoliteness of some Hasidic Jews with what a black civil rights leader might come to among the Ku Klux Klan; he also notes that her statement that the “Kurds, Caribbeans and Pakistanis” make up for the sanctimonious latte-sipping “chatterati” indicate that the value of minorities is judged by how much amusement they provide to people like her.

In other words, London becomes a kind of human zoo, a place where people can look at all the different coloured people, as long as they stick to making the place look nice and cooking curries and kebabs and the such like while we sit back and congratulate ourselves on how civilised we are. There might be a legitimate debate to be had on integration, but it isn’t to be found in this woman’s writing; it is too full of sweeping generalisations and baseless, insulting comparisons. However many people wrote her supportive letters (and I’m sure that, however many it was, it was pretty small even by the standards of the Independent’s readership), the sort of juxtapositions she drew in her article of the most extreme aspects of minority culture with the most harmless of the native culture give no other conclusion than that the author is a bigot.

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