Daily Archives: October 5, 2009

What if Richard Littlejohn was a TV program?

Today’s Littlejohn column is another chance for Richard to go: ‘what if X was a TV program’ and then make some really lame attempts at satire by slotting his topic into TV programs – the majority of which haven’t even been on TV for years so are hardly topical. If I were to attempt the same I would probably say that Richard’s columns are like My Family if it was to be repeated on UK Gold (it might actually be, I don’t know and am, like Richard, not prepared to Google it – but at least I’m honest about it). I say this because at one point My Family might even have been funny, but now it is just the most predictably infantile drivel that even if you’ve only seen one episode years ago you can watch any episode now and still get the same tired punchlines slapping you around the face every single time.

When you watch My Family you have the sinking feeling that you’ve seen all this before because good comedies have covered the ground, well. You don’t need to have it rehashed, badly, week after week. The repetition – one oddball character quits the show, only to be replaced by another, less funny to fulfill the same role – is like Littlejohn constantly relying on the same tired vehicles for his ‘satire’ – its almost as if he simply cannot think of any other way of getting his point across. I genuinely think that Littlejohn has a custom made dice that has one of his 4 or 5 ‘comedy / satire’ vehicles on each side and he just rolls it before writing each column. He has his ‘what it X was a TV program’ side, his ‘just imagine if…’ on another and ‘ignorant American interviews plucky Brit’ on another and so on.

Attempts at satire aside Littlejohn also brings up the story of the Lollipop man who has been forced to resign by the Health and Safety brigade for giving out chocolate and high fives. In many ways I think that this is an example of local councils perhaps taking things a little to far, but, and this is the important thing, they are only responding to public complaints. If a council doesn’t listen to public gripes, they get criticised, if they do listen to complaints and take action, they get criticised. Even if they satisfy a customer then they are still likely to get an ambiguous article in a tabloid newspaper. A few newspapers cover this, as do the BBC. What all of them mention – and Littlejohn leaves out – is that the Lollipop man did give a child with a nut allergy some chocolate which contained nuts; which, of course could have had very serious consequences.

This is said to have led to a complaint from the parent which also mentioned the fact they weren’t overly happy with all the high-fiving that was going on. The Council are not given a chance to comment on the nature of the warning given to the Lollipop, they merely get a throwaway line praising him for his years of service. Although you could think it is ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ gone mad, imagine the consequences for the council if the child with the nut allergy had died, which tabloid newspaper would be screaming loudest for the lollipop man to be publicly executed? What if it turned out he was a child molester and had been ‘high-fiving’ YOUR child. Which newspaper would be screaming out for the council ‘jobsworths’ to be publicly flogged for not spotting a monster.

The sad thing is if you work around children you must accept that you cannot have contact with them or even give them stuff because you risk your own neck every time you do so. As a teacher you do not touch a child, even if they are choking or having an asthma attack, because you run the risk of being sued – you are not trained or qualified to dish out medical treatment, therefore you do not. It might sound crazy, but part of being a teacher or working with children is learning to put up an invisible barrier between you and them. This is the only way to avoid accusations of abuse or otherwise harming a child. This is sad, but the tabloid agenda of generating an exaggerated threat of paedophiles is partly to blame for this culture. In this instance a lollipop man who had a great relationship with kids (according to all of the reports) has paid a heavy price with his resignation because he couldn’t accept that his job was to help children cross a road safely, not give them sweets or high-five them.

A council wouldn’t let a teacher have unnecessary contact with a child, stands to reason that they wouldn’t let a lollipop man either, especially around a road. Littlejohn uses this story to make an irrelevant link between this ‘harmless’ contact with children being punished and Birmingham Social Services presiding over the death of 8 children, as if there is a causal link between the two. As if councils are only interested in punishing the presumed innocent whilst child-killers run free. He goes on to point out that:

Incidentally, serial paedophile Vanessa George was given a clean bill of health by inspectors when she applied to work with children.

Sounds about par for the course for the ‘child safety’ industry – persecuting the innocent while the real monsters slip under the radar.

What Littlejohn fails to understand is that everyone who has regular contact with a child has to complete a CRB check which only reveals crimes that you have been found guilty of, if you haven’t ever been caught then your CRB is clean. This is why all teachers and those working with children have to follow clear guidelines about their conduct with and around children, with the rule of thumb being never touch a child or put yourself in a position whereby you are alone in a room with a single child. If you do behave inappropriately then sooner or later you will be caught. It is impossible to catch a child abuser until they have committed an act, in the same way that it is impossible to catch any criminal before they commit a crime (unless you think that a child abuser draws up detailed plans and sets a date in the same way a bank robber does).

Littlejohn’s whole point rests on there being ‘bad’ people and ‘innocent’ people with the presumption being that somehow people in authority should easily be able to spot which is which. This, in Littlejohn’s worldview, should be easy because one set – the innocent – consist of kindly men like the resigned lollipop man; whilst the other set – the bad – consist of ‘monsters’ like Vanessa George. The logical progression of the simplistic argument is that a monster is easy to spot and therefore how could they have been allowed near children etc. Whereas, what we need to understand is that they are not a monster, they are merely a human being who may have behaved monstrously. Their behaviours do not change their physical appearance so they cannot simply be spotted or weeded out at Littlejohn implies.

This is the difficulty of working with children, because of a minority the rest of us working in education will always do our utmost to avoid any physical or emotional contact with a child for fear of being labelled a monster; this is simply part of the job and we can either accept it, or resign. Either way, Littlejohn’s throwaway paragraphs add nothing but ignorance to the matter as usual.