Monthly Archives: August 2010

Littlejohn tackles the issues

Ignoring his petty moan about junk mail (in which he complains about the ‘official intrusion’ of NHS surveys asking about sexuality and race etc, which are questions that you do not have to answer. Which he should know, if he actually read the questionnaires. In fact, he probably has the PC brigade to thank for not having to answer such questions.) Littlejohn soon tackles the big issues of the day, such as marriage between cousins in the UK (which he – in his infinite wisdom – immediately equates with incest: ‘Kissing cousins? There’s nothing like keeping it in the family’.

Apparently, according to Richard, the government are keen on bringing legislation to prevent cousins from marrying one another, but they are dead scared in case they offend Muslims. Who would have thought it. It gets worse though, because these aren’t just your ordinary Muslims, they are ‘Muslims of Pakistani origin’. Littlejohn points out that there is:

overwhelming evidence that their children suffer a disproportionate amount of birth defects.

Which – although he does not tell us what this evidence is or where we can find it – is true. The best figures available (this area seems to be quite a disputed one) suggests that children born to two cousins are twice as likely to suffer from some form of sickness / birth defect (4% vs 2%).

A study carried out in Bradford in 2002 put this into real terms:

In 2002 in Bradford 42% of all births were to the Pakistani community there. 4.60/1000 were deaf, compared to 1.38/1000 non-Asian babies; 5.48/1000 had cerebral palsy, as against 3.18/1000 of the others.

If we look at this in terms of pure risk we can see that imposing legislation to prevent marriage between cousins has many moral implications. As one blogger acknowledges:

the incidence of genetic defects in babies born to Mothers over 40 is exactly the same as that presented by the ‘first-cousin’ marriages in Bradford. 4%. No-one is calling for a ban on Mothers over 40 having children – we accept the risk.

We are dealing with fairly well understood levels of risk and when we have these risks presented to us in absolute terms we are not particularly fearful of them. For example, if you were told your child was nearly three times as likely to be deaf if you gave birth at 40, you might not want to have a child. If you were instead told that if you have a child at 40 then 4.60/1000 would be deaf, as opposed to 1.38/1000 then you would be far more likely to accept the risk.

Littlejohn as ever ignores these issues because it is far easier to present this issue in staggeringly simple and overtly racial terms: children born with birth defects is bad, but we can’t do anything about it because ‘Ministers are said to be terrified of upsetting Muslims of Pakistani origin’. Perhaps the worst thing about this piece is that although he doesn’t find room for any discussion about the issue whatsoever, he does find room to paint a picture of these Muslims as freaks:

Keeping marriage in the family is not, however, confined to Muslims. They’ve been doing it in the Fens for generations.

When I was a young reporter, covering the courts in East Anglia, incest cases cropped up frequently, even though we weren’t allowed to report them.

Often the whole family would turn up, unable to understand what all the fuss was about.

The front row of the public gallery looked like a cross between Pinky And Perky and The Muppet Show.

Notice how Richard immediately repeats his point equating marriage between cousins as incest, first the subtle repetition of  ‘keeping it in the family’  followed up by the less subtle claim that he’s quite an authority on the matter because when he was young he was covering ‘incest’ cases all the time. Accept marriage between cousins is not incest in this country. Incest specifically refers to ‘Sexual relations between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal or forbidden by custom'; neither applies in this case, but that doesn’t bother Richard who is too busy telling us exactly how nonhuman the results of such ‘incest’ look.

His description of human beings as looking ‘like a cross between Pinky and Perky and The Muppet Show’ is a prime example of his need to dehumanise his victims. At no point in this short piece are we invited or encouraged to consider the fact that this story is concerning human beings. Rather it concerns a set of negative labels – ‘Muslims’, ‘Pakistanis’ and ‘Muppets’. First of all the Muslims are to be feared – ‘ministers are terrified of upsetting Muslims of Pakistani origin’ – then they become something to be mocked for being ignorant – ‘the whole family would turn up, unable to understand what all the fuss was about’ and finally, openly mocked and laughed at as freaks: ‘The front row of the public gallery looked like a cross between Pinky And Perky and The Muppet Show’.

I often wonder what is the point of blogging about Richard Littlejohn and think that his columns do not deserve a mention – in some ways he is just seeking a response, some controversy to be outrageous in some way. Yet the more of Littlejohn’s work I read the more I understand that actually, he does not deserve silence in response. Instead he deserves to be corrected, mocked and shown as often as possible for the ignorant, racist, homophobic and cowardly misanthrope that he is.

‘Revenge’

From Football 365’s MediaWatch section today (a must read for fans of this blog):

Those newspapers who do not have Harry Redknapp on their payroll had to scratch around for an angle on Tottenham’s Champions League draw. And scratch around they did…

Opening paragraph in the Daily Star: ‘Peter Crouch’s wish was granted last night when he was handed the chance to take revenge on Rafa Benitez.’

Opening paragraph in the Daily Express: ‘Peter Crouch received his wish last night – and the chance to take revenge on Rafa Benitez.’

Headline in the Daily Mail: ‘I’ll make you pay, Rafa! Tottenham striker Peter Crouch on revenge mission to knock out old boss Benitez in Champions League.’

So will that be the same revenge-filled Peter Crouch who said on leaving Liverpool two years ago: “I have no grudge against the manager [Rafa Benitez]. When he started playing one up front he was always going to play Torres and it was not something that I had any qualms about. But when he played two up front I felt myself and Torres were a good combination. He didn’t seem to want to do that but I bear no grudges – it was his decision. And obviously my memories of my time at Liverpool are fantastic. What a great club to have played for. I have got only fond memories of my time there.”

My word, he’ll be fired up…

Good to see that the Daily Mail seems to be the worst out of a line-up including the Daily Star and Express and the only one to go with an utterly invented headline.

The world is full of sexually deprived saddoes with a laptop and a broadband connection

I live in South Wales and my drive to work has been affected over the last year by the construction of a new bypass around Church Village. The last few months I noticed some metal structures being built over the roads (like posh goalposts), which I initially thought were for hanging road signs from. Then they became more elaborate and I thought they had been built for squirrels to use. However, in conversation with a work colleague yesterday I discovered they had actually been built for dormice to use, because they would not cross roads otherwise.

So, imagine my delight when I saw Richard Littlejohn’s column today: ‘A walkway for dormice is a bridge too far…‘, I just knew he had discovered what I had. Quite a feeling to know that thousands of miles away Richard and I shared a moment of discovery. However, I imagine the sharing ends there, given what thoughts I took away from the discovery and what he has managed to spew out.

His column begins – as so many do – with something that will be contradicted by the rest of the column. His claim that:

On the face of it, there’s something rather charming about the decision to build a special bridge to help dormice cross a busy new road.

It reminds us that there are more important things in life than constantly bickering about politics and spending cuts.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers, and our concern for the welfare of even the most humble forms of life is touching.

When I discover that a bypass has been delayed because its proposed route would involve bulldozing the natural habitat of the lesser spotted water vole, I find it strangely reassuring.

Eccentricity goes to the very heart of our identity as a nation. Any society which can be bothered to worry about the impact a new road may have on dormice can’t be all bad.

Is completely ruined by the rest of his column that Britain and the EU (for it is naturally their fault) is a screaming wasteland of insanity for building such bridges for dormice. It is all numbingly familiar, like the time when he claimed at the start of a column: ‘I don’t condone torture’… but then went on to demand that we attach electric cables to the testicles of every suspicious looking foreigner.

It’s a bit silly really and again he misses the whole point of his claim that we’re an ‘eccentric’ land of animal lovers. Surely his initial argument is that it is good that we spend time and effort ensuring that our society tries to work around (to some extent) some of the native inhabitants of our small island; such an argument must be aware that such eccentricity costs money. Furthermore, his use of the word eccentricity actually implies that the cost will not be insignificant.

Let me try and break it down for Richard (in case he ever reads this – you never know). Richard, you are a columnist who is paid around a million pounds a year for choosing around 1000 words twice a week and putting them into your column. You get paid an awful lot of money per word, so you really should be expected to have a mastery of language. The word ‘eccentricity’ is most commonly used in relation to money when someone is spending a lot of it on something considered by others to be wasteful (like: ‘John Smith is eccentric for spending his life savings on a luxury apartment just for his cat’).

This means, Dick, that you cannot then move onto the next part of your column and say the following:

In the scheme of things, a couple of grand spent building an underpass for frogs, in the context of a multi-million-pound motorway extension, is little more than a round of drinks.

Because, Dick, that is not eccentric in any way, is it? Eccentricity in financial terms would be spending £1000 on a motorway extension and £10 million on a underground underpass with escalator, calming music and central heating for moles.

But, you’re not finished, are you Dick, with displaying your fundamental stupidity as you go on:

when I learned that Rhondda Council, in South Wales, had constructed three walkways to allow dormice to traverse a bypass near Pontypridd.

I assumed a couple of workmen had strung a length of wire between two poles and dangled a piece of Welsh cheddar to encourage the dormice to use the makeshift bridge, instead of getting splattered beneath the wheels of an articulated lorry taking bananas from Barry docks to Britain’s greengrocers.

Then I saw the pictures and read about the cost. What should have been an afternoon’s work has escalated into a major engineering endeavour, consuming £190,000.

I mean, sure, they could have dangled a piece of string between two poles, but then that wouldn’t be eccentric, would it, Dick? I know I might be boring you all with what maybe amounts to not a great deal, but I just think that language matters, words matter, meaning matters and that if you’re being paid an obscene amount to string a few together you should at least consider what connotations your choice of words has – particularly if one word seems to completely destroy your argument.

Furthermore, his claim that he imagined the bridges would be cheap and ‘makeshift’ he is using a word that clearly has connotations of not being permanent. After an earthquake people create ‘makeshift’, temporary structures until they are able to rebuild something more solid and lasting in the future. The bypass around Church Village is now a permanent feature of the Welsh landscape, so why is he shocked that the bridges have also been constructed in the same fashion? Perhaps, once again, he is just stringing these words together without really thinking.

To put things into a little perspective, the overall project has a budget of £90 million, so £190,000 makes up just 0.2% of the overall project budget. Again, this is the complete opposite of eccentric spending. Consider it this way: a new bypass has been built and just 0.2% of the budget has been put aside to deal with the impact on local wildlife. Hardly seems like the kind of outrageous waste that should be written about by a columnist, does it?

Just one final point to demonstrate Dick’s complete lack of self-awareness is that he writes this in another segment today:

The world is full of sexually deprived saddoes with a laptop and a broadband connection.

Couldn’t agree more, Dick. Some of them are even paid obscene amounts by the Daily Mail, or choose to write extremely misogynistic, sexually confused ‘novels’ in their spare time.

You couldn’t make it up!

The Daily Mail invents a miracle

The Daily Mail’s current top article is relying on its readers being pretty stupid and gullible: ‘Miracle mum brings premature baby son back to life with two hours of loving cuddles after doctors pronounce him dead‘.

Firstly, just because someone is pronounced dead, it does not follow that they are actually dead. People make mistakes and premature babies presumably have slightly underdeveloped lungs / heart so it may be harder to detect signs of life. So, what has probably occurred is a diagnostic mistake rather than a ‘miracle’.

Secondly, the ‘two hours’ detail is really misleading and is only included to imply that the child miraculously came back from the dead after two hours. The article repeats this utter rubbish:

[After being pronounced dead the baby] was then handed to his mother Kate so she and her partner David could grieve and say their goodbyes.

But after two hours of being spoken to, touched cuddled and held by his mother he miraculously began showing signs of life.

So, the article clearly states that the baby only ‘miraculously showing signs of life’ after two hours of cuddling. In truth, as the mother quoted in the article makes clear, it was just five minutes:

‘He wasn’t moving at all and we just started talking to him. We told him what his name was and that he had a sister.

‘We told him the things we wanted to do with him throughout his life.’

Jamie occasionally gasped for air, which doctors said was a reflex action.

She added: ‘After just five minutes I felt him move as if he were startled, then he started gasping more and more regularly.

‘I thought, “Oh my God, what’s going on?” A short time later he opened his eyes. It was a miracle.

‘I told my mum, who was there, that he was still alive. Then he held out his hand and grabbed my finger.

At no point does the mother, father, hospital or any other person claim that he was lifeless for two hours. The only mention of time is in the above quotation, and clearly states that after five minutes he was moving and gasping more frequently for air (he was gasping occasionally before this. The two hours is an invention to add some drama to a story that really doesn’t need it.

It all comes back to bad journalism; either the Mail invented the 2 hours to add drama, or they repeated it without question – not even realising that the article content clearly contradicts this bogus claim.

The Sun’s inventive back page

Readers of Football365’s Mediawatch section will be aware of just how much stuff on the back pages of newspapers is utter fiction, but one example struck me recently as pretty breathtaking: ‘Carlos Tevez in Euro taunt at Manchester United‘. The opening line of the article claims that:

CARLOS TEVEZ says winning the Europa League with Manchester City would match his Champions League triumph with United.

Except he doesn’t say anything even vaguely similar to this. The article quotes Tevez talking about the possibility of winning the Europa League and claims that ‘Tevez insists a Euro success with City will rank alongside that famous night in Moscow’, but what he actually says is:

My hope is that I win something with Manchester City.

I want to win here just as I did with Manchester United.

That is what we are here for. I would love to do it.

All the games are important and all competitions are very important.

But the manager has made it clear how important the Europa League is.

So the headline, the introduction and the repetition that Tevez ‘insists’ that winning the Europa League would match winning the Champion’s League is a complete fabrication – Tevez does not even mention the Champion’s League.

This is fairly typical of back-page journalism, headlines stating that one manager has ‘blasted’ another, that one player wants to move somewhere and so forth are almost entirely fictional. I guess when you get used to the deception and lies that newspapers think they can get away with on the front page, you can imagine just how bad the back page is.

The abnormal fatty, not once but twice

I had never heard of Nikki Blonsky before her name and picture popped up on the Mail website the other day*:

Nikki Blonsky

For the Daily Mail wearing a bikini is news, particularly if you are female and have what they consider: A, a great figure; B, are too skinny or C, are too fat. In this case clearly Nikki is no ordinary women, as the Daily Mail Reporter makes gaspingly clear:

She’s known for having a much fuller figure than the average Hollywood starlet.

But Huge actress Nikki Blonsky really doesn’t worry about being bigger than the average girl.

The Hairspray star was spotted today in New York grinning and looking anything but downcast.

Someone, despite having a ‘fuller figure’ she still manages to smile! The Mail writer exclaims, and it gets worse:

Clad in tight black jeans, heels and an embellished tie-dye top and clutching a bottle of water, the 21-year old actress looked like any other stylish young woman going about her day.

She ‘looked like’ any other young women… but here is an article dedicated to pointing out that she doesn’t look just like any other young woman, she’s actually Huge! It’s not even the first Daily Mail article basically saying: ‘look at this fat girl, she seems to be happy with her weight, here, have some photos and then leave horrific comments about her': ‘I’ll never squeeze into these! Huge star Nikki Blonsky laughs off her fuller figure‘.

Both stories are remarkably similar, for example the opening line is identical in both stories:

She’s known for having a much fuller figure than the average Hollywood starlet.

On the character she plays in the new series there is also an identical chunk of text:

Blonsky’s character will not be trying to lose weight or treat her curves as a problem to be solved, but will celebrate them.

But the Daily Mail Reporter isn’t beyond making some changes:

‘Everybody wants us to hate our bodies,’ her character Willamina says at one point. ‘Well, I refuse to.’

The first episode started with her doing a racy strip-tease to flaunt her body at the beginning of the show.

The above was from the latest article, a real change of order from the orginal article:

The first episode started with her doing a racy strip-tease to flaunt her body at the beginning of the show.

‘Everybody wants us to hate our bodies,’ her character Willamina says at one point. ‘Well, I refuse to.’

There seems to be two reasons for the Daily Mail rehashing this article in the space of just 14 days: one, it gives their readers a chance to vent about how unhealthy fat people are and that they are grotesque freaks no matter how much they seem to enjoy their lives and two, it gives the Daily Mail a few more hits on its website for Nikki Blonsky and searches for the new show she’s in. I’m always reminded by a point that Tabloidwatch comes back to again and again: Mail website editor Martin Clarke actually claims that ‘news is far more important to us than showbiz‘.

As Tabloidwatch pointed out recently, the Daily Mail has a new LA office just so it can constantly churn out more and more inane celebrity drivel to boost website visits. Which is why you’ll keep seeing stories like this rehashed every fortnight as long as the person involved can generate a few hits to the former news website.


* The original article headline was ‘I’m glad to be fat and don’t care what people think’, but ‘fat’ was changed to ‘Huge’ to shoehorn in the title of the new show she was in.

Juxtaposition

The Daily Mail sensitively covers the story that Whitney Thompson ‘wants women to love their bodies’ and ‘beat eating disorders’ by placing the story directly above an article thanking (‘That’s better, Sadie!’) Sadie Frost for being less fat and pale then she was two years ago:

The useless Daily Mail

As well as concern over Mariah Carey’s ‘ever-fuller figure’. Wonderful.

Mind how you go, Richard

Another day, another lazy ‘Mind how you go’ section from serial bullshitter Richard Littlejohn. This week he casually claims that:

In Suffolk, the police are giving stolen bikes to young offenders to help them look for work.

Of course, this is not true and if Richard could be bothered to try and remotely justify his huge salary by doing the faintest bit of research he would know this. Checking the recent news section of Suffolk Police’s website gives a detailed description of the scheme:

Police in Ipswich are to trial a Re-cycling Cycles scheme whereby the Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust can apply to the police for a cycle to be donated to them for use by a prolific and other priority offender (PPO).

So, firstly, the scheme is only currently being trialled in Ipswich, not the whole of Suffolk as Littlejohn implies. Furthermore, the bikes are never ‘given’ but have to be applied for by the Probation Trust and then:

Each application for a cycle will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Only PPOs who are engaging and complying with the PPO scheme and where provision of a cycle would be beneficial to them will be considered.

A disclaimer has been produced by the police, which the probation service will sign on receipt of each bike successfully applied for. This will be filed in the property store in case the owner of the bike becomes known. It will then be recovered from the probation service and returned to the rightful owner. The probation service will allocate and manage the bikes.

Detective Inspector Richard Crabtree of Ipswich CID who came up with the Re-cycling Cycles scheme said, “Bikes will not be given to every PPO and are not to be seen as gifts. They will be on loan from the probation service to the PPO who will be responsible for their own cycle safety.

This little casual line from Littlejohn pretty much sums up the sneering output of the Daily Mail, in fact his column is a nice little window into the Daily Mail mentality: on the one hand you have his main piece which moans about the problem of irresponsible dog-owners letting their dogs foul parks and pavements (something I am more than aware of, being a park footballer) and his desire that something be done to tackle this problem. Then, straight afterward, when the police try a simple, free initiative to try and help ‘prolific and priority offenders’ get employment and turn their backs on crime, he mocks them with one short, misleading sentence, even though you’d think he (and the Mail) would be all for free initiatives that were trying to reduce crime.

The Daily Mail and Littlejohn never want to offer anything constructive on any issue, they just want to scream ‘it’s all shit, we should all be outraged’ from the sidelines no matter whether what they are reporting has any merit or not. They cannot moan about crime, anti-social behavior or dog-fouling whilst simultaneously also bemoaning any attempt to tackle them. For example, Richard argues that attempts to shame dog owners into modifying their behavior are always doomed to fail and what we need to do is tackle ‘the core problem’. So, how does he suggest we tackle ‘the core problem': by employing more people to hose down streets with water and bleach. This doesn’t tackle ‘the core problem’ at all, it just means we accept the behavior of irresponsible dog owners and are happy to clean up after them.

As ever with Richard Littlejohn even a cursory glance at his column – even on topics you really agree with, like dog fouling – demonstrates that he has no intellectual capacity whatsoever – as demonstrated whenever he has appeared and made an utter arse of himself in radio shows and TV programmes. His capacity for only knowing enough to push the buttons of a bovine readership has led him to lead an isolated existence in a gated mansion in Florida where he would never dream of entertaining any form of criticism or debate: because he has not got the balls or brains to do so.

Getting back to the bike story, it is also strange why Richard refers to the bikes being given to ‘young offenders’, given that the word ‘young’ does not appear a single time in the news report on the Suffolk website – and that the news report clearly states that it is open to all ‘prolific’ and other ‘priority’ offenders. The phrase ‘young offender’ is used by Littlejohn to invoke suitable outrage from Mail readers; here are young criminals who should be locked up and given the cane instead being GIVEN BIKES! It’s PC gone mad and so forth.

Yet, in reality, it is a small trial in Ipswich in which probation officers can apply – for any prolific or priority offender – on a case-by-case basis for the loan of a bike that would otherwise be doing nothing until is was sold on at a police auction. The scheme is a trial, it might help reduce re-offending, it might not; but what seems fairly clear is that reducing crime is something the Daily Mail seems to want, so really they should reserve judgment or even support the scheme until the results are known. Otherwise I’d argue that they give up the right to moan about social issues, given that they seem hell-bent on sneering any attempt to improve social problems.

Daily Mail: Firmly aligned with the far-right

I first heard the news that seven HMRC employees had been sacked for racial discrimination via the BBC yesterday and I was curious to see how the Daily Mail covered the story. Not surprisingly they cover it in a way designed to invoke outrage against the ethnic minorities who were the victims of racism, rather than the seven employees sacked for being racist (a further two employees resigned immediately when the racism was discovered).

Basically the 7 employees were sacked for:

deliberately under-paying benefits to ethnic minorities… They are believed to have tampered with computer records to ensure ethnic minorities living across the UK did not receive the benefits they were entitled to.

The BBC give no further details about the victims other than that they lived in the UK and had now been fully reimbursed. I cannot find any details on the HMRC news site either, but the Daily Mail have added a detail that does not seem to exist elsewhere: ‘Racist taxmen who deliberately under-paid child benefits to non-nationals are sacked‘. Somehow, the Daily Mail have concluded that the ‘ethnic minorities’ living in the UK were actually ‘non-nationals’, which of course implies to the average Mail reader that they shouldn’t really be getting any benefits anyway. This allows the comments section to largely ignore the racism and focus on why we should not be paying benefits to ‘non-nationals':

The Daily Mail is racistThe Daily Mail is racistThe Daily Mail is racistThe Daily Mail is racistThe Daily Mail is racist

I could carry on posting comments along the same lines, but you all get the point. Amazingly one comment above claims it is merely ‘PC gone mad!’ whilst the majority of them repeat the ‘non-national’ claim that has been made by the Daily Mail without a scrap of evidence; purely to invoke this response from readers. One reader really swallows the phrase whole and argues that ‘Non-nationals i.e. non UK citizens. Nothing to do with racism then’ which is an amazingly stupid argument, given that if we treat someone differently solely because they are from another country it is of course racism – it does not get more blatant.

I could not even find this story on the Mail website, I had instead to search for ‘HMRC’, then click ‘Most recent results’ just to find it, so firstly, the Mail tried to bury it. Then secondly, and utterly shamefully, they invent the ‘non-national’ angle to create outrage that these seven people have been sacked and outrage that we are paying child benefits to ‘non-nationals’ in the first place.

Never have the Daily Mail aligned themselves more clearly with the far-right, given that the BNP consider any ethnic minority to not be British, irrespective of how many generations they had lived in Britain for. Here the Daily Mail is concluding that ethnic minority is interchangeable with ‘non-national’ even though we have British nationals from every conceivable ethnic background happily living as British citizens all over the country.

The Daily Mail is racist. This needs to be repeated and never shouted down by idiots like Richard Littlejohn and Paul Dacre who still contest that the accusation of racism often aimed at the Daily Mail is merely a smear attack used by the ‘liberal elite’ to silence genuine concerns over issues.

No. you are called racist because the evidence clearly demonstrates that you are.