Monthly Archives: February 2011

PCC responds to Mac swastika cartoon

You might remember the recent court case in which a gay couple won their discrimination case against the hotel owners who turned them away because they were gay. Daily Mail cartoonist ‘Mac’ covered the story by drawing the two men as burly thugs covered in tattoos, one of which really did appear to be a swastika. It seems that many people complained, and one of the complainants has now added his response in the comments which I will reproduce here:

In regard to the concern that it was inaccurate to depict a gay man displaying a swastika tattoo, the Commission emphasised that the cartoon was depicting figurative characters and not specific individuals. While it acknowledged the assertion made by many complainants that, given the treatment of homosexual people by Nazis, a gay man would not have this insignia tattooed on his arm, it did not consider that readers would be misled by the cartoon into understanding that homosexual people in general had an affiliation or association with Nazism or that they held similar views.

Virtually all of the complainants considered that the portrayal of the couple in the cartoon, and especially the depiction of a swastika, was in breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code. The terms of this clause state that the press must avoid making a prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s sexual orientation. However, the clause does not cover general concerns over the discrimination of groups or categories of people. Given that the majority of complainants considered that the cartoon discriminated against homosexual people in general, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 12 of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

An interesting response, claiming that the cartoon covered ‘figurative’ characters, rather than specific individuals when the cartoon was essentially coverage of a real case featuring two real human beings. The general thrust of the argument is that you cannot insult an individual’s sexuality, but mocking or discriminating against ‘homosexual people in general’ is not a breach of the code. Which I guess suits the right-wing press just fine. Which of course it would, given that the code is written by newspaper editors for newspaper editors.

The PCC limps on, but for how much longer?

An unhealthy obsession

The Daily Mail seems obsessed with Suri Cruise. A quick search of MailOnline returns 420 matches for ‘Suri Cruise’, here are the top ten results:

  1. Weary Suri Cruise snuggles up in her favourite pink ‘blankie’
  2. Suri Cruise holds on tight to mum Katie Holmes – and her make-up bag
  3. Suri Cruise looks even cuddlier than her pet toy as she acts up on set with Katie
  4. Suri Cruise totes £500 designer bag to match mum Katie Holmes
  5. Cheeky Suri Cruise pokes her tongue out at photographers
  6. Suri plays hide and seek in the park as Tom Cruise agrees to send her to a Catholic school
  7. Suri Cruise ventures out on a chilly night with bare legs
  8. Suri Cruise shows off her personalised accessory: Toddler has handbag at the ready for mother Katie’s Broadway debut
  9. Totally on trend: Suri Cruise steps out in furry coat and statement boots for trip to the shops and the film set
  10. Little Suri Cruise steals the show on a day out with Tom and Katie

And it goes on like this for page after page of results. Suri Cruise is just four years old, that means the Daily Mail has averaged over 100 articles a year about her since she was born. The PCC’s Editor’s Code has a little bit to say on the privacy of children:

i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion…

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

Not exactly detailed guidance, but surely it is enough to suggest that editors refrain from running hundreds of articles with numerous photos accompanying each of them just because a young girl has famous parents. I wonder how the Daily Mail would justify such intrusion if Tom Cruise actually complained about this constant attention?

Today’s latest Suri Cruise article draws attention to her ‘bare legs’ for at least the second time, as if this is somehow newsworthy and worthy of 5 accompanying photographs: ‘Isn’t it a bit cold for bare legs? Suri Cruise braves the snow in a flimsy dress as she goes for cupcakes with mother Katie’.

As news arrives that MailOnline is fast becoming one of the most visited ‘news’ websites in the world it is clear that much of this traffic is being generated by the sort of invasive, celebrity drivel that the newspaper finds so offensive when it appears on TV. Journalism and the pursuit of real news is being ditched in favour of a business model built on the tireless harassment of the even vaguely famous or infamous by an increasing army of paparazzi. Newspapers might shudder at paying money to employ real journalists, but they certainly have no hesitation in paying photo agencies.

In memory of Bill Hicks

The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: “Is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, “Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we kill those people.

Ha ha “Shut him up.” “We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.” Just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. Jesus mudered; Martin Luther King mudered; Malcolm X murdered; Gandhi murdered; John Lennon murdered; Reagan…. wounded. But it doesn’t matter because: It’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

Bill Hicks, December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994. Gone, but never forgotten.

Littlejohn confused by Faggots

Today Richard Littlejohn had this little snippet on his favourite topic – gays:

Faggots and peas, sir – no offence!

The former Mayor of Dudley has been accused of offensive behaviour after referring to ‘faggots’ in an email.

Councillor Pat Martin was simply discussing his favourite childhood food with a friend.

For the uninitiated, faggots is a dish of meatballs in gravy, popular in the Midlands and the North.

But it was flagged up by American software used by the council to screen out ‘offensive’ words. In the U.S., ‘faggots’ is slang for homosexuals.

I hadn’t realised this kind of software was common, otherwise I’d never have ordered a pouffe from Ikea online. [emphasis is mine]

Just a couple of small points Richard, Councillor Pat Martin was not accused of offensive behaviour by anyone, the email simply bounced back because of an automatic word filter – it was a decision made by computer software which is not programmed to be offended or to make accusations. Secondly, ‘councillor Pat Martin’ is also sometimes known by her full name: Patricia Martin.

Perhaps Richard was thrown by the way that the local press covered the story: ‘Faggots email cooks up IT storm’, but if he had made it past the typically hyperbolic (and plain nonsense) headline he would have realised that the email had generated precisely zero fuss. He also might have noticed the photo of Patricia Martin staring back at him as well.

I think it should be mandatory to end any blog post about Richard Littlejohn’s serial laziness and incompetence with the fact that he earns nearly one million pounds a year.

More ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ balls from the Mail

‘Elf and safety brigade slaps ban on footballs in the PLAYGROUND… because they’re too dangerous’ Screams the Daily Mail as it heard about one primary school’s decision to stop kids using leather footballs in a cramped playground and use sponge balls instead. The reasoning behind the decision is sound:

Malvern Primary School yesterday insisted the football crackdown was not new, saying the reminder had been issued after a parent complained that a child was nearly hurt.

It pointed out that its cramped playground was shared by pupils of all ages but stressed it was supportive of sport and backed the importance of physical exercise.

In a statement it added: ‘Malvern Primary School treats the health and safety of its pupils as a top priority and has for a long time had a policy of protecting children by recommending sponge balls in the playground before school starts and during breaks, especially as the playground accommodates children from the age of four to 11.’

As someone who always played football during school breaks I can well understand the risks – I lost count of how many windows we broke over the years, but luckily we had big outdoor spaces so we could always be avoided by other kids. If Malvern Primary School has cramped playgrounds shared by pupils of 4-11 then it seems perfectly sensible to make that space as safe as possible. Put it another way, if a group of boys started booting a football around in a busy shopping centre the Mail would be screaming for ASBOs before a sweet old pensioner even took a 20-yard screamer directly in the face. What is the difference? These are both shared public spaces, they should both be used responsibly, the sponge ball is a sociable compromise, not an example of ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ gone mad.

As pointed out in the comments (and currently well in the red):

DM having a go at health and safety again how predictable. Anyone who thinks this policy is wrong should try the following experiment. Find a four year old relative, preferably one you love. Have an eleven year old blast a leather football into them. On the way back from the children’s hospital try to think about what you have caused and how it might have been prevented.

As for the Mail trying to bring obesity into the article as if replacing the material that a football is made of is part of the cause, it really is pretty pathetic stuff. The rent-a-quote wheeled out by the Mail doesn’t even make any sense:

But Tam Fry, chairman of obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation, said: ‘Children must be exposed to risk, otherwise how can they be expected to learn?

‘It may think it is protecting the children, but they could just as easily fall over playing with a sponge ball.

‘Policies like this mean our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds.’

Point one: what does a child learn from being hit in the face with a football?

Point two: the decision is not being made to protect those playing football (who understand and accept the risks of getting a ball smashed into their groin), it is to protect the other young kids who are using the space. It is easy to avoid being hit by a ball if you are involved in the game, less easy when you’re chatting to friends and get smashed on the back of the head.

Point three: how does making a space more sociable possibly equate with children ‘becoming cocooned cotton buds’ (which doesn’t even make any sense)?

It’s hard to believe that this is what modern journalism has become in the Daily Mail – or that it is now by far and away the busiest newspaper site in the UK with over 56m unique users each month*.


*which is about 56m more each month than this blog.

Will churnalism.com change the way press releases are issued?

I’m sure if you follow me on Twitter you will have already heard lots about the new website churnalism.com and how fantastic it is. Basically, if you can get hold of a Press Release you can copy and paste into the churnalism.com engine and it will trawl news article from 2007 to see if it can identify which news articles have copied and pasted chunks of the press release into their copy. Having played with the website yesterday I can see that this is an incredibly powerful tool to highlight just how much ‘news’ is actually PR guff thoughtlessly injected straight into copy as if it were journalism. In one example yesterday I found a PR that had been copied virtually word-for-word by the Daily Telegraph, as well as another example from the Daily Mail.

What also became apparent from browsing the site was that one website is currently dominating proceedings when it comes to feeding lazy hacks PR drivel: onepoll.com. This company provides an online survey service which seems to work as follows:

  1. Company signs up for an account
  2. Company creates a questionnaire / poll
  3. People fill it in (they are paid a small amount to do so)
  4. Onepoll.com publishes a press release on their website regarding findings
  5. Lazy journalists copy and paste PR and pass it off as news

It’s good business, terrible journalism. However, thanks to onepoll offering open access to the press releases it is extremely easy to see just how many newspapers are happy to copy-and-paste (sometimes word-for-word like the Telegraph above) the results of polls commissioned by companies to get free publicity.

However, I do not see this lasting. I think churnalism.com will result in such material being pulled from the public domain and instead issued only to subscribers – i.e. newspapers – making it harder for the public to identify what is and isn’t PR – or how much has been taken word-for-word. Right now it is still fairly easy to find press releases and identify churnalism, in the future I can see it becoming much harder as companies contact their favourite newspapers directly – as I’m sure already happens – and refrain from publishing such releases on their websites. In may become necessary for newspapers – so reliant is their business model on copy-and-paste PR guff being passed off as news – to insist upon it.

For more examples of churnalism see Five Chinese Crackers.

Fact: Richard Littlejohn is the ultimate lazy hack

Another day, another woefully ignorant Littlejohn snippet on climate change:

The latest piece of ‘climate change’ lunacy comes from an ‘expert’ who claims peat bogs pose a clear and present danger to the polar bears.

Apparently, stopping people using peat would be the equivalent of taking 330,000 cars off the road.

Leave aside the fact that peat is the ultimate renewable resource. How many people do you know who burn peat?

Who would have thought you could cram so much wrong into so little space.

Firstly, the inverted commas around ‘climate change’ and ‘expert’ are stunningly hypocritical and ignorant. ‘Climate change’ as a generic tag is actually an invention of industry funded global-warming denialists who wanted a less loaded term to replace ‘global warming’. ‘Global warming’ clearly describes the fact that the earth is heating up, climate change implies that some kind of change is happening, but we’re not sure which. As cigarette manufacturers stated for years when they fought scientific evidence that smoking was extremely damaging to health: ‘doubt is our product’. Climate change is a phrase that encapsulates doubt, but it is not a scientific term because it does not describe what the evidence demonstrates – ‘global warming’ describes this. So for Littlejohn to not even like ‘climate change’ – a manufactured, inaccurate description – enough to not place it in inverted commas just demonstrates once again that he knows nothing about his subject.

Along the same lines is the use of ‘expert’. There is a reason why newspapers can get away with writing the word ‘expert’ in inverted commas: they so often refer to people with no expertise as ‘experts’ that the very notion of expertise has been devalued. For high profile examples of this refer to the press going to a guy working from a shed in his garden for the latest on MRSA (his samples were always positive because his shed was contaminated, and he really didn’t know what he was doing – the press described him as the foremost expert in this field) or the whole MMR scare where they backed one ‘expert’ in the face of many and got their hands badly burned. Basically, the press can’t keep quoting ‘studies’ that are little more than PR surveys, and experts who are basically anybody with any kind of profile that will provide a suitable quote for the biased drivel being produced (see Migrationwatch as the perfect example of this). And finally, you can’t write three paragraphs of astounding ignorance and have the cheek to mock ‘experts’ on the subject as not knowing what they are talking about – it completely destroys you every single time.

Secondly, it is not lunacy to suggest that peat bogs play a significant part in the storage of carbon and subsequently the release of it when burnt. As the International Mire Conservation Group make clear:

Peatlands constitute the top long-term carbon stock in the terrestrial biosphere.

While covering only 3% of the World’s land area, peatlands contain 550 Gt of carbon in their peat. This is equivalent to 30% of all global soil carbon, 75% of all atmospheric C, equal to all terrestrial biomass, and twice the carbon stock in the forest biomass of the world (Draft UNEP-GEF Assessment on Peatlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change).

So, even though not much peat is used, it releases a disproportionate amount of carbon. No ‘lunacy’, no ‘apparently’, just a simple fact.

Thirdly, Richard Littlejohn states that it is a ‘fact that peat is the ultimate renewable resource’. It isn’t. Here is a nice explanation from the IMCG of why it isn’t:

Peat occupies an intermediate position between biomass and lignite/coal. It has been forming for 360 million years and it is still being formed today. Part of the present-day peat is at this moment changing into lignite and will change into coal in future. Similar to lignite and coal, peat is renewable.

Coal and lignite are, however, called “non-renewable” because their slow rate of renewal makes their renewability irrelevant for humankind. The volume of old coal currently being burnt is many orders of magnitude larger than the volume of new coal currently being formed. The same accounts for peat. In the EU, in almost all countries of the EU, and in the whole world, the stocks of peat are decreasing much more rapidly than new peat is being formed. Globally peat losses exceed the new formation of peat with a factor 20, leading to a net emission of 2 Gigatonnes of CO2 annually (Draft UNEP-GEF Assessment on Peatlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change).

Classifying peat as a “long-term renewable energy resource” is misleading because – in order to achieve environmental sustainability and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – carbon-based fuel resources must replenish as quickly as they are consumed.

Peat used for fuel, in contrast, is thousands of years older than our modern society. This and the failing renewal of peat cause peat fuel to contribute to the greenhouse effect in the same way as burning other fossil resources. Therefore peat – similar to lignite and coal – should be treated as a non-renewable resource.

Now, there is a reason why Richard might have thought that peat was a renewable source of energy: the EU. The above quotations from the IMCG were taken from a letter sent to the European Parliament in 2007 following this event:

On December 14th, 2006, the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on a Strategy for Biomass and Biofuels (2006/2082(INI)). During the discussions, the following amendment was submitted unexpectedly and ‘last minute’ by ALDE MEPs from the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland, and endorsed by the Parliament:

“The European Parliament… [78] Calls on the Commission to include peat, with regard to the life-cycle aspect, as a longterm renewable energy source for biomass and bioenergy production”.

So, those meddling bureaucrats in the EU that Richard hates so much have wrongly endorsed peat as renewable energy source – the amendment was submitted by EU countries that just happen to be have sizeable peat deposits and industries that would greatly benefit from peat being classed as a renewable energy source. Richard – the ever-vigilant enemy of power – has fallen completely for a change of classification brought about solely for business interests.

I know nothing about peat beyond the joke ‘what do you call an Irishman who has been buried for 100 years? Pete’, yet in 20 minutes I can uncover the truth behind why some people might consider it as a renewable energy source when in real terms it simply isn’t. Richard Littlejohn on the other hand portrays himself as a permanent skeptic yet cannot be bothered to even spend a few minutes checking his facts. If he had, he would have actually found out something interesting about how certain industries are trying to climb aboard the renewable energy bandwagon (are there any subsidies or tax breaks involved?) even though they don’t meet the criteria. Even as a complete skeptic he could have written about this – he could have approached it from the angle of how every business is trying to get on the climate change band wagon to fleece the taxpayer, hell, he might even have been partly right.

Instead he just insults his readers – and his employers who pay him nearly £1m a year to write barely two columns a week – with this lazy, ignorant and baseless drivel.

How politics ‘works’

On the 2nd of June 2009 David Cameron wrote an article for the Evening Standard on why proportional representation was such a terrible idea – it was even chillingly titled: ‘Don’t back a vote system that will let in the BNP’. In it he argued that introducing proportional representation would actually be an ‘unfair, undemocratic, ineffective mistake’. Cameron also amusingly claims that:

The fourth major problem with PR is that the coalition governments it ­inevitably creates inevitably descend into backroom deals that betray the will of the people. Instead of voters ­choosing their government on the basis of the manifestos put before them in an election, party managers put together a government that suits them after rounds of horse-trading and bargaining for power.

Of course, that is a situation that could never come about under the current first past the post system and certainly something David Cameron would never do…

Anyway, think whatever you want about PR, it is the real deal, full proportional representation so that voters can make clear their exact preference of vote and know that such preferences count during an election and will be reflected in parliament. Voting in an election – irrespective of whether you live in an constituency that is always Labour or always Conservative – actually counts. Of course, the Tories – during their ‘horse-trading and bargaining for power’ with the Liberal Democrats would never allow us to have a system in which minority parties such as the Conservatives would be electorally screwed. Instead they gave us the limited change offered by AV – and even that will now only be supported by Labour and Liberal Democrats, with the Tories arguing ‘no to AV’ alongside other simplistic groups who somehow think that having the chance to put more detail onto a ballet paper somehow degrades democracy.

The consequence of this ‘horse-trading’ is that I had to Listen to William Hague employ the most ingenious argument on Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday. An argument that made me fill my car with expletives and my head with thoughts of punching William Hague in the face repeatedly until he realised just why he is so utterly wrong on every issue he has ever been invited to discuss. Here are Hague’s words – I transcribed them from the BBC iPlayer so you can share my feelings:

Well it [AV] is the worst of all worlds, even if one was going to embark on changing the electoral system this would certainly not be the system to move to. You can argue for the current system – as I do – on the grounds that it is decisive in the vast majority of elections it produces a clear decisive result with the party getting the most votes in the country becoming the government. Or you can argue, legitimately, for a proportional system, as in Germany for instance, where the seats received by the parties in parliament is in pretty strict accordance with the votes that they received in the country. The trouble with the alternative vote system is that it is neither of those… it is the worst of every world.

So, we could argue for PR, but we’re not allowed to because the Conservative party would never allow it. We can argue for AV and even vote for it, but we shouldn’t because it’s a terrible fudge and the worst of all worlds. You have to admire the argument, the tacit admittance that they would never allow us even a sniff of real progressive change and instead we get left with AV, which is a bit crap and we should therefore conserve the status quo. Continued voter apathy and the continued hatred of the Tory party will be the end result of this referendum. Even if we get AV we are aware of its limitations compared to full PR – as Hague rightly points out – it’s just that if you are one of the people in power who could have given us a system that we could have ‘legitimately’ argued for, but chose not to, you’re not just right, you’re a right [insert your own expletives here].

Too many brown faces in Question Time audience, says Littlejohn

Appropriately, Richard Littlejohn’s last appearance on BBC’s Question Time came on the first of April 2010. It was in Stevenage and Richard Littlejohn looks back on this appearance in his column today – a column that calls for Question Time to be scrapped and ‘put out of its misery’. Why exactly does he want the show to be scrapped, what was it about his final appearance (he insists he has turned down invitations to appear on the show since) that made him no longer want to engage with the public?

Well, it all seems to boil down to the fact that Richard Littlejohn is a bit of a racist xenophobe. He just hates stepping outside of his own gated, white, affluent, Conservative monkeysphere and realising that we’re actually a diverse bunch of non-tory voters. Richard Littlejohn recounts how in Stevenage he looked into the audience and saw:

The audience is always the same noxious, inarticulate blend of Left-wing local government activists, NHS malcontents, trades union officials, spotty students and women in headscarves. Occasionally, they throw in a couple of comedy Tories with dandruff, for the rest of the crowd to boo.

Last time I was on the programme, it came from Stevenage, Herts, where 93 per cent of the population is white, and which elected a Conservative MP in 2010 with 41.4 per cent of the vote.

Yet the audience looked as if it had been bussed in from central casting, carefully selected to reflect the BBC’s view of what Britain should look like. If 41.4 per cent of that audience were Conservative voters, they did a damn good job of disguising it.

He saw the people outside of his monkeysphere and labelled them all as enemies. He saw not just women – a group he has always reserved a special level of deep hatred for over the years – but, gulp, women in headscarves. Thus his ultimate fears – women and foreigners – were combined in one frightening instant before his droopy, vision-less eyes. For the record whilst it is true that 41.4 per cent of people voted Conservative, it should be noted that 33.4 per cent voted Labour (the seat had been retained by Labour since 1997) and another 16.6% Lib Dem. Therefore Conservatives voters where never likely to form the majority of the audience – even more so when the local turnout for the election was only 64.8 per cent.

As for expecting 93% of the audience to be white, well, isn’t the point of BBC programming to be as representative as possible and in particular political discussions should be as inclusive as possible – which is kind of the point in Question Time giving a wide audience of people the chance to engage with senior politicians.

You will have noticed that I suggested Richard Littlejohn was a racist at the start of this post, it is a point he is always quick to deny. In fact he fielded a question during his last Question Time appearance from a young lad who suggested he was a favourite writer of BNP leader Nick Griffin, which he was, Nick Griffin said so. Littlejohn reacted very angrily and made the young lad retract the accusation. I’m pretty sure Richard Littlejohn would never read this blog, but if he does and he wants to get his lawyers in touch for libel I think I would take my chances and stand by my belief that Richard Littlejohn is racist.

Richard does not help his case by constantly providing my point of view with clear evidence, as he does in his column today. When he remembers looking at the audience in Stevenage he recounts his shock that it wasn’t the 93 per cent white, 41.4 per cent Tory audience he had hoped for and comments:

I took one look at them and thought to myself: if this is a true representation of the people of Stevenage, then we really are all going to hell in a handcart.

I’m not quite sure how he could argue that this isn’t a blatantly racist statement, especially given his statistical prelude in which he tried to argue that the number of brown faces in the audience should have been minimal. He is basically suggesting that when even Tory-voting white enclaves are dappled with brown faces then the end of the world is nigh – he is after all suggesting that such a path is a path towards hell. Add to this his normal inverted comma disdain of any attempt to ‘celebrate the “diversity” of the nation’ and you can see why Littlejohn candidly admits that you ‘shouldn’t waste your time’ applying to be in the audience ‘if you happen to be a Daily Mail reader’ (although he doesn’t comment on the frequent appearances of Mail columnists on Question Time, probably because this kind of ruins his very narrow, silly argument).

Indeed, what Richard Littlejohn fails to see is that his argument for why Question Time should be scrapped is actually a pretty compelling argument for why Question Time should carry on just as it is. If you are a Daily Mail reader, or tabloid reader in general, then you already have many ‘news’ outlets filled with xenophobic, dishonest bile that you can cuddle up to everyday; you don’t need Question Time to be turned into more of the same. Littlejohn complains that the BBC should ‘devise a programme which accurately reflects the wider views of the great British public’, without realising that it does reflect the wider views of the public, what it is careful to avoid is representing the noisy minority whom Richard Littlejohn writes for.

Irrespective of how hard the right-wing media try to turn us into a nation of xenophobic, ignorant bigots, Question Time demonstrates time and again that they’ve not succeeded. When a right-wing journalist gets a hard time on Question Time from the audience it is not because that audience is stuffed full of liberal malcontents, but rather that an intelligent audience can easily see through the usual distortions trotted out by such people. What Littlejohn sees when he looks into a Question Time audience is the future: diverse, intelligent, concerned and proactive individuals who want a fairer world for everyone (along with the occasional person that makes me facepalm as happened last night). It is the reason that tired, simple, Conservative thinkers like Littlejohn rarely step outside of their own sycophantic mailbag, and why they decide to lock themselves away in gated communities in foreign countries.

As a brief aside, I also found it amusing for Richard to describe the audience as ‘inarticulate’ given his past record of very famous verbal humiliations, and to claim that Question Time has passed its best when earlier this week he plagiarised his own writing, again, and made a claim that was astoundingly stupid, even by his standards:

Haringey hired someone to give hopscotch lessons to Asian women.

As Full Fact points out:

Back in 1995, former Conservative Party Chairman Brian Mawhinney regaled his Party’s Conference with a story of how taxpayer’s money was being similarly spent on hopscotch for Asian women.

In fact, it later transpired that the public money had been given to the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre, a well-respected voluntary organisation that deals with domestic violence, language and integration issues in Camden, which neighbours Haringey.

So could a similar misunderstanding have been made by Richard Littlejohn?

We contacted Hanringey Borough Council to ask about the mysterious job, who weren’t aware of one fitting Mr Littlejohn’s description. We’ve also tried to get in touch with Mr Littlejohn himself to find out more about how he came across this vacancy, but have yet to hear back from him.

But the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre did advertise for a management position in May last year.

So whilst as yet we’re unable to say with complete certainty that Haringey haven’t been engaging the services of Asian hopscotch specialists, given the claim’s history and the proximity of an Asian women’s voluntary centre named Hopscotch to Haringey, you might be advised to treat this particular “non-job” with some scepticism.

And isn’t it funny how Richard Littlejohn is only now calling for the scrapping of Question Time, when largely Conservative politicians are getting grief, when he seemed perfectly happy to appear when Labour were getting the same treatment. Or perhaps the audiences back then were still white enough, perhaps his brain has a clear limit on the amount of brown faces in a crowd that are acceptable and it was finally broken last April?

Who knows. What I do know is that if Richard Littlejohn is concerned about certain things passing their sale-by-date, he should really start with his own career.