Monthly Archives: May 2011

Littlejohn on trusting ‘sources’

Richard Littlejohn – fresh from rescuing the rape debate last week – has now decided to discuss the perils of trusting unreliable sources of information. The problems with sites like Twitter, Richard argues, is that:

everything which appears on so-called social networking sites is either wrong or motivated by malice.

So I take any information I read on the internet with a malt shovel full of salt, unless it comes from a trusted source.

The man whose entire process of ‘research’ involves reading the Mail and browsing the Mail website is now supposedly concerned about the quality of his ‘sources’. It is worth remembering that this is the guy who trusts any dubious stories his readers email to him and once reported on a large set of babies with odd names that turned out to be Labrador puppies. Richard Littlejohn’s entire output is both wrong and motivated by malice.

He really doesn’t understand irony or hypocrisy. Still, the point of his column is that it isn’t fair that people on the Internet can say stuff when newspapers cannot:

Why should traditional newspapers be subject to gagging orders which can’t be enforced against global online sites?

During the height of the whingeing from the Mail over the gagging orders they published this article (by the Mail on Sunday Reporter no less) on Anthea Turner: ‘Crikey, Anthea! This Perfect Housewife lark looks hard work: Miss Turner sweats as she keeps £5m home – and herself – in good shape’ [istyosty.com link]. This was an article based entirely around three long-lens photos taken over the fence of Anthea Turner’s property that reveal her putting some bins out and generally doing some stuff in her garden. The Mail has invaded someone’s privacy just to reveal that they perform the sort of mundane tasks that the rest of us have to.

The whole tabloid business model is built around this invasive drivel, yet the same newspapers argue that freedom of speech and publication is vital to a healthy press. An article on Anthea Turner doing stuff in her garden.

A whole article on Anthea Turner doing stuff in her garden.

And this isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. This is what our mainstream media has come to: a never-ending torrent of absolutely mindless drivel.

Peter Hitchens on rape

Peter Hitchens does not understand freedom of speech. There, I’ve said it. Whenever anyone has a debate about anything which he feels passionate about he immediately screams that we’re not living in ‘a free country’ because the awful liberal governments and the PC brigade keep trying to shut down debate. Which seems a bit odd to me, given that the right-wing, anti-liberal, anti-PC Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and the Sun amongst others constantly mock the only wet, lilly-livered, liberal, PC-enthralled newspaper (the Guardian) for having a tiny circulation compared to the utterly dominant right-wing press. It seems to me that the ‘liberal elite’ are doing a pretty shocking job at shutting down debate in the way that Peter constantly suggests.

Peter’s been banging on for years about how free speech is dying out and being shut down, whilst all the while he has been paid to write precisely what he wants without censure. It seems to me that Peter doesn’t have a clue what freedom of speech or thought truly means. It seems to me that what Peter really objects to is the expression of viewpoints which differ from his very narrow and distorted view of reality.

This week a debate has taken place about rape, caused by Ken Clarke’s comments on the subject. Lots of people got offended for a variety of reasons – some just, others just opportunist political point scoring. Suffice to say a lot of people called for Ken Clarke’s head and a lot of people showed support for him. It was typical of the kind of debate in which both sides could express themselves freely because as much as Peter suggests otherwise: we unequivocally live in a free society (albeit one which is under the increasing influence of a morally bankrupt press in which Peter plays a vital, unwitting role – yet he ironically thinks he is the last remaining rebel).

I’ve already covered Richard Littlejohn’s moronic attempt at stirring-up some controversy on Friday, but its good to see that Peter Hitchens isn’t going to let one tired old hack get the better of him when it comes to writing absolute rubbish for a pay cheque. Peter – much like Richard – gets the caveat out of the way early on before commencing on the usual predictable rant about ‘liberals’, PC-gone mad brigades and feminists:

I am sick of the censorship that surrounds the issue of rape.

So I shall defy it. Of course all rapes are bad. But some rapes are worse than others.

It takes a while for Peter to actually tell us what makes some rapes worse than others, because before he gets to the point he spends ages telling us about how we don’t have the freedom to say anything anymore:

Even for saying this, I know quite well that I will get raging, lying abuse.

This is what happened to Kenneth Clarke, when he went on the radio and tried to speak his mind as if this were a free country.

As he quickly found out, it is not. I am sorry that he was in the end forced to grovel. But this is a Liberal, PC government, and I am not surprised.

Revolutionary feminism, which regards all men as predators and sees the married family as a sordid prison, has scared most politicians, most judges, most journalists, most civil servants – and most people – into accepting its nasty dogmas.

Oddly enough, Mr Clarke would normally be an ally of this cause. But ultra-feminist zealotry is bitterly intolerant of any disagreement, however gentle or thoughtful. Nothing short of total submission will do.

Just like Richard Littlejohn Peter tries to pretend that only ‘revolutionary feminism’ has a problem with rape and that somehow this ideology has control – through fear – of just about everyone. Just look at the list Peter makes, according to him ‘revolutionary feminism’ has ‘scared most politicians, most judges, most journalists, most civil servants – and most people – into accepting its nasty dogmas’.

Peter is therfore brave to speak out against such an all-powerful lobby. Except that even cowards like Richard Littlejohn have spoken out on the same topic in a similar way – and he was also paid for it, which seems odd given that censorship would normally punish not reward such behaviour. Furthermore, if the ‘ultra-feminists’ really have so much power and ‘Nothing short of total submission will do’ for them, how is it that Peter and Richard have managed to get these articles published? Do they write for some sort of revolutionary underground publisher? Are they being tracked down as I write this for crimes against ‘ultra-feminism’?

Or is Peter just talking a load of absolute shite as normal, writing as he is for one of the most influential newspapers in the country whilst at the same time trying to argue that his rabid views are being censored?

Moving on past the oft-repeated padded-cell drivel he finally gets to telling us all what rapes are less serious than others:

in this case rape does not usually mean what most people think it means – the forcible abduction and violation of a woman by a stranger. It means a dispute about consent, often between people who are already in a sexual relationship.

He’s pretty clear at least: if you are forcibly abducted and violated by a stranger then congratulations: you were raped and it was serious!

However, in any other circumstance you may have been raped, but it’s less serious.

So, logiccally, if you know someone – maybe a work colleague or a friend of a friend and they forcibly abduct and rape you, then this – according to Peter Hitchens – must be less serious than if it were a stranger. Likewise, if you are in a sexual relationship with someone and they rape you, it is no longer a serious rape, but merely a ‘dispute about consent’ – you were probably just playing hard to get.

If I’m being a little harsh on Peter or taking his words a little too literally, then may I direct you to an article he wrote in 2008 (in which he again claims that the left is trying to censor the debate):

Women who get drunk are more likely to be raped than women who do not get drunk.

No, this does not excuse rape. Men who take advantage of women by raping them, drunk or sober, should be severely punished for this wicked, treacherous action, however stupid the victim may have been.

But it does mean that a rape victim who was drunk deserves less sympathy.

Simple, isn’t it? You can hate rape and want it punished, while still recognising that a woman who, say, goes back to a man’s home after several Bacardi Breezers was being a bit dim.

Peter will be estactic that he receives attention for what he writes, because to him it proves that the ‘liberals’ are out to get him, to censor him, to shut down debate because the liberals are the ones secretly running the world.

I’d just like to remind him that criticism is not the same as censorhip. Ken Clarke was criticised for his comments, Richard Littlejohn was criticised for his comments and now he is being criticised for his comments. No censorship, no call for the abandonment of free speech, this is just me exercising my freedom to discuss a matter I care about. What Peter might want to think about is that he is paid to write for a potential audience of millions, I am unpaid and write to an audience of hundreds on a bad day, a couple of thousand on a good day. Can he still credibly claim to be censored?

Of course not. But you can bet your life savings that he will.

Richard Littlejohn on rape

I’ve been observing – with some disgust – the arguments about rape this week and I was wondering if the level of debate could get any worse. Then I realised that Richard Littlejohn had decided to make this topic the focus of his column this morning.

Yes, Richard Littlejohn, the man who insisted that the five women murdered in Ipswich be referred to only as ‘prostitutes’ and that we needn’t mourn the death of these ‘disgusting, drug-addled street whores’ who were ‘no great loss’ as they ‘weren’t going to discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur’. And anyway, said Richard, ‘death by strangulation [was] an occupational hazard’ for the five women murdered, so what were we all getting upset about?

Yes, Richard women-hating Littlejohn – the man who sees in the twice-weekly collection of wheelie-bins the very end of civilisation – has had to step in because he feels the ‘The confected, hysterical reaction to his remarks was frankly typical of the debasement of political debate in this country’.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, the man whose greatest satirical tool is to miss-spell words and to imagine what any given modern event would be like if it involved the characters of Dad’s Army is stepping in to rescue the level of debate.

You are probably thinking: ‘This isn’t going to go well, is it?’ And you’re right.

You see the trouble with Ricard is that he is so incapable of understanding any given topic that in order to ‘win’ any sort of argument he has to set-up a completely false starting point. He does this by arguing something that no-one has been talking about – at all – all week:

Last Tuesday night, two British charity workers were attacked and raped repeatedly by a gang of six masked men on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.

The women — aged 24 and 31 — were overpowered and subjected to a horrifying and prolonged sexual assault.

Their nightmare ordeal took place on a remote stretch of beach in the north-east of the island, where they were working on a wildlife conservation project.

No one would dream of suggesting that because they were camping on an isolated beauty spot overnight they were asking to be attacked.

Six men have now been charged with gang rape. If convicted they can expect — and will thoroughly deserve — harsh, exemplary punishment.

But let’s imagine for a moment that one of these unfortunate women had met a man in a Tiki Bar on St Lucia, got off her head on rum punch and invited him back to her hotel room for a drunken tumble.

The following morning, through her hungover haze, she was consumed by self-loathing. Would she be entitled to cry ‘rape’? [Emphasis is mine]

There we have it, somehow Richard Littlejohn has stepped into a semantic debate that focuses on the idea that rape can involve different degrees of violence and therefore attract different degrees of punishment (with the counter-argument that all rape is equal because rape is inherently violent; so, irrespective of whether the rapist hits the victim or not, the crime is the same because the act of rape is a far greater act of violence than hitting someone) by talking about women who ‘cry “rape”‘ after having a consensual one-night stand.

And, it’s worth pointing out, that once more Richard makes it perfectly clear he is just making it up with his classic ‘imagine if…’.

Why is it that whenever rape is discussed certain people – normally barrel-scraping misogynist hacks like Richard – always want to discuss false accusations of rape. We all understand that this is a serious issue, Richard, but it adds nothing to the debate about the conviction and prosecution of rapists – unless of course you just want to imply that unless the rape is completely unequivocal as in your first example, then we should just assume the women regrets a one-night stand and is ‘crying rape’.

Richard – having as usual got his caveats out of the way right at the start of his piece – then gets going:

There’s a world of difference between a violent sexual assault at the hands of a complete stranger, or gang of strangers, and a subsequently regretted, alcohol-induced one-night stand.

That’s not how the self-appointed Boadiceas of feminism see it. To them ‘rape is rape’, regardless of the circumstances, even if the woman was so sloshed she can’t remember whether or not she consented.

These vengeful viragos insist that ‘rape is a life sentence’ in every case. No, it isn’t. In many instances, it isn’t even rape.

There is a world of difference between rape and consensual albeit drunken sex, the trouble is Richard no-one is arguing otherwise. You have, as usual purposefully missed the point entirely. The next two sentences accuse the ‘self-appointed Boadiceas of feminism’ (you see you have to be a proper hardcore feminist to think that rape is a bad thing) of doing something they are not. They’re not defending women who falsely accuse someone of rape, probably because these people do a huge amount of damage to the cases of the real victims of rape (it doesn’t help that they receive a disproportionate media coverage either).

Let me make it absolutely clear for Richard: this week a debate erupted because it seemed as if the justice minister implied that rape could involve various degrees of violence and thus deserved varying degrees of punishment. The people who took offence at this tried to point out that rape is rape, irrespective of whether the attacker is violent in other ways towards his victim. The point being made is that rape is in itself the ultimate expression of physical violence and dominance, it doesn’t need to be accompanied by other forms of violence to attract the label of a violent crime.

I just get the impression that some people really see some kind of distinction between rape and violence. I think the confusion stems from the fact that ordinarily sex is a pleasurable and painless act so when a rape occurs the mind is able to make the fallacious argument that if no other violence occurred during the rape then it can’t have really been a violent act because the body is not normally harmed by sex. I genuinely think that this is the way some people subconsciously see rape. If the attacker doesn’t stamp on your face afterwards it’s seen as little more than inconvenient sex.

The sad thing is that this was never a discussion about consent, it was a discussion that stemmed once more around the idea that even in clear cases of rape (where the attacker confesses for example) there can be varying degrees of rape depending on the other violence associated with the case. Rather than engage in this debate Richard Littlejohn instead accuses women of crying rape simply because they regret casual encounters and then suggests that the only people to take offence are a bunch of hardy feminists who come out screaming to defend such women.

Even when he tries to get involved in a real, current debate he still has to completely invent a different debate to suit his own distorted agenda. In Richard’s world there are two types of rape: the first is the clear, violent gang rape of ‘innocent’ women, the next is just a bunch of drunken women screaming rape. It must be so nice living in a world of such clear distinctions.

This is the two types of ‘rape’ that Littlejohn puts into opposition:

I’ve no doubt that the victims of the most violent attacks, such as the poor woman who upbraided Ken Clarke on the wireless this week, carry their trauma with them for the rest of their days.

But, equally, many women who have had a brief sexual encounter of which they are ashamed simply shrug it off and get on with their lives. They don’t scream ‘rape’, they chalk it up to experience and vow to go easy on the chardonnay in future.

So, unless you are a rape victim who suffered a ‘most violent attack’ you’ll probably get over it just fine. On the other hand, if it wasn’t a really violent act then you’re were probably just drunk and feel a bit ashamed so you’ll just cry rape for the hell of it.

In conclusion:

  • Richard Littlejohn thinks that only women suffer or get upset by rape
  • Even when he tries to engage with a real debate, Richard must instead invent his own version because otherwise things are just too complex for him
  • If you weren’t brutally gang-raped, you’re probably just making it up (and you were almost definitely drunk as well)
  • No matter how hysterical or depressing a debate becomes, Richard can still easily drag it down another few notches
  • Richard Littlejohn is still the most cowardly little man in the whole of tabloid-land.

Sheena Upton / Kerry Campbell

Tabloid Watch pointed out today that our beloved tabloid press – you know, the one that keeps screaming about how important it is that we have a free press in order to better hold people to account for their actions – in the form of the Daily Express can’t even bring themselves to apologise for an inexcusable error:

Buried at the bottom of page 30 of today’s Daily Express is the following correction:

Our article of May 14, 2011, “Drama teacher jailed for lesbian affair with pupil'” included a photograph said to be that of Caroline French, the teacher jailed for having an affair with a 13 year old girl.

The photograph was not of Ms French but of someone wholly unconnected to the case.

Is it really beyond the Express to apologise for such an error?

Meanwhile, in other news Sheena Upton – who you may know better as ‘Kerry Campbell’ the mum who received notoriety in the Sun for injecting her 8-year-old daughter with Botox – has now (according to TMZ) signed a ‘a sworn declaration’ in which she claims that:

she was recently approached by the British tabloid, The Sun , and asked “to play the role of Kerry Campbell ” for a story called ” I Give My 8-Year-Old Daughter Botox .” Upton now confesses The Sun paid her $200 adding, “I was provided with the story, instructions and a script to follow for a recorded interview.” After the story ran in The Sun, Upton says she was approached by ” Good Morning America ” and ” Inside Edition ” and claims she was offered “a large fee” to appear on camera. She went on both shows and re-told her story. After the interview, child welfare officials took Upton’s daughter away. Upton now admits in her declaration, “The truth is I have never given my daughter Botox, nor allowed her to get any type of waxing, nor is she a beauty pageant contestant.” Upton says professionals agree with her declaration, because on May 17, she took her daughter to the UCLA Medical Center and says, “After my daughter received a full medical exam, the results indicated that she has not ever received treatments including Botox or other such injections.” We’re told the UCLA reports were forwarded to child welfare officials, who then returned Upton’s daughter to her, with the provison that a cousin would stay with her and the child for the time being.

TMZ provides an update in which they look at how ABC news are struggling to establish the truth of this ‘rapidly shifting story’ and they point out that they have ‘repeatedly questioned Upton, members of her family, and other sources who again and again stood by the Botox story’.

The truth will out – in time. But it’s not really important in many ways.

What is important here is that the claims of Sheena Upton / Kerry Campbell (that she was paid to play a character by the Sun) can be taken seriously in the first place. Surely, in a country that is supposed to have a wonderful system of self-regulation, no newspaper would ever stoop as low to pay someone in order to publicly vilify them? Surely there should not be a shred of doubt in our minds that Sheena Upton / Kerry Campbell is lying?

If there is doubt it is because we have know that our tabloid press regularly stoops to this sort of level, and, given their behaviour, we just cannot put this past them. If the Sun are telling the truth, well, it will be an exception.

A deafening No

I haven’t had a lot of time to post lately and the topics I have been tempted to write about require a bit more thought than I can really manage at the moment. Still, I can manage a few seconds to point out that the Daily Mail editorial (or ‘comment’ as it is referred to by the Mail) was again telling Nick Clegg that he had received a ‘deafening No’ from the public with regards to electoral reform. I guess I just wanted to point out – as someone did here in the comments recently – that the Mail’s beloved Tories are not exactly in any position to talk about what constitutes a deafening majority. In the 2010 election the UK public had just experienced a massive economic crash and the then Labour government was led by someone who was supposedly about as unpopular as it is possible to be, yet the Conservatives could still only gain 36.1% of the vote – just 7.1% more than Labour.

63.9% of voters said no to the Conservatives.

In the AV referendum 67.9% of people rejected the Alternative vote, just 4% more than had rejected the Tory party in the general election. Considering the Mail considers Clegg to have suffered a ‘resounding defeat in the AV referendum’ can we also assume they realise that David Cameron also suffered a resounding defeat in the general election?

The Mail might try to argue that the two things are very different: the AV referendum was a straight yes or no whereas the general election had numerous different parties to vote for and therefore it would be harder for any one party to pick up a clear majority. This is a perfectly valid argument. However, this also happens to be an argument that leads directly to the thought that perhaps the voting system needs to be rather more complex than FPTP to deal with this problem. All the current system allows us to conclude is that the Conservatives suffered a resounding no.

Consequences

I haven’t got time to go into all of the Muslim related stories on the Mail website today, but I have singled out this ‘story’ for particular attention: ‘Censored! Bikini advert blacked out with spray paint by ‘Muslim extremists who object to women in swimsuits‘ [istyosty.com link]. Now, given the racial tension in the UK caused by ignorance, recession and incessant media stories like this, if we had a responsible and regulated press in the UK this ‘story’ would never have been published.

It is based on a photo of one advertising boarding in Birmingham being partly sprayed with black paint. Now, this boarding happens to be in an area the Mail describes as having ‘a large Muslim population’ and the poster is situated across the road from a ‘”Muslim Students House Masjeed”, an education centre’. The Mail’s opening claims is that ‘the model on this poster, in Birmingham, has been defaced in an act of vandalism blamed on militant Muslims who were offended by her flesh’.

The Mail’s reasoning for this is that:

Similar acts of vandalism have been carried out in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. Police there also believe extremists are responsible.

No further details are given in this article to the Tower Hamlets incidents – but the Mail does have an entire article dedicated to the ‘Tower Hamlet Taliban’ elsewhere on the website – but the opening is worded to imply that this incident in Birmingham is also being linked by the police to Muslim extremists. But this does not seem to be the case when you assess the ‘evidence’ upon which the Mail is basing its claims:

The fact that almost all of the model’s flesh has been covered has led local residents to speculate that the vandalism was not random, but a religiously-motivated targeted attack.

Delivery driver Robert Tonkins, 45, said: “You see a lot of women wearing the hijab around here, and what’s been done to that poster looks very similar to it.

‘I don’t think it’s just kids messing around – they’ve spray-painted specific areas and covered up anything that might be offensive to very religious people.

‘It’s a bit worrying, I don’t think it’s up to other people to decide what can and can’t be displayed on our streets, especially because we’re a Christian country.’

And that’s it. That is the end of the article. No further evidence, no contact with the police or the council or anyone in the area, just the suspicions of one man. This isn’t journalism – it is barely even gossip – but it is of course serving an important purpose: the continued demonisation of Muslims for things we don’t even know that ‘they’ (I dislike having to refer to ‘them’ as a group as if ‘they’ are somehow all the same and very different to me or you) are responsible for.

As much as the Daily Mail may claim to dislike the EDL this is the sort of article that unleashes a torrent of racist abuse on EDL Facebook pages. What’s more worrying is that people who aren’t inherently racist see this kind of story most days in mainstream, supposedly respectable newspapers and they start to have doubts about the way in which religious relations are conducted in this country. These people then say things like this:

I’m not racist, but I do think that we have gone to far in pandering to Muslims. I mean, they do seem to get away with an awful lot, don’t they?

And, in fairness, if you only had the world delivered to you through the Daily Mail or any of its tabloid chums then you cannot be overly criticised for having this kind of view. If Muslims were banning extractor fans, defacing advertising boardings, banning Christmas, banning Easter, demanding Muslim-only hole in the ground toilets from local councils, demanding Sharia Law and all the while the government was rolling out the red carpet with housing, benefits and widescreen TVs, then we’d all have reasons to question the fairness of the system.

But of course the above stories are all an invention of our unregulated media. The above is a powerful media narrative that today’s story feeds into. It is a campaign of disinformation that not only feeds the EDL, but also creates division in more mainstream individuals by convincing them that a real unfairness does exist. Therefore the Mail can denigrate the EDL for being racist, whilst at the same time offering such stories as a massive BUT for all readers to realise that there is a real problem.

In many ways this is a clever way of the Mail removing racism (I know Islam is a religion, but racism is behind much of the sentiment aimed as you will see shortly) from the debate. Essentially what the Mail is doing is saying:

We do not support the EDL or the BNP because we are not racist, we do not have any issues with Muslims on racial or religious grounds. However, we do believe that there is a real issue in which extremist Muslims have began to politically and culturally dominate parts of the UK.

It’s all about maintaining the veneer of respectability for the ‘debate’ which they supposedly want to have. It’s exactly the same as the media narrative on immigration: ‘we’re not racist, we hate the EDL and the BNP, we just want a proper debate on the real issues surrounding immigration’.

But the Mail (or any other tabloid) cannot maintain the pretence of not being a deeply racist newspaper when they frame the ‘debate’ (note: there is no real debate) with a series of offensive lies about Muslims – or immigrants. Newspapers may have pretty low journalistic standards these days, but they would not go to print with this story if the perpetrators were suspected of being extremist Christians (who can be just as puritanical as anybody). They’d probably want insignificant stuff like ‘evidence’ before they went ahead and covered that – if, of course, they covered it at all.

The appetite for Muslim-bashing articles is obviously healthy otherwise the newspaper business would not keep printing them. What the Mail should be constantly reminded of is that whilst making their core readership a little bit more racist might only lead to a few more UKIP / Tory votes and more ignorant gossiping over garden fences across Middle England; at the same time they are feeding a completely different readership in the EDL. As you can see, the consequences of feeding this group is going to be a whole lot more serious:

Predictable Dick

Richard Littlejohn was never going to shy away from another easy column this week going over MPs expenses in light of David Law’s suspension and ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ over the guy that got sacked for a serious breach of safety regulations by South West Trains.

Firstly, let’s turn to the judges comments on Laws’ suspension:

The standards commissioner accepted Mr Laws’ motivation was to keep his homosexuality secret, but said that nonetheless, his conduct “was not above reproach” and he had given “a false impression” of his relationship with his landlord.

“I have no evidence that Mr Laws made his claims with the intention of benefiting himself or his partner in conscious breach of the rules. But the sums of money involved were substantial… Some of them continued over a number of years.”

He said Mr Laws clearly recognised there was “potential conflict between the public interest and his private interest” and “his desire for secrecy led him to act in a way which was not compatible with the standards expected of an MP”…

The commissioner accepted that Mr Laws’ claims would have been “considerably more” if he had stuck to the rules, and he agreed that there was no loss to the taxpayer from the breaches.

OK, so his motivation was simply to keep his relationship private, there had been no loss to the taxpayer – and he had under-claimed what could have been claimed under the rules – but he was guilty nonetheless of breaching the rules. Fairly straightforward really, but Littlejohn misses such nuances:

He’s lucky not to have been banged up…

His excuse for not revealing details of his relationship with his landlord was that he was trying to keep his sexuality secret.

So that’s all right, then.

No, it isn’t ‘all right’ Richard, as the judge makes very clear in his comments (you can read some of them above), but it does mean that his case is very different to an MP claiming expenses under false pretences for simple greed. It was a bad decision, but not one motivated by clear criminal intent. Richard continues:

There have been attempts to conflate Laws’ wrongdoing into a row over ‘homophobia’. That was never going to fly. As I wrote at the time, this wasn’t about his sexuality, it was about stealing.

Who cares if he’s gay? There’s a lot of it about these days. Being homosexual no longer carries any stigma. In public life, it’s a badge of honour.

Who exactly has been bringing homophobia into this – apart from you, right now? If there have been attempts then please enlighten us with them – tell us who tried to do this, point out the articles and so forth. As for the ‘there’s a lot of it about these days’ comment, why? What possessed you to write that? And the mindless badge of honour comment, Richard, you really do have issues. Littlejohn concludes – demonstrating that he has either not bothered to read the judges comments or he has decided to completely ignore them in favour of his own self-assured verdict:

Laws was stupid and greedy, but he escaped prosecution because he’s one of the few Lib Dems with half a brain and a personal friend of Nick Clegg.

After missing the point in his main effort he moves onto the train guy and gives South West Trains both barrels for sacking him without a moment’s doubt that there might be slightly more to the story than what the media have been told by the sacked person:

Just another example of how safety ‘guidelines’ introduced with the best of intentions have been turned into a tyranny in brave new Britain…

The sacking of Mr Faletto is beyond disgusting. Whoever runs South West Trains should be thoroughly ashamed.

He should be reinstated immediately with a grovelling apology.

I know South West Trains have to maintain confidentiality, but I do hope at some point we hear their side of the story – and Richard, if they have already held a tribunal and turned down an appeal against the sacking I don’t think a few tired hacks are going to get him reinstated.

Hypocrisy (again)

Sometimes you just need a screenshot to demonstrate how hypocritical the Daily Mail is:

Daily Mail Hypocrisy

So, the BBC is criticised for showing something that the Daily Mail takes great pleasure in raking over for the delight of morbid readers. As for the question ‘Can TV stoop any lower?’ I can only refer to the words of Charlie Brooker on this one:

if TV broadcast the kind of material you see in the press – if it paid women in lingerie to recount graphic celebrity fuck’n’tell stories, or shoved its cameras up the skirts of girls exiting taxis so viewers could wank to the sight of their knickers, or routinely broadcast grossly misleading and openly one-sided news reports designed to perpetuate fear and bigotry – if the box in the corner smeared that shit on its screen for 10 seconds a night, it’d generate a pile of complaints high enough to scrape the crust from the underside of Mars.


UPDATE:

The Daily Mail is now leading with this story:

Hipocracy once again from the Daily Mail

Can you smell that?

Or is it just me? ‘Stationmaster SACKED for leaping onto tracks and pulling trolley out of path of oncoming trains‘ claims the Daily Mail – a story so scandalous that it receives the coveted BIGGEST STORY IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW SPOT on the Mail website:

Elf N Safety gone mad
Arms crossed in disgust, Ian Faletto is a tabloid dreamboat.

So, Mr Faletto ‘leaped’ onto the track and pulled a trolley out of the way of not just one train, but oncoming trains. He’s clearly some kind of superhero, yet here he is in PC-elf-n-safety-gone-mad-Britain getting the sack for saving the day.

What is that smell?

In the first three paragraphs of the article the Daily Mail makes it perfectly clear exactly what happened:

A dedicated station master has been sacked after 27 years working for the same company – for pulling a shopping trolley off the track.

Ian Faletto jumped onto the line at Lymington Pier train station, Hants, and pulled the obstacle back onto the platform after it was chucked on by yobs.

He was dismissed for ‘a serious breach of safety’ by heartless South West Trains for his act of bravery, which prevented a crash with oncoming trains.

Yet the Daily Mail then makes it clear (in the words of Mr Faletto) that:

‘I saw the trolley on the line at Lymington Pier, got power turned off and managed to remove it before the first train arrived that morning.

The BBC report the same:

The Reverend Alex Russell, vicar of St Mark’s Church, Pennington, has started a petition calling for Mr Faletto’s reinstatement.

She said Mr Faletto had told her he saw the shopping trolley on the line and saw a “potential danger”.

He then called a nearby station to switch the power off before removing the trolley from the track, she said.

So, according to the Reverend Alex Russell and Mr Faletto he didn’t spontaneously leap onto the tracks in front on an oncoming train because presumably the same notification that switched off the power would also have warned any train drivers of an obstacle on the track.

The BBC also make it abundantly clear that the company – South West Trains – have refused to comment on the specific reasons why Mr Faletto had been sacked, but they did reveal the following:

A South West Trains spokesperson said an employee had been dismissed for a “serious breach of safety” but refused to officially explain what this was.

“This action was taken following a full and thorough internal investigation and the decision was also upheld at an appeal hearing,” he said.

“Our absolute priority is to run a safe railway for our passengers and staff.

“All of our employees are aware of the importance of complying with the strict rules governing railway safety, which we have a duty to enforce, and the serious consequences of disregarding them.”

So, the decision was made following an investigation and survived an appeal. It seems to me that this must have been a serious matter and that we’re only – as usual – hearing one side of the story. The truth is that South West Trains have to respect the privacy of the ex-employee so can only confirm basic facts and not give further details. This suits the tabloid press who can call said company ‘heartless’ and blame health and safety safe in the knowledge that the truth probably will not out as long as we only hear from Mr Faletto and friends.

Whilst all I am left with is this annoying whiff of bullshit.


Those interested in the original article posted on the Southern Daily Echo website can revel in the comments – some regarding their personal impressions of Mr Faletto, some blaming ‘Political Correctness’ for the decision, invoking Stewart Lee’s thoughts on confused people unable to seperate political corectness and health and safety legislation.

Press freedom

The United Kingdom is lucky to have a free press. At least in theory. However, freedom is not in itself a good thing. Freedom can be abused in any number of ways, which is why in most instances the government retains the right to take away the freedom of those not using it appropriately. In the case of newspapers we are constantly told that the freedom of the press is paramount – this is why no government dares regulate the press with David Cameron the latest Prime Minister to praise the PCC for being a wonderful example of self-regulation. Except that it has utterly failed to regulate the press in any way.

The press is free to pursue any stories that they want, just as the public is free to purchase any newspaper that prints the kind of content that they are interested in. The press are free to criticise any aspect of the political system, but they are also free to tell us how to vote and to lie about important issues, run smear campaigns and generally fight for a political end that suits their own purposes. In real terms the press is only free to be moulded by the free market and free to be the plaything of powerful owners.

The only defence the newspaper has for its behaviour is freedom. Freedom of the press seems so paramount that it is raised as an unquestionable defence as soon as anyone raises a critical eyebrow towards the collection of putrid paper that passes as a newspaper industry in the UK. As soon as press freedom is questioned we hear the same tired arguments about how it is vital for the press to be free to hold politicians, corporations and powerful individuals to account. The beauty of this argument is that just occasionally this is true.

It is also a complete nonsense when you consider what newspapers actually spend the vast majority of their time doing (and how many of them actively work in the interests of politicians, corporations and powerful individuals or are indistuingishable from them). As the Daily Mail notes today when gleefully reporting that Max Mosley has lost his bid to ‘gag the press':

Today’s judgment observed that the private lives of those in the public eye had become ‘a highly lucrative commodity’ for certain sectors of the media, and publication of news about such people contributed to the range of information available to the public.

The dissemination of such information was ‘generally for the purposes of entertainment rather than education’ but it undoubtedly benefited from the protection of ‘freedom of expression’ rules.

You then scroll to the right-hand side of the screen and see what the judge is referring to – and what the press is doing with its freedom:

This is a product of the free market press, a press that exists to make profit rather than inform a population – which is why we have such a poor democracy: our press serves only to empty our pockets rather than fill our minds with the information we need to be informed citizens. However, the free market only functions to keep alive those newspapers that have a large enough customer base. We get crap newspapers because enough of us want crap newspapers. We get crap governance because not enough of us are prepared to do something about it.

Almost every public debate is reduced to mindless simplicity. Max Mosley makes a hugely valid point that people deserve the right to privacy and the press should respect that right when the ‘news story’ is not in the public interest. Max Mosley is then said to be attempting to ‘gag the press’. He isn’t. He’s just pointing out that if the press had to respect the genuine privacy of others they might have to work bit harder to find stories that are actually in the public interest, rather than simply of interest to the public.