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.