Littlejohn’s Research (part 1,079)

It’s been a while since New Labour were in power but Richard Littlejohn is still repeating the same tired old columns about them – indeed, his two columns this week feature the same details about Peter Mandelson buying a house – the second one another variation of his favourite ‘made-up-radio-show-phone-in’ sketch. I’ve now become just as boring and repetitive as Littlejohn simply because I have to keep pointing out the same old crap every time I read one of his columns.

I know he is a terrible writer, I know he is exceptionally lazy, I know he is staggeringly biased, I know he doesn’t care about his readers or his job, but even in spite of knowing all of these things I’m still flabbergasted that he is still getting paid such a huge sum when he is essentially sticking two fingers up to both his readers and his editor by repeating the same old tripe.

Anyway, ignoring the usual drivel – it is always amusing when a sub-editor has to introduce a Littlejohn column with ‘This week Littlejohn imagines…’ – he moves on to Gareth Durrant:

I read about electrician Gareth Durrant, who almost died from internal injuries sustained in a freak accident at the caravan factory where he works.

According to Mr Durrant’s version of events — and who am I to doubt him? — a high-pressure air hose apparently detached itself from its ceiling mounting, snaked its way up the leg of his shorts and ‘accidentally lodged itself’ in his bottom, pumping a 300lb-per-square-inch blast up his back passage.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

If he had read about the event in his own newspaper (or even just the headline) he would have realised that this does not appear to be an accident at all: ‘Electrician who had compressed air hose blasted up his backside ‘was victim of dangerous and foolish prank”. The article clearly states that:

An electrician who suffered serious internal injuries after a compressed air hose went up his backside was the victim of a ‘dangerous and foolish’ prank, Hull County Court heard today.

Gareth Durrant, 26, was working in a factory making static caravans when the air hose, carrying 300lbs per square inch, was allegedly blasted up his shorts and into his back passage by a colleague.

This article was posted on the Mail website yesterday. You know Littlejohn is really hitting rock bottom (excuse the pun) when he can’t even source his nonsense from his own newspaper correctly.

Littlejohn’s ‘Silly Season’

The standards expected of a Daily Mail columnist are so low that Richard Littlejohn can freely admit that he is an utterly lazy and repetitive writer – in fact he spends a substantial number of words just pointing this out. I can’t help but find it odd that Littlejohn’s readers don’t get just a little bit offended by his admission that he is basically pretty pleased to just feed them any old crap as long as he is paid. Perhaps this kind of attitude is inevitable when the editor of the Daily Mail is prepared to print anything that ensures the reading figures are high – irrespective of such journalistic trivialities as truth. Indeed, Paul Dacre said as much recently when he gave evidence to a joint parliamentary committee on the Draft Defamation Bill on 18 July:

thinking about some of the things that Mr Littlejohn writes in my paper, I do not know whether they are honest but they certainly get people talking.

So, Paul Dacre doesn’t care about truth as long as what is written sells newspapers (for which getting ‘people talking’ is a beautifully simple and insidious euphemism) and Richard Littlejohn only cares to write stuff that involves as little effort as possible.

Which brings us to his column today: ‘This time next year, Reinaldo, we’ll be billionaires’ [no, no link].

Yes, Littlejohn has wheeled out a favourite target of his: Peter Mandelson. His justification for doing so in any other industry would be an elaborate resignation letter, a confession that he was clearly not capable of performing the role for which he is so handsomely paid:

What was I saying recently about missing Peter Mandelson? His assorted scrapes, scambolis and scandals have provided a rich seam of material over the years.

Many have been the mornings I’ve sat here scratching my head and staring at a blank wordface, only for Mandelson to ride to the rescue.

When Labour was turfed out of office, my jubilation was tinged with just a little sadness over the fact that I wouldn’t have Mandy to kick around any more.

I needn’t have worried. As I tried desperately to avoid having to write about Libya, along came exciting news of Mandelson’s ambitious property portfolio.

Fairly standard stuff, he’s used this before loads of times -‘ where would my column be without repeating made-up stuff about ‘elf n safety” etc – but his next claim just about sums up his interest in anything other than taking the easiest route to his upper 6 – possibly 7 – figure salary:

he’s dug me out of a deep silly season hole today. And for small mercies, we must all be grateful. I should send him a house-warming card.

‘Silly season’? Nothing at all going on in the world apart from Peter Mandelson buying a house? So, he would do anything to avoid talking about Libya and he couldn’t find anything else worth writing about apart from Peter Mandelson buying a house? Even if we accept that the story picked by Littlejohn is the only thing going on in the world apart from Libya, all he does is speculate that Mandelson couldn’t possibly afford the mortgage on the house he has bought and therefore something dodgy must be going on. He could be right, but this is something that requires proper investigative journalism, not a quick 5 minute ramble from someone famously too lazy to use Google to perform even the most basic of fact-checking.

Littlejohn’s column today could have been cut down to: ‘I’m too lazy to write about Libya, but that Peter Mandelson, heh, he’s bought a house and I don’t reckon he can afford it’. And that’s it. That is what nearly 1 million pounds a year can buy you.

Daily Mail still stealing online content

So, yesterday the Daily Mail shuts down for copyright infringement whilst claiming that they were entitled to recover all of the – in the words of the lawyers representing Associated Newspapers – ‘ill-gotten profits’ made by as a result of caching Mail Online articles.

As usual, the Daily Mail is being deeply hypocritical and relying – once more – on simply bullying the opposition with expensive lawyers because the Daily Mail have a deserved reputation for stealing online content without any attempt at payment or attribution. You see, the Daily Mail can always find money for expensive lawyers, but they cannot find money to pay others for the use of their content; in the same way that they can moan that have stolen precious web hits yet when they steal stories from websites they don’t even have the courtesy to provide a weblink. The Mail is happy to apply the dark arts to steal online content, but is not prepared to engage in any form of standard web etiquette.

A brilliant example was pointed out in the comments on this blog last night because the Daily Mail got into touch with a blogger who had taken a photo of a fashion store with a mannequin with should-probably-be-dead thin legs and pointed out that this was another example of the unrealistic body image being sold to women. The Daily Mail asked if they could use the photos, the blogger said yes, but only if the Daily Mail would pay £250 to a charity of the blogger’s choice. The Daily Mail claimed that they could not afford to pay that kind of fee and when the blogger responded that in that case they could not use the image the Mail replied to acknowledge that fact.

The Mail Online then went ahead and lifted the story and pictures anyway, and even had the cheek to make it look as if the blogger had given the story and their thoughts to the Mail (kind of a Hari moment). I can only hope that the blogger pursues the Mail for payment or copyright infringement with as much vigour as the Mail does. I can recommend you have a read through the comments on that blog as well because people are linking to many other examples of the Mail blatantly and unapologetically stealing online content.

This was brought to my attention and covered by onlythatinyou, visit their blog for more.

Daily Mail lawyers strike again

After my own issues with the lawyers of the Daily Mail a while back (see here and here for details) they have now been in touch with the excellent and have essentially managed to shut them down. In a letter which you can read on the website the webmaster is told that:

Your deliberate attempt to interfere with Associated o’hits” Newspapers’ ability to get valuable to its website, through the willful infringement of our clients copyrights, are irreparably damaging to Associated News. Under the law, Associated News is entitled not only to injunctive relief against you, but also is entitled to receive awards of damages, recovery of your ill-gotten profits, and to recover the attorneys’ fees and costs it incurs as a-result of your violations of law. Statutory damages alone may be awarded in the amount of $ 150,000 per work infringed…

I particularly like the claim that had somehow made ‘ill-gotten profits’ from caching Mail articles – quite how was supposed to be making revenue is completely unclear, but that doesn’t stop a Daily Mail scare letter from making the claim anyway (like the newspaper, the letter seems a big fan of threatening hyperbole).

So, another website has been successfully neutered by the Daily Mail – which some of you might view as perfectly valid, given that it was created to attempt to rob the Daily Mail of hits and therefore potential revenue. However, I think the website was more about sending the Daily Mail a message about the tactics that it uses to drive traffic to its website. Essentially the Mail Online website has become a powerful Internet troll, sucking in outraged traffic as it produces article after article of staggering ignorance or offence to which people feel compelled to read and respond to.

I am no better, given that I respond in detail on this blog, but whilst the Internet troll that is not fed with responses will ultimately go away, the Mail Online trolling isn’t going to because it has such a large platform and its trolling only supplements the traffic generated by celebrity drivel – so it matters not whether I blog about it or not, I am not the only one feeding it.

I guess we have to look on the positive side of things and acknowledge that legal action is at least an acknowledgement that the Mail group are becoming increasingly annoyed at their ‘product’ coming under attack online, no matter how small in terms of revenue or traffic those attacks are.

Worst. Argument. Ever.

It must be wonderful being James Delingpole. Here is someone who constantly wheels out the most shallow, ludicrous and repetitive arguments in response to any given topic whilst he genuinely believes he is the most intelligent person on the planet and rather than being wheeled into a home for the terminally bewildered he is instead given a rather large platform because – sadly – such mind-numbing stupidity is shared by a decent-sized minority of people who possess plenty of ideological conviction at the expense of brain cells.

Being James Delingpole relies on absolute faith in the following:

  1. James Delingpole is more intelligent and perceptive than anyone else. Ergo, if someone disagrees with him, it is because they are too stupid to realise that he is always right.
  2. Everything – and I mean everything – negative that ever happens can be blamed directly on the left or ‘libtards’ or the BBC or Labour and this is so obviously self-evident that he never needs to make a case for why this is so.
  3. There exists a ‘liberal elite’ who control everything and have done for the last 30 years (yes, Thatcher, in Delingpole’s mind, must either have been a liberal or was powerless to stand-up to the liberal elite…) and this elite try to stamp out any freedom of speech.

By now I imagine you’ve all seen David Starkey’s Newsnight appearance in which he said a load of stuff that was clearly racist. Toby Young stepped in to defend Starkey by claiming that he wasn’t really racist – which you can see rebutted in depth by 5CC – and now Delingpole has stepped in to not just applaud Toby Young but to go much further in portraying Starkey as a victim of the liberal elite and the BBC. You see, although Starkey is an experienced TV personality and supposed intellectual historian, he was actually the naive victim of a carefully laid trap:

Driving back from my holiday in Wales, yesterday, I realised what a lucky escape I’d had. As I exited the hills and finally got my mobile phone reception back, there was an old message from Friday inviting me to appear on that evening’s Newsnight to talk about the riots. So it could have been me that fell into the BBC’s “raaaacist” trap instead of poor old David Starkey.

And make no mistake it was a trap. Starkey’s debating opponent was Owen Jones, the BBC’s new pet angry young socialist whose default position is perpetual umbrage and righteous rage on behalf of the poor, working class, oppressed and – since Friday, apparently – black people. It’s a cheap trick but one that goes down very well at the BBC, which is why they have Jones back so often. What it achieves, while cleverly avoiding the need for debate on facts (never the liberal-Left’s strong point), is to imply that anyone on the right is evil, selfish, bullying, wrong or – that ne plus ultra of Lefty insults – raaaacist.

So, Starkey – who was given a chance to talk about the riots on TV and was not hassled, harangued or bullied into saying anything – was somehow the victim of a ‘trap’ simply because Owen Jones appeared on the same programme? Laughable stuff when you can clearly see that Starkey is given immense freedom to say exactly what he wants – complete with dramatic pauses – and no-one interrupts him or does anything that might have confused him enough to say something he didn’t mean or to miss-phrase his own thoughts. Delingpole completely ignores what Starkey actually said and instead points out that Owen Jones was on the show as if this somehow wins the argument – although it’s not even clear what argument Delingpole is even trying to make here.

It gets worse for Delingpole when you realise that Starkey is not claiming anything of the sort but is still standing by his comments, according to the Mail on Sunday:

Dr Starkey last night denied he had said anything racist and said he stood by his comments, reiterating that in times of economic and political crisis, ‘plain speaking’ was needed.

He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I said until I was blue in the face on the programme that I was not talking about skin colour but gang culture. A large group of whites have started to behave like blacks. I think that is the most unracial remark anyone can make.’

I might not agree with Starkey – more on that in a minute – but at least he is accepting responsibility for what he alone said rather than following the example of Young and Delingpole to try to argue that he either didn’t really say anything racist if you spend some time fudging a bizzare interpretation of what was said (Young) or that he was a victim of a BBC / liberal trap and that therefore his words are somehow not his own (Delingpole).

Just a quick point about what Starkey actually said. It seems to me that if you hear David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, on the radio, and you automatically assume he is white then you seem to associate being middle-class with a particular skin colour. In the same way, if you claim that young white people engaging in a street culture are becoming ‘black’, then you are associating being urban lower-class and violent with a particular skin colour. So the young whites are presumably betraying their white skin by engaging in urban, street culture, in the same way that the black man is betraying his skin colour by daring to be middle-class.

This all sounds like racism to me. The idea that to engage in rioting is to somehow become ‘black’ is offensive because it suggests that white people cannot culturally engage in such behaviour. Subsequently the idea that in order to be a respectable black person they must become ‘white’ is offensive because it suggests that black culture has no class system – i.e. black people who do well in society do so only because they have abandoned their black culture and replace it with copying the white man. Even discussing Starkey’s comments makes me feel as if I have just stepped back into colonial times.

It’s not racist to discuss culture. But you can easily say racist things on national TV when you really don’t have a clue what you are talking about – and it is important that people like Delingpole realise that discussing said racism is not an attack on freedom of speech, but an example of it.

UK Riots: the troubled search for meaning

Last night’s guest post has led to a few questions being asked on Twitter and on here as to why I published it.

Well, it was to make a point about the riots that continue to sporadically occur around the UK and our reaction to them. There has been much said on TV and radio, written in newspapers, on blogs and Twitter about why the riots are happening and the kind of person who might be taking part in them. I haven’t managed to form any opinion, because I really don’t know why this is happening (and I don’t wish to speculate).

One argument I hadn’t seen until a friend wrote the guest post last night was that the police were being purposefully ineffective in order to prepare for much stronger policing powers to respond to future protests. It is not a viewpoint I share, but the point is that people will take away from these riots a confirmation of their worldview or will interpret the riots to fit into the narratives that they hold dear.

Those who believe that we live in Broken Britain will see this as just more evidence, those who believe we have a feral youth will use this as proof, those who are racist (see Nick Griffin’s tweets) will blame black people directly or multi-culturalism as being responsible – indeed, several commenters on the Mail website have posted comments that this is the inevitable result of immigration and multi-culturalism.

What the guest post demonstrated is that you can mix convincing points with conspiracy-type theories quite easily which is why it is dangerous to read too much organisation or ideology as being behind these riots. Certainly the guest post makes valid arguments about the outcome of the riots – people do seem to be increasingly calling for tougher law and order, more wide-ranging police powers and the arrival of the army. It doesn’t follow that this was a purposeful tactic of the police or the state, the government might take advantage of it to increase our ‘security’ in the same way that New Labour used the fear of terrorism to curb the right to protest and reduce our civil liberties, but it doesn’t mean they actively let the rioting occur.

It is natural for us to what to make sense of any events, particularly when they are violent and chip away at the thin veneer of civilisation, but it does not follow that we can make any worthwhile conclusions or indeed see past our own established worldviews when analysing the riots. I don’t know the work of Alex Jones, but I see a lot of people have suggested even linking to him in a post has damaged the credibility of this blog because he is an ‘conspiracy theorist’. Which, again, is kind of proving my point. By all means dismiss the blog post because you have valid arguments against the case being put to you, but it isn’t enough just to dismiss it because it links to someone who you might think is a bit nuts.

I’m no fan of the faux-democracy that exists in Western countries, and I’m not a believer in the majority of narratives sold to us by a media that by-and-large has to put profit before truth but neither am I a fan of those who unthinkingly believe in conspiracy theories and have to take big leaps of faith in fitting events into their own system of beliefs.

But the point is: whatever analysis we apply to the riots will be severely tainted by our own worldview, expectations and narratives. It is unlikely, for most of us, that our interpretations or conclusions will be of any value – whether you believe the riots were the ultimate destiny of multi-culturalism or the machinations of a fascist state.

Mad as hell

We should be tearing down the current system; the world is a deeply unfair place in which a rich minority rule billions of people’s lives. But the system will not be destroyed with random looting or violence – which plays perfectly into the hands of those in power, who can simply enforce more powers to control ‘us’, and can say once more that we cannot be trusted with any freedom or input into how they run the world. No, we need to get angry and stop buying the shit that they are selling, to put down our TV remotes and spend some time using our brains to work out how we can make it a better world for everyone.

We need to sit down in front of our TV sets and use them for a while, instead of letting them use us. We can start by watching the 1976 film The Network:

What the world needs are millions of activists who do the one thing the system fears the most: think. This requires us to reject the endless stream of drivel we sit through on TV, the mindless websites we visit for inane stories about celebrities or the endless pursuit of more consumerist shit that we are led to believe is the answer to all of our problems.

We need to get mad as hell, but not like this.