The Talented Mr Littlejohn

We didn’t need a 2,000 page report by Leveson to demonstrate that something is rotten in the state of journalism, we just need to remind ourselves of the glittering career of Richard Littlejohn.

Here is a man who has worked in journalism since 1971 and in his most recent form – twice-weekly ‘satirical’ columns – has been handsomely paid by both the Sun and the Daily Mail (rumour from a few years back put his annual salary at £800,000). Along the way he has been named Fleet Street’s Columnist of the Year and he was also given a place in the inaugural Newspaper Hall of Fame as one of the most influential journalists of the past 40 years. Even this year Richard Littlejohn was runner-up (‘highly commended’) for the columnist of the year award in the 2012 UK Press Awards.

Only an industry which has no standards, no concern for facts and no qualms about regularly printing hateful spite aimed at the weakest in society would enable Richard Littlejohn to become one of its leading lights.

Littlejohn is infamous for writing unpleasant things and his column on Lucy Meadows was nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, it was exactly the kind of column that Paul Dacre pays him so handsomely to write (and we must ultimately blame the editor, not the writer for what is deemed fit to publish). Lucy Meadows was the perfect victim for a Richard Littlejohn attack job. She wasn’t rich, powerful or influential; she was vulnerable, had no voice and was most importantly different. Whilst Richard Littlejohn’s surreal personal website insists that he is some kind of crusader taking on the rich and powerful, the evidence of column after column attacking the disenfranchised suggests that this is the one thing he doesn’t actually do.

He famously decided to attack the five female victims of a serial killer, labelling them as ‘disgusting, drug-addled street whores’ who were ‘in the scheme of things… no great loss’ because it wasn’t as if they were  ‘going to discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur’.  He commented on the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people died:

Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them.

When Japan suffered a Tsunami in which over 19,000 people died Richard Littlejohn wrote that:

the Japanese people have a distinct culture of their own, which is entirely alien to our own values. They are militantly racist and in the past have been capable of great cruelty.

And went on to explain that whilst you shouldn’t blame current generations for the sins of the past, he does exactly that by explaining why some WWII veterans wouldn’t be joining in the minute’s silence for Japan because of Japenese cruelty during the war (77.4% of Japan’s population were not even born until after the end of WWII). Indeed, Richard Littlejohn – never a model of consistency, even had the gall to write: ‘But why Japan and not, say, those massacred in Rwanda or starved to death by Mugabe in Zimbabwe?’. Obviously, we’ve all read his real thoughts on the 800,000 killed in Rwanda, it’s just that Littlejohn hates so many nameless foreigners that he can’t keep up with which genocides he has in the past written derogatory comments about.

Richard Littlejohn is well known for his need to dehumanise his victims – indeed, most newspapers use this technique to make the targets of their hate easier to insult; if you take away a person’s humanity, you can write what you like about them with impunity. He’s also well known for his staggering laziness, rehashing the same few columns over and over again and failing to engage in even the most cursory research to avoid making simple mistakes or repeating the same tired old media myths (a lack of research is the kind way of viewing this, it could be he knows the truth, but just does not care).

He is, in short, terrible at being a journalist.

And this is what Leveson failed to really address, the fundamental problem that what falls under the general label of journalism because it appears in a newspaper is often the antithesis of the common understanding of what journalism should be. What Littlejohn et al clearly demonstrate is that the issue is best dealt with by Trading Standards – they need to determine what it is acceptable to label as a ‘newspaper’. If a newspaper should primarily be concerned with a factual reporting of general interest news items, then the label should not apply to the Daily Mail and it’s tabloid brethren. Perhaps we need to start from scratch and have a formal system that regulates news and separates it from comment – we need to recognise that most of our newspapers are little more than propaganda sheets published solely in the interest of wealthy owners.

Above all, we need to recognise that papers like the Daily Mail exist because their brand of hatred is popular and people buy it. The same goes for Littlejohn, he has – and continues to have – a glittering career because editors see value in writing populist myths as fact and in attacking the disenfranchised. All I ever wanted from Leveson was for him to come up with a regulatory system that leveled the playing field by ensuring that newspapers have to stick to the facts. I don’t mind newspapers having an opinion, but I do object when the evidence put forward to support their opinion is a vast tissue of lies.

It seems to me that the best way to detoxify newspapers is to create a system in which they are punished, substantially, for lying to their readers. Would the tabloid press really be as popular as they are if they couldn’t rely on wheeling out the same old populist myths to feed the flames of anger in their readership? Would Littlejohn have carved out any kind of career as a columnist if he couldn’t rely on telling lies to whip up anger and hatred?

The case of Lucy Meadows is very sad and anger should be rightfully directed at the Daily Mail and its editor, Paul Dacre, along with Richard Littlejohn for writing the piece. It should also be directed at the other newspapers who sent photograpers and journalists to harass Lucy Meadows and the people around her. However, it should also be directed at the people buying these newspapers – buying the Daily Mail et al is an anti-social act and should be looked upon as such by any decent citizen.

The only way we can change the press we get, is to change the press we buy.

Theresa May’s Littlejohn moment

So Theresa May repeated the 2009 myth that an immigrant was allowed to stay in the UK because they owned a cat. Worryingly, her speech had – according to Left Foot Forward – been checked by no less than David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander. Oh dear. For the record (in case you somehow missed this)  this is what she claimed in her speech:

“We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act. The violent drug dealer who cannot be sent home because his daughter – for whom he pays no maintenance – lives here. The robber who cannot be removed because he has a girlfriend. The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat.”

To be fair to her, she wasn’t making this story up – that is the job of our wonderful press which can do so safe in the knowledge that it faces no sanctions for doing so. The story originated in the Sunday Telegraph and, even though it was clearly rubbish, it was copied by the Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Sun and the Daily Star.

As I’ve written so many times before: dishonest journalism has consequences.

It has only been a few days since David Cameron attacked the Human Rights Act based on nothing more than an incident he read about in the Daily Mail. Needless to say, that Daily Mail article was utterly dishonest and was discredited here long before Cameron repeated it. It seems to me that the main problem with democracy in the UK is that all politicians can ever focus on is the next election and therefore they feel they are always at the mercy of public opinion. They therefore discuss what they think the country cares about, which largely means that they (having no knowledge of the country as a whole) simply look at what the newspapers are writing about and base political discourse around the same few tired narratives – most of which are extremely distorted.

Thus every time a politician wants to appeal to the electorate they feel as if they must go for the short-term topic of the day and that they can only connect with the public by repeating some crap they read in the newspaper – as if newspapers are some magical conduit to our souls. This is why in a time of a world financial crisis politicians think our main concerns are the 100 or so illegal immigrants who we fail to legally deport each year due to the Human Rights Act, or weekly bin collections, or immigration or council tax or people on benefits or whatever else is easy to attack, say or promise. We are treated as if we were selfish children, unable to see past our own immediate wants.

I don’t think we are, and I think – increasingly – we are becoming more and more conscious of just how poisoned political discourse has become in this country thanks to the distorted media narratives created by a largely amoral and unregulated press. It might at first seem pretty funny that the home secretary should make such an obvious gaffe during a big speech. But it isn’t funny, at all, because it happens far too often and on most occasions it is rarely challenged.

In case you are wondering, yes, Richard Littlejohn did cover this story.


Richard Littlejohn has dedicated most of today’s column to the Human Rights Act and why it should be scrapped by David Cameron. Of course, being a Richard Littlejohn he constantly refers to the Human Rights Act as ‘yuman rites act’ and David Cameron as ‘Call Me Dave’. Before then having the cheek to declare that Nick Clegg defended the Human Rights Act in front of ‘infantile conference delegates’.

Richard further demonstrates his superior maturity by following up his hilarious phonetic spellings and invented names by publishing the contact details of a council worker who he encourages people to contact about something in his column last week. No doubt the Daily Mail will want to cover the obvious waste of taxpayers’ money that will result in this individual being swamped by untold amounts of emails, phone calls and letters because Richard thinks this kind of thing is amusing and appropriate.

Richard Littlejohn, champion of the little man against the big powerful institutions throws his considerable weight around by publishing the details of one individual working for Cornwall Council.

Slow clap time.

Richard Littlejohn and Baha Mousa

14th July 2009, the day after an inquiry was launched into alleged abuse meted out to Iraqis held captive by the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra in September 2003, Richard Littlejohn wrote this two paragraph aside on the matter:

Richard Littlejohn finds torture hilarious

Richard Littlejohn was reacting to allegations that prisoners had been:

verbally abused, burned, stamped and urinated on and forced to lie face down over full latrines… [and were subject to] conditioning techniques such as hooding and the use of stress techniques, outlawed in 1972 as a result of abuse in Northern Ireland…

As was pointed out at the time, the inquiry was not about the British Army ‘making people dance in an amusing way’, but it was actually centred around the death of Baha Mousa, a 26 year old man who died from 93 separate injuries inflicted on him over a 36-hour period. It was an inquiry into this death – and many others who also suffered extensive injuries during the same period – that Littlejohn felt the need to mock.

At the time he blamed the ‘Not In My Name crowd’ for ‘clutching at straws’ in order to try and pin some kind of blame on UK soldiers, as well as finding it hilarious that prisoners might have been made to dance like Michael Jackson.

Given that today the result of that inquiry has been announced, can we expect a grovelling apology from Richard Littlejohn? Here is a summary of what the inquiry found from the BBC:

An Iraqi man died after suffering an “appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence” in a “very serious breach of discipline” by UK soldiers, a year-long inquiry has found…

Mr Mousa, a father-of-two, died two days after his arrest.

The inquiry concluded that the death was caused by a combination of his weakened physical state and a final bout of abuse.

Cpl Donald Payne had violently assaulted Mr Mousa in the minutes before he died, punching and possibly kicking him, and using a dangerous restraint method, the inquiry found.

While this was a “contributory cause” in the death, Mr Mousa had already been weakened by factors including lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions used by British troops.

Sir William said Payne was a “violent bully” who inflicted a “dreadful catalogue of unjustified and brutal violence” on the detainees, also encouraging more junior soldiers to do the same.

The report ends with a paragraph that Richard Littlejohn might want to read over and over:

Mr Mousa’s 22-year-old wife had died of cancer shortly before his detention, meaning his death left his two young sons, Hussein and Hassan, orphaned.

Go on, Richard, make a joke out of that.

What about the real news?

Today’s Daily Mail editorial condenses all of the basic arguments that have been trotted out by their ever-so-compliant columnists in the past week as to why we should all forget about hacking and move onto something else: ‘Never mind phone hacking, what about the real issues facing Britain?‘ [ link].

In the real world, bleak economic storm clouds are gathering.

The euro crisis, which has already cost the beleaguered British taxpayer £12.5billion in bailout loans – an average of £600 for every family – deepens by the day.

Italy is the latest debt-ridden Eurozone country causing panic in the markets and even the credit-rating of the USA may be cut, which would spark a major crisis on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Britain, rampant fuel and food inflation cripple household budgets, unemployment remains around 2.5million and there’s fear on the High Street as big names like Habitat and HMV go under.

Despite empty promises from Business Secretary Vince Cable, the banks – whose criminal recklessness and greed created this crisis – cynically starve small businesses of vital funds they need to help kick-start the economy.

Even when loans are given, interest rates are usurious.

Mortgages are almost impossible to get for first-time buyers, leading to sclerosis in the housing market. Growth has stalled and we may even be back in recession by the end of the year.

In a sane world, politicians would be working round the clock to help rectify these dire problems. But sadly, they are far too busy enjoying a frenzy of vengeful score-settling against the Murdoch press.

It’s an insidious argument and the editorial reads as if it was written by Richard Littlejohn. One of the key narratives that the Daily Mail has tried to sell for the last week is that the phone-hacking story is only of interest to politicians or those in the media. Richard Littlejohn referred to the ‘politico/media village’ exploding into a frenzy as if the story had no impact outside of this sphere. In today’s editorial the writer falls back on one of Littlejohn’s favourite turn of phrases: ‘In the real world’. Basically this argument is used simply to dismiss one topic by implying that there are far more pressing problems to deal with – it is also used to again distance a topic from being in the public interest. In this case the editorial is clearly suggesting that only money problems impact upon its readership, whilst hacking is something that only politicians or the BBC care about (because it does not take place in the real world).

Clearly, the phone-hacking story is no longer about the actual hacking itself, but rather it is beginning to look at the utterly unchecked power held by a morally reprehensible press. This impacts all of us because we all realise that we are just one incident away from becoming a victim – whether we are a landlord of a murdered girl or the relation of a missing girl or dead soldier; we are all just one piece of bad luck or personal tragedy away from being hacked, smeared or otherwise invaded by a rampant press. This story is real, it is important, it dramatically affects the real world in which we live. The media for far too long have been completely free to lie, distort and attack anything that suits them, vastly impacting on political process and societal harmony. If phone-hacking is the foot in the door that allows us to tackle the wider unaccountability and ethical bankruptcy of the press then it is quite simply one of the most significant stories of our lifetime.

All of this is obviously ignoring the staggering hypocrisy of the Mail editorial telling us what is ‘real world’, important news and what ‘in a sane world’ would be ignored. This is, after all, the newspaper that regularly leads with stories about wheelie bins – followed up by ‘special investigations’ about them:

Tabloid Watch has also covered this as well, go read it.

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.

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.

Responsible coverage

Richard Littlejohn has the usual thoughtless throwaway segment at the end of his column today [ link], this time he wonders why there has been so little coverage of the shootings in the Netherlands. Richard suspects that it is evidence that the world is anti-American whilst remaining unquestioning of ‘liberal’ democracies such as the Netherlands. His reasoning is that he didn’t see ‘much of the Dutch massacre on tv’, and:

There wasn’t a great fuss made about it in the papers, either. Just imagine if this had happened in the United States.

There would be banner headlines about the ‘Wild West’ and the usual knee-jerk television specials about America’s rampant gun culture.

It’s called responsible journalism:

Still, no situation is too tragic for Littlejohn when he wants to push his own baseless, simplistic and paranoid agenda.

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.

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.