Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Littlejohn Is Empathetically Stunted

The Daily Mail and its hard core readership aren't exactly brimming with the milk of human compassion. It is all to often a deeply depressing insight into the dark recesses of bigotry and cynicism passing off as pessimistic insight. A gloomy mush of narrow intolerance and mean mindedness. But I swear Richard Littlejohn actually manages to scale newer and higher heights of this kind of shit in his columns. His writing can still create shock in those who thought they were immune to being surprised at the vileness the Mail will stoop to. Like his column piece that attacked the naming of the victims of the Ipswich murders as sex workers. (I mean this etymological nitpicking is in perfectly good taste in regards to women who had been horribly murdered.) Or taking the piss out of netting put down to stop the brutally overworked Chinese workers jumping to their deaths. This article however broadly attacks the decision to have a minutes silence for the victims in Japan at a premier league football game. Now that is fair enough. You can have your own views on whether these things are profound moments of reflections, or just largely demonstrative window dressing. That is the role of newspaper columnists. But he somehow turns it into some attack on the Japanese atrocities in WW2 (which being over 70 years ago means it is really relevant to today's events in Japan.), and that Japan may as well be on Mars as it is so alien and whatever. It is just so bizarre and horrendously bad taste at the same time. I mean how mean minded does he think his readers are? Here are some of the worst bits.

We get a subtle "charity begins at home" dig.

"Our natural inclination is to wonder how we can help. But besides sending specialist search teams and offering heartfelt sympathy, there is nothing we can do. Japan is an advanced, wealthy nation, which will recover and rebuild over time. It doesn’t need our money."

Fair enough. This sentiment is expressed with some glib crudeness. But the CBAH argument isn't really an argument but an attitude. Perhaps an unpleasant one, but many hold it. It is really the second part of the paragraph that sets the misanthropic tone of the article;

"Despite filling our homes with Japanese electronics and our garages with cars made by Nissan and Toyota, despite the vivid images on TV and assorted social networks, it remains a faraway country of which we know little and understand less."

Although not explicitly said out loud. This appears to imply that as Japan is a long way away, then we should care a little bit less or something like that. You see I kind of thought that basic human empathy would kick in at the plight of any group of people who had suffered a huge loss of life in such a tragic event, regardless of whether they were in Manchester or on Mars.

"Anyone who has visited or worked in Japan will tell you it is like landing on another planet. Beyond the baseball caps and Western clothes, the Japanese people have a distinct culture of their own, which is entirely alien to our own values."

So what? It's not that fucking alien. Lots of Japanese people died horribly. Lots have lost everything they had. Whole towns on the North East coast are gone! I've never been to Japan, but I know that they have suffered really badly with this. It's basic fucking human empathy to sympathise with people in this situation. Why bring this up???

"They are militantly racist and in the past have been capable of great cruelty."

First point. It's sort of racist to call a n entire collective people "militantly racists". Secondly this applies to pretty much every nation on Earth. It's just that some of us British weren't on the end of it, which can change your perspective.

This is when he brings up the war.

"It is wrong to visit the sins of previous generations on their modern descendants,"

Yes it is.

"Yet many surviving members of the Burma Star Association still harbour deep animosity to everyone and all things Japanese"

Now I understand their anger, and the horrible suffering that they endured, and no one can tell them that they are not entitled to think that way. But that doesn't mean that this is a good way to feel. The people who died last week were innocent of the crimes their ancestors commit ed. Littlejohn is sort of implying that the one minute silence was inappropriate because of this (he uses the example of his wife's grandad who was tortured by the Japanese in the war.). But the people who died didn't commit these crimes. As I said, I can understand why the victims of such appalling treatment feel this way. But that does not mean it is a good thing. When you cannot divorce your hostility, even to innocent people who were not responsible for what their ancestors did. That most peoples common humanity comes to light in such a dreadful event, and that boundaries and even past hostilities are overridden in times like this. I find it baffling as to what point he is trying to make. At least the victims of Japanese war crimes had reason to feel this way. Littlejohn doesn't.

Littlejohn bizarrely tries to tie it in with the whole death of Princess Di thing:

"Ever since the hysteria surrounding the death of Lady Di, when half of the nation seemed to take leave of its senses, a section of the population seizes any excuse for a sobfest."

Yeah, the Diana thing was OTT. But this was a huge natural disaster. The two events are really incomparable. To say there has been a sobfest is an exaggeration. People see lots of shattered lives and are moved by it. The mawkish bastards! Hell, Diana's death was a tragedy. She was a young women with two young kids. The scenes after her death were OTT, but it was still a tragic event (for her loved ones especially) nonetheless.

"There is nothing more meaningless than seeing highly-paid, precocious superstars linking arms and standing in silent tribute to victims of an earthquake on the other side of the world."

Again this "other side of the world" spiel. whether they live 100 miles or 10 000, it was still a dreadful tragedy.

"Sam Kirkpatrick, a reader from Stanwick, Northamptonshire, saw a woman taking part in a road race this weekend wearing a T-shirt imploring spectators to: ‘Pray for the Japanese people.’

The implication being: not just that she was advertising the fact that she is a caring soul, but if you don’t pray for Japan you must be a heartless bastard."

How does Sam know why she was wearing it? She may have been a Christian charity raiser or something.

There is a certain amount of demonstrative posing that goes on with tragedies like this. I have no doubt about that. But a lot of the spirit behind the silences, and the lady with the "prey for Japan" T-shirt is well intentioned (though the debate about its effectiveness is another matter.). So at least give them credit for trying. I honestly suspect Littlejohn is both envious and genuinely flummoxed that people behave this way. That people actually can care about shit that doesn't directly relate to them. That Richard Littlejohn cannot relate to the basic human empathy most of us take for granted.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Very, Very Bad Shit Happens.

There seems little more to say than has already been said about the dreadful events that have happened in the Northeast of Japan. The pictures speak for themselves about the immense destruction the earthquake and tsunami have wrought in that region, they look like scenes from some immense Apocalypse. It is truly a horrific reminder that the world may be a fascinating and beautiful place, it does have the power to viciously bite back at it's inhabitants.

The tsunami has naturally been a massive talking point in both every day conversation and in the online world as well, and I have been struck (though not really surprised) by the amount of pseudoscience that gets brought up when events like this occur. I'm not even talking about understandable stuff such as will the nuclear power stations (or the nuclear fuel) explode? No, as the Uranium fuel rods in a power station aren't weapons grade. The "Supermoon" theory is also utterly idiotic. That the fact that the moon is (supposedly) at its closest orbital position to the Earth (it isn't till the 19th March. A little technicality.).means its gravitational power increases the frequency of earthquakes. This is nonsense. The differences in the distances of the moon have so little influence on gravity and tidal fluctuations on the Earth. It would be like standing 100 meters away from a bonfire, and saying "I'm too warm. I'll stand 100.3 meters away instead." The moon can barely lift the oceanic tides about 6 meters. It can't shift trillions of tonnes of the Earths crust. If the moon wanted to harm humans, it would have done so already.

No, the common sentiment of some of the responses to the disaster is that it is some form of penance for the evils the human race has inflicted on the globe. That it is part of some "cosmic plan.". That hey; it's just like "2012", even though it's 2011, and that 2012 was a made up film anyway. The fact that this is the second earthquake in a rich country after the New Zealand quakes (this apocalyptic spiel doesn't seem to get spouted as much when a poor country like Haiti gets hit by a natural disaster.). Both lie in the Pacific ring of fire, where the most unstable tectonic boundaries are, so yes you will get Earthquakes there. Partly human hubris and the desire to turn random events into a conscious narrative, are to blame. It must be God or "Nature" giving mankind a cosmic bollocking, not just that we live on shifting plates over a 8000 mile wide ball of molten (well some of it) rock, and something has got to give every so often, sadly with awful consequences for those who live on top of it. That we are reaping what we sow with our pollution and stuff. Overlooking that earthquakes don't generally make concessions for tree hugging hippies. That nothing humans did can stop what happened, and that we can't stop these things from happening, only to try to ride them out with specially designed buildings and seabreaks if we can. Or perhaps most frighteningly of all, we are at the merciless; unthinking whim of the lethal arbitrariness of the rough end of nature. Whose plan we can never know, as there isn't one. Perhaps thinking there is a plan makes some people make sense of senselessness.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Scathing Letter to Richard Desmond, From a Daily Star Reporter Who Quit Due to Papers Anti-Muslim Stance

If you haven't seen the letter to Richard Desmond from former Star reporter Richard Peppiatt, then I suggest you do so now. (Letter in full here) At first I thought it might be a spoof (albeit a good one) from a left wing blogger, but it seems like the real deal. The prose of this letter is wonderful (one example about the Muslim loos thing, he says how the paper got all "flushed" over the story!). It is loaded with very funny barbed sarcasm and contempt for the journalistic atrocities Dirty Desmond has committed. The letter is a surreal and damning insight to Desmond's empire. He describes how he just made stuff up about Kelly Brook off the top of his head. Dressed in a burqua and wore M&S underpants at the same time. Tried to propose to Susan Boyle (she declined his offer btw!!). That; apparently stories about Jordon (not the country) took precedence over the Egyptian uprising. That the paper only has one reporter to cover the entire North of England, and that they just pinch stories off the Mails website. That the stories it prints wouldn't stand up to a "gnats fart". All of this he surmises looks to Desmond as:

"[I] suspect you see a perfect circle. I see a downward spiral. I see a cascade of shit pirouetting from your penthouse office, caking each layer of management, splattering all in between."

I'm not saying his time at the Star is laced with a healthy dose of cynicism!

The letter has a more serious point to make, and it seems the straw that broke this camels back was the dubious EDL coverage the paper gave, stuff about how the EDL was to become a proper political party. (actually all the story was about was Tommy Robinson, the EDL leader - wanted the EDL to become a political party.) and the incessant anti- Muslim sentiment of the paper. And it is here that Mr. Peppiatt hammers the nail squarely on the head:
"You may have heard the phrase, "The flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas." Well, try this: "The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke's head caved in down an alley in Bradford."

If you can't see that words matter, you should go back to running porn magazines. But if you do, yet still allow your editors to use inciteful over insightful language, then far from standing up for Britain, you're a menace against all things that make it great."

It's not often that I give someone from Fleet Street credit, but kudos to this guy. If a few more have the balls to vote with their feet, who knows?

Monday, 28 February 2011

They Blew it All, Because Bronze Age Bigotry Came First.

Eunice and Owen Johns lost their high court case to become foster carers because they refused to say that a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable. The social services feared that this would be a problem (and it would be) if they adopted a child who would later enter into homosexual lifestyles. Of course this is being seen as yet another occasion when the rights of Christians is being superseded by the rights of homosexuals.

Well it isn't. No one can force the more "rigorous" practitioners to like homosexuality, but when they are in a position to actually put this belief into practice, potentially on a child then we have a problem. It isn't the thought police. It is saying that a person may have views that may result in an adverse situation that clouds their professional approach. That you may have views that are considered controversial in a private setting, but may create a conflict of interest in professional situations.

The law that has brought about the court case, currently says that the rights of a person to live free from homophobic discrimination supersedes their right to be discriminated against on the grounds of religious prejudice. That is the right of a person who had their sexual orientation determined by matters out of their control has the right to not be discriminated against by someone who signed up for a religion, who has the opinion that gayness is bad because some book told them it was. I'm sorry but it is a strange moral standard when an opinion has more moral worth than someone being persecuted for something they had no control over. And no amount of strongly worded letters by Dr Carey about how Christianity is being trampled on by gay rights (well you want to be free to persecute, so go figure.) changes that fact.

I think stories like this wind me up so much because of the sheer wastefulness of them. This couple (and I'm sure they were pretty good foster parents in the past, who had a lot to offer.) went to court to try to justify being specially immune from the law because some old book said (about twice) that they had to discriminate against a whole group of people. I hope it was worth it. That they went all this way to defend a biblical issue that on the scale of things isn't that big a part of the Christian faith. That any reasonable person might have thought that wasting all that energy on upholding a "value" that is so irrelevant and blatantly morally wrong. Now a child has lost the chance of having some kind of stable upbringing because upholding some piece of Bronze age bigotry was obviously far more important. What a waste.

It is interesting that they sort of issue a similar statement of regret, but obviously without seeing the inherent irony of what they say:

"'Worst of all, a vulnerable child has now likely missed the chance of finding a safe and caring home at a time when there are so few people willing to foster or adopt."

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

"Sceptic of Sceptics" James Delingpole Defends Homeopathy. Uh?

James Delingpole likes to see himself as some maverick voice, alone in the old wilderness. The only one eyed king in a kingdom of the blind, who can see the whole man made climate change thingy for the elaborate fraud that it is. He claims that this is why he is "reviled" and not because of bad methodology. So it doesn't really help his cause when he writes articles defending homeopathy, and wheels out all the straw man arguments all homeopathic apologists are presumably honour bound to wheel out. You know the "scientists have been wrong before." "It's just like a new religion." and so on.

Tom Chivers has a new post debunking the argument Delingpole makes. He makes perhaps the best counter argument to the claim that people who dismiss homeopathy (or CC deniers) are just as bad as the inquisitors persecuting heretics:

"I’m sure some people do get overly aggressive about some of these things (alas, we don’t all have James’s saintly good manners when it comes to dealing with those with whom we disagree). But the point of scepticism – true scepticism – is that it is constantly evaluating. So, I promise you, if Ben Goldacre, or James Randi, or I (to put myself in some serious company), were to be presented with solid evidence that homeopathy worked, we would alter our position. I don’t even know what “evidence” you could present a Spanish inquisitor to convince them that Jewish children shouldn’t be forcibly converted, or what evidence you could give a witchfinder to show that witches don’t actually exist. The comparison is a nonsense one.

I'll have to remember that one!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

New Blog. Ooooooh

Remember I said I wanted to do a new blog, separate from this one. I hadn't canned the idea, it just got a little delayed (what's new there with me!!) but I am pleased to say it is now up and running. I need to change the colouring of the fonts, some of the sidebar information, and put it on the blogroll here. I would have done this yesterday but Blogger templates is a fucking nightmare to edit (The spellcheck has decided to stop functioning about two paragraphs down. What the hell's all that about?) It is just horrible on my main machine, but surprisingly not as bad to fiddle with on the laptop (paradoxically that is just so old it takes 34 years to load up.) So it is now up, but the design creases will be ironed out. Unless I end up shooting myself first in frustration at Bloggers petulant silicon behaviour.

the Northernbloke blog will still continue though.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Will the Daily Star Start Openly Supporting the EDL?

This headline is an utter misrepresentation of course. All the actual story boils down to is that EDL leader Tommy Robinson (or Stephen Lennon as he is really called) wants to turn his ramshackle mob into an official political party, somewhat in the manner that Nick Griifin did. Apparently one of his key policies will be, [he] is going to outlaw the Quran and make it more compatible with British traditions. WTF??!!* The story may just be a case of if wishes were horses; we would all ride, on the part of Robinson. No, what is striking is that the Star seems to be ratcheting up support for the EDL. This headline is actually not the most tacit of the signs that Richard Desmond may be allowing his paper to support such a dodgy group. The Star claims in the same article that a phone poll they conducted resulted in a staggering 98% (that figure has been revised to 99% in later articles.) of readers agreeing with the EDL policies**. Admittedly a tabloid phone poll is as dubious as a Jeremy Kyle lie detector test, but what about this loaded strapline from another article, this one about two Muslim Respect councilors not giving a standing ovation (though they both claim to have smiled appreciatively) for a soldier awarded a George Cross medal.

Admittedly the colon does imply that it means that is just the stated intent of the EDL (why not word it ....EDL say they will fight for ....?), but it could be interpreted [by the readers] as an endorsement of the group by the Star, and I am certain this was intentionally done.
If that wasn't bad enough, we then get the following editorial piece, that I will paste in full, as it has to be seen in it's entirety.

"Critics say the English Defence League is a racist, extremist organisation that's filled with hate. The group's leader Tommy Robinson strongly denies this. He says members have no problems with race.

But he admits he is against 'barbaric' Islam and the way it affects Britain. Whatever side of the fence you fall, one thing's for sure.

There is a visibly growing support for the EDL. It is attracting people across Britain to its ranks who feel the same way.

This should be a warning to the major political parties. Key voters are so fed up with them that they are looking elsewhere.

And there are real underlying issues here with Brits who feel abandoned by their leaders.
The EDL are now planning to field election candidates. If the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems don't heed this and address key issues they could soon become a political force.

Then, whether you like them or not, Tommy and his followers will have to be taken very seriously."


Although not quite a "Hurrah for the Blackshirts.". Is this an all but endorsement of the EDL, from the most racist tabloid in Britain? Which I might add has pumped out the most appalling lies that can only be seen as an attempt to shit stir community relations in this country.
I do wonder if Desmond is using his dying papers, now not "pressured" by the IPCC; as vehicles for his own bizarre xenophobic views. I'm not just talking about the rumours of him singing "Deutchland uber Allies" to his execs whilst goosestepping about in his offices. Check out this article from as far back as 1994 pointing out how his pornos were peppered with an obsessive level of racially related material. What with the whole "Pull out of Europe" thing at the Express and now this. All I do know is that as far as I am concerned, the Star and the EDL thoroughly deserve one another.


** Without being privy to the wording of the phone poll, and how broad the level of "agreement" (though not support) with EDL is, we can take such a lofty figure with a pinch of salt. Likewise there is the fact that those who support the EDL are much more likely to ring in.