Friday, 15 April 2011

In which Littlejohn defends phone-hacking

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the ongoing revelations in the NOTW phone-hacking scandal has been watching underwhelming hacks attempting to justify it or attempt to diminish its relevance with increasingly extravagant and unconvincing shoulder-shrugs. True to depressing form, Richard Littlejohn has made own typically crap attempt.

Before that, in, today's grating word-dump, Littlejohn rails against the 'gruesome slappers' who sell kiss-and-tell stories, happy to put the blame primarily on the women involved and, in so doing, glossing over his profession's own grubby yet pivotal role in the whole business. His apparent contempt for people like "a bird called Linsey Dawn McKenzie" seems to contrast with his insistence that we all have a right to know about where celebrities' dicks are going. You'd think he hail them as heroes of citizen journalism!

Surprisingly, Littlejohn actually approaches a point when he complains about how legal injunctions taken out in the reporting of these matters unfairly favour the rich, but typically pisses on his own chips with self-parodic mentions of how it's all the fault of 'yuman rites'.

Having established that we all have a Right To Know about stuff, Littlejohn moves on to the pressing topic of belittling the importance of the NOTW affair. Under the sub-heading "Sorry, but this isn't Watergate", Littlejohn lays bare his "couldn't give a shit" attitude:
But nor do I understand what the difference is between the Screws listening to Sienna Miller’s tittle-tattle, and the self-righteous Guardian publishing leaked emails from national security agencies.
Now, I'm not particularly supportive of every decision Wikileaks has made, but I'm not so cretinously fucking stupid as to be unable to tell the ethical difference between releasing not-even-hidden diplomatic memos which relate to issues of serious international political importance, and bugging the private phone lines of actors and footballers so we can all have a good voyeuristic pry into who they're knobbing/being knobbed by.

Of course, when in doubt, always pull the "ah, but what about...?" distraction card;
Incredibly, there are now 50 officers investigating this matter full-time, having been pulled off rape, robbery and murder cases. Is this a proper use of scarce police resources at a time when London is in the grip of gun crime?
At this point I could probably go and try and check whether officers actually HAVE been moved off rape and murder cases, or I could go and check if London really is "in the grip of gun crime", but it seems kind of pointless, right? If the best thing you can come up with to defend phone-hacking is that it's less bad than rape, then it's not really worth the effort of trying to argue.

Next up, hilariously, rumoured £800,000-a-year celebrity newspaper columnist Richard Littlejohn tells us what we the plebs think:
The paying public don’t share the collective Fleet Street/Westminster/Scotland Yard fascination with phone hacking. They must conclude that this particular three-ring circus has gone stark, staring mad.
Actually, some of us very much do share the fascination. No, we don't wish for the police to stop investigating all rapes and murders, but some of us actually would like to see journalism's grubby and illegal reliance on bugging celebrity phones for shit sex-based gossip come to an end. Some of us rather enjoyed Hugh Grant's revenge-bugging of Paul McMullan (Grant trended on Twitter as a result of the interest in this, and Roy Greenslade was moved to complain about how much interest the story was getting now Grant was involved). Some of us also enjoyed how Grant's piece undermined this bit of utter fucking celeb-obsessed nonsense.

But, more importantly, some of us just think that it's actually a bit wrong for the media to use their powers to bug private phones in pursuit of the story. Perhaps we the public would have more sympathy if you, the journalists, actually used it to target people in power, people of influence, catching them in acts of actual corruption, exposing real crimes, conflicts of interest or duplicity among those whom we vote for or who run the country. Instead, it's easier for Fleet Street to just find out who a footballer is cheating on his wife with and run article after article of pisspoor thigh-rubbing about how many times they did it and what his stamina was like. I mean, for Christ's sake, if you're going to commit acts of criminality in pursuit of content, you could at least target someone more important than professional charisma-vacuum Sienna "Sienna Miller" Miller, a human being so forgettable I'm surprised I even got to the end of typing her name before having to go on Wikipedia to remember who she was.

The bottom line is, if there's a crime here, some of think it needs investigating, not simply shelving because there are more important things going on. The police work for all of us, and some of us are actually concerned about the pressure the media puts on the Met in particular to keep their nose out and turn a blind eye while the tabloids dig around in people's fucking bins. It's a grubby, hard-to-justify business, and you're going to need one helluva better excuse than the shit ones Littlejohn is tossing forward if you're going to convince us we shouldn't care.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Quentin Letts vs the massive liberal conspiracy

You might think, as we sit here under a primarily Tory government, watching as it makes at least partly ideologically-motivated 'savings' to public services, that it would take some pretty massive balls to claim that the Left was running the country, right? Well! Enter, stage right, Quentin Letts, his giant, monumental balls resting in a shopping trolley as he trundles in, eager to make that exact point. In We may have a Tory PM - but Lefties and luvvies still run Britain, Letts attempts the quite extraordinary, beginning;
Over at Ofcom it is shrug-your-shoulders time. The broadcasting regulator had shown leniency to ‘edgy’ comedian Frankie Boyle after he made jibes about a disabled child — letting him off with no more than a rap on the knuckles. Boyle’s remarks were made on Channel 4, another public body. Chairman David Abraham and the channel’s liberal supremos were similarly disinclined to take the matter too gravely.
This is a pretty baffling tactic in itself. Firstly, the right hardly has the monopoly on being irritated and/or offended by Boyle's laboured, tiring, scattergun shock-making. He gets some leeway on account of being a comedian, rather than, say, someone actually running the country (more on this distinction later, Quentin!), but even liberal lefties aren't always massively keen on rape and incest jokes where the imagined rapist is a real, blameless disabled, mixed-race child. Hang on, reading that again, one might think that chastising Boyle for insulting such a person would be a sign of 'political correctness', and that leniency would be the more right-wing or libertarian position? Either way, it's a strange point to make a mere two days after everyone's favourite denim-afflicted right-wing tossbag Jeremy Clarkson was similarly let off over his hilarious Mexican stereotyping, much as he was when he made a joke referencing Ipswich's murdered sex workers. It's almost as if Letts is talking one-eyed garbage ('one-eyed' being another insult Clarkson hurled at left-wing colossus Gordon Brown and got a minor rap on the knuckles for). Later in the piece we find out just how wide the liberal tentacles that control Britain are spread:
Over on Twitter, meanwhile, millionaire actor and Labour supporter Eddie Izzard was regaling his faithful munchkins with his latest political apercus, attacking the Government’s cuts.
Who would have thought that famous transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard would be a liberal? Witness the power he wields; talking to people on at a Labour conference? Help me out here.
They all show the way that our politics is increasingly being influenced by unelected voices from the Left.
If only Eddie Izzard had existed before May 2010! We might have been spared Tory rule, for the socialist liberals to reign supreme. But alas.
The Yes To AV referendum campaign has been dominated by showbusiness personalities. Stephen Fry has been involved. Isn’t he always? So have Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in TV’s Blackadder, Oscar winner Colin Firth, militant atheist Richard Dawkins (ugh) and dreadlocked poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
The more you think about it, the more astonishing it is that Cameron is Prime Minister, right? He had defeat massed ranks of leftist forces that blocked his path; titans such as Baldrick out of Blackadder, and a poet. Letts continue to rage on in bewilderment;
Hang on. Are politicians not voted in by us? Do we not choose them to represent us and to be accountable? How can an inadequate ‘star’ such as the impeccably Left-wing novelist Zadie Smith be held up to scrutiny when she appears on BBC Radio to rail against library closures?
I agree to some extent that there can be problems with unelected and often uninformed celebrities and lobbyists appearing on the airwaves. This is hardly an exclusively left-wing problem though. Turn on the radio and you're as likely to hear Stephen Green, the Taxpayers' Alliance or any number of unelected anti-abortion campaigners mouthing off as you are to be subjected to the terrifying danger of a novelist talking about libraries. Letts dribbles on in this manner, apparently staggered to discover that artists are not typically fond of cuts/'savings' to the arts, gently accusing (with caveats) Phillip Pullman of being motivated by pure financial self-interest for not wanting libraries to be shut down. Eventually, once he's mentioned Stephen Fry and Judi Dench, he starts to run out of big-hitting lefties to complain about the staggering political influence of. At one stage he refers to "Actor Sam West, whose mother Prunella Scales (of Fawlty Towers fame) appears in Labour Party adverts". Yes, an actor whose mum was in Fawlty Towers! An actor I had to Google! He was in Howards End apparently! Who could fail to unite behind such a totemic figure?
No discussion of pay is allowed to pass on the public airwaves without a contribution from Left-wing journalist Will Hutton
Letts stumbles onto a hint of some kind of point here. But it isn't Leftist bias. The BBC and other news organisations are obsessed with, appearing 'balanced', as they are obliged to be. You have a climate scientist on? You need a 'climate sceptic' to argue with him. Pro-choice campaigner? Better get someone virulently anti-abortion to oppose them. Alternative medicine debate? Get one scientist and one homeopath and give them equal time, as if they're merely two equally correct alternatives. I'm happy to accept that actors and rock stars and comedians are overwhelmingly left-wing. There are reasons for that I could go into if I a) could be bothered to do the research and b) wasn't at work right now. But they're just mouths flapping in the wind, much like Clarkson and Littlejohn and Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama. None of them have managed to prevent Tory rule. They didn't even manage to prevent the rightwards slide of the Labour party either. It must be strange to be Quentin Letts, looking at a Tory-led coalition government, who in turn took over from an ever-increasingly centrist 'New' Labour, and argue that we are dominated by socialists and left-wing thinking because a few comedians and actors get some airtime to say they don't want libraries to close. Particularly strange given that he writes for the ever-popular Daily Mail, whose readership dwarfs that of the Guardian or the Independent. Some people are just never bloody happy, are they?