Richard Littlejohn : a sick man who just got sicker

Apparently, last week the new iPhone 5 was launched. As the owner of a Nokia that’s a good two years old, I must admit I missed it. I reckon that if you offered me a brand new iPhone 5, I probably wouldn’t be interested, except in the re-sale value. My budget doesn’t stretch to that sort of money for a new phone, but if other people want to spend a few hundred quid on a new phone I’m certainly not going to get that steamed-up about it. If only the same could be said for the Daily Mail’s finest, Richard Littlejohn. He’s got the right hump has old Dick.

Dick saw a picture of a queue in Covent Garden. People were waiting in line for the Apple store to open so they could get their hands on a new iPhone 5. And Dick wasn’t happy. Dick was upset that so many of the people in the queue appeared to not look like Dick (few non-reptiles do). They had brown and black faces, you see, something that is definitely not a good thing.

If you aren’t familiar with Littlejohn, this is the man who, some years ago, commented on his new book as follows:

“I don’t set out to be Tolstoy. It is a much more complex book than that”.

He is, as you might guess, not exactly running low on reserves of self-regard. He’s a self-appointed standard-bearer for the downtrodden masses, the people who the “metropolitan elite” (no, I don’t know what he means either!) have allegedly abandoned, who “liberals” disdain but who salt-of-the-earth types like himself continue to champion at every opportunity (for a huge salary of course). He’s a proper hero of the people is old Dick, and no mistake. Like Sean Connery, who always bangs on about Scotland and being Scottish but can’t bring himself to actually live there, Dick lectures us on the ills of modern Britain from the comfort of his Florida mansion. He once even spoke to a couple of lesbians in such puerile, schoolboyish, sexist, sneering tones on a late night discussion programme that a fellow guest on the show, the film director Michael Winner (an unlikely hero), received rousing applause from the audience when he put Littledick firmly in his place (which, some might argue, is under a rock somewhere). As the knobhead himself would say, “You really couldn’t make it up”.

Anyway, the queue for the iPhone 5 seems to have had rather a lot of non-white faces in it, “like the queue for the lorries at Sangatte” as he put it. I wonder if he’d describe the Arsenal and Chelsea teams in this way when they line-up against each other on Saturday. Unlikely, I reckon, despite both teams having a large compliment of black players, many of whom are, after all, economic migrants. But with a readership which disdains complicated stuff like accuracy, precision, truth or journalistic integrity, I can’t see him being criticised much by his disciples for his choice of target. Regular and nonsensical diatribes aimed at some “outsiders” is enough to keep most of his fans happy.  Typical Daily Mail thinking applies: don’t go searching for any statistics or evidence when a single, random photograph conveniently confirms all your nasty prejudices, and darling Dickie is never happier than when he’s de-humanising a group of people, thus rendering them ripe for attack. It’s the kind of thing that all sorts of psychopaths have done down the years, and Little Dick does it well.

In a way you can’t blame the small-minded twerp. He gets paid truckloads of cash for producing liquid shit that is lapped-up by people who need someone else to do their thinking for them, because they can’t be bothered to. For most people who can string a few sentences together, and Dick can do that, it’s pretty much a dream job. This is the man who wrote that the deaths of five Ipswich prostitutes a few years back was “no great loss” but got all offended by a man at White Hart Lane who shouted “If he’s brown bread, they’ll call the game off” as Fabrice Muamba fought for his life after collapsing last season. Maybe someone should have tapped him on the shoulder and told him that Muamba was black and was on the waiting list for an iPhone 5? His sympathy, or at least his faux sympathy, would surely have evaporated in seconds.

Of course, he didn’t want to “speculate” as to how a collection of non-white people could afford a £599 phone, though of course the implication was that brown and black people with that kind of money must be up to no good. Which is a strange line to take given that, on 25 June 2010, soon after iPhone 4 was launched, he generously declared:

“Good luck to those who can’t live without an iPhone 4 from day one — it’s their money”.

Fast forward two years and it appears that it’s only their money if they’re white. No-one without a white face could possibly have a good job, or have saved money, or have gone without a holiday this summer in order to buy a new iPhone 5. Just couldn’t happen. Which is why, he assures us later in his nonsense, “plenty of readers did a double-take” when they saw the photograph.

Somehow, I doubt that’s true, and as the piece of pond-life hasn’t provided names and addresses of these people, I’m going to continue to think that he’s making it up. Anyway, if you are a regular Daily Mail reader then the country is already infested with foreigners, many of them with non-white skin. The enemy is already encamped within the castle walls, we’re on our way to “Hell in a Handcart” (the trite title of his Tolstoy-esque pile of kindling), and it’s only because of the eternal vigilance of people like Dick that the entire population of the globe hasn’t descended on our green and pleasant land. The idea that a typical Daily Mail reader would do a “double-take” at a picture of a large group of brown people in London is laughable, or would be if it wasn’t such a huge pile of classic Littlejohn bollocks. Maybe instead of “double-take” he meant “recoiled in horror”?

He ends his latest contribution to the alternative toilet paper industry by remarking, in the true style of the classic pub bore, that people will see his opinions as racist. It’s a typical arse-covering tactic used by racists, that if they alert other people to the likelihood that someone else will call them “racist” because of their views, then they aren’t racist. “Oh, someone will call me a racist” is, in their simple minds, enough to convince everyone that they aren’t. It’s like a man covered in blood standing over a bloodied corpse with a blood-stained knife in his hand, who then whines, “Oh, they’ll call me a murderer now”. You can’t get away with it just because you were the first one to mention it. If the cap fits, etc etc.

It’s the kind of journalism that goes down really well in certain circles. People like Dick bemoan everything, including the education system. They should give thanks that so many people are so utterly incapable (or unwilling) to think for themselves, partly as a result of our sub-standard education system, that their steaming piles of turd, masquerading as hard-hitting journalism, are consumed with such glee by so many of the hard-of-thinking up and down the country.

I’ll judge you, Dick, on what you write, you sickening, vile, lazy, boring, hypocritical, vomit-inducing, cowardly one-trick pony. Stuff like this, on the Rwandan genocide of 1994:

“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”.

Shame on you. And even more shame on those that pay you for this untreated sewage.

“I don’t set out to be Tolstoy. It is a much more complex book than that”.

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Wise words from “The Gaffer”

The football manager.

In my youth, a man occasionally seen on “Match of the Day” after his team had played. Usually he would be perched high on a TV gantry at the Goldstone Ground or Bramall Lane. It was often cold and dark and everyone wanted to get home. The game had ended goalless, but as the cameras were there (in itself something of a rarity) he’d do a minute or so of “pleased with the point” (when you only got two for a win) and “yes, Colin Suggett was injured today” (why are there no footballers called Colin Suggett these days?). And John Motson, embedded in his sheepskin coat rather than wearing it, would thank him for his time. And that was that. Back to Jimmy Hill in the studio.

Fast forward three decades or more and what do we have? A man who picks eleven players to go out and win a football match? No, no, no.

A collection of men who are vaunted or despised, oft-quoted or abused, semi-beatified or threatened with death, based on their ability to get their team to a position where even the most potty, one-eyed, utterly deluded supporter will declare himself “satisfied” when he rings his local radio station’s post-match phone-in. Some managers are in sharp suits, some are in tracksuits, but they share one thing: the ability to tell you that night is day, that black is white, that the other team’s equaliser was offside, and that their centre-half was harshly treated for what would be viewed as a common assault anywhere else in society other than on a football pitch.

In the early 1990s when Kevin Keegan returned to Newcastle United as manager, having played for them in the 1980s, for the first time I heard the word “Messiah” in connection with football. Keegan would not only deliver them from evil, or the Third Division as it was called in those days, but also protect them against trespasses and sign Paul Bracewell from Sunderland. In January 1995 he went from “Messiah” to “very naughty boy” when he sold Andy Cole to Manchester Utd, but it was another two years before the wheels finally waved a tear-filled goodbye to the bandwagon. Five years for a “Messiah”? Doesn’t sound like much does it? Well, it’s a lot longer than they get given these days. The modern demi-God, even with friends in the media, even with a lovely line in Armani suits and “banter” (as we are obliged to call it), rarely gets more than two years to turn his five loaves and two fishes into a team capable of winning the league by eleven points and handing Barcelona a 6-1 thrashing in the Nou Camp.

The modern manager is “under pressure” from the off, and he knows it. So perhaps with that in mind, we shouldn’t judge him too harshly, should we? He’s bound to be worried about paying off the mortgage, a mortgage (based on his salary) that would pay the national debts of a number of the smaller African countries. And he’s bound to spout his fair share of nonsense, given the constant media need for sound-bites, quotes and platitudes, which means he has to hold a press conference at least once a week and answer daft questions from journalists. In the back of his mind, I suspect, he’s aware that if he can be a “bit of a character” then punditry work will beckon once the chairman has seen the light and booted him out of the door after a 2-0 home defeat to Northampton Town in the League Cup. So it’s a fine line – be a human being, but don’t say anything too silly; be humorous, but don’t overdo it in case Dave from Enfield thinks you regard failure to qualify for the Europa League as a laughing matter; and ALWAYS, regardless of the latest result, say you “can’t fault the effort” of a group of players with an average weekly salary of £70,000.

Which kind of brings me onto Samuel Allardyce, manager of Hoofball United (formerly West Ham United). “Big” Sam (as you must call him if you wish to be taken seriously by those who know their “footie”) has an opinion on everything. Here is a man who once mused, on the subject of foreign managers, that had he been christened “Samuel Allardicio” he would have probably got the England job. No, Samuel, you would also have had to have been born at least sixty years before you actually were, when your Stone Age brand of “in yer face” football would have worked to more effect at international level than it does today. And, as one wag on one message board put it, had you been born in Italy rather than England, you’d be working on a farm rather than inflicting your “philosophy” on a football team.

The gum-chewing sage has lately offered his opinion on the ritual handshake before Premier League games, which was brought into focus most recently at the QPR-Chelsea match when Anton Ferdinand avoided shaking hands with both John “Boys Done Good” Terry and Ashley “Choc Ice” Cole. The handshake, concluded one of the game’s great thinkers (a man sure to be mentioned in years to come alongside Rinus Michels or the 1970 Brazil team), is “just a bit of political correctness”. That’s right, a bit of political correctness. How many of you realised that, the last time you shook someone’s hand as a gesture of good will or friendship, you were infact engaging in nothing more than a bit of “PC”? No, me neither.

Anyway, there we have it, the wise man has spoken. And how many in our craven football media sought to take him up on this piece of nonsense? None at all, I gather. Heads nodded in agreement. Plain-speaking “Big” Sam and his home-spun brand of “common sense” both went unquestioned. Best not to rock the boat, the toadies concluded, or we might not get invited to the next instalment of Pumpkin Head’s views on life and the universe. Come on journos, you’ll always have Twitter, and that’s where you get most of your stories from these days anyway. Show some spine for once.

At West Ham’s next fixture (home to Sunderland) keep your eye on the bloke whose head would look more at home on Easter Island. The one in the suit and claret & blue tie. Make sure he doesn’t go over to Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill and offer a handshake, either before or after the game. To do so would of course be the height of hypocrisy. I just can’t imagine him doing it, can you?

Nice one, “Gaffer”.

 “Launch it lads, that’s what they pay me for”

Letters to the Daily Mail

If you want a laugh (in-between regular, bewildered shakes of your head) then there is surely no finer place to visit than the letters page of the Daily Mail. Here, each morning, you can read the views of the most self-satisfied, one-eyed, smug, spiteful and downright bonkers people that Middle England has to offer. There can be no doubt that some of the letters they publish are actually sent in by people who are “on the wind-up” and have had a bet with some friends that they can get a letter, heavily laden with utterly barking nonsense, past the paper’s censors. But I fear that most are actually sent in by people who genuinely believe the utter tripe they are spouting.

I’m not sure into which of these categories Harry Simpson of Northwich in Cheshire falls, but his letter of March 2, 2012 did make it onto the pages of that fine publication. In it he bewailed the continued existence of Melvyn Bragg, Anne Robinson, Vince Cable, squatters, travellers, pop music, British food, his pension etc. Continuing at pace he revealed that “I just want to die”. All pretty bleak you might think, and maybe you might have had a degree of sympathy for a man apparently so utterly tired of life and its frustrations. But he ended the letter with “It is all self, self, self, moan, moan, moan” which, you might argue, slightly undermined his argument.

My all-time favourite Daily Mail letter is, again, possibly not genuine and could be the work of a genius masquerading as a brain-dead husk. I am sad enough to have cut this letter out of the Daily Mail when it appeared, some twelve years ago, and forever brightened up my world. It remains stuck to our fridge to this day, and here it is in its entirety:

E. Evans of Hereford suggests: “When councils resurface roads, the manhole and inspection covers always seem to be set below the road surface. Why don’t they fill them in with tarmac? This would save cyclists having to swerve to avoid them, and help to prevent unnecessary accidents”.

Brilliant!

The thing about letters to the Daily Mail in general is the sheer volume of bile and spite that seems to have built up in so many people over the years. Favourite targets tend to be:

“Political correctness”: Any part of modern life which is distinct from daily life in the early 18th Century. Letters usually bemoan “not being able to fly the Union Jack outside my house” (which you can if you want to, of course), “not being able to say anything in my own country any more” (which translates as “no longer being able to be foul and abusive to people in the street who are a different colour or religion to me”) and the end of National Service, a victim of the “PC Brigade”. That it ended in the early 1960s under a Conservative government packed full of lords and other members of the upper-classes is conveniently forgotten.

“Elf n safety”: Where correspondents yearn for the days when Dad went off to work as a stonemason or farm-worker and you weren’t that hopeful of  ever seeing him alive again. The modern culture of not wanting to see people killed and maimed at work or at play is proof that we have “all gone soft”. Good old “common sense” is what we want, though of course one man’s common sense is another man’s stupidity. Your letter on “elf n safety” won’t be published if you point-out all the advancements that have been made over the years as a result of people fighting for better protection, for example in the workplace. No, what is required is a letter advocating a return to conditions that were in place just after the Napoleonic Wars when people weren’t “soft”. And when, curiously, the average lifespan was under 50.

“Europe”: Which is, of course, a bad thing to people who splutter “I’m English not European” but never answer the question “So which continent are you from then, if not Europe”? Europe is responsible for all our ills. If only we could be free from Belgian or Portuguese bureaucrats then our own British bureaucrats would do a fine job in their place. Europeans tell us how bendy our bananas can be, after all. What more proof do you need?

Recently, in the wake of the Olympics, a trend has developed where Daily Mail readers write in and bemoan anyone and everyone who isn’t an Olympian. A favourite target is the Premiership footballer, who is (if you accept the cliché) a lazy, overpaid, unpatriotic, unprincipled cheat who is worthy of none of the praise that is rightly heaped on the wonderful, upstanding, wholesome and hard-working Olympians. That certain Olympians took drugs and cheated, or were guilty of some terrible performances, is an inconvenient truth deftly avoided in these letters. Olympics good, football bad. That’s the narrative and you shall jolly well stick to it, or it’s National Service for you.

Of course, Andy Murray distinguished himself during the Olympics but has now had the temerity to win the US Open, and this will no doubt confuse the lesser-spotted Daily Mail reader who, just weeks ago, would have been full of praise for a man who represented his country (Great Britain, as he won!) and didn’t get paid for it but has now demeaned himself by winning not only a “major” but pots of money to boot. They’ll be out to get him now. The letters, it seems, have already started, and many of them start with “So” for some reason:

“So, Andy Murray has won the US Open. He’ll now be able to afford a decent shave and haircut, I assume”. (A. Bellend, Norwich)

“So, Andy Murray has won the US Open. How long before he ditches his girlfriend of six years for some alleged celebrity or former Big Brother contestant? Not long I reckon.” (M. Git, Brixham)

“Congratulations to Britain’s Andy Murray for winning the US Open. I would like to retract my letter to you of 9 May 2010 in which I described his chances of winning a “major” tennis tournament as “non-existent” and expressed the opinion that Scotland had no chance of ever producing a champion in anything, barring darts, snooker and haggis scoffing. I also would like to withdraw my suggestion that Scotland be towed out into the North Sea and blown-up once all the oil runs out. And the one about rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall was utter rubbish too. Sorry”. (S. Bastard, Walton-on-the-Naze)

“How great to see Andy Murray win the US Open. What an example to all our moody, self-obsessed, unfit, ungracious, overpaid football stars. PS – Yes, it was me who wrote to you in February and called Andy Murray “moody, self-obsessed, unfit, ungracious and overpaid”. Thank you for not printing that particular letter. I was angry when I wrote it, as someone had just told me that new Health & Safety legislation would soon mean that I would have to go on a course before being allowed to unpeel a banana at work. As a Daily Mail reader for many years, I unquestioningly believed this totally unsubstantiated nonsense and will almost certainly believe the next piece of unsubstantiated nonsense someone tells me in order to annoy me”. (W.O Space, Bracknell)

Stuff that made me go “Wow” when I was a kid

Sometimes I wonder, probably a little pessimistically, whether there is anything that will be invented in the near future that will make people, especially younger people, genuinely amazed and gobsmacked at its absolute amazingness. Technology moves on so quickly that an i-Pad that cooks your dinner then washes-up and puts the cat out is probably only a few months away. Well, it wasn’t always so.

But in the late 1970s and early 1980s there were a number of new inventions that made us genuinely excited by their futuristic coolness, their utter brilliance, their mind-boggling wonderfulness. Now they are just relics of a time past, but as the Seventies gave way to the Eighties I was just eight years old, and I’ll never forget the things that made me, and my equally tragically-dressed friends, just look and go “WOW”!!

Tin Can Alley

You bought this at Woolworths or a big toy shop. In it was a toy rifle and a load of tin cans. Chuck Connors (an American actor) advertised it on the telly , and you could set the cans on a wall or on a shelf in your house, aim the gun at them and if your aim was true the cans would fly from their resting place! How cool was that? Chuck missed once in the advert, but that was on purpose I reckon.  And, wait for it, the cans were Dr Pepper cans and Dr Pepper was easily the coolest drink of the day, way ahead of Vimto, Lilt, Quattro or boring old Coke. I wanted Tin Can Alley for ages, or at least it felt like ages. It was probably about a month. WOW FACTOR : 5

Digital watches

Most people who wear digital watches nowadays are looked on as a bit “odd”. They are a bit naff, a bit Eighties, not yet “retro” at all. Back in my childhood they were the mutt’s nuts. My old Timex with a traditional face was laughed at in the playground of Nazareth House school in 1979. Even when I did get a digital it had bright red numbers that only flashed-up on an otherwise blank watchface when you pushed a button. The real top boys had Seikos or Casios, just like their Dad or Grandad. They were cool, I was not. They could even play games on theirs, and tell me what the time was in Sydney on their “LCD”, whatever that was. They could set an alarm on their watches, which were all “waterproof to 10 metres” which I didn’t understand but pretended to. WOW FACTOR : 6

Soda Stream

My grandparents (Dad’s side of the family) were the only people we knew that had one. I can still recall standing in their sitting-room with my sister, both of us open-mouthed when my Nan showed us what she had in the cupboard. Cherryade, lemonade (boring), cream soda, coke, limeade, orangeade and others were all there at our fingertips. Well, actually at Nan’s fingertips, because working a Soda Stream took quite a bit of knack and the ability not to overdo things, over-fill the bottle, drop it when it came out, etc. I was about thirteen before I could work it properly, by which time my grandparents’ home-made wine was much more appealing. WOW FACTOR : 7

The Rubik’s Cube

A cube with each face covered by nine stickers of red, green, white, orange, yellow and blue. Around 1980 everyone had one, though only a few had the “genuine” cube with the central white square having the words “Rubik’s Cube” printed on it. I remember the excitement of getting three sides all done at the same time, but was never able to do all six. Geeky kids on “Saturday Superstore” could do it in 23 seconds, but no-one I knew could. One morning I came downstairs and our cube had been “done”. Closer inspection revealed that someone (Dad) had peeled off all the stickers the night before and cheated. Sometimes there would be a rumour that a kid in the next street had “done” a cube, but it always turned-out to be a false alarm. WOW FACTOR : 7

Home video games

Atari. ZX Spectrum. Vic 20. ZX Spectrum Plus (I think it was called). The days of hiking down to the pier with your pocket money, only to see it disappear in twenty minutes courtesy of PacMan, Space Invaders or Galaxians were over. (I once cycled, after school, perhaps a mile with 10p in my pocket to South Parade Pier for one game of “Phoenix” which lasted three minutes at best). One mate in the street had an Atari which plugged-in to his Mum & Dad’s TV. We fought dogfights for days with jet planes in a game whose graphics would now get laughed at if they were on a mobile phone.

Another mate’s Spectrum was a cantankerous bastard. We’d sit there, patiently waiting perhaps ten minutes for “Manic Miner” to load, but if the family dog brushed past it or the bloke next door slammed his front door on his way out it was almost certainly back to square one. Reload. WOW FACTOR : 8

Video Recorders

The absolute Daddy of them all. The day that Borg played McEnroe in the 1980 Wimbledon Final, Dad struggled in from town with a huge cardboard box. Inside was a Sanyo Betamax video player, or a “VCR” as some people started to call them in about 1981. It had cost him the best part of £500, which was alot when you lived in a house worth about twelve grand. He set it up, taking all afternoon of course. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care because now the world of video was open to me and my friends and, like Nan’s Soda Stream, no-one else had one. But what really was the most amazing thing was not that I could now watch “Captain Kronos -Vampire Hunter” as often as I wanted, nor that I could watch one programme while another was being recorded. No, the amazing thing was that you could set the thing to record (though this was more complicated than sending a rocket to the Moon) late at night, when everyone was in bed, and you didn’t need to leave the telly on all night. That took some coming to terms with, I can tell you.

This thing was a brute. It must have weighed more than me, and the huge buttons pushed down and stayed down only after quite a high level of force had been applied to them, sometimes with a mallet. The tapes loaded in at the top, huge things the size of exercise books, and when you pushed them down into the machine the whole thing clunked away and threatened to wake up anyone in the house who was still asleep. Rewinding a tape took ages, which is why when you hired a tape from the video shop it was rare if the person who’d had it before you had bothered to rewind it, as that would probably cost them half an hour’s pay in electricity.

Sadly, by about 1982 our once vaunted Betamax was a laughing stock. VHS was all the rage and the Betamax section of the local video shop started to shrink, almost daily, as the alternative “better” system began to dominate. Friends who pitied me starting inviting me to their houses to watch something on their VHS, which had cost about half of what our Betamax had cost. Their Dads looked at me with ill-concealed glee as they saw the “Betamax Kid” from down the road enjoying their super-dooper VHS. The Betamax party was over, and didn’t we know it.  WOW FACTOR : 10

 “Go get that big can of Dr Pepper, Chucky boy”