PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter


by Unity    
3:30 pm - December 6th 2010

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A couple of months ago, Primly Stable put in a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission over what, for Richard Littlejohn, appears to have been a typically ill-informed and misleading rant in which he claimed that ‘”any Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover goes automatically to the top of the housing list“.

Littlejohn’s claim is not only wildly innaccurate but relates to an issue on which the PCC has previously seen fit to issue additional guidance to editors as follows:

“The Commission – in previous adjudications under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code – has underlined the danger that inaccurate, misleading or distorted reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility that is not borne out by the facts.”

So you’d imagine that Primly’s complaint would be something of a formality and lead, almost automatically, to Littlejohn getting a bit of slap on the wrist.

But no, this is what the PCC has actually had to say:

The complainant considered that the article falsely stated that “Afghans climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover” were given precedence in the allocation of council housing.

The Commission acknowledged the complainant’s concern over the statement; however, it had to consider the remark in the context of the article in which it appeared. The article had been clearly presented as a comment piece, in which the columnist expressed his concern that a soldier who had served in Afghanistan had not been granted a council house. The Commission considered that the columnist had exaggerated and simplified the example of housing immigrants for the purpose of stressing his assertion that the “system of government exists simply to punish those who do the right thing”. It emphasised that the newspaper should take care when using such rhetorical methods of expression that readers would not be misled into understanding that they reflected statements of fact.

In this instance, on balance it considered that readers would be aware that the columnist was not accurately reflecting the government’s policy on the housing of immigrants, but that he was making an amplified statement for rhetorical effect. It was therefore the Commission’s view that, on this occasion, readers generally would not be misled in such a way as to warrant correction under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

So what the PCC is saying, once you cut through all the waffle is that, in its opinion, Littlejohn is such a prolific bullshitter that even the Daily Mail’s readers cannot be expected to take his opinions seriously.

Now I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but then I’m also not inclined to underestimate the stupidity and ignorance of the typically Daily Mail reader.

It is, nevertheless, quite an interesting innovation on the PCC’s part, albeit one that should, in the interests of clarity and transparancy, be full reflected in the text of the PCC’s Code of Conduct.

I suggest the PCC put in place is an official register of bullshitters, a formal list of media columnists and commentators whose opinions are known to be so routinely unreliable that the PCC will no longer entertain complaints about the accuracy of their remarks on the grounds that their status as a prolific bullshitter is a matter of common knowledge.

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


I suggest the PCC put in place is an official register of bullshitters, a formal list of media columnists and commentators whose opinions are known to be so routinely unreliable ..

Wouldn’t it be easier and more economical to publish a (shorter) list of those who are reliable?

Unity,

Your piece would only work as an argument if the PCC report had anywhere stated Mr Littlejohn had previously made similiar unfounded remarks. As it is, it is specifically stated that the judgement refers only “in this instance” and “on this occasion” and therefore to the piece under consideration. It nowhere states there is a history of mendacity. “Amplified statement for rhetorical effect” is a reference to a way of writing in the specific piece under consideration, not a recognised tendency to lie in the past.

Now I agree that Mr Littlejohn tends to play hard and fast with the facts, but you cannot use this judgement to say the PCC recognises it. What the PCC have done is said that Mr Littlejohn’s rhetorical overstatement would be recognised as such by readers (and for all they choose to read the Daily Mail, I would suspect most of his readers would indeed see this as exactly that – the Mail has enough text in it to let us assume its readers are educated enough to understand that language may be used in more than just literal ways). It basically, as Primly Stable points out, is saying that it is OK for columnists (not journalist per se) to lie – which is good news for all of them really considering how few are accurate with the facts.

Basically, if you are going to complain about people misusing facts, try not to misinterpret facts to make your argument. It kind of undermines your moral standpoint, and could lead to comparison with the sort of thing that say Richard Littlejohn would do…

From Private Eye #1275 12-25 Nov. 2010 which we reproduce here:
“There is no more aggressive critic of the Press Complaints Commission, the self-regulatory body that polices newspapers. than the BBC – itself, ironically, not subject to a regulator.”
So began a Daily Mail rant last week, that after the World Service alleged that Live Aid cash went to buy arms “it took the BBC seven long months of prevarication before an apology was finally dragged from it. If the BBC spent one-tenth of the energy it devotes to attacking the PCC on creating a proper body to deal with its own complaints, it would be a much healthier organisation.”
Paul Dacre’s loathing of the Beeb must be making him paranoid. A quick check of British newspapers from the last 18 months reveals that the BBC has made few public statements about the commission (whose Code of Practice Committee the Mail editor chairs) and none that could be called and attack.
At least the BBC apologised to Bob Geldof. He will, it seems, have to wait a bit longer for the Mail to say sorry for its “Special investigation: Sorry Bob, Band Aid Millions did pay for guns” published all those months ago.”

http://www.facebook.com/blacktriangle1

So, the PCC condemns Littlejohn as a bovine manure producer. – Apart from being a bit late in the day waking up to that fact- – will that stunning revelation hurt him do you think – or do you suppose that it will enhance his striven-for notoriety which the Daily Mail will gleefully turn to its own sales advantage. No, Littlejohn will, if anything, probably get an increase in salary. There’s no such thing as bad publicity in the lower reaches of Grub Street. I blame the readers – there’s no compulsion on them to continue wasting their money on bullshit they can’t even improve the garden with.

Watchman:

Sorry old bean, but I think your satire detector’s on the blink. ;-)

surely if there is genuine freedom of speech, then there is no place for a “press complaints commission”? how can people just accept such a dodgy and illiberal organisation?

At least his fellow rabid right wingers will defend him.
Such as cjcjc, Nick Cohen and Martin Bright
On this side of the pond we sniffly attack Fox news but 90% of British jounos are right of Beck and his gang

The saddest thing about Littlejohn’s comment is he is Jewish.
His forefathers probably jumped off ships to get ways from the pogoms of zsarist Russis.
They were fortunate that there was no angle saxon Littlejohn or Cohen to enjoy their distress.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  2. sianushka

    RT @libcon: PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  3. Brian Moylan

    RT @libcon: PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  4. Nick Entwistle

    So if I lie publically often enough, it becomes ok? http://bit.ly/iawkp8 via @libcon

  5. Lee Hyde

    RT @libcon: PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  6. sunny hundal

    Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  7. Kevin Arscott

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  8. Simon

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  9. Oliver Burkeman

    Does the Press Complaints Commission have any point or purpose whatsoever anymore? http://is.gd/iicNb (via @sunny_hundal)

  10. Emma Brownbill

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  11. Dr Scott Davidson

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  12. Siren of Brixton

    RT @oliverburkeman: Does @ukpcc Press Complaints Commission have any point or purpose whatsoever anymore? http://is.gd/iicNb

  13. Garry

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  14. Ira

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  15. James Brown

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  16. Aaron Lovegrove

    RT @libcon: PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  17. papanomicron

    FFS you couldn't make it up! PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/0gnd7dq via @libcon

  18. Matt Jeffs

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  19. Andy S

    RT @libcon: PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  20. Patrick Hall

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  21. Nick H.

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  22. Richard Honeysett

    It's OK to lie if it helps you make your point, apparently: PCC admits Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://pulsene.ws/siuk

  23. JE

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  24. Simon Godefroy

    RT @libcon: PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  25. Emily Davis

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bizarre @UKPCC ruling says Richard Littlejohn doesn't have to be truthful in his columns http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  26. Rocky Hamster

    RT @libcon: PCC admits that Richard Littlejohn is a regular bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  27. Lauren G

    Anyone remember what Franken said about Billo and libel? Well… http://is.gd/iiW32 #badPCC #bad #icant #no

  28. Nicholas Stewart

    RT @rhoneysett: It's OK 2 lie if it helps U make yr point, apparently: PCC admits Richard Littlejohn is bullshitter http://bit.ly/gaPCOr

  29. Dan Benson

    [He] is such a prolific bullshitter … the Daily Mail’s readers cannot be expected to take his opinions seriously. http://pulsene.ws/siuk

  30. Trans Media Watch

    PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/h77ouBs via @libcon

  31. Rob Sculthorpe

    RT @Transmediawatch: PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/h77ouBs via @libcon

  32. Dru Marland

    RT @Transmediawatch: PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/h77ouBs via @libcon

  33. Daniel Mason

    PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter – Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/noNDaob via @libcon

  34. Daniel Mason

    PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter – Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/eKwLiV via @libcon

  35. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @libcon: PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter http://bit.ly/iawkp8

  36. Rustam Majainah

    PCC admits: Richard Littlejohn is a bullshitter | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/NUZeJdo via @libcon

  37. Liddle vs Littlejohn: inconsistency in PCC approach to columnists at PCC Watch

    [...] The rejection left the complainant scratching his head – given that the statement was clearly untrue, how could the complaint be rejected? Supporters characterised the PCC’s position as guaranteeing Littlejohn membership of an unofficial register of “regular bullshitters”. [...]

  38. Martin Belam

    @tabloidwatch @suttonnick which reminds me that @ukpcc found it OK for Littlejohn to tell outright lies http://t.co/1DfIa7W

  39. wolfst?r

    @tabloidwatch @suttonnick which reminds me that @ukpcc found it OK for Littlejohn to tell outright lies http://t.co/1DfIa7W

  40. Unity

    So the Observer got off over #Burzynski http://t.co/pwZ0DuRD by playing the Littlejohn Defence http://t.co/ImIi3L4y #leveson

  41. Dianthus Medical

    RT @Unity_MoT So the Observer got off over #Burzynski http://t.co/0LPlwyiL by playing the Littlejohn Defence http://t.co/jHsGuCLX #leveson

  42. Alan the Magpie

    RT @Unity_MoT So the Observer got off over #Burzynski http://t.co/yICaNFz6 by playing the Littlejohn Defence http://t.co/jOxe9JT6 #leveson

  43. Brett RB

    So the Observer got off over #Burzynski http://t.co/pwZ0DuRD by playing the Littlejohn Defence http://t.co/ImIi3L4y #leveson

  44. Read All About It! Trevor Kavanagh In Fisking Shocker! | Sim-O

    [...] is so free to print lies and rubbish by their columinists even the PCC, the supposed regulator, doesn’t think it’s worth pulling them up on it. So when the police get matters so far out of proportion, we are entitled to ask: Who polices the [...]





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