PCC: general press homophobia is allowed


by Sunny Hundal    
6:08 pm - December 17th 2010

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Unbelievable. A ruling by the PCC on another case involving Richard Littlejohn essentially says they can’t do anything about general homophobia in the press.

On 23rd November Richard Littlejohn wrote:

When I went to Sunday school, a million years ago, we were taught to love our neighbour. I don’t recall ever being told that we should take an ‘eye for an eye’ literally. Or that the punishment for homosexuality was death.

Aged six, we didn’t even know what homosexuality was, even though we’d been warned to steer clear of that chap who was always hanging round the swimming pool.

This is typical of Littlejohn of course. Three people chose to complain to the Press Complaints Commission over the article.

Their response (via Tabloid Watch)

The complainants were concerned that the article implied that homosexual individuals were paedophiles.

The Commission acknowledged the complainants’ concerns that the columnist had equated homosexuality with paedophilia. However, while the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) prevent newspapers from making prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s sexual orientation, it does not cover generalised remarks about groups or categories of people.

Given that the complainants were concerned that the article discriminated against homosexual individuals in general, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice on these grounds.

You can be as homophobic / bigoted about people as you want in our national press. The industry self-regulator won’t even tell you off.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


“The complainants were concerned that the article implied that homosexual individuals were paedophiles.”

Have to say I haven’t read the arcticle, but I did not detect that inference in the extract, and if only 3 people complained then it’s fairly obvious that no one else did either.

2. the a&e charge nurse

Freedom of expression is far more important than the musings of one Richard William Littlejohn.

The PCC have called this one correctly.

Why are gays fair game but The Royals not?

Oh sill sally, you forgot, the PCC is The Prince Charles Complaints commission.

Agree with the tenor of comments so far. I think Littlejohn is a loathsome individual but there is no law against being bigoted or, for that matter, homophobic. If I think homosexuality is digusting or morally wrong (I don’t) then I’ve every right to say so in my newspaper column unless my editor disagrees.

@1 – No offence, but the fact you didn’t pick up on it just shows how deeply this particular prejudice has been drilled into our psyches by pond scum like Littlejohn.

@4 – Of course. But you don’t have the right to imply that all gay men are paedophiles. That was the reason for the complaints.

I think Littlejohn is a loathsome individual but there is no law against being bigoted or, for that matter, homophobic.

No one is calling for the law to be changed. The PCC is regulating the press, which means there are codes of conduct on how the press should behave which isn’t just about what the law says.

The law makes homophobic (and racial) discrimination unlawful, but not homophobia o racism itself. Fine. But there’s no reason why the PCC can’t say that if homophobia against one person is not allowed, the same goes for a group generally.

I repeat: this has nothing to do with the law.

Aged six, we didn’t even know what sexuality was, even though we’d been warned to steer clear of that chap who was always hanging round the swimming pool

Would this be the same for boys and girls?

” The law makes homophobic (and racial) discrimination unlawful, but not homophobia o racism itself. Fine. ” so its wrong to discriminate but the act of discrimination is ok?

so if i write saying people should be killed.is wrong but the act of killing is ok…

just making sure ive got this right…

this is nuts….if someone writes saying ” all the jews are parasites should be gassed and what hitler did was right’ they should be slapped (rightly so) but if theres a ‘generalised’ view that all jews are parasites and should be done away with..thats ok…what ‘generalised’ view.? a ‘generalised’ view involving discrimination on racial and sexual orientation’ is a view thats promoted by ignorance and propaganda..
ie there isnt a ‘norm’ …

“Have to say I haven’t read the arcticle, but I did not detect that inference in the extract, and if only 3 people complained then it’s fairly obvious that no one else did either.”

He is implying gay men are paedophiles.

Gay men are not paedophiles.

He is implying gay men are something they are not, and a something with strongly negative connotations.

He is being homophobic.

You follow?

@11 exactly ..overlooking what mr cleese said in a python sketch the ‘bleedin’ obvious…

i’ve a generalised view that columnists called richard littlejohn who slag off anyone who isnt like himself are twats..will PCC uphold or condemn that?

I’m tempted to say Matt that fish don’t feel the water they swim in, but that would be below the belt. I think it is relevant to many of Littlejohn’s readers however.

15. Chaise Guevara

Littlejohn could argue that it was not he who equated homosexuality with paedophilia, but the people who warned him about the bloke at the swimming pool.

It’s bollocks, of course, he’s the one with the bigoted views, but deliberately or otherwise he’s left himself a pretty solid loophole in the phrasing of the article.

As for whether or not he should be allowed to say stuff like this… I’m not 100% comfortable about this, but I think free speech should trump the desire the quash unpleasant insinuations. If he’d either straight-up claimed that homosexuals were paedophiles or bent facts to trick people into believing that, I’d feel differently.

The problem with the Mail and its ilk isn’t the fact that they allow people like Littlejohn to share their odious opinions, but that they can apparently get away with distorting reality to the point where they are effectively lying to further their political agendas.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 13

“i’ve a generalised view that columnists called richard littlejohn who slag off anyone who isnt like himself are twats..will PCC uphold or condemn that?”

Statements of self-evident truth are acceptable. You’ll be fine.

@16 thank god for that..i will be able to sleep at night, which is pretty good as i couldnt before

i’m hoping that this concept of ‘generalised view’ isnt used over and over again, as it slants everything to the degree that it become the norm..facts are facts opinions are a diferent matter..when opnions are traded as fact…then sold as news..that way is paved with trouble…the drip feed effect…
‘my mate up the pub reckons..etc etc’
how often does that affect opinion?…quite a bit sadly..in fact advertisers cottoned on to this a while ago using actors to promote ideas and products..

just read that the mail apologised to matt lucas press intrusion job, how ironic

all the more ironic since mr littlejohns article on jody mcintyre the cerebral palsy wheelchair bound protestor was portrayed as matt lucas comic creation in the tv series little britain..in which the wheelchair bound character is obviously not handicapped at all, mr littlejohn by doing this seems to be inferring the same thing about jody mcintyre..

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 19

Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I’d say he’s inferring that Jody is a loser. Because, y’know, that’s the best way to prove a political adversary wrong and justify the fact that he was abused by the police.

@20 maybe so, but why use that image, knowing full well that the joke of the sketches is that his carer isnt aware hes being made use of by the obviously not disabled guy..he could have used any other image…why not steven hawkins…

btw i still dont get this idea by police that jody was ‘blocking’ ..what? can able people be accused of ‘blocking’??

if he was ‘in the way’ (of what?) i’m sure they could have asked politely if he could move-even for his own safety not drag him out of the chair…

i guess in littlejohns world all gays are ‘kiddy fiddlers’
lesbians are man haters
disabled people are defectives or swinging the lead

in my world littljohn columnists are knobheads

What’s the point of this thread?
What Littlejohn says is what parents thought 40 years ago.

@24 maybe so, but it doesnt follow we should stick with that..we had bw telly ..it doesnt follow that we still watching it now..

Whatever happened to “…but I’ll defend your right to say it”?

26 Jason

Feel free to argue for the absolute and untrammelled right to say anything you want (altho’ I’m not sure that many people would be prepared to follow you these days), but what you seem to be forgetting that in this case the comments, quite apart from the loathsome sub-text, are factually inaccurate.

The PCC’s response is simply the supine acceptance of something unacceptable by a body which is glaringly unfit for purpose.

“You can be as homophobic / bigoted about people as you want in our national press. ”

Eh?

Did you actually read the adjudication?

They say, explicity and exactly, that you cannot do so.

“However, while the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) prevent newspapers from making prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s sexual orientation,”

You cannot say that XYZ is some fairy tarty bloke who takes it up the bum. This is clearly a prejudicial or perjorative reference to an individual’s sexual orientation.

However, you can say that I don’t like the group of fairy tarty blokes who take it up the bum.

So you are able to be as homophobic or bigoted about groups as you like, but not about individuals.

Now maybe that’s the right way to do it and maybe it isn’t, but it’s clearly a very different situation from being able to say anything you like.

As an analogy, think of race or national origin. “The Frogs don’t change their underpants” is allowable. “M. Sarkozy is a Frog and therefore does not change his underpants” is not: we’ve moved from the group to the specific person.

@ 5 I would argue the opposite – a certain section of society have been drilled into looking for “offence” everywhere, and are encouraged by our legal system to complain loudly when they find it.

@ 14 Fuck off and read the Guardian you patronising prat.

@ 24 “What’s the point of this thread?
What Littlejohn says is what parents thought 40 years ago.”

Er, they still do. Try going swimming on your own and see the looks you get from parents.

i have a problem with this generalised view as if its a consensus..like a whole lot of people that that is THE view and only that view…and no others need apply..

thus perpuating a possible myth..and prejudice obviously..so why cant that ‘generalised view be challenged?? by asking for that view to be substantiated,,.

where do we go if its not challenged? ..all jews are conniving child corruptors who are only interested in money=therefore do away with them..

al gays are kiddy fiddlers so give them a good hiding…
take for example the crowds who attacked any one that had pedo in its name such as pediatrist….

sorry but this doesnt stand up at all..

oh btw..i think the phrase

” Aged six, we didn’t even know what homosexuality was, even though we’d been warned to steer clear of that chap who was always hanging round the swimming pool.”

tells you something ..if anyone cant see it.then they need glasses…
.

wait? so who is doing the ‘drilling’??? are there notices on street corners saying watch out for pooftahs carrying bags of sweeties? with an overtly gay man in a photo? sure i remember the charley sez ads pretty scary they were, but it didnt depict a ;hello sailor’ stereotype when did this quantum leap..in thinking happen? ..the mail?

In other Gay rights news, DADT has finally been repealed.

Matt -

“we didn’t even know what homosexuality was, even though we’d been warned to steer clear of that chap who was always hanging round the swimming pool.”

Am I being dim? I’m trying to think of a reading of that sentence under which it does *not* imply that homosexuals are paedophiles. Surely the suggestion is that the chap at the swimming pool is homosexual and that children should therefore steer clear of him in case he does unpleasant things to them. (If that’s *not* the suggestion, I just don’t see what the first half of the sentence has to do with the second half.)

perhaps he’s the swimming pool attendant and the kids havent paid up?

@35

I read it more along the lines that the parents suspected the man was a paedophile who stayed around the children and had a preference for watching young boys, not that a homosexual who happened to enjoy swimming was automatically a paedophile.

You can’t deny that a male paedophile who takes pleasure in various ways from young male children is by the definition of it, a homosexual.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  16. Robert Long

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  17. Robert Long

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  21. Adam Armstrong

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  24. Dr. Matt Lodder

    ? " PCC: general press homophobia is allowed: Unbelievable. A ruling by the PCC on another case involving Rich… http://bit.ly/eVj5G1 "

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  26. FishermansEnemy

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  27. Phillip Francis

    @libcon: Press Complaints Commission says nothing can be done to stop general press homophobia and is allowed http://t.co/L54JCi5T





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