I quite like reading the occasional Richard Littlejohn column. They're like crappy old sitcoms from the seventies where someone says something, someone else mishears it and the whole episode is about them running around making an arse of themselves until their trousers fall down and they slip in some mud and the vicar walks in. "Honestly Jerry, I said rearrange the flowers and cut off the buds - not loosen your trousers and dance in the mud!" That sort of thing.
This week, he's misunderstood advice from the Chief Medical Officer - with hilarious results!
'Giving your teenage daughter a chardonnay spritzer with the turkey won't make her a wino' says the banner on the front page of today's Mail, before shouting 'LITTLEJOHN' in yellow, which I imagine should be bellowed like the Gumbys. This is just in case you didn't know who he was from the picture of his smelly face alongside it.
In the column itself, he farts:
According to Sir Liam Donaldson, outgoing Chief Medical Officer, far from teaching youngsters to consume alcohol responsibly, we are launching them into a downward spiral of depravity which will result in them meeting a urine-soaked death, in a cardboard box under a railway arch, sucking on the last dregs of a can of super-strength lager.If you believe Liam Donaldson said that, you're more gullible than Smellyface himself. Although...hang on...you don't think...he's not gullible at all? It's as if he's read the guidance and decided it said, "Go and make a really big man out of straw. Now attack it as ferociously as you can," rather than misread anything.
Here's a quote from Donaldson that the Mail's news report about this:
'It's a bit of a middle-class obsession - the idea of taking out the wine bottle and diluting it.Right. So extrapolating from the practice of diluting wine that alcohol in general is a good thing is what is wrong. Not the practice of diluting the odd glass of wine itself. He even says, "There's not a great problem to that as such."
'There's not a great problem to that as such, but to extrapolate from that sort of situation that alcohol in general is a good thing just does not work.'
Of course the Mail story is structured in such a way as to make it look like he has said that in itself diluting wine for kids is the problem, pretty much following the structure of a Winterval/PC Gone Mad scare story, but surely Smellyface is aware of the techniques his own paper uses to fool people?
Here's how Littlejohn deals with the quote:
'It's a bit of a middle-class obsession - the idea of taking out the wine bottle and diluting it,' he complained.Woah. What happened to the qualifier about not extrapolating? Seems like he really is aware of the techiques the Mail uses, and carries on to twist the truth even further. Now it's as if the seventies sitcom is a Viz story about a strange man who deliberately misconstrues everything he hears as being an instruction to strip to his pants and rub his bum in the mud.
Sir Liam said the idea that 'if you somehow wean children on to alcohol at an early age they won't have any problems' was not supported by the evidence.
Of course, using strawmen is not the only way to create a false impression. You can always take the old school approach of just lying:
Needless to say, he didn't actually produce any hard evidence, just his usual patronising procession of fatuous generalisations and scare stories.Here is the Supplementary Report (pdf) that goes with the Guidance Donaldson was speaking about (pdf). It's a great long list of all the studies that were used to come up with the Guidance. It's 77 pages long. Smellyface just pretends it, and the Guidance itself, doesn't exist. It's easier to cast doubt on something when you make it look as though some blowhard has just said it off the top of their head, a bit like a Littlejohn column.
As you'd expect, since Smellyface has slammed Donaldson for using 'fatuous generalisations' rather than hard evidence, he can back his position up with tons of studies and loads his column with stats and evidence. I'm lying:
My own experience is that the opposite is true. Children who regularly see their parents the worse for wear are more inclined to remain teetotal.That there is your hard evidence. Smellyface's nan.
This column isn't one for statistics, but alongside the 500,000 children alleged to get rip-roaring drunk once a month, there was another survey recently which said fewer young people than ever before are drinking alcohol.
When I was a boy, my grandmother would make me bite on cotton wool soaked in whisky to alleviate toothache. It put me off Scotch for life - though I have to confess it didn't stop me developing a fondness for Pinot Noir and premium vodkas.
The rest of the column is as you would expect. A bit about a hairdresser being given a massive fine for not disposing of hair from the salon properly that ignores several relevant facts, like how the council had written to him several times, turned up in person, levied a smaller fine that never got paid and only went for taking him to court as the last possible option after trying everything else. There's a 'wuurgh, you coodern mayke id up' bit of rubbish about how stupid it is that a football supporter had a copy of the Mail confiscated while going to Chelsea's football ground. Here's a YouTube video of how to turn a newspaper into a weapon. The weapon is called - wait for it - a Chelsea hammer. Now why would police at Chelsea confiscate a newspaper?
Still, at least Smellyface has just used it as just a lazy set up for a punchline that admits he's offensive. A bit of uncharacteristic self awareness from the muddy buttocked Viz character.
“What’s that vicar? You want me to pull my pants down and shit in your pocket?” Hilarious.