What I wanted to do was see if and how his columns have changed over the years and try to work out if there's a through line, an underlying set of beliefs that underpin his work that you can put your finger on and say, "Ah, that's why he bangs on and on about the same things every week." The short answers are yes, they have changed and yes, there is a core set of assumptions that drive what he writes. It's a bit more complex than that though. Like Tolstoy.
Before we go on, it's important to point out we're talking about Littlejohn's columns here rather than the man himself. What he writes and what he actually believes may be different things, or he might censor himself while playing to the gallery. He's not paid £700 odd grand a year to write anything well considered and reasonable.
I've tried to divide this into themes, like the review I did of 'To Hell In a Handcart'. Going through the books bit by bit and pointing out where he's wrong would leave me sitting here at this keyboard for the next five years, so it's not going to be a straight fisk. It'll also be split over two or three posts.
Okay, in we go.
My, how you've changed
A little bit of multiple choice. 'You Couldn't Make It Up' is the collection published in 1995. What is the first target Littlejohn sets his sights on:
a) Limp-wristed Guardianistas
b) Greedy bosses of privatised industries
c) Useless council jobsworths
Answer: believe it or not, b.
You don't expect surprises reading Littlejohn books, but I got one. It came as the result of an accident of Amazon delivery. 'Littlejohn's House of Fun' arrived in the post first, so I read the books in reverse order. That means I'd already spent several hours reading the literary equivalent of a low-pitched, farting drone before I picked up 'You Couldn't Make It Up', which has an opening chapter that attacks not Guardianistas or asylum seekers, but privatised companies and their directors. Did you ever think you'd see Littlejohn writing this:
Still, we shouldn't have expected anything else once the nationalised industries joined the market economy. None have done more to bring capitalism into disrepute are the leading capitalists themselves.I didn't, especially having already read him praising Thatcher for making public industries more efficient by privatisation in his later books. Is this really the same oaf we know and feel a bit of irritated pity for? How about:
This pillaging isn't only confined to the heads of the former nationalised industries. Elsewhere in the private sector, directors are embarking on slash-and-burn policies, sacking thousands of employees, closing factories and branch offices while the unions are still too week to resist, jacking up prices and service charges before the regulators move in and giving themselves big pay increases before top tax rates rise to at least 50 per cent and the ceiling on National Insurance is lifted.Woah. A Murdoch employee railing against managers sacking employees while the unions are too weak to resist? Perhaps not - some of his earlier stuff might be from his days at the Standard. But still.
More multiple choice. You know it. What is the target of the second chapter:
a) Company CEOs who produce nothing for the ridiculous pay they award themselves
b) Militant homosexuals
c) 'Elf n safety nazis
Answer: a. Seriously.
Having said that, it's just the targets that are a surprise. This chapter is titled 'Innameetin'', foreshadowing his hilarious habit of phonetically spelling things he wants to belittle, and I have no way of knowing if either the figures he throws around in the first chapter or the anecdote he tells in the second of trying to get Labour leader John Smith on the phone in a hotel (and ending up talking to a company director who's registered with his floozy as Mr and Mrs John Smith) are accurate or made up. Both are also lumping different sets of people into a category. Still, it is a surprise.
Now - what do you think the third chapter is about:
b) The police are all PC and that and what about my rights, eh, what about my bloody rights?
c) A profile of a Company Director who is actually brilliant and contributes so much to the economy and employs loads of people and isn't it brilliant?
This chapter opens by saying that it's strange how we think it's great when someone wins the lottery but rubbish when a Company Director awards themself a load of money when neither did anything to earn what they've got. This is followed by some disparaging remarks about recent lottery winners and a lengthy puff piece about the CEO of Direct Line, saying:
We should be trying to emulate his success and wealth, not disparage them.This gives us us no doubt as to who really deserves the ill feeling and neatly sweeps away everything in the previous two chapters. Done and dusted.
It's not just the anti-capitalist (?) stuff that sticks out in the first book when compared to the other two: he spends a couple of chapters slagging off the royals and loads of time attacking tories. Of course, the tories
Clearly, something happened in the early '90s that caused a change. There could be any number of reasons for it, but his columns quickly and obviously stop being about some of the things that crop up in the earlier ones.
This is how he can claim to be left-wing on some issues whenever he's interviewed, while you see no evidence of that in his columns. For someone who repeats himself so often that even he makes jokes about recycling his material, his columns do precious little repeating of his republicanism or alleged opposition to the death penalty. You even get columns that could be read as supporting both the royals and hanging.
Right! Bored of this now. On we go.
We hold these truths to be self evident
So, what's the through line? Can we find anything to enable us to create some Littlejohn-ray specs that'll help us make some Major Misunderstanding-esque howlers when reading relatively mundane stories and instantly believe anything vaguely PC Gone Mad related we might come across?
Yes, yes we can. Perhaps the most important thing is that he's paid a small fortune to parp out this stuff. But whether he actually believes the things he says or not, these are the assumptions his columns make to come to their conclusions.
1. People can be pigeonholed into handy categories, so you can assume one person saying something is representative of everyone else - or at least most people - in their category (or rather, stupid caricatured stereotype). A spokesman from one council is speaking for every council worker everywhere because they're all limp-wristed Guardianistas doing things for their own convenience. One senior police officer saying something PC is speaking for all senior police officers because they're all limp-wristed Guardianista...you can guess the rest.
The annoying thing is that he puts himself in the category of 'the rest of us ordinary people', so assumes he's speaking for the whole of Britain (except Guardianistas) instead of a minority of reactionaries and the gullible.
2. People in power, who are limp-wristed Guardianistas, do what they do for two reasons. They need to justify their own existence because their job titles are obviously ridiculous, and they're deliberately making life miserable by finding out what people like doing and then stopping them.
3. Since we've decided that people in power deliberately try to make people's lives miserable and we can look at them as a homogenous group, every ridiculous incident we read about definitely happened the way it's described, is absolutely deliberate and never the consequence of misunderstanding or someone with good intentions being overzealous.
4. Since we've decided yadda yadda yadda, every individual incident indicates what is happening across the country, and similar incidents that happen for different reasons actually happened for the same central reason. This seems to be a widespread, secret conspiracy to spoil our fun.
In the end, he's created the illuminati as imagined by Nick Griffin and the Chuckle Brothers.
(That bit in number 2 about people having to do things to justify their own existence is exactly what the BNP believe about diversity and 'the race relations industry'. But Littlejohn hates the BNP - how could you ever think anything different?)
Here's how those four things work.
One of the things that crops up now and again in Littlejohn columns is the little known fact that they've banned hopscotch. Oh yes. Hopscotch - banned. If you've seen any kids playing hopscotch you're a liar. Well, that or you just missed the bit where a SWAT team did commando-rolls across the pavement and took them all away.
In 'House of Fun', he gives what appears to be the basis of this claim. One Council (Wyre) washed away one hopscotch grid on one narrow, busy pavement one time. That's it. The only evidence he gives.
Now, you might come across other stories about hopscotch games being stopped. Now and again people will be overzealous pricks, there'll be some sort of misunderstanding that leads to kids being stopped from playing. Sometimes it's even justified. But when you've got your Littlejohn-ray specs on, these become further evidence that hopscotch is actually being banned across the country because people want to stop us from having fun.
It's not just councils that are guilty of this. Also in 'House of Fun', in one of the passages where he gets stampy-footed about gypsies, he's outraged at proposals that travellers should be given priority when seeing GPs and going to A&E. This is an example of one of those times where he nearly gets it, and then just doesn't:
Now I can understand this policy may have arisen from the most noble of intentions. If someone with a sick child is passing through town they shouldn't be refused treatment simply because they don't have a fixed address.What's this? Has he applied reason to something his knee-jerk reaction might normally make him hate, and come to a more considered conclusion? No:
But this has nothing to do with the milk of human kindness and owes everything to the venomous bile of the 'diversity' industry, which takes pleasure in persecuting the taxpaying majority.He doesn't really offer anything to prove this. He does ask why travellers get twenty minutes with the doctor while everyone else gets five to ten, which is something he could easily explain using the same logic he did in the first paragraph. But he doesn't. It's just - you might think this is okay, but look, baddies! The baddies want it! It's wrong because they're ba-ha-haaad!
He explains all this in 'Littlejohn's Britain':
Most of this [his made up story about how bin inspectors rip open your rubbish bags and scatter everything in the street] is just posing, although you should never underestimate the sheer, almost sexual excitement public 'servants' get from punishing the people who pay their wages.Almost sexual excitement, eh?
On that note, and with the first mention of bins, I'll bring this post to a close.
In the next one I'll look at his odd obsessions and the different types of hee-lair-ree-yuss Littlejohn column you might see. Get ready for bins and 70s detective shows, chummy. You're nicked!