Most of the time I try pretty damn hard to keep the stink of the Daily Mail off my hands. There's a certain amount of pleasure to be had in having one's own prejudices confirmed, especially when those prejudices involve believing other people to be vastly, vastly more stupid than you, but every quantum of smugness wrung out from the Mail comes accompanied by vast torrents of rage-inducing bigotry and lazy, mean-spirited thinking, so it really isn't worth the effort (the Marcus Brigstocke quote in the title notwithstanding). Every now and again, though, I get wind of something interesting going on between its foetid pages - interesting in the same sort of way as it would be to find a slaughtered badger hanging from your porch light, but interesting nonetheless - and I put on my trusty mind-armour and go exploring. I do this for you, my dear readers, because I care about you, and you must be brought the truth. Even if it's entirely by counter-example.
The last time I read a Mail article was during the Jan Moir/Stephen Gately furore. An awful lot of people were Very Angry Indeed over that one, and rightly so. This time, however, I was innocently surfing the waves of my favourite forum when I stumbled upon a Mail link accompanied by a comment along the lines of "I don't read the Mail, but this seems to have a lot of truth in it".
This is already like showing a red rag to a bull of course. Once I discovered the article's author was Richard Littlejohn, of course, then you may as well wave a red rag at a bull whose mother was just yesterday shot and killed by another, bigger red rag.
I refuse to link to the article, but you can find it by searching for "I never imagined the town hall Nazis would go quite so mad". You know an article isn't going to disappoint when it manages to break Godwin's Law in the title. Remarkably, it then goes downhill from there, kicking off the article proper with one of those oh-so-hilarious cartoons of a man in drag, on this occasion with bushy moustache, pipe, and a sailor's tattoo. Nice work, the Mail. Very inclusive. Very accepting. I can already hear the knuckle-dragging rightwingers bleating over this; "It's just a joke, SpaceSquid! Don't you have a sense of humour?". It's not a joke. It is not a joke if the picture kicks off an article in which it is seriously argued that giving local councils funds to aid their transsexual community is a waste of money. It's just an attack you hope other people will find funny.
Still, I don't generally like to dismiss people's arguments at the very instant I find something stupid - especially since the cartoon isn'tLittlejohn's, and quite possibly neither is the headline, so I genuinely did try to grit my teeth and work through the whole piece. I eventually had to give up about 60% of the way through, though, so to paraphrase Will Self I apologise if it turns into Tolstoy on line 130. It's just that I was pretty close to actually vomiting bile over my keyboard, and I'd rather avoid that if possible. It isn't my keyboard.
Having said you shouldn't dismiss someone's argument just because they say something stupid, I'll now contradict that - Richard Littlejohn is a very special case - and point out that absolutely everything you need to know about the vapidity and nastiness of this article can be summed up from this quote:
At one stage, I worked out there were more people making a good living from AIDS than were dying from it.To anyone with an ounce of empathy in their entire body, this is brilliant news. The (reasonably modest) funding we were handing out to stop people from being infected by a hideous, fatal disease is clearly working! AIDS workers are outnumbering AIDS sufferers. Assuming Littlejohn has his facts straight - and I have very, very little faith that he does, but for the sake of argument let's grant him the bedrock of his imbecilic rant - that sounds like an absolute triumph of local government to me.
To Littlejohn, this is the nightmare scenario. He sees a vicious disease that brings nothing but slow, agonising death to its victims being successfully contained, and his thought is "Could we not have done it cheaper?" Well, could we appreciably reduce the amount of funding that is (or was) spent on controlling AIDS without a rise in the infection rate? I have no idea. Neither of course, does Littlejohn, but that doesn't prevent him from arguing that that's what needs doing.
Of course, whilst simultaneously arguing successfully corralling terminal diseases is a waste of council time, he manages to whine that councils should be able to do more to stop flooding. If only more people were paid to stop flooding than were forced out of their homes by floods, eh, Rich?
The sheer jaw-dropping mental disconnect required to hold those two positions simultaneously is almost too obvious to point out, but I will anyway, because that's the sort of squid I am. It's simply incomprehensible to me that someone can argue that managing flooding is critical and managing AIDS is a waste of time. The only way to slot the two arguments appearing side by side is to imply that people losing their home to flooding as a tragedy, but someone losing their life to AIDS is just an unfortunate side effect of being one of the gays, or maybe touching a gay once because then you get gay and you are gay and that's how you get gAIDS. One wonders whether Littlejohn would have the balls to come out and say the people given money to create smallpox vaccine are villainous scabs since the disease no longer exists outside of laboratories.
Add in Littlejohn’s argument that changing a department’s name is evidence it’s trying to take control of the public, his repeated insinuation that there is something wrong with a council that recognises that homosexuals and transsexuals might need someone to look out for their interests, and his continued insistence that there is something sinister about a council which considers such clearly irrelevant issues as equality, diversity, health and safety, and I would suggest that “there is a lot of truth” in this article in roughly the same way that “there is a lot of gold” in a cat’s litter tray.