Alone in the Dark has posted an excellent analysis of Richard Littlejohn's latest column using psychodynamic theory. Alone in the Dark writes:
following Freud: the unconscious mind governs our life and protects us from pain and anxiety using any or all of nine defences.
Alone in the Dark identifies that Littlejohn uses 7 of these 9 defences in just one column: projection, displacement, intellectualisation, rationalisation, regression, denial and sublimation. He concludes that for Littlejohn, writing an article forms part of his pyschological defences:
In writing it he has protected himself from the pain of facing up to his unconscious conflict, that feeling of impotence and impostering, the sense of shame at his own self regard... The anger of Littlejohn’s columns is saddening because it makes the world a worse place - arguably we should be equally sad about the internal world it reflects.
What Littlejohn’s column also indicates is that he again fails to take the opportunity to really engage in, or add anything to, a current debate. He poses as a writer that challenges the system, yet in a week when the system came together in the form of the G20 summit and people actually took to the streets in protest – for a multitude of reasons – the best that Littlejohn can muster is a lame personal attack on Russell Brand whilst simultaneously declaring all protesters to be ‘self-indulgent’.
By not engaging in this debate, tackling any wider issues, or putting forth any convincing argument or opinion Littlejohn exposes himself (not for the first time) as an intellectually vacant coward. He mocks Brand and the protesters as ‘self-obsessed exhibitionists who dress up self-gratification by pretending to have a conscience’ and assumes that ‘after a hard days rioting’ they’ll return ‘to their computers in their comfy bedrooms in their centrally heated homes’.
These assumptions are typical of the fallacious arguments that Littlejohn puts forwards in his column. As usual, rather than engage with the points being debated he instead targets those raising the points and attempts to discredit them. This is a fairly standard logical fallacy that perhaps Richard needs explaining to him: discrediting the person making an argument does not necessarily discredit the argument being made.
For example, the assumption that those attending the protest may have comfortable lifestyles does not have any bearing whatsoever on the value of the points they were raising. Littlejohn also attempts to homogenise those attending because his argument also hinges on the assumption that all the protesters were rioting, when in fact the skirmishes involved only a minority of protesters and the police present are now facing criticism for being overly enthusiastic. Lastly, the implication of rioters returning to their computers in their bedrooms is that the protesters were young, which again, is false as a vast age range attended the protests.
Alone in the Dark’s psychological analysis of Littlejohn’s column points out that one of the defences employed by Littlejohn is ‘projection: the seeing of your own faults in others’. It certainly seems applicable as Littlejohn does live the comfortable lifestyle that he only assumes the protesters share (so using his own logic his twice-weekly columns of protest are also fake, ‘self-indulgent’ and worthless).
Furthermore, Littlejohn is actually a much easier target than the protesters, for his diatribes against the UK are largely written in Florida, he gets paid a handsome salary for writing them and at no point is he required to leave his house in Florida, let alone take to the streets of London to get his point across. As Alone in the Dark comments:
There can be almost no job more self indulgent than that of newspaper pundit…. By attacking those who were seemingly out exercising their democratic right to alert their elected representatives to the strength of their feeling, Richard highlights his own sense of discomfort with his own career choice.
Perhaps this is a subconscious indication that Richard is frustrated that his talents are wasted producing columns for the Mail and he actually craves real debate with those that he disagrees with. Yet, the evidence suggests that he is equally uncomfortable engaging in an adult debate. For example, in 2001 Littlejohn met Will Self on radio Five Live and when Littlejohn took offence at something Self said regarding his book he accused Self of being:
Typical of the self-regarding, self-appointed metropolitan elite. If you don't agree with them they don't engage you in argument, they throw slogans at you. If you disagree with them on immigration or asylum, you are a Nazi. If you disagree with them on Europe, you are a racist or a xenophobe or a little Englander. That is all they have got - they have only got slogans - they haven't got arguments.
As Self is keen to point out with his immediate response to Littlejohn's rant: 'I don't have slogans, I have reasoned opinions and I am sitting no more than 2ft 6ins away from you, Richard'. However, Richard cannot engage Will Self with any kind of intelligent debate, and actually resorts to the sloganism he accuses the ‘metropolitan elite’ of using. It is interesting that Littlejohn - even when debating face to face with an individual – actually homogenises and stereotypes Self: 'I wouldn't expect anything else from you. You people, you conduct... [here he is interrupted]'.
On another occasion Littlejohn embarrasses himself again, this time when faced with Johann Hari1:
I was invited to appear on his programme against a British National Party thug who was standing in a council by-election that night. I was initially inclined not to go, but then I realised that it was an opportunity to ask Littlejohn some questions.
For him to present himself as a neutral arbiter between the BNP and non-fascists was so absurd (and typical of Rupert Murdoch's empire) that I thought I could have a chance to expose that too. After all, BNP leader Nick Griffin has described Littlejohn as his favourite writer… The BNP fool was very easily dispensed with… So I asked Richard how much a single asylum seeker is given in benefits each week. You'd think that a journalist who writes about asylum twice a week would, of course, know something so incredibly basic. His response was clear. He snapped: "I have no idea".
No idea. I pointed out that he refers constantly to asylum-seekers being "hosed down" with benefits… He began to howl: "It's people like you who help the BNP!" He declined to talk me through the mysterious process by which people who peddle urban myths, exaggerations and prejudice about asylum-seekers are really stopping the BNP, and people who correct those distortions are helping them… Littlejohn's response was to accuse me of staging "a student prank".
Soon we were off air, and Littlejohn started to screech at his producers. "I told you not to ask him on! I told you not to ask this nutcase on to my programme!' He looked genuinely upset. I tried to explain that if he doesn't want to be humiliated he should make his articles correspond with reality. He began to howl, and one of the floor managers suggested I leave.
There is a reason why Littlejohn picks the easy targets - those he will never have to engage with – he doesn’t have the brains or the balls to do anything other than reinforce his own sense of genius by reading the moderated comments under his article or his ‘mail-bag’. His sole form of research for his articles seems to be idly flicking through the Daily Mail, taking a news story already badly edited and slanted by one writer to suit the worldview of the Daily Mail, and editing and slanting it even further to support his own Florida-induced ignorant ramblings.
His ignorance and intellectual capacity dictates that in the week of the G20 summit he can muster nothing better than a lame personal attack on Russell brand, a short selection of ‘You couldn’t make it up’ articles ripped straight from the Mail and another attack on requiring ID to buy alcohol.
In anyone ever complains about American cultural imperialism ‘dumbing-down’ Britain just remind them that in return we have sent America Richard Littlejohn.
1 - Watch it on Youtube here