Anti-Semitism, Arab-Israeli conflict, Democracy and Justice, Islamophobia, Israel/Palestine, Journalism, Middle East, Muslims, The UK

Richard Littlejohn’s “War on Britain’s Jews”, or the spiral of intolerance


http://vhm-design.com/#aboutsOn the 9th of July Channel 4 broadcasted Littlejohn’s documentary The War on Britain’s Jews. He introduced his documentary on his Daily Mail column, and if you do not want to watch all of it, Littlejohn himself has offered a taste in his column.I have to admit that I agree with Tony Greenstein about Littlejohn as a journalist and about his documentary. Tony Greenstein in The Guardian has stated:

 

If Channel 4 was seriously concerned about anti-semitism then the last person to present it would have been Richard Littlejohn. This is the same person who said of the Rwandan genocide: “Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them” – which is a direct take from the late Alan Clark‘s infamous remark about “bongo bongo land”.He has also called the Palestinians “the pikeys of the Middle East” and suggested that it was time to “wring [their] necks”. “Pikey” is a racist reference to Gypsies, one of Littlejohn’s pet hates, along with gays and asylum seekers.

Richard Littlejohn knows how to attract enough attention to keep his bank account healthy: Indeed, he has made derogatory comments toward Gypsies, refugees, asylum seekers, Palestinians (seen as Middle East Gypsy), Arabs, Muslims (the whole community), gays (in particular if policemen), Blacks, anti-racism campaigners, human rights activities, and whoever else was not in Littlejohn’s friend list. He also has shown not to have understood very well the word anti-Semitism when on July 22nd 2005 in The Sun, he wrote (not that the Sun has not republished the article on its website):

The Palestinians are the pikeys [sic.] of the Middle East. If they must have a homeland, give them part of Saudi Arabia, because the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Jordanians and the Lebanese don’t want them either”

And finally adding that “No more hand-wringing. It’s time for neck-wringing.” Littlejohn has been a controversial, so inevitably successful, columnist since the 1980s. He made money out of his controversial stories, and he has reached the Parnassum in its art. Money, for some people, is more important than truth and objectivity. Littlejohn is less qualified to discuss a topic like anti-Semitism than a novice undergraduate, and his boring documentary teaches us nothing. I do not want to spend further words on his comments: you can make your mind up about him and his brain by reading the partial archives which the The Sun and the Daily Mail offer of his opus. So back to the real topic.

 

Anti-Semitism has affected the western world for centuries and, though in different forms, is still shamefully part of our modern societies. I agree that there is an increase of anti-Jewish sentiments, anti-Israeli attitudes which slip into old anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionist comments that end in delirious, Protocol-style, statements. Yet as I expressed in another post, I am sceptical of certain ‘anti’-anti-Semitism proclaimed by people ready to discriminate against minorities. Littlejohn’s documentary, when analysed, shows many omissis deliberately provided to its audience.

In all the UK in the year 2006 the police have estimated that 260,000 racially or religiously motivated hate crimes took place, with only 50,000 having been reported. Muslims, in particular South Asians, are among the main victims of these attacks. The colour of the skin is still one of the main factors for provoking hate attacks, followed by the faith of the victim. In Scotland, Catholics have witnessed an increase in bigotry so that the government had to plan action; and if you have a darker skin and happen to be a child in Aberdeen, the experience of the playground can be quite traumatic. Yet if you think that intolerance can affect only people of other faiths and colours, well, you are bloody wrong; try to be ginger in Newcastle.

From an anthropological perspective, I can reduce all these events to one social attitude, which has of course complex causes: intolerance. I am sure that also you agree that the main feature of extremism and radicalism is also intolerance. So it is the case of the Middle East conflicts, which are not only affected by geopolitical factors, but also intolerance. This has been for example expressed among some Palestinians through the remaking of what Langumir defines in his article chimerias, and among some Israelis as a new form of apartheid.

Why are we becoming increasingly intolerant? Why are we becoming, in our everyday little world, little Littlejohns? There are many possible answers to these two questions. I think that the first element is the disorientation that globalization has brought to us. In a world of uncertainties, it is normal for human beings to seek certainties. This is not only the result of what we call culture, but also for how our brain works, as Damasio can help us to understand. Another reason is that differences challenge personal and social identities, and in a fragmented world, we need immediately to know who is our friend and our enemy.

As our ancestors, the Neanderthal man (or woman), we use stereotypes. For the Neanderthals: two eyes in a bush is surely a lion and they can only attack or run; for the average Homo Sapien Britannicus, a hijab is an oppressive tool, a long beard a terrorist symbol, a minaret and a mosque the den of the beast. Likewise, for other faiths, colours, sexual orientations or whatever difference exists. We the globalised world, in the time of Internet, emails on trains and the need to go fast, we have lost the capacity of reflection. We need to go fast, stereotypes allow us to be fast.

Intolerance is spreading, intolerance is contagious, intolerance creates resentments and revenge in spirals of hate. Anti-Jews, anti-Muslims, anti-Christians, anti-gays, anti-immigrants, anti-anti of anti: We can go on and live an anti-human life by accusing the ‘other’ to be the enemy and in doing so antithetically becoming part of the “anti” culture. Intolerance has no colours, no religion, no state, and is very human, just like pain, joy, suffering, compassion and hate. Littlejohn’s documentary has, in my opinion, explained nothing and resolved even less, but rather succeeded in contributing to the increasing intolerance. I think that until the ‘anti’ is not fought as part of the intolerant nature of this mammal who is the human being, we can only suffer the spiral of hate. If we are not ready to start dismissing our intolerances, we should be ready to welcome those of others.

 

Gabriele

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2 thoughts on “Richard Littlejohn’s “War on Britain’s Jews”, or the spiral of intolerance

  1. Pingback: Sneering Like It’s 1938… « Back Towards The Locus

  2. Hi,

    Littlejohn’s program fits in well with the new tradition of infotainment, a format now even reputable newscasts increasingly succumb to. Such programs tend to avoid the difficult issues of statistical evidence, other soundly underpinned empirical evidence or thorough rationalism, all of which tend to scare lazy viewers away, and hence such formats lean towards concentrating on anecdotal evidence and stories with a personal, emotive touch.

    My own fear, that this program will now be used by US conservative bloggers as proof positive of Europe’s (and the European left’s) rampant anti-Semitism has already materialised. It was always inevitable that the gullible and those with an agenda would fall hook, line and sinker for this kind of presentation.

    Your assertion that intolerance is once again on the rise in Europe and perhaps the world at large may well be correct but speaking of Britain, by and large this country is more tolerant of minorities as ever before. I believe therefore that two trends are at work here simultaneously: on the one hand greater tolerance of the “other”, on the other hand the increasing multicultural nature of modern Nation States which sees many seeking new confirmation of the “self” (no matter how artificial this latter expression manifests itself in often fake nationalism, a hankering for times that never really existed in the first place, or the kind of ersatz, shmalzy identification with one’s own social group whether that be by “race”, religion or other…)

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