You may have heard me rant a little on the podcast about the Daily Mail or as I tend to refer to it the Daily Fail. If there is one thing about the paper that really epitomises all that I hate about it, it’s the fact that twice a week they allow Richard Littlejohn to write an opinion piece. Quite often I can let them slip by and think “ah! It’s only the Daily Fail, what more can I expect.” Yet, sometimes, the insidious bile that this man writes is so amazingly crass, racist, homophobic and downright offensive that I have to comment.
Today was one such occasion.
At 14:46 (local time) on the 11th March 2011, 81 miles off the coast of Japan, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck. The ensuing Tsunami struck the Japanese mainland minutes later. To understand the pure violence and natural power of the Tsunami I recommend viewing this clip: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12735023 . Watch as a whole town is washed away by the unstoppable force of nature, the images are sobering and almost beyond comprehension. The human cost of the tragedy, currently stands on 21st March, at 9,079 confirmed deaths, with a further 12,664 people missing, one can only presume over a week following the event, dead. According, to the world bank estimated cost of the damage is up to $235 billion.
So how does Mr Littlejohn add to the misery of hundreds of thousands of people? He writes a truly awful piece, which the editor of his filthy rag allowed to be printed. If you really want to read it, you can here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1368594/Japanese-earthquake-tsunami-My-wifes-PoW-grandad-wouldnt-mark-minutes-silence.html . He first states that “Japan doesn’t need our money”, well maybe not in the long run, but short term aid money will buy, shelters, food and water. A fast response is necessary, without fresh water and sanitary facilities disease will soon spread amongst the displaced who have lost ALL of their worldly possessions, and the tragic cost of this disaster will rise further. Our aid money helps with that initial response, even if in the long term Japan has the natural resources to rebuild and start again. Then comes the truly offensive part of his diatribe. He has a picture of a devastated Japanese town closely followed by a picture of British POW’s in WWII.
I cannot and will not offer any form of apologetics for the disgraceful treatment of allied POW’s by Japanese soldiers in the WWII. However, this has no place in any discussion about the Tsunami. Littlejohn himself says “It is wrong to visit the sins of previous generations on their modern descendants…” Yet, that is exactly what he continues to do. Whilst I don’t want to get into a pissing contest, here are some figures: British POW deaths in Japanese captivity estimated at: 12,400. Japanese deaths in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 246,000. He mentions the story of his dear old Granddad (in-law) who was left with scars following his torture at the hands of Japanese servicemen. What of the scars of those horrifically burnt following the atomic explosion? Like I said, I don’t want to get in to a pissing contest, but both sides were guilty of horrific crimes against humanity, whether we like to admit it or not.
He goes on to talk about how, following Diana’s death, we Brits love a good “sobfest”. Using the example of a minutes silence at White Hart Lane for “people we knew” being an acceptable outpouring of grief against the hand wringing and insincerity of the minutes silence for the thousands who died in Japan. He cynically suggests the minutes silence was about securing football TV rights in Japan, because I’m sure that is the most important issue facing Japanese people at the moment, whether or not they can watch Premiership football... Mr Littlejohn, I have further news for you. It’s not about knowing the poor souls who died. It is about showing respect and solidarity following tragedy. Every year I stand at the cenotaph and remember the human cost of world wars and the senseless loss of human life, and the most important lesson I take away is that we cannot let it happen again. That can only happen if we put aside such bigotry as displayed in Littlejohn’s articles and learn to cross boundaries of language, religion and geography.
My final point is exactly what Littlejohn himself said, we cannot hold the sins of the father against the children. And such rhetoric from “journalists” as Littlejohn should always be condemned. Where there is a need, following such a tragedy, we as human beings must stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow human beings in the face of tragedy and adversity.