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Roy Greenslade On Jody McIntyre

December 15, 2010

After reading this article, I can’t believe Roy Greenslade writes for the usually sensitive Guardian. If this is his attitude, I think he should consider transferring to the Daily Mail. Starting yesterday.

I see from a story in today’s Independent that the Press Complaints Commission received more than 500 complaints about an article by Richard Littlejohn.

This has prompted the PCC to contact Jody McIntyre, a disabled man who claims he was badly treated during the tuition fees protests, to ask whether he wishes to make a formal complaint about Littlejohn’s Daily Mail column.

Littlejohn began by contending that McIntyre – who has cerebral palsy – “put himself on offer and his brother pushed him into the front line. It’s not as if he didn’t know there was going to be trouble.”

He then satirised McIntyre’s situation by suggesting that he resembled the comic disabled character, Andy Pipkin, played by Matt Lucas, in the Little Britain series.

To make his point he parodied an Andy-style script that began: “Where do you want to go today, Jody?”… “Riot.” I’ll spare you the rest.

Anyway, a routine storm of outrage followed on Twitter, inevitably leading to the PCC complaints. I have no problem with the PCC’s reaction. It would be damned if it didn’t contact McIntyre.

But the result, should he complain, is a foregone conclusion. There was no factual inaccuracy. Littlejohn is a columnist. He has a right to be offensive, even obnoxious. That’s his job.

His piece was not based on a prejudice against McIntyre because of his disability (nor was he exhibiting a prejudice against all disabled people). If so, I would take a different view.

In this case, I sincerely hope that McIntyre is sensible enough to ignore any pressure to complain.

I heard a quote on Question Time last week that I really liked, and that I think Greenslade, Littlejohn and friends need to be reminded of. It was: “Freedom of speech doesn’t give you the right to shout ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre.’

And where does Greenslade get the idea that Littlejohn’s piece was not based on prejudice against McIntyre’s disability? I’m sure any one of the people who wrote to the PCC will agree with me that that’s exactly what it was.

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