jeudi 5 juin 2008

Is this a dagger I see before me?

The news that poor working class people are stabbing and killing each other in larger numbers than usual would tend to make you think that young people these days need a strong dose of discipline, a week in the stocks or a year in the army if your only source of information was Sky News and the Today programme, that is.

The 'reality' is more complex and ambiguous, of course. In fact, there is no major increase in knife crime.

"According to the British Crime Survey, knife-enabled crime (any crime involving a knife) over the past decade has remained stable at around 6-7% of all crime, comprising 30% of all homicides.
In fact, the most recent crime survey by the Metropolitan police showed that knife crime has actually dropped by 15.7% over the past two years, from 12,122 to 10,220 incidents"

That's no consolation for those affected by the nasty events that can well happen in Britain's towns and estates, but is a distance from the doom mongering in the media. This has all the characterstics of a media scare - perhaps to distract from the ugly economic situation, perhaps to just fill up the air time. Whatever it is, the meeja always fail to give any context to these crimes. There was a brief appearance by Lord Ouseley, the Former Chief Executive of the Commission for Racial Equality in Britain, on Hard Talk on the BBC who dared dared to mention the p word in relation to this problem. For once, the presenter did get 'hard' on a guest and forced Ouseley to back down by saying that even if people existed in alienated, fractured and poverty filled backgrounds this didn't excuse them from personal responsibility. Personal responsibility.

Another feature of the political context of this latest scare is the governance's emphasis on increasing police harassment of young people and minorities. ". . .civil rights campaigners in the capital have urged caution instead of this knee-jerk and heavy-handed response to the recent incidents. They have called attention to the fact that historically the use of “stop and search” has discriminated against black minorities and, more recently, Asian and Middle-Eastern ethnic minorities. Government figures suggest black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, while Asians are almost twice as likely."

The wider political context is one of living in a country that has launched an illegal attack on two other countries - using far more dealy weapons than a puny knife in order to rob them - and getting away with it. So what kind of fucking example is that? If we're looking for role models for the UK youth, you wouldn't look for them in Westminster.

And historically, Britain is a very violent place. Everybody loves Shakespeare (yeh) - but have you seen MacBeth? There's a knife crime every ten minutes or so and I imagine some politician somewhere pontificating on the need to tighten up the laws get the government's message out loud and clear and convene a press conference or two, defend the occupation of Iraq, deny the existence of poverty in the UK and then sit through the Scottish gore fest and find it really entertaining.

Poor people's violence is haphazard and tragic - rich people's violence is truly sadistic, planned and psychotic. The former is used in the media to help cover up the latter.