The Loneliest Jukebox

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Blame Game

My happy slaps debacle continues, eroding the distinction between private grief - mine - and public life - yours. I'm still to be found blaming the media and garbling my sentences, this time in The Times. A brief Saturday night phone-in on 5-Live was a chance to say what I think is happening: "Phil wants your calls on Manchester United and 'Happy Slapping'" apparently and I was in the studio as an expert, again, despite going on record as not being an expert. Personal testimonies followed, Jackass got an exoneration from me (again) and the speculation went on until Britain's Eurovision drubbing became the hot topic. I pocketed £50 and two taxi rides off the licence fee payer, which I think of as a rebate. I won't be appearing on the BBC tomorrow as the staff are on strike, and I won't cross a picket line, even one of the airwaves.

Later on Saturday night a source at BBC London offered me a further insight into the panic. There is a widely quoted figure doing the rounds, of 200 attacks in the last six months, based on London Transport Police estimates. What's interesting is that, apparently, BBC London reporters themselves had to pursuade the cops to reclassify these attacks as happy slaps, based on showing them 15 minutes of (largely unrelated) video clips. All the old favourites were there: 'bitch slap', the bald guy on the bus, the traffic cone and so on. So rather than the news picking up the story from London Transport Police, it seems the latter had the story ghost-written for them.

Meanwhile in my email inbox, the backlash begins. Apart from the usual Viagra/hot nude teens spam, this grumpy missive arrived: "I am fed-up with the media blaming criminal activities on innocent TV shows, video games and music. I am a big fan of Jackass and Dirty Sanchez, and I find the comparison between stunts like running half-naked through a patch of nettles, and randomly attacking strangers whilst filming it, deeply unfair. Your comments on these matters to the media are only going to have deleterious effects on the programmes that I like to watch, when it is painfully obvious that bad parenting is to blame for these childrens behaviour. The shows are on late at night and so even if you do try to argue that they give children bad ideas, proper parenting should prevent at-risk groups from seeing them. We have had to sit through all this mindless scapegoating while watching heavy metal being attacked, as well as video games like Grand Theft Auto and yet none if it is to blame.

I hope you are satisfied that your comments are not going to solve any of our current social aggression problems, while they might well deprive us law-abiding citizens of our favourite modes of relaxation and enjoyment.

Nick Roesen
Cheers Nick. As a cursory bit of reading around would show, I'm not blaming Jackass or Dirty Sanchez for anything, apart from straying from my idea of entertainment - but we can agree to differ on this. What's 'painfully obvious' to me is that blaming bad parenting is an equally knee-jerk, common sense explanation of social problems not backed up by a shred of evidence. The same mentality that turns TV and parents Larkin about into scapegoats can also be turned around to provide an alibi for those who can't restrain themselves or act responsibly. Your concessions to the idea of 'at-risk groups' can also be used to suggest TV is to blame. Likewise to talk of 'current social aggression problems' means accepting the whole issue at face value. I prefer the fanmail - 'Good one GB. Well put.' - but don't mind replying to hostile critics about things I've actually said.


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2:58 pm  
Blogger Japansemix said...

Hello dr. Barnfield,

In attention to your article 'happy slapping', I am reacting to this blog.
I am a dutch university student and I am doing research to Happy slapping. At every paper article I found your name and I am curious if you have more science articles. I need it for my literature research. I hope you can help me.

Sincerely, Judith E (The Netherlands)

1:58 pm  

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