The Loneliest Jukebox

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Does Jackass cause 'Mugging for Kicks'?

I seem to think so. After all, it's in the Sun ('TV blamed for happy slaps'), on the ITV website, mentioned on BBC London's John Gaunt show and strangely on the BBC website ("TV shows blamed for attack craze", BBC News, UK - 12 hours ago). I don't just seem to think so because these news outlets influence me: I appear to be saying so in person on these and other websites, including some in South Africa, New Zealand and India, and on Lycos. The ever-reliable Reality TV World has me lining up with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in his war on hooded tops and baseball caps: turns out he too was nearly a victim of happy slaps.

This strikes me as a bit strange as I am generally suspicious of 'copycat' behaviour theories, e.g. those expressed in relation to the videogame Manhunt. Maybe I was having an off day when I apparently switched sides. So I responded to the BBC's request for an interview by spelling out my actual take on why happy slaps are happening. The 'Jackass to blame' BBC page was duly updated to read 'Don't ban slap attack TV shows'. (Oddly, an interim piece entitled 'Does "happy slapping" exist?' also appeared.) For the record, I think that Big Brother, Jackass, Dirty Sanchez and happy slapping all try to fill the same void, based on the breakdown of communal solidarities and a cultural attitude that indulges private anguish. It doesn't soundbite very well, but at least it's accurate. (Also, to the best of my knowledge, I'm not head of media at the University of East London.)

The annoying thing is that my actual views on such matters have been a matter of public record for some time, on the BBC website and on Spiked-online, among other places. Perhaps I need to start texting journalists a 15-second video of me making this point, while punching myself in the face, to make the point more effectively. (Admittedly, the press release sent out by the makers of Mugging for Kicks is not one I would have penned myself.)

My eventual TV appearance was brief, mercifully so. Despite being shot against the backdrop of a beautiful aquarium, the programme makers opted for a facial close-up meaning I looked like that head in a glass tank that cameos on Doctor Who at the moment, only with a hair cut done by glue-sniffing owls equipped only with paperclips. The mickey-taking text messages started to fly in immediately afterwards: many thanks for those, folks. Tomorrow sees at least three more interviews with radio broadcasters as I set the record straight. As if to confirm suspicions that turning happy slaps into a moral panic will encourage more interest in the wretched practice, the number of Google hits for the exact phrase (in quotation marks) almost doubled overnight after Mugging for Kicks was press released.


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