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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Someone give me a slap

Prominent positioning in Google search rankings has re-invented me as a world expert on 'happy slaps' a.k.a. 'happy slapz'. What's behind this dubious position? Once I wrote a book chapter on reality TV, and was later quizzed on the BBC website about the similarities between Big Brother and the brutality photos from Iraq. From here I used the same Google search terms that had already designated me a world expert to check out this new trend, and wrote it up for Spiked. There are, at the time of writing, 542 Google hits for "happy slaps" and a mere six newsgroup entries, with nothing linking from the images section. On the web at least, much more time is spent discussing these images than actually circulating them (which is also a big part of the argument in my Spiked piece.)

My Google rankings also help to explain why the Manchester Evening News called for me for comment last Friday, after two youths were convicted of setting fire to a man at a bus stop and recording it on their mobile phones. They didn't use the quote in the end, which was little more than an expression of sympathy for the poor fellow who was badly burned. But tonight I'm on the MEN's website front page, blaming TV for problems like these. I even pop up in New Zealand to make the same point. Apparently "I think happy slapping is become a short cut in the eyes of the slappers to fame and notoriety among the people who see the images circulated on the web or sent to them via their mobile phones." A short cut in the eyes, eh? Nasty, and that's just the garbled language.

Part of my main argument is that it's not worth getting worked up about this "crime wave". Why? a) it's not occurring on an epidemic scale and b) there are plenty of anti-assault laws on the books already. Do I blame "the media"? No, they just give expression to existing confessional trends in society. When the researcher for BBC Radio's Jeremy Vine show quizzed me about my take on happy slaps, I said it was a non-story. I like to think this persuaded them not to run an interview at all. (Could have used the appearance fee, but that's another story.)

That said, I was pleased to see that I had been promoted to "Head of Media" at the University of East London, and I hope that Paul Gormley, the real field leader in media, won't be too upset.

Roll on Mugging For Kicks: a Tonight Special, which is being broadcast at 10pm on Thursday on ITV1, featuring yours truly.

6 Comments:

Blogger Graham B said...

Full marks to RedFerret of Warrington:
"If someone slaps me, I'll slap back. End of."
he tells the Manchester Evening News on 12/05/2005 at 08:43. Sensible chap.

12:00 pm  
Blogger Trevor said...

The real question is: why are you blaming TV for the actions of retarded monkeys?

8:27 pm  
Blogger Graham B said...

Haven't mentioned retarded monkeys and not blaming TV. Had to get the BBC to run the opposite story on this link http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/4539861.stm
when it first appeared as if I wanted to ban Jackass/Dirty Sanchez. I don't.

10:50 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

I've been reading a lot about "Happy Slaps" recently. It made me think back to when I was a teenager growing up in London.

I think if we had phones and stuff when I was young then I probably would have found it hilarious at that age too.

It's interesting to see that this is a fad that has been contained to cities only. I haven't seen any reporting of slapping in rural areas. Maybe thats because living in a city everyone is a stranger. The social repercussions are slim as there is no community to reprimand collectively and little chance that you would ever have to see or face that person again.

Peer pressure is probably also a major contributor to this as many people have already pointed out.

The other really sad thing about growing up in a city is that there really isn't much to do for kids that age. If there were more projects based in the communities to get kids involved in something other than hanging around then things might be different.

There was never anything really interesting on offer when I was growing up so we all used to hang around arcades which ultimately lead to us stealing and joyriding to get kicks. It was sheer boredom. I expect there's even less to do these days.

Gang culture has been around for yonks but its becoming a bigger problem nowadays. Growing up is tough anyway but even tougher if you're not part of the main gang at school or in the estate/neighbourhood - they can make your life hell if they want to.

So you join in.

And all this talk about "I'd slap them back..." would you really? If there was a gang around your house of 10+ teenagers against just one of you? They know where you live...

I would probably just be a bit more careful about who I opened the door to.

Just some thoughts...

12:48 am  
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