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Thursday, July 28, 2005
Living in Roy Jenkins' world

I must confess that when I saw the first reports of the new 'happy slapping' craze sweeping Britain, I tried to skip them as much as possible. I've encountered thugs who relish in cruelty towards others. But I suppose I took some comfort in the idea that they were rare and pitiable individuals, not a serious social phenomenon. Why throw away this small crutch by immersing myself in accounts that proved the opposite: news stories of British youths using the latest technology to record for later enjoyment their brutality against total strangers?

Pop Philosopher's decision to post links to some of the real videos of these attacks, however, tempted me too much. (Video 1, 2 and 3.) So, belatedly, I am ... enlightened. I would hope that some of my readers will be too kind of heart and strong in sympathy to watch them, as I did. For them I will only say here that it is as bad as ones imagination could permit.

The targets of these hooligans are not in any sense restricted to what one could loosely call 'rivals' - people of the same age who might potentially show one up on the sports field or the nightclub (I think it's safe to assume they don't fear being surpassed in the classroom) and therefore conceivably a rational target for the hostility of a very aggressive person. The victims are anyone with the misfortune to be near the Stephen Spielbergs of our permissive age when they decide to get directing: a local government worker sitting on the bus, a young woman reading on the train, a schoolgirl walking down the street, a schoolboy caught on the steps outside his parents' flat, a gentleman settling down for the evening who answers the doorbell, a London tourist waiting for the tube ... even another schoolgirl who cheerfully and innocently runs up to the telephone-camera and beams "Hi!". Utterly random. Save becoming a hermit or a bodybuilder able to take on singlehandedly a gang of experienced thugs, there's emphatically not a certain form of behaviour or a type of person one could hope will escape their attention. If you or your loved ones aren't shown in these videos, it's only because they weren't, in this case, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The cowardice is obvious from the description above. Never are the attackers matched in numbers. Never do they stick to men. They seem to prefer greatly to attack, while on their feet, those in a sedentary position.

More contemptible still, however, is the sheer joy expressed in the animal-like noises one hears. These aren't braindead thugs setting out to prove themselves to their tribe in a way they find indifferent or unpleasant. They are actually loving it - deeply excited, genuinely laughing. Countless prison sentences have been lenient only because old Etonian liberals in our judiciary cannot comprehend this motivation. Many a Home Secretary has pushed through Acts of Parliament introducing and extending parole and granting early release on tagging and for 'good behaviour' which they wouldn't have pushed through if they understood this about crime. Academics all over the world have devoted careers to unravelling the riddle of why some behave in this way, unable to believe the obvious: that for them it is fun.

This ivory tower innocence about human nature has combined with an empirically baseless chattering class prejudice against prisons, and stubborn indifference to the consequences to the innocent of leaving criminals free to terrorise and hurt. Adding the prejudice of this numerically tiny sect to the uncomprehending ignorance of criminals' nature has ensured a situation where never before has so much suffering been inflicted on so many by the sheer, unmalicious folly of so few.

So understanding as I am towards those whose temperament prevents them watching such graphic, senseless, real violence, I say that all those who sympathise with the liberal view of crime do not have the right not to watch these videos. Your delusions hurt people. Your delusions kill people. Anyone who has voted Labour since the death of Hugh Gaitskell has a duty now to watch these images, so faithfully recorded, of the society the recipients of their votes have created.

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