Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Murder pt2

A couple of people commented (thanks for that) on my last post about coverage of murders in London and the UK.

The gist of the comments was that all sorts of factors, not just race, decide whether a story is covered or not. ‘Routine’ murders of people in low income groups, whatever their racial background, score a lot lower than the news of someone higher up the social pecking order being done in. Particularly if there are some nice salacious details that appeal to the kind of people who stare morbidly at the aftermath of motor accidents, hoping to see a little juice on the streets.

This is all true and explains the level of coverage given to the bloke who was kicked to death at South Bank last year. Personally, I took an interest because the four kids who did the kicking lived in an estate round the corner from where I live. Lots of other people took an interest because the murderers videoed themselves doing it and because the man they killed had survived the Admiral Duncan bomb attack a few years before.

The moral of the story being that newspapers are more about entertainment than news and if you want your murder to make the six o’clock news there has to be a little something extra involved.

Having said that, my original post wasn’t really about the newspapers. It was more about the head of London’s police force and his bizarre take on violent crime in London.

Ian Blair is in a bit of a hole. He has been caught out telling untruths about the Stockwell shooting and hampering the investigation into the execution. Clearly, he thought the time had come to re-establish his street cred by claiming that the newspapers don’t care about Black people. The precise quote was

That death of the young lawyer was terrible, but an Asian man was dragged to his death, a woman was chopped up in Lewisham, a chap shot in the head in a Trident murder…

Blair was being too modest. The week the lawyer was killed, nine other people were murdered in London. And, pardon me for thinking this, having the chief of your police force complaining that the media spent far too much time covering one particular murder when there were so many others to choose from is pretty fucking outrageous.


One of my favourite little sites, Anxiety Culture, makes the fair point that governments seek to enhance their power by encouraging people to be afraid of crime. The Problem-Reaction-Solution technique is a tried and tested one and the parallels with the War on Terror are there.


There’s a fine balance that has to be achieved. If the Problem appears too great the public’s Reaction and Solution will not be to hand over more power to its existing leaders. The public will instead start thinking about finding some new leaders. That’s one of the reasons, just one, why we keep hearing so many fake terror alerts. That way, if and when something finally happens, the jerk-offs in charge can claim that they warned us all along and that they have managed to stop the majority of attacks and would be able to stop even more if only we just hand over more money and power.

A similar situation applies to crime. We have to be scared but not so scared that we realise the people in charge are rubbish at their jobs and going about them the wrong way.

I have no problem with believing that crime rates in quieter parts of the UK are falling but I have absolutely no doubt that violent and nasty crimes, the crimes that really matter, are on in the rise in our cities.

I’d be the first to admit that my view of things is skewed by the fact that I live in South London. No one is going to make a light romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant set on my side of the river. One of the key reasons why I was suspicious about the bombings and attempted bombings last July was that the bombers were supposedly planning to bomb Stockwell and The Oval. Not even the most retarded jihadist would contemplate that.

No one would notice.

I’ve lived in South London on and off for forty years and it’s always been pretty rough but my problem is that it is getting rougher, much rougher. I started a folder on Flickr last year for my growing collection of crime scene photographs but don’t contribute to it much these days. Not because of any lack of material but because it was getting just too bloody depressing.

Ditto for reading local newspapers. The newsfeeds from the South London Press are a tickertape of horror. Some weeks the unrelenting tide of misery is so full-on it’s funny.

Even Wikipedia gets in on the act. Type in ‘Peckham’, home of the cheeky loveable characters from Only Fools and Horses, and you’re treated to this priceless quote

Peckham is an area of great diversity: gang-related shootings, muggings and burglary characterise one picture whilst another emphasises the high population of artists and professionals.

Indeed. The high population of artists and professionals are amongst the people being mugged and burgled.

1 comment:

Ian said...

Talking about crime scene yellow notice boards, as I was walking home feom work at 1:30am this morning, I saw one at the bottom of Haymarket - fatal incident, pedestrian knocked over by a bus at 10:44pm some day recently. I think that is quite unusual.