2011.08.19 // Filed under: Aux
So this David Starkey thing, eh? “The whites have become black”? Enoch Powell? “Jamaican patois”? That old chestnut about black people who ‘sound white’? Really?
Anyway, one thing that stands out for me from the Starkey furore — apart from the hole-digging of an ignorant man, desperately out of touch and out of depth — is the hypocrisy of his subsequent evisceration by the media. That’s the very same media that can’t look at itself and see how it fuels the very stereotypes that influence such misleading attitudes.
Think about it for a second: if all you knew of ‘black’ or urban cultures came via shallow mainstream shlock like MTV Cribs, or the puerile agenda-bating of the unfathomably lauded Odd Future, you’d probably be under the same false impression.
Really, we’d be far better served teaching Starkey and other so-called ‘plain speakers’ to see the error of their ways, rather than lobbing stones their way in smug self-satisfaction.
Of course, the Starkey thing also serves as a convenient distraction from the real questions, like how and why these riots happened in the first place.
“The media heaves with propaganda promoting sensation and consumption above all else,” writes Charlie Brooker. And maybe this was as big a contributor to what happened in London, Birmingham et al as anything else. But you won’t hear about that on the TV news. Instead, the established narrative goes that the problem begins and ends in ‘black culture’. And what’s worse, people aren’t even asking what can be done about these ‘feral’ youths — what they really want is to be protected from them.
Harsh sentencing was the immediate response. Now, I’m all for rioters and looters being charged and convicted — the destruction they caused demands it — but the sentencing has been disgracefully disproportionate.
Punishments should fit the crime, otherwise there’s no point. And here the British had a great opportunity to be constructive, to use community service as a means of forcing rioters and looters to confront the damage they inflicted on their own communities. But the Torycrats blew it on a cheap ‘Look at us! We’re being tough on crime!’ exercise, of a kind that’s seen people being locked up for months for merely intending to commit an offence (while others get off despite far worse crimes).
Who does that help in the end? Is that really in the public interest? It’s an act as mindless, pathetic and disgusting as the riots themselves.