Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This sort of thing isn't unique to the Nasty Mail, either. 

Theories about what caused last month's outbreak of extreme naughtiness are many and varied: from the usual suspect like Poverty, Unmarried Mothers, Grand Theft Auto, The Secret Elders of Frankfurt and Rap Music to more outre suggesstions like Jamaican Dialect and (my personal favourite) the Introduction of Decimal Currency in 1972. Liz Jones is, as ever, beyond parody:

But the problem started when the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Gap commandeered hip-hop clothing and sold it back to young people. The style became self-perpetuating and, to be honest, it rotted young people’s brains. Look at the footage of the young people rioting in London and Birmingham and so on, and it’s like looking at a commercial for American Apparel. Sloppy clothes lead to sloppy minds. The biggest disservice fashion superbrands have done is to relax a generation, for huge profit, and not equip them for the real world. Just as drawstring trousers never emit the warning sign that you might be getting fat, so sportswear means you will never be smart, disciplined or employable.

But I was rather more creeped out by a piece in the Guardian, yes, the Guardian which interviewed parents and yoof leaders in the ruffer parts of London after Teh Riotz to try to find out What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done About It.` The people who spoke to the Guardian feature writer were all of one voice. The reason that the younger generation had risen up as one a set fire to things was, yes, "discipline".

Parents are fearful about how they chastise their children.....

Stirling wondered whether weakened parental authority might have something to do with it.....

London's mayor said adults and teachers needed to be given back the right to impose authority.....

Stirling....believes parents have become afraid to discipline their own children....

....Teachers are scared to punish children.

Chris (who did not want to give her surname) said she felt under pressure not to discipline her children

People here will call social services if they hear you disciplining your children.

It's all very well trying to be liberal, but parents need to be given back their right to parent.

Who are these people who call social services if you make your child sit on the naughty step for five minutes? What do we suppose would happen if a child told Childline that dad had said "No Simpsons for a week because you poured the pepper over your kid sister's head?" What sound does being banned from youth club or losing your allowance make?

Most politicians are reluctant to say that the majority of their voters are child abusers and therefore take the line that the occasional very light blow is a tool which some responsible parents use responsibly. But these people weren't talking about tools or techniques or parenting styles or light blows. No-one appeared to be saying "It's inconvenient that I am no longer allowed to slap Johnny lightly on the wrist, and have to use Time Out instead". They appeared to take it for granted that "discipline" was synonymous with "hitting" and now that parents were not allowed to hit their children, it followed that they were not allowed to "discipline", or "punish" or "impose authority" or indeed "parent" at all.

Except that, er, it hasn't. Some people think that parental hitting ought to be banned. Some people think that there is a jolly difficult balance to be struck between on the one hand it being an obviously bad thing for private citizens to hit other private citizens and on the the other hand it being a bad thing for the state to interfere in how private citizens order their private lives and anyway, how would  you enforce such. I understand that the NSPCC thinks that you should make the law but not actually enforce it. It would, as practically all polticians say about practically everything "send a  clear signal".

That's a good model of 21st century politics, actually. Don't do anything. Just send signals. We may return to this point.

What fascinates me is how deeply enmeshed people are in the fictional universe where the Political Correctness Brigade has already won; how firmly they believe that and all forms of discipline – along with conkers and bent bananas and indecent seaside postcards and Christmas  – have been prohibited,  even though they quite clearly haven't been.

I don't understand how any of this impacts on Teh Riotz in any case. It's a little far-fetched to suppose that some violent, sub-human feral hoodie, half-crazed by exposure to Grand Theft Auto and American Apparel, who has always existed in a violent gang culture in which black youths, and white youths with black accents, who think of each other as soldiers, and don't know how many pence there are in three-and-six-pence, routinely engage in lethal territorial knife fights, might sit out an orgy of looting because they're afraid that Mum might give them a slap when they get home.

But it's a good deal more convincing than Call-Me-Dave's theory:

"Are you going to come out looting and spreading anarchy on Monday night, innit?" (I have it on good authority that this is really how young people talk.)

"That sounds swell, but you will have to tell the cats that I can't, innit. If I were caught, the beak might keep me in after school on Tuesday and make me write 'I must not engage in sheer criminality' on the blackboard, one thousand times, innit.

"Haven't you heard, innit? The Cultural Marxists have abolished discipline, innit. They wouldn't be allowed to put you in detention until Wednesday night, innit."

"That's, like, way cool, and also wicked and safe, and possibly lush and mint, innit. Let's go and set fire to the bloomin neighbourhood  innit. Pass me that blimey molotov, innit."


Andrew Rilstone said...

How many pence ARE there in three and sixpence?

Andrew Rilstone said...

Forty Two.

NickPheas said...

Obviously I have no children so don't know whether any of what follows is true.

It is certainly said that if a child accuses a teacher of anything remotely resembling an improper interest then the teacher will be suspended for about a year, have their career permenantly blighted and so on, before the wheels of investigation slowly reveal that there's no evidence to support this, that the child is a known liar, and was getting revenge for being told not to run in the corridor.

I don't know if this is true, I know that it is said to be true.

I wonder whether things like Childline, which are generally built about the 'no smoke without fire' assumption make it possible for some kids to exact revenge on parents who discipline them?

If you had been a naughty boy, and your mum had said 'No Thor comics for a week, you can only read Ultraa The Multi-Alien' then you would probably have thought this a very terrible punishment. And if you had then sneaked downstairs to the phone and called Esther Rantzen what would follow?

NickPheas said...

P.S. Mr Blogger,
Yes "The characters you entered didn't match the word verification. Please try again."

This is because you didn't display any characters on loading the form.

Sam Dodsworth said...

I wonder whether things like Childline, which are generally built about the 'no smoke without fire' assumption...

I'm having a bit of trouble processing this. Could you possibly elaborate, with examples?

Andrew Rilstone said...

Hmm... So the claim is not "Teachers are not allowed to tell kids not to run in the corridor nowadays", or even "There is no point in telling a kid not to run in corridor if you can't back it up with a beating". The claim is "When teachers do tell children not to run in the corridor, they are sometimes falsely accused of sexual molestaton."

To which the solution would be, presumaby "We shouldn't take accusations of sexual molestation seriously" or "We should accept that a certain amount of sexual molestation will happen in a school, and acccept that's the price of having a good education."


NickPheas said...

There is an assumption in certain bits of social work and asscoaited groups that children never lie. If a child says an adult did something to them then while they might not remember exactly what happened, something did. Investigation is therefore always justified.

Things like the Orkney satanic abuse panic are built on this. I'm reasonably sure, though I certainly can't dig out supporting evidence while at work, that the sainted Esther has expressed similar principles.

It's obviously not entirely true. Social Workers, except in Mailland, are not going into the profession with the prime desire to rip children from their mothers, if it were then we wouldn't have had Peter Connolly.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I wish I had kept that cartoon, I think from the old "Today" newspaper, which consisted of two identical sepia tinged drawings of a classic wild-west lynching.

Picture 1 was labelled "Social worker who took child away from his parents."

Picture 2 was labelled "Soical worker who left child with his parents."

Sam Dodsworth said...


Childline is a confidential, non-directive counselling service of a similar kind to the Samaritans. They're not associated with Social Services and don't function as a "shop a paedo" hotline.(They do get a lot of masturbatory callers, though - or did twenty years ago when I knew some Childline volunteers.)

Esther Rantzen is a celebrity and sometime campaigner. She's not associated with Social Services and doesn't function as a "shop a paedo" hotline.

The accusations in the Orkney abuse scandal were created by social workers during the investigation to fit their preconceived ideas of "satanic ritual abuse" - the exact opposite of "an assumption that children never lie".

JWH said...

Given where the comments have gone, this might be of some interest.



SK said...

Might one dare suggest that disciplining children is one of the harder bits of being a parent; that people will try to get out of doing hard things, even hard things they know they ought to be doing, if they have an excuse; and that, 'I might get shopped to social services,' even if not a real danger, is a convenient excuse?

Richard Worth said...

Having just battled to get three kids up, dressed and fed after a long night getting two out of three to sleep, the prospect of social services taking at least some of them away is quite tempting. However, between sensible parenting and outright sadism there is a grey area where either you are short on time or short on patience, and there is a temptation to loose your temper in the face of persistent and unreasonable behaviour. However, I would be interested to know if Social Services do have a definition of child abuse, or at least bad parenting, and where corporal punishment fits into this.

JWH said...

Since this kind of thing was being talked about...