I left school with a clutch of qualifications. Nothing exceptional and I didn’t take A levels or go to university but I hadn’t embarrassed myself and was equipped to make the step into my working life.
I went to work for an organisation full of tradition, formality and an unwritten seniority culture otherwise known as The Post Office. Whilst sitting in the canteen between deliveries I was quick to realise that the bulk of my colleagues were Mirror, Star, Sun, Daily Sport and Mail readers. I had established for myself that these papers were full of titillation, sensationalism and in some cases naked women. I didn’t read them and they were and still are pretty much a load of old tat and not newspapers at all. As an example the Mirror leads today on X Factor and the BBC polar bear issue.
I remember sitting in the canteen with the very first issue of the Today newspaper and feeling quite pleased with myself that I was slightly different to everyone else. This said I rarely bought a newspaper but as my awareness grew I would occasionally buy The Guardian or The Times. Even today I get a nice feeling when I pick up the mass of The Sunday Times knowing full well I’ll never read it all. I felt I could trust them to tell me the truth.
I’ll now go off at a tangent. Who are your neighbours? Do you know their names? Would you ask them to accept delivery of your new MacBook or case of wine whilst you’re at work? Do they have a key to your house for when you are away? Do you even speak to them? If you walk down the road and see a youth in a hoody do you instantly fear robbery? Do you cross the road? If an unknown adult is stood near the school gates do you immediately think pedophile?
There are stories in the media of parents prevented from taking photos or video of their child’s school performance. There are people arrested under terrorism legislation in cities for taking photographs.
The latter came up today and it got me thinking.
“Where has all this fear come from?”
Is this fear justified? Are we really at that much risk stepping out of the door? We are aware of nasty incidents through our various media outlets. TV is slowly getting worse but the papers by far are the harbingers of doom and fear. The papers aren’t reporting vicious dogs at the minute but it only takes one horrific incident for them to then be full of similar lesser incidents for the next two weeks. The same theory applies to any shocking story be it murder, peadophilia or pensioner bashing. The perception then of many is that this ( whilst wholly unacceptable ) is a huge problem.
There is no doubt that these initial incidents need reporting but the media then seem to turn it into something its not. People are frightened to go out at night because the perception from what they have read in the papers or seen on the tv. They will be a victim of robbery or worse within 10 metres of their door. Don’t get me wrong. Crime is a problem and as police numbers reduce it will only get worse but despite all this reporting, we never see, or the reader rarely thinks of all those people in that day who have gone about their business without incident. The infinitely larger number.
There is no doubt that much of the tabloid/red top journalism is dross but the papers do have a job to report the news and what they choose to publish is up to them. That said they report what we want to read (apparently) because these papers have huge circulations which means we are buying it.
The papers often appeal to the shallow sense of outrage their readers subscribe to and with enough weight it can have an impact on people’s perception of a problem or even Govt policy.
The Govt are talking of the Big Society. We talk of our communities, how important they are to us and how we are trying to claw them back. Yet in many regards we have a false impression of how safe they actually are and our perception is based on media circulation and not fact.
Nick Ross used to close Crimewatch with a line to sleep soundly as the items in the programme were isolated incidents. They are and whilst a wise person should have a healthy understanding of crime and what “could” happen and thereby avoid risk they shouldn’t be paranoid about it.
Have you ever seen A Bugs Life where the ants, the huge majority, stand up to the grasshoppers and defeat them? If we truly love our communities maybe it’s about time we, the law abiding majority, got together behind the police and stood up to criminality as a united force and simply squash it out of existence.