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11th September 2013: The world's gone mad and I'm the only one who knows
13th August 2013: Black is white. Fact. End of.
11th August 2013: Electric cars, not as green as they're painted?
18th June 2013: Wrinklies unite, you have nothing to lose but your walking frames!
17th May 2013: Some actual FACTS about climate change (for a change) from actual scientists ...
10th May 2013: An article about that poison gas, carbon dioxide, and other scientific facts (not) ...
10th May 2013: We need to see past the sex and look at the crimes: is justice being served?
8th May 2013: So, who would you trust to treat your haemorrhoids, Theresa May?
8th May 2013: Why should citizens in the 21st Century fear the law so much?
30th April 2013: What the GOS says today, the rest of the world realises tomorrow ...
30th April 2013: You couldn't make it up, could you? Luckily you don't need to ...
29th April 2013: a vote for NONE OF THE ABOVE, because THE ABOVE are crap ...
28th April 2013: what goes around, comes around?
19th April 2013: everyone's a victim these days ...
10th April 2013: Thatcher is dead; long live Thatcher!
8th April 2013: Poor people are such a nuisance. Just give them loads of money and they'll go away ...
26th March 2013: Censorship is alive and well and coming for you ...
25th March 2013: Just do your job properly, is that too much to ask?
25th March 2013: So, what do you think caused your heterosexuality?
20th March 2013: Feminists - puritans, hypocrites or just plain stupid?
18th March 2013: How Nazi Germany paved the way for modern governance?
13th March 2013: Time we all grew up and lived in the real world ...
12th March 2013: Hindenburg crash mystery solved? - don't you believe it!
6th March 2013: Is this the real GOS?
5th March 2013: All that's wrong with taxes
25th February 2013: The self-seeking MP who is trying to bring Britain down ...
24th February 2013: Why can't newspapers just tell the truth?
22nd February 2013: Trial by jury - a radical proposal
13th February 2013: A little verse for two very old people ...
6th February 2013: It's not us after all, it's worms
6th February 2013: Now here's a powerful argument FOR gay marriage ...
4th February 2013: There's no such thing as equality because we're not all the same ...
28th January 2013: Global Warming isn't over - IT'S HIDING!
25th January 2013: Global Warmers: mad, bad and dangerous to know ...
25th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
19th January 2013: We STILL haven't got our heads straight about gays ...
16th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
11th January 2013: What it's like being English ...
7th January 2013: Bleat, bleat, if it saves the life of just one child ...
7th January 2013: How best to put it? 'Up yours, Argentina'?
7th January 2013: Chucking even more of other people's money around ...
6th January 2013: Chucking other people's money around ...
30th December 2012: The BBC is just crap, basically ...
30th December 2012: We mourn the passing of a genuine Grumpy Old Sod ...
30th December 2012: How an official body sets out to ruin Christmas ...
16th December 2012: Why should we pardon Alan Turing when he did nothing wrong?
15th December 2012: When will social workers face up to their REAL responsibility?
15th December 2012: Unfair trading by a firm in Bognor Regis ...
14th December 2012: Now the company that sells your data is pretending to act as watchdog ...
7th December 2012: There's a war between cars and bikes, apparently, and  most of us never noticed!
26th November 2012: The bottom line - social workers are just plain stupid ...
20th November 2012: So, David Eyke was right all along, then?
15th November 2012: MPs don't mind dishing it out, but when it's them in the firing line ...
14th November 2012: The BBC has a policy, it seems, about which truths it wants to tell ...
12th November 2012: Big Brother, coming to a school near you ...
9th November 2012: Yet another celebrity who thinks, like Jimmy Saville, that he can behave just as he likes because he's famous ...
5th November 2012: Whose roads are they, anyway? After all, we paid for them ...
7th May 2012: How politicians could end droughts at a stroke if they chose ...
6th May 2012: The BBC, still determined to keep us in a fog of ignorance ...
2nd May 2012: A sense of proportion lacking?
24th April 2012: Told you so, told you so, told you so ...
15th April 2012: Aah, sweet ickle polar bears in danger, aah ...
15th April 2012: An open letter to Anglian Water ...
30th March 2012: Now they want to cure us if we don't believe their lies ...
28th February 2012: Just how useful is a degree? Not very.
27th February 2012: ... so many ways to die ...
15th February 2012: DO go to Jamaica because you definitely WON'T get murdered with a machete. Ms Fox says so ...
31st January 2012: We don't make anything any more
27th January 2012: There's always a word for it, they say, and if there isn't we'll invent one
26th January 2012: Literary criticism on GOS? How posh!
12th December 2011: Plain speaking by a scientist about the global warming fraud
9th December 2011: Who trusts scientists? Apart from the BBC, of course?
7th December 2011: All in all, not a good week for British justice ...
9th November 2011: Well what d'you know, the law really IS a bit of an ass ...


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In the Economist recently, “Bagehot” tried to rise above the tide of knee-jerk reaction that followed the recent looting in our cities ...

Civil disorder and looting hits Britain
We have been here before

There have been some sweeping historical claims made in the wake of last week's unrest, with commentators of left and right decrying an unprecedented collapse in moral standards, parenting and discipline among the young. There have been cultural claims too, with calls to ban African-American rap music from broadcast.
Here is the Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips, giving it both barrels with her assertion that ”The violent anarchy that has taken hold of British cities is the all-too-predictable outcome of a three-decade liberal experiment which tore up virtually every basic social value.
The married two-parent family, educational meritocracy, punishment of criminals, national identity, enforcement of the drugs laws and many more fundamental conventions were all smashed by a liberal intelligentsia hell-bent on a revolutionary transformation of society.
Those of us who warned over the years that they were playing with fire were sneered at and smeared as Right-wing nutters who wanted to turn the clock back to some mythical golden age.”

From the left, here is the Daily Mirror's Paul Routledge, attacking foreign music and British materialism: ”The mayhem erupted overnight, but it has been building for years. And putting more police on the streets – while vital to end the threat to life and property – will not solve the crisis.
I blame the pernicious culture of hatred around rap music, which glorifies violence and loathing of authority (especially the police but including parents), exalts trashy materialism and raves about drugs.
The important things in life are the latest smart phone, fashionable trainers and jeans and idiot computer games. No wonder stores selling them were priority looting targets.”

On the BBC, there was the bizarre and clunking intervention by David Starkey, the historian of Tudor England, who complained on Newsnight that working class young whites had "become black", or as he put it: ”The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion ... Black and white, boy and girl operate in this language together. This language, which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has intruded in England. This is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.”
Allison Pearson blames frightened, cowed and unhelpful parents in the Daily Telegraph, writing ”How did we end up with some of the most indisciplined and frighteningly moronic youngsters in Europe? How come our kids are the best at being bad? There’s no use blaming the police; it’s the parents, stupid ... a friend who works in an inner-London comprehensive with boys twice her size is not allowed to send them to the headmaster. Faced with full-frontal rudeness or casual violence, Clare must first follow school policy and ask, “Darren, are you ready to receive the discipline message?” ... During my childhood in the Sixties, teachers and parents were still on the same side; today, you would be a fool to take that coalition of adults for granted. Darren’s parents are likely to attend any conference on their son’s behaviour with a snarling attitude, and maybe a pitbull to match.”
These are bold claims, amounting to a thesis that Britain has been wrecked and transformed from a familiar, law-abiding spot to an alien hell hole in just three or four decades. But here is an odd thing, surely: go back precisely three decades and you get to the summer of 1981, scene of some of the nastiest riots in modern British history, when racially charged violence saw tracts of Brixton in south London and Toxteth in Liverpool burn for days.
Seeking guidance, Bagehot decided to go off-line and read some books. From the shelves of the London Library, a gem: "Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears", a calm and witty history of moral panics that have gripped England over the ages, published in 1982 and written by a Bradford University academic, Geoffrey Pearson (later at Goldsmiths). The book is out of print, so I trust I will be forgiven (not least by Professor Pearson) for quoting from it at length: it is a brilliant survey.
Just what happens if we take a time machine back three decades, to the time before the revolutionary transformation identified by Melanie Phillips? Well, "Hooligan" records, you find front-page editorials like this one from the Daily Express of July 7th 1981, stating: ”Over the past twenty years or so, there has been a revulsion from authority and discipline ... There has been a permissive revolution ... and now we all reap the whirlwind.”
You find editorials and columnists seeming to blame the decline on black immigration. Here is the Sunday Telegraph of November 29th 1981: ”Brixton is the iceberg tip of a crisis of ethnic criminality which is not Britain's fault — except in the sense that her rulers quite unnecessarily imported it.”
Thanks to Professor Pearson's painstaking researches, the time machine can be ridden smoothly much further. At each stop, there are voices warning that the golden age of the past has been wrecked, and suddenly Britain is a dreadful place.
Here is Sir Keith Joseph, the Conservative politician, in 1974, declaring: ”For the first time in a century and a half, since the great Tory reformer Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan police, areas of our cities are becoming unsafe for peaceful citizens by night, and some even by day.”
"Hooligan" compares the 1958 and 1978 Conservative Party annual conferences. In 1978, buffetted by calls from the floor for a return to the birch and "Saturday night floggings" for football hooligans, it notes, the future home secretary William Whitelaw pledged a new regime of short-sharp-shock Detention Centres modelled on army discipline.
And in 1958 the agenda included a debate on a "disturbing increase in criminal offences", and speakers asserting that "our wives and mothers, if they are left alone in the house at night, are frightened to open their doors", and that "over the past 25 years we in this country, through misguided sentiment, have cast aside the word "discipline", and now we are suffering from it".
Delegates fumed over the "leniency" of modern courts and the way that young people were "no longer frightened of the police". Over calls from the floor for a return to flogging, the home secretary R A Butler pledged a programme of building short-sharp-shock Detention Centres, wherein "there should be a maximum of hard work and a minimum of amusement."
Still, no African-American rap music to corrupt the young, at least. Alas, "Hooligan" notes, the country was in the grip of a moral panic about rock and roll. In a 1956 front page editorial, headlined "Rock 'n Roll Babies" the Daily Mail declared ”It is deplorable. It is tribal. And it is from America. It follows rag-time, blues, dixie, jazz, hot cha-cha and the boogie-woogie, which surely originated in the jungle. We sometimes wonder whether this is the negro's revenge.”
What of parents, surely free to smack and belt their way to discipline in those days?
Not according to the Recorder of Bradford, Frank Beverley, recorded in his law court in 1951 inveighing on the crimes that could be traced to poor parenting: ”Parents at this time, unfortunately, do not take sufficient care in bringing up their children. They expect someone else to be responsible.”
Back to 1932, and a guide to the work of boys' clubs lamented: “The passing of parental authority, defiance of pre-war conventions, the absence of restraint, the wildness of extremes, the confusion of unrelated liberties, the wholesale drift away from churches.”
Thanks, again, to Geoffrey Pearson's research, here is the Times of 1898, sorrowing that fathers no longer saw fit to save a "scapegrace" son from prison "by loyally and sounding whipping him," and quoting a horrified magistrate's view that ”it is melancholy to find that some parents are not ashamed to confess that children of seven or eight years old are entirely beyond their control”.
Still, at least no computer games, eh? Alas, here is M.G. Barnett, author of "Young Delinquents" (Methuen, 1913) warning readers that silent films present children with "a direct incentive to crime, demonstrating, for instance, how a theft could be perpetrated". Small wonder that the Times of the same year editorialised: ”All who care for the moral well-being and education of the child will set their faces like flint against this new form of excitement.”
Back to 1900, and the Contemporary Review is fretting about how the "garbage" infecting music hall programmes "glorifies immorality", while in his 1905 work "Manchester Boys", Charles Russell draws a direct link between murders enacted on stage and later "instances of violence on the part of young men, in the back streets of the city".
August has often been a tricky month. There was a moral panic in August 1898, after Bank Holiday disorder that saw 200 involved in a fist-fight in the Old Kent Road, and 88 people hauled before the Marylebone court in a single day. Matters were not helped when, in October 1898, a street mob attacked police officers dealing with a domestic dispute. There were loud cries of "Boot them" as the constables were kicked and assaulted.
In 1883, London police were armed for the first time amid fears of a crime wave by armed burglars, a step seen as "un-English" by the press.
The great "garotting" panic of 1862 centred on lurid reports of a new form of mugging involving strangulation, and led to the restoration of flogging as a punishment, shortly after it had been abolished. The Times sadly concluded that England now resembled a foreign land: ”Our streets are actually not as safe as they were in the days of our grandfathers. We have slipped back to a state of affairs that would be intolerable even in Naples”.
Back to 1840s and the Industrial Revolution. Professor Pearson meticulously notes the widespread moral panic about the collapse of ancient, rural moral codes in the face of rapid urbanisation, the rise of working mothers and the spread of child labour (feared because it put money in the pockets of impressionable youths). "Hooligan" records an 1842 House of Commons debate, which heard how the "morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly".
Still, at least no Jamaican patois, eh? Ah no, the same Commons debate saw an MP denouncing parts of the country suffering a "preposterous epidemic of a hybrid negro song". In London, 1815 sees the foundation of the Society for Investigating the Causes of the Alarming Increase in Juvenile Delinquency in the Metropolis.
1751 sees Henry Fielding's "Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers" (Fielding fingered "too frequent and expensive diversions among the lower kind of people"). The seventeenth century saw moral panics about violent and rowdy apprentices, as well as about organised fighting among gangs (wearing coloured ribbons to identify their troops). Professor Pearson ends with the sixteenth century and puritan fears about, if not gangsta rap, popular songs that treated criminals as heroes.
Now, none of this is much comfort if you live in one of the areas of England that has just been looted or burned. None of this takes away from the fact that this country has some serious social problems involving young people and children: Britain tops European league tables for teenage pregnancy, and has dropped down international rankings for educational achievement.
But for all its wit, "Hooligan" — written at a time of really horrible racial tension in Britain — had a serious purpose: to urge readers in 1982 to avoid moral panic and a rush to historically-illiterate judgement. Its lessons hold just as true today.

The GOS says: Well, that makes us all feel a lot better, I'm sure. It's all happened before, and people said all the same things about it.
However, the bit that's missing from this perfectly sensible essay is the bit that says just because a thing's happened before, doesn't mean it's OK for it to happen again now.
And just because politicians and commentators said the same things in the past, doesn't mean they were wrong then or that we are wrong now.


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