Saturday, 25 January 2010INDEX

Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself

Franklin D Roosevelt said it in 1932. He was talking about the economy when he made his there is nothing to fear but fear itself remark. But he might have been talking about crime.

For Home Office figures recorded 8% fewer crimes overall between July and September 2009 than in the three months previous, with burglaries down by 8% and robberies by 9%.

Car crime fell by 20% over the same period.

In all, police in England and Wales dealt with 1,107,500 offences, 100,000 fewer than in the same quarter of 2008.

The number of murders also dropped to the lowest rate since 1998-9, with 651 in 2008-9, a fall of 100 on the year before.

Sex crimes did increase (by 5% compared to the previous quarter) but police spokesmen suggested this was due to their efforts to persuade more victims to come forward and report this type of crime.

Yet the media has been dominated by the case of a couple of lads who tortured in a most brutal fashion some other boys. Appalling, yes. Horrible, yes. Typical, no.

Thanks to modern security levels (much stronger glazing, improved locks, cctv etc.) it is becoming much harder to be a criminal. In fact these days, the middle class crime of fraud is probably the most serious threat to society.

Yet many old ladies cower in terror and feel unsafe to venture into the streets. Is FDR right? Do they have nothing to fear but fear itself?

The question came to mind when watching a film called Back-Room Boy starring Arthur Askey and made in 1942. In this film Askey shows his cowardice by attempting to barge into the room of a young girl and spend the night with her. All entirely innocent and anyone involved with the film would have been shocked that any sexual undertone had been discovered. I'm sure they would have said that it was not they who had the problem but the people who saw the sexual innuendo.

But these days we have sexualised children to such an extent that it is impossible not to be slightly shocked by Arthur Askey's behaviour. I very much doubt if this film could be shown on a mainstream tv channel.

Why has this happened? Michael Moore (Fehrenheit 9/11, Bowling For Columbine) suggests it may almost be a political conspiracy, that the ruling classes find it easier to pass anti civil liberty legislation thanks to the fact that we are all constantly in a state of heightened fear.

That may be true. Many cherished ancient freedoms have been lost during the term in office of this so-called Labour Government.

But I think the medium is the message, that modern mass communications thrive on fear. The politicians merely jump on the band wagon, because that is what their job is (band wagon jumping). That's what democracy means.
Monday, 25 January 2010INDEX