Sunday, March 21, 2004

Bunker Mentality

About Wednesday night's BBC2 program 'If...things don't get any better' dealing with gated communities, I have only one question: does the Beeb have any sense of shame ? Surely the fact that you can predict the talking points in one of their programs before it's even aired should set a few of them thinking that they may be just a little bias after all. Needless to say, B-BBC was spot on with its predictions. The whole thing was a showcase for the Beeb's soft-left prejudices: tax-gougers are idealists, inequality is always bad, no improvement in public services without higher taxes…well, you know the drill.

It was interesting to note the ever-enlightened Beeb's dependence on crude stereotypes: thick security guard, two-faced bimbo sales manager, idle-rich property developer (most multi-millionaires spend all day riding, swimming and reading the paper, really). The Beeb may as well have made them wear prosthetic horns and carry pitchforks. Needless to say, the only characters that weren't from the Dept of Lefty Caricatures were the PM and a single mother from the nearby council estate.

As ever, the Beeb's tried to wiggle round the requirement for balance by setting the baseline far to the left, as though a claim that crime can have a devastating effect on the victim and Will Hutton stating that Britain was becoming plagued with 'spatial eugenics' were both equally mainstream views. Normally, the effect is to present moonbattery as normal yet this time it had the opposite effect: hearing the L3 babble on about their views just made they sound loonier than ever.

A poverty pimp proclaimed that we needed to expand the welfare state as she was dealing with third-generation unemployment claimants. Hey - call it an off the wall thought, but that suggests to me that welfare isn't working. The same rocket scientist complained that people on welfare were increasingly being 'coerced' to accept jobs or training - she worried that people would lose their self-esteem from being forced to work. This is how screwed up the Liberal worldview is - they complain that not being dependant on the state disempowers people.

An ethnic poverty pest complained that people had an unrealistic fear of crime. At which point DumbJon wondered about the likely reaction to someone claiming that ethnic minorities had an unrealistic fear of racism. No sooner had the thought formed in my head than the race-hustler in question followed up by claiming the media was making people unrealistically afraid of black men, even though they were the group most likely to be victims of violence. Given that they are most likely to be victims of violence perpetrated by other black males, this was kind of like the bloke convicted of killing his parents who asked for the court's mercy because he was an orphan. More to the point, it undercuts his whole argument: apparently, crime isn't an invention of racist, tabloid hacks. If the hoods were jailed, Blacks would benefit too. Quelle surprise!

Talking of crime brings me onto the fact that, save for one oblique reference, Mr Brownstone was AWOL. Talking about inner-city crime without talking about drugs is insane. Ditto the absence of gangs. What criminals were featured were mostly juveniles indulging in non-violent offences. You would have been hard pushed to guess from this program that crimes of violence are soaring. Given that one of the programs main talking points was that gated communities pander to paranoia, this was just plain dishonest.

In fact, the whole presentation of gated communities was biased in the extreme. The community featured was designed like a palace, as though such communities were filled with bloated plutocrats lighting fat cigars with £50 notes. That such a place may appeal to a pair of teachers trying to raise their children in safety is apparently beyond the compass of the BBC. In a truly Freudian slip, the voice-over described these communities as excluding 'locals', as though the people who actually live there don't count as local. Even the BBC must have felt that arguing that people don't have right of access to places they don't own was kind of weak, so - in a truly contrived twist - the property developer fences off part of the public highway. Opposing gated communities because you think the owners might go on to block roads is like opposing trade unions because you think they'll threaten workers who refuse to join. It's possible - but hardly inevitable. In fact, in this context it was a clear red herring.

There was an irony there, of course. Many of the BBC's big names aren't in the market for such communities - they've already shot off to the country. The Beeb was criticising the measures people take to survive in an environment which its own staff wouldn't touch with a barge pole. But that hides the bigger irony - the Beeb criticised gated communities because they allow people to seal themselves off from the outside world, so that they interact only with each other in a self-sustaining bubble of shared prejudices and paranoias. Someone should buy the Beeb a mirror.

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