Moral Panic takes hold in England

In the aftermath of last week's riots there has understandably been a mood of alarm and a general feeling that "something should be done". In this kind of situation we look to "the Authorities" to sort things out and make us feel safe. In a crisis wise people in authority stay cool, calm and act carefully. After all if a building is on fire you don't run out of it in a mad panic screaming for everyone to follow you straight into the fire because you didn't check where the exit was...

But people in authority in England have not acted wisely. The Police and the Government have got into an unseemly row about who is to "blame". Politicians are trying to use the situation to re-enforce ideas they had previously blaming poverty, cuts, liberalism, bankers, schools, parents, children, the Police, lawless criminals and anyone else who fits into their political world view.

And now the Judiciary, either acting on their own or under the influence of politicians, have started to pass increasingly disproportionate and illogical sentences. Two users of Facebook faced 4 year jail sentences even though one had clearly meant his posts as a silly and irresponsible joke whilst in Bury St Edmunds another person faced a 12 month ban from social networks and a home curfew for more or less the same stupidity on Facebook.

A judge in Manchester blamed the "Facebook generation" for what appeared nothing more than opportunistic theft by two teenage girls of clothes and this is on top of the already widely reported jailing of a person for 6 months for stealing water, the mother of two young children jailed for receiving a pair of shorts as stolen goods and the warning to a person stealing an ice cream cone they may face a jail sentence.

I could go on. A mood of moral panic seems to be gripping the country and rather than leading our leaders are trying to follow the mood for any advantage they can get.  As Gaby Hinsliff said on Twitter:

 Gaby Hinsliff 

Today Cameron said of the Facebook "incitement" jailings.

Thanks to @julianswainson for image
"What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behaviour and to send a very clear message that it's wrong and won't be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing, They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message and I think it's very good that courts are able to do that."

Yes, this is the same Cameron who said of Coulson that "everyone deserves a second chance" and who said of his own behaviour "like many people I did things when I was young that I should not have done an that I regret".

Cameron, Clegg and Boris Johnson rightly got a second chance and they should show some leadership in extending that privilege to the rest of us. They appear to have forgotten that they are in charge and that leadership isn't about re-enforcing panic but keeping calm and carrying on.
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