I despair of modern journalistic standards. For those of you who don’t subscribe to Channel 4’s Snowmail – an e-mailed digest of the day’s stories likely to appear on their 7pm bulletin – here is how they have chosen to announce one story:
FIVE-YEAR-OLD GIRL INJURED IN SHOOTING What a day to be slashing police funding. As the announcements are made about how far a twenty per cent cut in government funding for police forces is going to affect front line policing, a very nasty incident unfolds in south London. Police say a five-year-old girl shot in the chest in a shop in Brixton is the youngest victim yet of gun crime in the capital. A man in his thirties was also shot in the face. The child suffered critical injuries. How many officers will be deployed on crimes like this when cuts really bite?
The e-mail begins by nailing its political colours to the mast: those nasty Tories are cutting police funding by 20%! The country is broke; you and I are feeling the pinch but, it is somehow reprehensible to threaten police funding.
Having got that little dig out of the way, we discover the news story on which this barely concealed piece of politicising has been hung, the truly appalling report of a five-year old girl being shot in the chest; followed by an also-ran mention of a second victim being shot in the face before quickly returning to Channel 4’s main focus – oh woe, oh woe; what’s going to become of us when the cuts start to bite?
Let’s take a quick look at the logic of Channel 4’s concern. To an onlooker like myself, it seems that shootings and stabbings have become almost commonplace in recent years: the crime statistics are routinely fudged but they appear to support such a thesis. This rise in violent crime has occurred during a time when the police have never been better resourced. And yet, despite the vast spending on the police, the perpetrators of violent crime have now become so desperate or so blasé that they prepared to seriously injure or possibly kill a five-year old girl in an act of random violence. You’ll note that Channel 4 is not arguing from the position that the proposed cuts to the police budget would have made this shocking event more or less likely: instead, they are arguing that there will be fewer officers deployed after the event to hunt the aggressor(s). The disgraceful decline in Britain’s moral standards – the deliberate hazing of right and wrong – that has permitted the shooting of a child has become almost accepted as it is glossed over and subordinated to the journalist’s political agenda.
Actually Channel 4, I – and, I suspect, this child’s family -would have been much happier if the police had used their handsome budget more wisely and taken active steps to reduce the possibility of the crime happening at all – something they have clearly failed to do – rather than concentrate their resources in pursuing the perpetrators afterwards. It may lack the video-game machismo of hot pursuit but getting involved in and working with communities to prevent crime might actually be more cost-effective in the long term, especially when the costs of trial and punishment are taken into account. Into the bargain, a small child might not have suffered life-threatening injuries today and a family would have been spared a great deal of pain and worry.
A great many of us would be a lot happier if the police concerned themselves a little less about buying all the latest toys – top-of-the-range cars, tasers, helicopters, riot gear, endless computer systems, CCTV cameras, ANPR cameras, helmet cameras, drones etc; and if they spent less on their box-ticking exercises of pursuing people smoking in their cars, bringing petty little prosecutions against people for minor traffic infringements, locking up kids for ‘hate’ crimes, preventing tourists from taking photographs, assisting social workers to forcibly remove children from families who don’t fit the state template of perfection, enforcing ‘restorative justice‘ against teenagers for privately using nicknames and so on and so on… because if they did so, they just might have the resources – even after the proposed cuts – to stop some criminals rather than being content to prosecute them. It’s called prioritising – that’s what you and I have to do when the politicians regularly decide to take yet more of our money.
So Channel 4, that’s why I despair of your journalistic standards – because you treat the shooting of a child as just another excuse to engage in political point-scoring. Decent journalism used to provide meaningful opposition to the political process: now, it is part of the process.
Just for once, get beyond your pathetic tribalism and think about the structural and moral decay that the whole political class has visited on Britain in recent years. Demand that the people we elect to govern us do something really radical: demand that they address the causes of our problems rather than the all-too depressing symptoms.