Why Arsenal have snatched a major victory from the jaws of the drubbing monster!

Gutted Gooners (possibly gay).

Like many people, I was somewhat stunned by the hammering Manchester United dealt out to Arsenal at the weekend. It was the stuff of legends and will no doubt haunt the Gunners and their fans for decades. Certainly every time they travel to Old Trafford!

However, whilst I was impressed by the antics of Rooney and Young on the day, the response from Arsenal FC has left me positively reeling with admiration.

I refer of course, to the apology offered to the North London faithful who travelled to Manchester only to endure the most torrid of afternoons and the accompanying promise to cover their expenses for a forthcoming away game.

For years now I have ranted on about the way the game has systematically taken the piss out of the very people who fund it and here, finally, we see an example of a major Premiership club recognising that they owe a debt to the fans who follow them. It doesn’t matter that in financial terms it’ll cost Arsenal less than a weeks wages for a second string player, it’s the thought that counts. Or more specifically, it’s the fact that someone high up in the club had the sense, if not decency, to have that thought at all!

There’s a word for that, and it’s one almost every other club in the land would do well to learn; class. And I tell you what, I doubt many Gooners will forget it in a hurry.

I Blame Telly. Really, I do!

It fucking doesn't!

In all the soul searching and hand wringing that has gone on since the riots that engulfed London, Birmingham and Manchester barely two weeks ago, little has been mentioned about what I regard as one of the major factors to have impacted on the fabric of British society over the last 50 or so years.

For whilst much has been made of the role computer games have played in the desensitisation of violence and the fact that music videos are increasingly portraying women as little more than sexual objects (and where are the feminists in that debate? Gyrating to Rihanna along with their 8 year old daughters perhaps?) little has been made of the most powerful medium of all, television.

Now I love TV. It is an amazing thing and the people who work within it produce some incredible programming. Yet as a weapon, it is unrivalled. For it has the potential to shape public opinion in a way no other medium can and only a fool would deny that it has certainly been wielded plenty of times over the years and for all kinds of reasons.  Some good, most bad.

Never is this more graphically illustrated than in the soaps. Soaps are different to all other forms of entertainment in that they are infinite. Characters come, evolve and go, storylines unfold and die but the essence remains constant. This is of course, one of the great attractions and for many viewers that essence becomes so familiar that it takes on a sense of reality. A place it stops being the product of some writers imagination and is instead somewhere where the characters change from jobbing actors into into real people who actually experience real things. It’s Truman in all but name.

The arguement often put forward in defence of this type of programming is that it’s art mirroring life which would be fine if they showed lives, communities and problems which were actually ‘normal’ in the sense that yours and my lives are normal but they do not. Instead they paint a warped and necessarily condensed picture of a drama. One where hatred, shouting, violence, criminality and dysfunctional families are everyday normality.

And if you’re 7 and your evenings involve sitting in front of some screaming banshee supposedly living in a Manchester suburb and your only datum point is a home life which isn’t that far removed from what you’re seeing on screen, it simply becomes an extension of reality. When that is so destructive (and so repetitive) it can only have a negative impact because if anti-social behaviour is something you witness on a daily basis and it is rarely if ever condemned, how can you hope to learn that it is unacceptable in the real ‘real’ world? 

TV... do your job!

Therefore, those who develop these storylines must be made aware that they too have a responsibility to society to portray life is it actually is as opposed to the twisted vision they trot out for us. Because whilst I’m sure everyone involved with Eastenders is happy to work there, I doubt any of them would actually want to live there in real life.

And that has to be the defining question all producers and commissioners need to ask themselves before they put their signature on that line to sign off that script. Because if it’s not good enough for them, why on earth should it be good enough for us?

National Service – I Think Not!

Sargeant Major bastard
Predictably, the screams for a return to national service have begun to appear on the front pages as journalists up and down the land seek desperately to fill their pages with a new angle on the riots story. Quite why they do this escapes me because as a tax-payer, I’m more then happy to see page after page of mug-shots of the guilty finally getting their just deserts. That can carry on for weeks thanks.
 
However, the fact of the matter is that editors do not see it as I do and so that old chestnut ‘a spell in the Army would sort them out’ has been dragged out and placed in the public consciousness as if it’s a good idea. Well as someone who served 18 years in the Military and is a veteran of theFalklandsconflict and Gulf War one, I speak with some authority when I say that it isn’t. A return to conscription would be a disaster for all kinds of reasons, the main one being that the military do not want it. And given that they are currently fighting two wars and keeping the peace in various places across the globe whilst all the time facing scathing cuts of their own, I think that not only should we listen to what they have to say but in fact to even suggest it is to take the piss.

That said, I do think that there is a very strong case to be made for some kind of compulsory service for anyone between 18 and 20 who is not in full time education. And by education I mean learning something useful such as medicine, teaching, engineering or science as opposed to the impact of 15th Century Peruvian art or the history of Hollyoaks.

My own view is that a scheme based on the military model but dedicated not to the use of weapons or even defence (teaching the use of weapons to individuals who you are trying to stop using weapons is slightly barking even for the British!) but to service in and to the country as a whole would be perfect.

Through such a scheme, not only would this so-called ’lost’ generation be provided with paid employment and be taught a trade, it would also learn the core values of British life generally, many of which are failing to be taught in schools or by parents (or parent) too many of whom seem to regard Jeremy Kyle with more reverence than their local coppers. Most importantly of all, they would discover that everything we do as individuals has a consequence for someone else. Or as it is better known, a conscience.

But equally, working with others would instil a sense of self-worth and that is something which does seem to be lacking in many of those dragged before the courts so admirably by the police this week.

The problem of course is that the adoption of such a system would involve a major sea-change in pretty much every aspect of British life and it would certainly not be popular with everyone under 18 which is why it will never happen. Because that age group also happens to be the next generation of voters and the party who proposes it would be committing political suicide.

And no matter how much hand-wringing and political gesturing we hear from10 Downing Streetor the House of Commons, the simple truth is that most politicians are too afraid of being kicked out of power to risk doing anything which might cost them a vote or two.

Which is exactly how we’ve ended up in this situation anyway.

Rioting…. It’s Just Old School Hooliganism

Rioters or hooligans?
I think it’s fair to say that my blog yesterday on the death of the gun-toting Mark Duggan caused something of a stir. Not only did it receive the highest number of hits I’ve ever had but it attracted favourable comments from all sections of the community bar one. But given that he was an American who seemed obsessed with the notion that this is all our own fault because we’re, well… British I didn’t really take it seriously.
 
However, during the day a question was posed of me and it is one I’ve thought long and hard about ever since. To say it has caused me some angst is an understatement but it is this… what’s the difference between hooligan gangs and street gangs?

Now the simple answer is that street gangs exist 24/7 with the sole intention of bullying and exploiting to further their own activities. They have little or no respect for anyone or anything yet demand it as their right simply through their very existence.

The hooligan gangs are very different. The catalyst for their existence is and always was football and in the vast majority of cases, certainly in my experience, the only thing they are really interested in these days is confrontations with those who wish to confront them. And I use that term confront advisedly. The changing nature of hooliganism and the impact of policing on football have changed things dramatically over the last decade or so but that’s another blog entirely.

The other important thing to note is that the hooligan gangs tend to exist as proper entities only on match days which is when they come together as a group to enjoy their weekly buzz of football and its culture. For the rest of the time the majority of those involved are normal citizens going about their normal business.

This was and is a very simplistic but pat answer. However, whilst considering it in the wake of the riots (and they were riots, not protests) I have been forced to confront a few home truths. For whilst it’s all well and good for me to sit here condemning the vandals, the looters and yes, the murderers, the simple truth is that they weren’t doing anything that football hooligans didn’t do in the past.

Back in the ‘70’s, football fans used to lay waste to town centres on match days with London almost a war zone on occasions and most can recall the devastation England fans caused on their travels at the time.

Equally, anyone who knows anything about the Casual culture knows that a fundamental element of the early days was the fact that the expensive clothes worn back then were rarely ever paid for but were instead liberated. Often through the simple act of invading high-end clothes or sports shops en-masse and emptying the racks before anyone could stop it happening or even on occassions, through the act of ‘taxing’. An activity which involved an individual handing over his gear by way of a charge (or tax) for being somewhere he shouldn’t! Furthermore, jewellers were often targets especially in the West End of London whilst motorway services were on occasions stripped all but bare by coach loads of football lads which is one of the reasons why they were eventually banned. And sadly, plenty of people have died as a direct result of football hooliganism over the years.

As a consequence of this reflection, I have been forced to become a little less judgemental when it comes to those who have ended up in court. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that anyone who ends up in front of either a magistrate or a judge deserves everything they get but it is fair to say that I know only too well that some of those arrested will indeed have been swept up in things and will have been doing things that they might not necessarily have ever considered doing before. It’s called ‘mob-mentality’ or as my dad used to call it ‘like-mind’.

Fuck off you rioters!

Dr Clifford Stott of Liverpool University (a man who oddly enough seems to have founded much of his early career on the content of my books) argues that this phenomenon doesn’t actually exist but having experienced it first hand on many occasions over the years and witnessed it on far more, I would argue that Dr Clifford Stott is talking bollocks.

As I say, it is no defence and it is certainly no excuse. But maybe, just maybe, we should consider the idea that some of those who claim to have been caught up in things do actually have a legitimate case. And in such circumstances is either prison or a criminal record really the best punishment to be handed down?

Especially when some kind of public apology together with a bit of community reparation would serve equally well if not better.

Mark Duggan – Not A Victim, Just Simple Vermin.

Duggan = Scum

I have heard a lot of things over the last few days which have left me not simply angry, but seething. These range from some young ‘woman’ claiming she was rioting because she was taking her taxes back (sic) to Ken Livingstone trying (and failing) to gain political points of the back of what’s been going on.

However, there was one thing that surpassed all of these. It was a simple sentence which somehow became lost in the madness that engulfed the country yesterday and was uttered by the brother of Michael Duggan. The individual whose shooting was the catalyst for all this kicking off. In the wake of the initial Independent Police Complaints Commission confirming that Duggan did not fire a shot at police officers before they killed him, his brother released a statement which included the following: ‘this is an outrage, someone must be held to account’.

Let’s get one thing crystal clear here. The fact he did not shoot at police is irrelevant because the only thing that counts is that he was knowingly in possession of a loaded weapon which is illegal in the UK. Now this isn’t an offence of the ‘I’m sorry I didn’t know how fast I was going officer’ this is one of the most serious offences anyone can commit under UK law because guns are designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to kill. And if you knowingly carry a gun then there can only be one reason, that at some point you expect to use it. A simple truth which does kind of taint any suggestion that you are a ‘decent’ man or a pillar of the community because the simple act of picking up a weapon and putting it in your pocket actually makes you a major and dangerous armed criminal.

Inevitably, there will be utterances that he was carrying it for ‘self-defence’ but that isn’t a reason, it’s actually a further admission of guilt. Because it provides further evidence of the type of life he was leading and the type of circles he moved in. Circles in which guns get shot and people die. And let’s not forget, it is Duggan and his gun carrying ilk who continue to hold large areas of London and beyond ransom on account of their mere presence on our streets. Indeed, if this sorry episode has one potential silver lining it’s that the good law-abiding people of this country might finally show the resolve to stand up and reclaim the streets from these vermin.

Yet there is another equally important issue here. This wasn’t a teenager, it was a 29-year-old man who had already served a period on remand and so the family must have known what he was like and exactly what kind of life he was living.

Yes, I’m sure he might well have been a decent bloke who loved his wife, kids and mum but he was also a criminal. A gun carrying criminal. So should we feel sorry for him, no. Should we feel sorry for the family, possibly.

But I’d have a lot more sympathy for them if they came out and admitted what every like-minded individual thinks; that the one and only person responsible for the death of Mark Duggan is Mark Duggan.

.

Since this blog was first posted two and a half years ago it has caused all kinds of reaction, some negative but the bulk supportive. That has continued in the wake of the verdict yesterday which ruled the killing lawful.  The death of an individual in any instance is regrettable but the fact remains, had Duggan not knowingly and seemingly willingly allied himself to a culture of crime and violence, he would be alive today and his children would still have their father.

That is a fact and it is one those screaming for ‘justice’ would do well to remember before they start trying to apportion blame.

Dougie Brimson is an author and screenwriter who served 18 years as a member of the RAF. Details of his life and work can be found at www.dougiebrimson.com

The Riots…. part two

I don’t really know where to begin with this. Like many people I am both furious and dismayed by the scenes I have witnessed on my television over the last few days.

Equally, I am disgusted by the attempts of supposedly intelligent people to try to justify the riots as some kind of legitimate rebellion against the government. What total and utter bollocks. There is no excuse and there never can be. Because the root causes of these riots lie in the breakdown of the values that this country was founded on; family, respect, right and wrong. It really is as simple as that.

As I wrote yesterday (and as the deputy leader of the Met and the Home Secretary repeated about 12 hours later) all of those involved are sons, daughters, brothers, neighbours, etc. Where on earth did some of these mothers think their children were at that time of night? And when they did eventually crawl home, where did they think they had been?

But equally, the lack of respect for the forces of law and order sends shivers down my spine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the old bill generally (a sentiment forged by years of football and motoring experiences) but they have a tough job to do and deserve our admiration. However, it was clear from what I saw last night that they are obviously not getting it from sections of the community who clearly thought that not only were they untouchable, but that they would never get caught.

Hopefully, with so many cameras on our streets and many already in custody, the majority of them will not only be named and shamed, but hauled before the courts and dealt with to the full extent of the law. However, this does not deal with the most pressing issue.

When people are involved in what amounts to civil disorder, I, as a citizen of this once great country, want the police to wade in and batter those responsible. Not for revenge but to let them know that if they don’t fuck off and sharpish, they are actually going to get hurt.

Sadly, like the military in such situations the police are governed by the rule of minimum force. For the police, what this actually means is that they can use whatever force they feel necessary in a situation but they must be confident that they can justify this in a court of law.

Now as we have seen all too often, that is an incredibly restrictive rule because the risks are immense. And clearly, over the last few nights, we have seen the impact of that with police holding back when the obvious (and possibly best) thing to do would be to wade in and batter a few people to show force and intent to those causing mayhem.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see that rule relaxed in certain situations. It’s not about revenge or anything like it but it is about the protection of the law-abiding individual and their property. That can only happen if we allow the police to actually uphold the rule of law by taking whatever steps are necessary in such situations and if they could do that, then we wouldn’t need to be screaming blue murder for water cannon or the Army.

Because the truth is that the bulk of people involved in these riots –like all people involved in such riots- are cowards and the knowledge that they might well end up on the receiving end of a few batons courtesy of the thin blue line would almost certainly be enough to make them behave.

The Riots….

Looters are scum

Like most people with a brain in their head, I was incensed to see the events in London unfold over the weekend. Looting has to be one of the most despicable of crimes and to see it happen on English streets leaves me disgusted.

Inevitably, the do-gooders have been quick to climb out from under their rocks and indulge in the typically anti-authority tirades they use to apportion blame to anyone but those actually responsible. However, this time even they are starting to realise that there are no excuses for this kind of behaviour and none are going to be accepted. The people who thought it ok to smash their way through windows and steal in pure daylight are vermin, pure and simple.

The interesting thing of course, is what happens next. I know North London , it’s where my family originated, and I have seen how the gangs have all but taken over the streets and brought fear and terror to the area. Yet the stark truth is that this is not as the community leaders will have you believe, the fault of the police, it is instead the fault of the community as a whole because they are the ones who have allowed this cancer to grow from within.

For it is a fact that every gang member is a son, brother, sister, friend or neighbour so why have they not done more to stop this culture developing under their noses? They after all, are the ones most directly affected as we have tragically seen over the weekend.

Instead, they have for years abdicated responsibility which is ironic given that the people they have abdicated it to are the same ones they are currently busy trying to blame for it all going horribly wrong.

Bring back the stocks!
Bring back the stocks!

Only by individuals facing up to their responsibility as either citizens or parents can the people of North London ever hope to rebuild trust and develop genuinely a safe and caring communities. It’s also the only way that those who live outside the borough of Tottenham will ever come to regard the people who live their with any degree of respect. 

Because have no doubt, unless they are seen to act, that will be the long term consequence of what happened at the weekend. The lessons of Broadwater Farm should have shown them that.