All this reinforces the need, especially for these children, to get stuff, to expect stuff and to have stuff. It sets the standard. It shows them the end product. It doesn’t show them the work involved. They are in the thrall of celebrity. They see the Wayne Rooneys, the Beckhams and their huge financial success. They have false aspirations and then they don’t concentrate on what’s real, on what’s possible for us. So the kids feel they have to have money. And this leads to crime. You hear statements like “I’m going out there, you’re out on a rob, yeah”. Kids from 13 to 18, the great majority of whom are 14 or 15, go out there to rob – to make money. A lot of it is to do with respect – if you have that kind of money you have respect and you can buy all the cool stuff and you can show them you’ve got it.
People here are having status anxiety. They hear from the top celebrities that you will succeed, you deserve to succeed just by being you – instead of by hard graft. They don’t realise that for every one person who has made it there are thousands more who haven’t. These boys here – they’re in families where their dad hasn’t worked and certainly where the mother has never worked – and not for those nice middle class reasons, because, you know, she is doing charity work. You are talking boys who are 22, 23, and 24 who have never been anywhere near a job. They don’t have the academic skills and they don’t definitely don’t have the social skills to attack a job. They are not able to talk to people without just saying, “wha’d’you want, wha’d’you want?”. Not getting offended, not getting scared when somebody asks them a question, not seeing it as a challenge to their respect when they are told or asked to do something – this is all beyond them.
Yet all they talk about is money, money, money. How to raise it. Ways to spend it. It makes the kids very profit oriented. They will only do something if they can see there is a direct profit, for immediate gratification. That has ramifications for their long-term success. The notion that young people invent stuff is utter nonsense – they copy what they see – what the celebrities like Kate Moss, like Tommy Lee, make cool – because they need to be cool too. They do not understand the notion of self-investment, of studying for their future. It all ties up with their drug use. If I meet a boy who realises he has to study rather than one who is pleased because he has got a £10 note in his pocket from selling some drugs, I am onto a winner.
Music, films, games and violence
Young people have sex and violence pushed down their necks. It is no surprise that they copy it. It is commercial exploitation. Our children are consuming far more sex and violence than ever before. If you look at the violence in films, the violence in computer games and the violence in music it all adds up. It is reinforcing. Listen to 50 Cent or listen to Snoop Dogg. They’ll tell you, “never hesitate to put a nigger on his back”. That means to shoot someone. Go to a 50 Cent concert and see 50,000 people sitting there listening to, “go shoot the mother f..ker nigger in the head” or “I think its bye bye bye in battyboy head” – that means get rid of that boy, lets get them and stuff. Eminem does exactly the same thing.
Initially, hip hop was the protest cry of black people. It came from for the civil rights movement. One of the reasons I am here now is because of a hip hop song. My job, the fact that I have a degree, the fact that I am not in prison is because of a hip hop song by Public Enemy, “She watches Channel Zero”. “Fight the Powers” is a different example. All of those songs, they educated me about life and they then made me look deeper. That’s why I studied sociology and the rest of it. But hip hop’s values have gone from protest to belligerence. Now it is about getting money by any means. All they talk about is “you’re not the man” unless you’ve got a gun, a hundred million pounds or are willing to put someone on their back. It’s all about you and you’ll only get as far as what you do. Ragga music is the same.
It’s massively powerful with black boys. And it is growing with white boys. It has become the culture of all young people. A new computer game is being advertised with the slogan “Forgiveness is for Fools”. Now this seeps into young people’s psyche and they feel, “well I can’t forgive anyone because I am not a fool” – that’s the kind of thing. A new game has come out with 50 Cent. The opening scene sets the mood: 50 Cent is wrestling with a mafia guy. The mafia guy falls over the edge of the building, he’s hanging off, 50 Cents reaches over with his gun and shoots him in the face. So the kids talk about blowing people’s heads off and about stabbing people – one of them says to me about a bit in a computer game, from Lord of the Rings – “you just get your sword and you just hack people up” and he said “I love that shit, Shaun”. This is excites young people. It sure as hell makes them feel differently about guns.
I stand there and all the boys talk about is violence, violence, violence. Everybody they love is somebody who’s been violent. The film SCUM had become folklore among them. ‘I’m the daddy’ (they boast). The snooker ball in a sock – it’s quite a useless weapon – but it just carries cachet because its in this film. For people to say that these films don’t influence these boys is bullshit. People in the media have the voice and the means to defend themselves. These big record companies say that kids don’t listen to the music and go out and create, that nobody has carried out a killing because of Snoop Dogg or 50 Cent or that kids don’t watch these films and go out and do what it says in the film. But what they cannot deny is that it sets the scene for them. The music, the records, set the background as to what is cool.
Magazines, television, pornography and sex
If you look at all the magazines they read they are full of sex, television is full of sex, computer games are full of sex. One of the main things that drives teenage pregnancy is horny young men, young boys. Why are they horny? Because the media tells them about sex, they are told that anything goes and that they can have sex.
They see it on TV and they read it in Just 17 and stuff. They are told how to have sex and how to give oral sex. Sex is much more possible for them. Whereas if you go to Spain they are like oh sex, that’s for adults. But our lot has been taught to believe it is for them. All we do is talk about the voluntary guidelines given to magazines to control it. Yet what we have is a creeping liberalisation of the law with regard to the sexual content of TV and magazines. Children have far too much access to porn. So why are we surprised that our teenage pregnancy rate far outstrips anyone else’s? The big argument has been about censorship. Censorship for adults may be a bad thing. Censorship for young people isn’t. If we can’t separate the two, then we will have to censor everyone, because we’re destroying these children’s lives.
The liberal intelligentsia, the people in our society who are doing well, their children and their lives are not affected by the mass media in the same way. They have other interests and other ambitions. They’ve got other things in their lives that will stop their teenage children partaking in risky sexual behaviour. The pushers of drink, drugs, violence and sex Government policy challenges the public with taggings, with ASBOs, with Stop and Search. But it never stands up to big business – the breweries, the publishers, the record companies who push the violence and the sex. Everything is voluntary this and voluntary that. Businesses never really sign up to these things. When they do they simply don’t carry out any of their promises.
Look at how easy it is for young people to get alcohol and cigarettes – our underage drinking problem is rife. Alcohol is not a problem invented by young people. It’s invented by adults, by our brewery companies, by the fact that drink is so readily available. Kids buy drink, are given drink by adults, by their parents. We live in a culture where you can go to work, you can say to your boss “I got absolutely blind drunk yesterday” and he’d laugh and he’d say – “me too”. All these town centre drinking streets, just lines of bars and stuff where people get blind drunk and into fights: this is driven by the breweries. Alcopops were designed specifically to appeal to children. So please don’t act surprised when children get drunk to the eyeballs.
Nobody talks about the moral implications of smoking drugs or the responsibility of the music industry that promotes them. You can listen to any number of songs that say, “I smoke the best weed because I’ve got it going on “. It just says: “you are not cool unless you’ve got a lot of weed to be smoking. And it has to be the good stuff.” Our government needs to start dealing with the companies, television, videos, computers, books and the outlets. Parents give up because they are fighting such an uphill battle. Where do children buy their cigarettes from? The shop. Where do they get their alcohol from? The shop. Where do they get knives from? The shop.
Max Power, a car magazine. It’s full of naked girls. They actually have a competition each year to find out who’s going to be the next most popular girl; then they’ll have her in the magazine. Words fail me for how evil and wicked MTV is. Their programmes show young people that you can only feel good about yourself if you own lots of stuff. That is a real driver of crime. Black boys especially will talk about all they need. We need this. We need that. We have to have this. You are not cool unless you have that. Look at magazines like FHM and NUTS. They claim to be for older people. They are not. Max Power is mostly bought by boys who are not old enough to drive. They might have some interest in cars. But how many magazines would they sell if there were only cars in it? And that’s the point. We are willing to sell our young people off.