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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

"Folk devils and moral panics" by Stanley Cohen

This brilliant sociology text describes what happens after a few young people were arrested in Clacton on a bank holiday, how the myth of the Mods and Rockers was created, and how society massively overreacted. There are times when it reads like a thriller.

There are shocking moments. The criminal offences committed by the young people seem trivial compared to the wickedness of authority. Two lads, for example, were arrested and charged with threatening behaviour for flicking elastic bands at people. One lad who put a piece of driftwood on a pile of litter as he was leaving Brighton beach was told by a policemen to pick it up and immediately arrested for possessing an offensive weapon. Kids were taken off the streets, herded into cells and illegally denied bail to teach them a lesson. "A young journalist, who was trying to get into the Margate courtroom, was shown to the cells instead of the Press bench because he had fairly long hair and was wearing jeans." (p 157)Those were the ones that got there. Teenage campers were banned from campsites. Lads with long hair were put on trains and returned to London. And, in a tragic aside, "A boy accidentally fell to his death over the cliffs at Saltdean (Brighton) during the night. When his friends woke up and missed him, one went across to the houses on the other side of the road to phone the police. 'But,' he told a reporter' 'they wouldn't open their doors at first. They thought we were out for trouble; you know what it is.'" (p 158)

I think it is the pathetic acceptance of his roles as a despoised outsider that makes 'you know what it is' so sad.

And the papers went to town. After all, "The media have long operated as agents of moral indignation in their own right." (p 16)
  • "irresponsibility, immaturity, arrogance, lack of respect for authority ... moral depravity and sexual perversity" (p 55)
  • "odious ... grubby ... louts and sluts ... cunning ... bovine ... ape-like" (p 55)
  • "timid and shifty, backwards, apathetic, ungregarious and notably inarticulate" (p 55)
  • "neurotic ... exhibitionist ... violent ... cowardly ... aimless ... half-baked ... precocious ... unwashed ... slickly dressed ... slow-witted ... cynical, inarticulate" (p 56)
  • "chronic restlessness ... greed, hedonism and ungratefulness ... laziness, selfishness and lust" (p 64)
  • Many thought that they were a sort of disease.

These were kids, mostly working class, ill educated, poor. The boy who offered to pay a £75 fine with a check did so from sheer bravado: he didn't even have a bank account. Most of those charged were unskilled. "We're bored at home, so it's a change to come down here and be bored at Brighton." (p 151) "The specific desires for change and freedom over the holidays, to get away from home, the romance of roughing it on the beaches or sleeping four to a bed in a grotty seafront boarding-house, finding a bird, getting some pills." (p 183) Many slept on the beaches. That was all they could afford.

There are some classic concepts in this brilliant book:

  • "The Mods and Rockers ... appear as disembodied objects, Rorschach blots on to which reactions are projected." (p 25)
  • "As the Mods and Rockers drama ran its course, the whole script changed and the reaction of each successive audience altered the nature of the stage." (p 27)
  • "The gullibility effect is less significant than a general susceptibility to all sorts of rumours" (p 45)
  • "The recognised weekend kit, purple hearts and contraceptives." (p 56)
  • Elements in a "successful status degradation ceremony" include comparison between sinner and an idealised saint (p 61)
  • "Females were more intolerant than males" (p 73)
  • Sensitization: "Any item of news thrust into an individual's consciousness has the effect of increasing the awareness of items of a similar nature which he might otherwise have ignored." (p 77)
  • "Ambiguity, which gives rise to anxiety, is eliminated by structuring the situation to make it more predictable." (p 77) so if you blame someone you feel better (p 78)
  • "presumably hunchbacks were not always unwilling to perform the jester role." (p 140)
  • "No matador wants to be laughed at." (p 168)
  • "How many people do feel that their jobs are worth while and dignified?" (p 181)
  • "What starts as revolt finishes as style." (quoting George Melly) (p 201)

Superb. January 2017

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