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Our Crack Tongue & Groove

eccomics.jpg Psst! Wanna buy some moral panic?

When governments try to pretend that their cuts to essential services are not the cause for rising crime, they invariably reach for an off-the-peg bogeyman to help explain away the soaring numbers.

“You cannot solve X by throwing money at it” is the popular cry of any minister accused of presiding over seismic cuts, with X denoting anything from homelessness to teenage pregnancy to, more recently, knife crime. The Home Secretary Amber Rudd has used this retort before, but was left floundering recently when she stated that the 14% fall in police numbers since 2010 hadn’t contributed to a rise in violent crime, seemingly unaware of a report - she had commissioned - explicitly stating that it had.

But she wasn’t alone among small state advocates in trying to find other reasons for the current spate of killings. The Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, for instance, recently claimed that young people are stabbing themselves because of music, specifically a genre known as drill. If you’re not au fait with this particular sub-set of hip-hop then you should know that it originated in Chicago before it landed in the UK with auto-tuned vocals turned off and the harsh, stripped back beats, turned up. (A menacing glockenspiel accompaniment is not out of the question.) The videos invariably feature teens mugging for the camera dressed in badman cosplay and waving their fingers around in a rough approximation of kids playing cops and robbers.

That’s what drill is; what it isn’t is the reason why young people are knifing each other to death.But right-wingers have always tried to hang such problems around the neck of culture rather than any wider societal difficulties.

Go back to the 1940s and you’ll find that juvenile delinquency was being blamed on comic books, particularly the horror titles from EC Comics whose sundry ghouls and werewolves resulted in a US Congressional inquiry into the industry. “Video Nasties” in the 1980s also resulted in much hand-wringing (sample headline from The Sun: For the sake of ALL our kids, Burn Your Video Nasty) and that decade also saw the rise of the Moral Majority who pontificated on the evils of everything from rap music to video games.

But pointing your finger at something you don’t like and shouting “Argh!” has never been a panacea for society’s problems which, invariably, need a much more nuanced approach. Knife crime, for instance, can partly be blamed on police cuts, but you also have to take into account the decline in community resources in general, from savage cuts to Sure Start centres and youth clubs to the abolition of educational grants.

Throwing money at a problem won’t always offer a solution, but taking it away – in the on-going and self-defeating name of austerity – is a recipe for disaster.