When I was a kid, a little kid, there was a lady called Tipper Gore. She said that if I liked Heavy Metal and Dungeons and Dragons, I was going to become a murderer Satanist. Well, she was only half-right.
Later, after Ice-T was on the Colours soundtrack and I became obsessed with him, she said I would become a crack-smoking gangster.
A few years after that, bored, the moral guardians looked at video games and said that these would turn me in to a violent amoral sociopath. They would fuse out my feelings the way copper crystal burns through infections. A robot, who only wanted to game and murder.
Looking around my friends, who really just wanted to be elfs and sometimes, a small transforming plane robot thing, I suspected this was exaggerated.
What I would learn later is that these were what we call moral panics.
I grew up with Grim Reapers on telly bowling people down and AIDS! written over the top of the screen. It made us all a bit homophobic and afraid.
I got suspicious of them age 10.
Before I was born, it was street crime and drugs. Teddy Boys slashing up cops with razors and black guys on Angel Dust and more every day. No statistic said this was true. In the 1910s, it was White Slavery. Which did indeed exist, sorry identitarians, but was largely absent for decades by that point in history. Now, sex trafficking is discussed with few statistics invoked.
Moral panics. Each and all.
Then, around 2000 or so, there was a new one.
Now, you have to remember, the press, the British Press specifically, loved the Pedo. Our Kids were under constant threat of molestification. Which is doubly ironic as 20 years ago, when real sex abuse cases were coming to light, it had been ignored as vile fancy.
Suddenly priests became the new molestor-raven figure. We heard of nothing but priests swallowing up boys by the bushel-full. It seems that no matter what, a priest would take your son and do terrible things to him.
And, you know, some priests did. Yes they did. And yes, the Church did indeed act abhorrently. At about the same time, other scandals were coming to light. The Magdalene Laundries. The extent to which safe-sex practices had been sabotaged. Loads. I’m in no position to defend the Church and have no interest in it. Don’t get it twisted, here.
The entire criminology of the scandals, however, were twisted as tourbillions. In Austria, a hotline for all victims of sexual abuse announced 60% of it’s calls concerned “the Clergy”. There was no mention of which clergy. There was no mention of how many had been investigated. There was no follow-up on any of it. 60% was meaningless.
Belgium illegally sent cops in. The John Jay Report wasn’t criticised much by the people who’s job it was to stress-test it.
And on it goes.
Now, it became very clear that this was an ongoing problem in the Church, especially in how it had hidden this abuse and protected abusers, and that it desperately needed to be investigated all across the world. But the press was pouring… not even gasoline on a fire. Hand grenades.
Anyone who knows the faintest thing about human psychology was not shocked when the Church got seriously defensive. When you make it us vs them, don’t be surprised when Them doesn’t play nice with Us.
And yesterday, a new attrocity. A film that celebrated, no, lionised, a group of muck-racking journalists. Spotlight is a nightmare of bullshit politics and should be sneered at, not celebrated. Not by anyone who values justice anyway.
Moral panics are always going to be with us. But we like to think ourselves getting more rational, more savvy to media ways. I’m not sure this is true. Typing FAKE on a youtube video is hardly critical thinking, after all.
But let’s not be party to celebrating a group of crooks and panickers who made great copy out of destroying people before they stepped foot into court.