Having been out of the country for the last couple of weeks I watched the unfolding tragedy of the riots in England with dismay and not a little despair. As I had very limited internet access I was unable to comment, save for the odd tweet, and this was probably a good thing because it saved me contributing to the appalling drivel spouted across the airwaves and the digital media in the aftermath of the mayhem. Let me give a couple of examples.
On the Today programme I listened to a panel being interviewed about their take on the London riots. This panel included a middle aged single man who described himself as gay, childless and a conservative. He went on to say that he never visited schools except when they were used as polling stations. Nevertheless he felt competent to tell the listener that many of the problems in our society and a cause of the riots could be traced back to the feminisation of our schools under the last government. No evidence was offered to support his assertion, save his brief glances at the displays in the school where he went to exercise his vote. What qualified this man to share his ignorance with us on BBC 4's 'flagship' programme apart from the fact he had a mouth and was quite prepared to open it at the behest of the programme's producer? It was left to a local head teacher to explain the good work that was actually taking place in many of the local schools in the area in contradiction of the panelist's generalisations.
Later I tuned in for a spot of Test Match Special covering England v India only to discover there was a rain break in which another panel of experts, cricket experts, shared with us their take on the riots. This panel launched into a lamentation on the lack of team sport in general and cricket in particular as being a cause of the riots. One commentator informed us that if these lads had been in a cricket club they wouldn't have been on the streets rioting. The discussion ranged across the loss of sports fields and cricket clubs in areas like Tottenham, though they didn't offer any facts or figures to back up their assumptions and assertions.
It was left to the excellent Michael Vaughan to explain some of the facts on the ground in terms of initiatives and facilities being offered in some of these communities and it was apparent that his colleagues in the discussion were completely ignorant of what he was talking about. Perhaps if they spent less time quaffing claret and stuffing their faces with TMS cakes and a bit more time getting out into the communities to do some coaching and fundraising they might be better qualified to speak on this subject. No doubt the producer of TMS thought it a wizard wheeze to fill some air time with a topical discussion but all the discussion did was reveal that the commentators needed to stick to analysing Tendulkar's form rather than the state of inner city sports' provision.
I could list plenty of other examples of this sharing of general ignorance but you will have your own experiences from the last couple of weeks. When did political and social comment in the media turn into an extended version of Loose Women?
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