These days, whenever anything “goes wrong” or there is an upsetting item on the news,an unthinkable crime has been committed and emotions are running high, we are all supposed to point the finger of blame, twitter an opinion and lobby our MPs demanding that something should be done. Nick Clegg last week found himself harshly judged when on live radio he was asked if he would have intervened in the incident between Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson when Saatchi apparently grabbed his wife by the throat; Nick Clegg’s response was to say he honestly did not know if he would have got involved and it was hard to know the full story (at that stage he had only seen one photograph.) This rather banal answer was to land him in hot water; as Frank Furedi writes in today’s Independent,’Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes, felt that she had the moral authority to play God. She said: “So just don’t ‘call Clegg’ if your partner likes to grab you by the throat to emphasise the point.” That was her way of saying: end of discussion – you are either with us or against us.
This lynch mob mentality is everywhere and in some cases is inflamed by the laws in this country. For example, Sarah’s Law was introduced after Sarah Payne was abducted and murdered in 2000 by Roy Whiting who was already a convicted sex offender. Her mother,Sara campaigned for a system of police disclosure to allow parents to be informed about sex offenders in their local area. Whilst some may see no problem at all in a law brought about to protect children, an unfortunate effect is that vigilante killings can result (as has happened in America where they have the equivalent ‘Megan’s Law’) And ex-offenders are far less likely to comply with the authorities when they know they may be putting their own lives at risk; thus they are far more likely to go off the radar, making them impossible to monitor.And naturally one can expect the usual official errors being made of the disclosure of old addresses. Clare’s Law too is a similar law regarding perpetrators of domestic violence whereby a woman in a relationship can ask the police to disclose information about her partner regarding previous domestic offences. Again this information is unlikely to be kept confidential; in the digital age one can blacked somebody’s name quickly and easily and even internationally. These laws clearly have no belief that a criminal can be rehabilitated and become a reformed character…so much for faith in the prison system.
But to not jump on to the Daily Mail sponsored band wagon that is mob rule, is to leave oneself open to accusations of being uncaring or being on the ‘wrong side’ or worse. One is almost made to agree with the common sentiment, which is usually fuelled by the media anyway. If anybody dares to raise their head above the parapet and say something opposing the common view, they often end up apologising,taking down their tweet or being banished to anonymity. It is not enough to disagree with someone by saying they have an incorrect view, the moral lynch mob, if you have the temerity to disagree, will pathologise the dissenter as “sick.” Is this really the society we want to live in?