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One Silly Man's Circus

Comment | Jason Wood

On Thursday 25th, after much trailing and publicity, Donal MacIntyre set out be 'mugged' in an investigation that sought to lift the lid on street crime. I give you The Guardian TV review:

"He's back! Looking for more trouble comes Donal MacIntyre, this time armed with a team of investigators to help him find out all about street crime, drugs and the sex trade...There's even a chance to see him getting assaulted and mugged at knifepoint in front of secret cameras tonight."

What a shambles of an investigation it was. Donal, with his team resembling something out of the US TV show 24, dived through London (Brixton, apparently for added 'fear' factor) actually searching for a 'mugger' to mug the silly fool. And what did this generation's answer to the Cook Report tell us? That, interestingly, there are people who commit offences in society. 

Three nights Donal spent in Brixton, walking around carrying an expensive laptop in a bag and a state of the art Nokia. Now, every time this phone would ring, he would hold it out (and I'm not kidding you here) about a foot in front of him. He had a habit of doing the same with his wallet when parting with cash. He stopped and bantered with some dealers passing on cannabis, and he asked for 'Charlie' while waving that phone around. 

On night number three, sometime after midnight during one of these displays of 'I have a Nokia, please mug me for the secret cameras', (despite several utterances of warning from shopkeepers, people on the streets and a host of others), his telephone was snatched from his hand. With horror, he gave chase but the guy who snatched it had gone. A 'friend' approached and (oh please) coaxed him to go off the main road, near to a block of flats to visit his 'cousin' where they could get the phone back. After parting with twenty quid (or more), and waiting for a good 40 minutes, Donal was surprised when this friend pulled a knife on him and demanded the laptop. 

What did this documentary seek to prove? Did it explore the socio-economic dimensions of crime? No such thing, just gross reality TV gone mad.

The incidents took place late at night, in an area that had been introduced as troubled. Why then would anyone walk around boasting their goodies where people are in poverty, and ultimately in the business of getting together some money. 

Check this out with me. If a child is put into a candy shop and told to wait there, they get restless. Around them are an assortment of sweets, but they are not allowed to have them. The adult leaves the child, without money, in the shop and it gets more and more frustrated. What is the child going to do?

What I am trying to say, and interestingly this analysis was contributed by the only sensible ones in the documentary - young people, is that people are involved in offenses and crime for a variety of reasons. Be it drugs, or be in 'crews and gangs wearing the latest gear' or as one young man pointed out, the need for help a Mum feed her kids, if you tempt and parade yourself, you are going to be burned. Any serious programme investigating crime should look at these things, not send a reporter out in to the dead of night with over a grand worth of goods. 

People have said to me that the things I have listed do not excuse the crime. No, of course it doesn't - but it helps to explain it. I'm willing to bet that the hot office water-cooler topic of the day after Donal's programme would have been "did you see him get mugged?" 

With all those slow mo repeats of the Black young men swiping his stuff, the whole programme felt like we were following Donal with his "hey, Black and Irish have something in common" jibes, as he trekked into the urban wastelands of the Black criminals. Oh, how we felt his pain, and oh, how we wished he could get out safely as his 'team' frantically pressed buttons and spoke into mobiles to locate their lost comrade. 

This one man's silly circus was extremely irresponsible programming.

Jason Wood is the editor of Student Youth Work Online.


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