Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Politics of fear, the Media and how it relates to BSL.

Another week, another Media story about a dangerous dog. It could be a Collie or an Akita or a Jack Russell, but a bull breed is more likely to provoke cries of outrage. The story will gather pace, the words Pit and Bull, Status and yob culture will invariable follow, public outrage comes next, followed by clampdowns and cases like Lennox, Bruce and Hooch.
So, BSL was brought in during 1991, and that is what is to blame for everything right? Well, almost. It was brought in as a kneejerk reaction, like the gun law changes after the Dunblane massacre, but unlike the gun laws, BSL isn’t based on something tangible, something you can readily identify, like a gun.
So, what is sustaining this? Look at the buzz words we are surrounded by in the media…. “Hoodies” ; “Gangs” ; “Status Dogs” ; “Crime” “Violence” “Dangerous” “Pit Bull” . Those buzz words, repeated again and again, in story after story are becoming ingrained within us, and we are becoming unable to separate them. You walk down your street, and there is a young lad in a hooded top, and these words jump into your brain . Have that Lad walk a Bull breed type of dog, and your fear is doubled. You hold your dog close, your children closer. You cross the street, afraid of an attack, The dog on the lead is suddenly a slavering beast, it’s owner a criminal.
But what is feeding this? Well, Frank Furedi (The Politics of fear 2005) discusses the way governments use fear to create a feeling of vulnerability amongst their electorate, and in this, the media helps. People’s frustrations and emotions can be directed towards outrage to particular issues, such as child obesity, Extremist sects, and dangerous dogs. The outrage gets pushed into demands that the Government needs to do more to clamp down, the machinery of the state, the police, health and security services, needs to be tougher on these issues, We accept that these “experts” Know best, and our best interests are served by government policies based on their advice. Attempts to criticise are lambasted; critics are labelled as militant, the media stereotypes those who speak out.
And there is the rub. Fear sells papers. Celebrity gossip vies with stories of injury, death and violence as our daily diet of current affairs. No-one wants to read the headline “Young man with Staffie cross is quite nice actually” People want to read about slavering beasts, bred to fight other dogs, bred to attack people to safeguard a dealer’s stash. People WANT to read that these animals are devil beasts with Jaws that lock; that will attack anything that moves and the media delivers. Those in authority need their “experts” to reinforce that fear, because if they don’t, the media will be upon them then next time a dog does attack, closely followed by the public.
“Do you not see what kind of world we are creating? {…} A world of fear and treachery and torment; a world of trampling and being trampled on, a world which will grow not less, but more merciless as it refines itself” George Orwell wrote in his novel 1984. This then, is what we fight - a culture of fear, created by a media desperate to keep itself going to influence its readers/listeners/watchers. In this digital and internet age, the fight for audience is big business. The “Raising awareness banner” has become a cover for what was once classed as propaganda. Interviewees talk about being afraid to use parks because of these “status dogs” and Children are used as they provoke a more emotive response. The tone of the articles is all about provoking the “correct” response amongst the readership.
So, to win hearts and minds, to convert so called “middle England” to our cause what do we have to do? There should be no "us and them". No one wants a person to be hurt by any kind of dog and there are aggressive dogs, and bad owners. We have to show the link between the law and how this encourages the wrong sort of owner to certain types of dogs. We have to show that while a rise in reported dog bites has been seen, so has a huge rise in dog ownership and more importantly a huge rise in irresponsible or uneducated dog ownership.. We have to show the cost of this law, we have to highlight the stories, bring out our little old ladies, our middle class couples, our families with children, all affected by the legislation. We have to give them the voice that no one wants to hear. We have to allow them to speak of fear, of images of dead puppies, of crying children, and, in this present economic climate, the “hard working taxpayer” needs to see the expensive side of enforcement, when cuts are in the air.

We have to tell the truth.
(C) Andrew John Millen 02/04/2011

No comments:

Post a Comment