Friday, 10 December 2010

The Lynch Mob

“The mob is man voluntarily descending to the nature of the beast. Its fit hour of activity is night. Its actions are insane like its whole constitution. It persecutes a principle; it would whip a right; it would tar and feather justice, by inflicting fire and outrage upon the houses and persons of those who have these. It resembles the prank of boys, who run with fire-engines to put out the ruddy aurora streaming to the stars.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Michael Gove Empowers and Sanctions Mob Rule

‘Mob Mentality’, ‘Herd Behaviour’, call it what you like, but we hear it all the time to do with emotive issues and some not so emotive ones. The type of mob rule we see when it comes to morals like child abuse is an example where people just talk and very rarely do anything about it.

Moral Panics have several distinct features. According to Goode and Ben-Yehuda, moral panic has the following characteristics :

Concern – There must be awareness that the behaviour of the group or category in question is likely to have a negative impact on society.

Hostility – Hostility towards the group in question increases, and they become ‘folk devils’. A clear division forms between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

Consensus – Though concern does not have to be nationwide, there must be widespread acceptance that the group in question poses a very real threat to society. It is important at this stage that the ‘moral entrepreneurs’ are vocal and the ‘folk devils’ appear weak and disorganised.

Disproportionality – The action taken is disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the accused group.
Especially poignant; the disproportionality of the perceived threat to the mob. The mob sees demons in every corner, supplied indeed by their own imaginations or perceived fears.

Volatility – Moral panics are highly volatile and tend to disappear as quickly as they appeared due to a wane in public interest or news reports changing to another topic.

On 27 September 2007, I was suspended for allegedly assaulting a child. I was not allowed to know the nature of the allegation until my arrest on 31 October 2007.

The police told me that I had been accused of slapping a 5 year old girl on the hand on the afternoon of 26 September 2007. The incident had been reported by Mrs. Haddon, a teaching assistant who had been working in my classroom.

Mrs. Haddon’s statement said :
“On the afternoon of Wednesday 26 September 2007 at approximately 2pm, I was working with 2 children on the table directly opposite to the table J Watts was working with a group of children.

A short while into the activity I heard J Watts shout, I looked up from what I was doing just as she was standing up, she reached over the desk to Exxxx, smacked her hand and snatched the pencil that was in the same hand from her.”

So here is the scene that was alleged :
A five year old girl writing at a circular table using a Staedtler pencil – large in comparison with her small hand. I reached over the 120 centimetre diameter table and slapped her hand, hard enough for it to be clearly audible across a classroom of 28 noisy children but not hard enough to knock away the pencil from her hand !

The police accepted my statement and passed comment on the validity of Mrs. Haddon’s version of events. They were concerned by the fact that Mrs. Haddon had waited 20 hours instead of reporting the incident immediately. The police added that they believed that I was being victimized. They asked me if there were bad feelings between myself and Mr. Kidd and Mrs. Haddon.

The police dismissed the case on 19 November 2007 … the case then moved from the ‘professionals’ to the school – the ‘lynch mob’ – Lancashire County Council, school governors all led by Mr. Kidd !

Whilst the police believed my statement, Mr. Kidd did not and he set about ‘proving what he believed and knew’. Evidence was fabricated and statements embellished – anything that might support my case was suppressed – Mr. Kidd said “Such evidence only served to ‘cloud the issue’ of what I believed and knew.”

Even in the hands of the police, there had been no real or concrete evidence that supported the case one way or another. Mr. Kidd changed that and presented a report to the ‘mob’ that established certainty – absolute and irrefutable evidence.

In the absence of commonsense and through the introduction of ‘mob rule’, the magnitude and scale of the alleged assault now increased beyond all recognition.

Mrs. Haddon and Mrs. Callan agreed that, at the time of the alleged assault, Exxxx had not cried or reacted nor had any of the other children who had been working at the table.

The police had been pragmatic and recognized the trivial nature of the so called ‘slap’ even if the incident had taken place.

By the time Mr. Kidd had finished, it was clear that Exxxx had been fortunate to escape with her life !

To explain the 20 hour delay in reporting the incident, Mrs. Haddon said that the assault had been so vicious, violent and unprovoked that she had suffered shock and had been unable to react. It had taken her many hours to recover from the effects of witnessing such an attack !

The ‘lynch mob’ responded to this dramatic and graphic image in sheer outrage. Mr. Kidd then added further impact by describing the mental state and anguish that Exxxx was still suffering. A year had nearly elapsed and poor Exxxx was still exhibiting signs of post traumatic abuse and bed wetting. She still remained in fear when coming to school just in case Mrs. Watts had returned.

The drama of it all proved too much for the ‘mob’ to bear and I was lynched by a group of so called responsible and upright citizens.

Everyone has experience of one form or another of the result of the ‘mob mentatility’. Sadly, the consequences, especially in those areas where children are involved, can be devastating.

Everyday there are news reports, public outcries for justice - and then it all goes quiet and the story becomes no more than a wrapper for fish and chips. Life returns to normal and nothing ever changes !

When will Michael Gove begin to appreciate the consequences of his policies and initiatives ? How many more innocent people will be lynched by the ‘angry mob’ that he has empowered ?