As if membership amongst the officially oppressed wasn’t crowded enough, Greater Manchester police saw fit to induct goths, metalheads, and others of “alternative” persuasion into the Pantheon of the Persecuted last week.
Attacks against goths, punks, emo kids, metallers and other followers of alternative music scenes will be recorded as hate crimes by Manchester Police.
The move has been hailed by campaigners as a much needed drive to tackle a form of prejudice that causes misery to thousands every year but rarely receives much attention.
It is the first time a British police force has classed attacks on subcultures with the same seriousness as offences against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
The change means victims of a crime who believe they were specifically targeted because of the way they dress will receive special support from the police. However courts and judges will be unable to impose harsher sentences on perpetrators because that would require legislative change.
As with other highly questionable policy decisions and moral panics, this move arose partially as a result of a Special Grievance Group campaign; in this case, that of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, set up by the parents of a teen who got the life kicked out of her by a litter of chavs in 2007. If anything, it confirms my theory that the bereaved generally count as the worst people to consult when it comes to public policy.
Whilst many a subcultural scenester expressed enthusiasm for this streak of legal largesse, I wondered what such a gesture does for the credibility of a subpopulace that often makes a show of its anti-establishment credentials. Sure, perhaps the emo kids might feel less of an urge to “cross the street” knowing at least PC Pauline cares about them, but what of the proud punks, mulish metallers, and rebellious rivetheads whose ethe find echo in songs such as ‘Fuck the System’, ‘Fault the Police’, ‘Shock’, and ‘Bloodsport’: how do they feel about becoming the newest pets of the powers that be?
Speaking for myself, I know I’m not thrilled at the prospect of being pitied and patronised for my aesthetic tastes. Mind you, although I generally eschew the sartorial signalling that often goes with appreciation for the alternative, I remain mired in this wretched pity pantheon on account of my ancestry; according to an accidentally hilarious Evening Standard article from 2006, I comprise part of an “oppressed” 73% of the UK populace, regardless of my individual circumstance.
Beyond being condescending, this whole set-up also has some rather glaring problems of practicality. Historically, the counterculture hasn’t all been one happy, cohesive family, but rather a rough conglomerate of often-clashing identity groups, much like the wider PC pantheon. From mods vs. rockers, to punks vs. skinheads, the history of intra-countercultural relations hasn’t exactly been marked by kumbayas round the campfire. What happens if a group of arsehole metalheads victimize an emo, or some feral punks see fit to shred the seams on the garms of some goth: would the assailants get sentenced the same as any chav or mundane would, or would they simply receive coffee and counselling to better deal with the angst of being “alternative”?
Kerrang! Radio DJ Johnny Doom also brings up another potentially amusing pitfall for this new inclusion:
So if the police arrest you for wearing Cradle of Filth ‘Jesus is a Cunt’ t-shirt, who is guilty of the hate crime? You for inciting anti-Christian views or the policeman for singling you out for being alternative. Haha. It’s a minefield!
Such speculation makes me wonder what would happen if certain countercultural elements came up against the more entrenched hate crime laws: how would RAC–loving skinheads and Christ-hating black metal fans fare against the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, for example? Like the spats between other blocs of the 73%, it’d be a clusterfuck of Ouroboric contortions.
In any case, if this whole “hate crime” victim culture horseshit encourages anything, it’s an increasing psychological dependence on external authority. Instead of rising above, rebuking, or retaliating against their aggressors, counterculturalists, along with the rest of the 73%, must seek easement from the establishment to alleviate an inherently aggrieved existence. Thus, they adopt an attitude of learned helplessness, making them permanent prey for any would-be predator to set their sights on them, be they from the streets, the schoolyard, or the state.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t want to live that way!