Ive just returned from a couple of weeks of shepherding a group of 27--mostly college students--around Great Britain. Having spent some time watching television news there, I can only say that I was surprised by how weak it was. Whether it be the BBC or SkyNews, there was no meaningful coverage of foreign events. There was a great deal of talk about American billionaire Malcolm Glazers acquisition of Manchester United (was that even a story here?), and talk about the opening of Parliament (we got to watch the procession of the Queen back from Westminster). George Galloways performance before Norm Colemans Senate subcommittee briefly made news, but faded almost immediately from public notice.
The biggest news story--one that the networks went back to again and again--involved "yobs." Apparently the term derives from the word "boy" spelled backwards, but according to the American Heritage dictionary a yob is "a rowdy, aggressive, or violent young man." They are, it seems, so much of a problem that many shopping centers have passed rules against the wearing of the hooded sweatshirts ("hoodies") that have become so important to "yob culture" (another term that popped up again and again). A representative of Scotland Yard characterized them as "feral gangs" prowling the streets of English cities, menacing the innocent locals. Tony Blair wants to dedicate his third and final term as PM to dealing with the threat of the yobbos.
The strange part is that, from what I could see, the yob phenomenon is being tremendously blown out of proportion. Youth crime in Britain has actually dropped quite a bit in the past ten years--by something between 25 and 30 percent. But a few headline-grabbing stories from the past few weeks, including the tragic episode of a father of four who was beaten nearly to death by a gang of yobbos, have served to create something bordering on a sense of panic.