Monday 18 February 2008

You are so unfair.

Teenagers en masse easily induce fear. Lucy and I are about to become parents of teenagers for the second time in our lives. But what do you make of the Mosquito ?
The Mosquito™ ultrasonic teenage deterrent is the solution to the eternal problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls, around shops and anywhere else they are causing problems. The presence of these teenagers discourages genuine shoppers and customers’ from coming into your shop, affecting your turnover and profits. Anti social behavior has become the biggest threat to private property over the last decade and there has been no effective deterrent until now.
This device broadcasts an annoying high pitched noise that you can only hear if you're under 25. The more I think about this, the more it sucks.

  1. A friend in the police service once described the problem of moving teenagers on as being like “wrestling a blancmange.” Since we haven’t quite started shooting them in the streets just for existing, they move somewhere else. In other words this device doesn’t solve the problem. It just shifts it elsewhere. I'm reminded of Mrs Thatcher’s ecological Cunning Plan to save the North Sea from raw sewage — build longer outfalls.
  2. What about, say, babies? Unless they are particularly delinquent babies, why should they be subjected to potentially damaging sound pollution? And, in this nation of animal lovers, what about domestic cats and dogs? Let alone good teenagers.
  3. What hypocritical loonery thinks that you can teach teenagers respect by treating them disrespectfully? Imagine local authorities were installing, say, electric fences that gave only the over 50's electric shocks to stop them jaywalking, or cattle prods to speed them up in cinema queues? What would we make of that? If some evil teenager developed a sinister device that filled our streets with annoying sounds targeted at old people... Well they have. It’s called disco music, and we ask them to turn it down. They observe how we ask them to turn it down, and that’s how they learn, for good or bad.
Are there alternatives to this device? Well, how about the rest of us behaving like grownups rather than stroppy teenagers? How about treating everyone else like human beings and, perhaps, even actually talking to them? That way we practice what we preach, treating others with the basic respect we expect from them. It’s not rocket science, is it?

Buzz Off (anti Mosquito) campaign here

Advice for teenagers: h/t Charles Overton & Tim Harper


Sarah Brush said...

When they proposed this scheme a few years ago I couldn't believe it and it seemed to die down but no, like all mosquitos it just went quiet long enough for us to not notice it anymore.

There is NO WAY that any other age group would be treated this way (except in Logan's Run!) and the blind prejudice against young people committing that crime of crimes - hanging around is astounding.

Of course the alternative is to provide what the government has promised to all teenagers - somewhere to go, something to do and someone to listen to them. I don't remember a potentially harmful and annoying screeching noise being in that list.

That's not even considering the others who will suffer, as you say - babies but also dogs, those who can (like me) hear the sound because their hearing still has that range.

It's utter madness.

ooh and there's also a facebook group!

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Sarah. I've signed up on facebook. I'm still wondering what they'll come up with next — ditches to prevent people in wheelchairs getting into pubs, or electric fences to stop elderly people forming queues in post offices on Thursdays...

You only have to put any other group in society into this frame to see how unthinkable it would be to discriminate against them in this way. Sad.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that anyone putting one of these offensive gadgets up in their shop would have to be extremely careful that their employees were all over 25:

Doesn't apply to the supply of goods and services, regrettably, but anyone in the age range capable of being affected by it who was forced to work in that environment would seem to have a decent stab at a case.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this type of device is a nightmare for the 1 in 100 individuals who is on the autistic spectrum. We tend to have acute hearing and the noise put out by this type of device is about the equivalent to an ordinary person standing next to a pneumatic drill. This whole project has caused enough concern that the National Autistic Society has written to ask that it be rethought.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Many, many thanks for this information. I had no idea. As far as I'm concerned that settles it.

Anonymous said...

Whilst there are undoubtedly justifications for the complaints about the Mosquito, some of the analogies for the treatment of older people seem a little facile. Have you ever tried talking reasonably to a gang of teenagers causing havoc? Gary Newlove did and look what happened to him and his family. Or one of our local shopkeepers who politely asked some youths to behave in his shop and was beaten to a pulp for his pains,just a couple of weeks ago. Or the PCSO who was going about his business in our village having to endure a torrent of abuse from a group of these teenagers you defend so assiduously. Or the whole estate where the residents live in nightly terror of the gangs?

The majority of teenagers do behave responsibly and are just as terrified of these groups, but sadly, there are a number who regard such approaches to make the person speaking reasonably as fair game. Presumably you think they should take their beating like a grown up and stop complaining?

Sorry, Bishop Alan, you need to treat this problem far more seriously than your blog suggests you do.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I agree my comparisons were somewhat adsurdist, to make the point that nobody would dream of singling out another group in this way. As someone who lived and worked in an urban environment for over ten years, I hold out no brief for youth criminals. Well publicised media stories indicate the problem, but thick ear solutions seem to make it worse, not better. I would far rather family life were stronger and levels of mutual respect much higher. I simply don't see how shovelling the problem around solves it. I think its roots lie very much deeper than that. And I still don't see how treating people like animals is supposed to teach them how to behave like decent human beings.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I did indeed engage a particularly aggressive young man in conversation on a train earlier this year — he was with some companions, and being very unpleasant to someone elderly who he thought looked foreign and launched into a torrent of abuse founded on stereotypical Sun style views in a way that was offensive to everyone else on the train and embarrassing to some of the girls in his party. I was horrified how the whole hate filled tabloid agenda translated very easily into anti-social behaviour aimed at someone different in age and background. I felt acutely uncomfortable, I have to say.

I'd also want to add this inspiring report by Ruth Gledhill of the Times "God and the gangs" which shows a real way forward that might change things for the better:

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