The Kids are Alright?? ‘Hanging Out’ as Social Problem [via Spiked]

The Local Government Association (LGA) has compiled a list of naff songs for councils to play in trouble spots in order to keep youths at bay – including Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ and St Winifred’s School Choir’s ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’ (1). Apparently the Home Office is monitoring the scheme carefully. This policy has been copied from Sydney, where it is known as the ‘Manilow Method’ (after the king of naff, Barry Manilow), and has precursors in what we might call the ‘Mozart Method’, which was first deployed in Canadian train stations and from 2004 onwards was adopted by British shops (such as Co-op) and train stations (such as Tyne and Wear Metro).

Another new technique for dispersing youths is the Mosquito, a machine that emits a high-pitched noise only audible to teenage ears. Adults walk by unmolested, but youngsters apparently find the device unbearable and can’t stand to be near it for long. The Mosquito, currently being trialled in Somerset, makes a noise that carries over 20 metres or so, and which to adults registers as a kind of faint buzz. To people under 20, however, it can be so piercing that they simply cannot remain in earshot. The Mosquito will literally scream children off the streets (2)....

In 2005, several British towns drafted in the army to patrol the streets at night – a senior Ministry of Defence official said the presence of troops would ‘deter bad behaviour’ from youths. Police in Weston-super-Mare have been shining bright halogen lights from helicopters on to youths gathered in parks and other public places. The light temporarily blinds them, and is intended to ‘move them on’, in the words of one Weston police officer (3).

These bizarre attempts at crowd control provide a snapshot of adult unease about young people. Teenagers are treated almost as another species, immune to reasoning and social sanction. Just as cattle are directed with electric shocks, or cats are put off with pepper dust, so teenagers are prodded with Manilow, Mozart or the Mosquito. ‘Make them go away’ is the only thought here... [emphasis added]

(1) Matthew Norman, London Evening Standard, 12 June 2006
(2) A pain in the ear, Brendan O’Neill, New Statesman, 7 August 2006
(3) A pain in the ear, Brendan O’Neill, New Statesman, 7 August 2006

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