Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Plan B - ill manors music video: a criminological review

Plan B - ill Manors. from Rokkit on Vimeo.

A couple of days ago, The Guardian reported on Plan B's TEDx speech and how the UK state has failed to look after its children from deprived backgrounds. Based on his own experiences, he recounts the problems with society at large as he sees it

He talks of a "folk deviling" of young men and women from deprived areas, and the derogatory association with the word "chav". For him, this word is akin to a racist or homphobic slur, but the media and the public at large use it to categorise these young men and women often and openly.  Often depicted in the media as benefits claimants, unemployed, and petty criminals, this term only marginalises these young people more. 

Plan B seeks to highlight deprivation and disadvantage as issues that led to the UK riots in 2011. They are not inborn, and are not characteristics specific to a person. They stem from state indifference to the social and economic inequalities that exist in different areas. Especially in a society such as the UK, which champions consumerism over its people.

Plan B's lyrics, delivered with passion and fire, highlight many of these issues. He concludes: 
We’ve had it with you politicians 
you bloody rich kids never listen  
There’s no such thing as broken Britain 
we’re just bloody broke in Britain 
What needs fixing is the system 
not shop windows down in Brixton 
Riots on the television 
you can’t put us all in prison! 
The video commences by showing Plan B as a Conductor, lording it over a seemingly burning, riot-torn, London. This depicts a shift in power from those that have to those that have not. Stereotypically, the act of conducting, and by association, classical music, is seen  as something that is the preserve of the more wealthy. See also A Clockwork Orange.

Artistic Urban Graffiti under the A73 (c) Robert Murray 
However, the main focus of the video is on the disenfranchised. What do we see? They wear hoodies, they cover their faces, they smash windows, they loot. In other words, all the stereotypes that they are associated with. 
Think you know how life on a council estate is
from everything you’ve ever read about it or heard 
Well it’s all true, so stay where you’re safest 
there’s no need to step foot out the ‘burbs 
Truth is here, we’re all disturbed 
we cheat and lie its so absurd 
Feed the fear that’s what we’ve learned 
Fuel the fire 
Let it burn. 
These images may well have been there to reinforce these lyrics. Indeed, there is another part of the video that covers violence; it shows a symmetry between some "hoodies" kicking someone laid on the floor whilst a girl films it before joining in, and John Prescott and a policeman punching members of  the public, also caught on film.

However, I feel that the video has missed an opportunity. It could have captured the disadvantage that people living in these areas face. Equally, it could have told a different story about the challenges that young people in these areas face, being that they are the predominant victims of violent crime.  

Besides, violence is not all that there is in these communities. There is family, there is art (see above), there is laughter. Whilst I understand the need to frame the video within ideas of anger and alienation, the representations are too one-dimensional and not as human as they might have been. 

It is not me that the video has to convince of the issues that the more excluded face. It is the people who read, listen and watch the mainstream media which already portrays them in a negative light, that I am afraid will pick up on this video as evidence of who "chavs" are and what they do. 

It's criminal (sorry) that this was an opportunity missed. 


  1. maybe he could give some of the money he makes from that track to the family run shops that got smashed up.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I see that the judicial system has already taken a firm stance on Gordon Thompson who burned down Reeves in Croydon.


      Whilst I am not sure that it is up to Plan B to donate funds to the businesses, and the families, who were left financially worse off last year, you raise a valid point.

      Would the Crown/nation be better off trying such perpetrators in the civil courts rather than in the criminal courts? Whilst victims might never be fully re-compensated for their loss by the perpetrator, although hopefully it should be covered by their insurance, would an agreed fine, exacted over a period of time not be sufficient means of retribution for the victims?