The great thing about the Internet is I am able to read stories in newspapers I have not bought about programmes I have not seen, and probably be no less informed about their contents than many viewers. But I am less convinced that those who lead the country are quite so up on its benefits. Take today's story from The Sunday Mirror about the government's new initiative to reduce anti-social behaviour: naming and shaming ASBO holders online. For an administration that prides itself on the fact it "gets" the whole online revolution, its manoeuvrings in this area are sometimes staggeringly crass. They think they are Max Clifford but end up coming across like Carter-Ruck.
Close watchers of New Labour will note this is simply an web-based version of something heralded by Tony Blair earlier in the century, an idea that died a quiet death. But presumably because of the groovy, digital application of the idea - a kind of Top Of The Pops for ASBO holders - Gordon Brown thinks this sounds like a vote-winning plan. As a fan of TV-based Saturday night parlour games like X-Factor, the Prime Minister should know that it will, of course, have the exact opposite effect of the one he intends.
Bored street urchins will compete with each other for top ranking, checking for realtime updates of their status via mobile phones each time they steal a car. The pathetic popularity of TV shows like X Factor and Britain's Got Talent are proof of the desperate lengths young people will go to for attention of any kind, even just for the chance of being slagged off by Simon Cowell. They also show the shallowness of undiscovered talent out there, so for those who can't carry a tune in a bucket, this is probably the next best thing.
Gordon Brown gave a warning to back up this latest policy initiative: "The consequences for committing anti-social behaviour should be clear." Your own record deal and kudos amongst your peer group, I would suggest.
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