Thursday, December 17, 2009

Violence down as moral panic rises

It's official -- alcohol-related violence IS down 4.5% over the past two years, even as Council clamps down on Sydney's night economy, repeatedly justifyling the policy with claims that violence is rising and 'out-of-control'.

The new figures, as reported in today's Sydney Morning Herald, come from the NSW Bureau of Crimes Statistics and Research.

They make nonsense of the statistics produced by Council's recent late-night trading research, with Clover Moore and her cohort repeatedly quoting that 60% of respondents "consider that those areas are experiencing increasing rates of alcohol-related harm, and that appropriate ways to reduce... such harm include... enforcing a ceiling in the number of alcohol outlets..."

Violence has reduced even more than the average in Kings Cross since a marked increase in high-visibility policing. The Cross interestingly escaped last weekend's well publicised orgy of violence as colourfully described by the police media blitz. The police have, significantly, departed from their usual plodspeak in favour of emotive language highlighting words like 'disgusting'. This marks a shift from straight policing to social engineering, all part of the moral panic.

We observed Kings Cross on Friday night from our favourite kerbside drinking and people-watching spot, and I wrote a commentary on the peaceful night, and the police blitz, for The City News.

The Sydney Morning Herald today also runs a spirited defence of the Nanny State which states:
so too has the public mood been transformed on alcohol by the violence, distress and other harms its causes for others.
...or has the public mood in fact been changed by a tsunami of moral panic unleashed by the AOD sector which gets more funding the more panic they foment, and by politically bereft governments trying to score points by getting 'tough on' things, and by a small army of nannys and NIMBYs?

Today's declining violence figures -- occurring even as the population rises -- lend weight to the latter proposition.

PS (23 12 09) The the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) has joined the police in using morally loaded language:   "Australia's 'Drinking Culture' - a National Disgrace" begins a pre-Christmas media release berating drinkers. It claims "84 per cent of Australians consider intoxication to be unacceptable" before listing the usual 'alcohol-related' horrors that fail to scare the kiddies. Meanwhile packed pubs and clubs around here continue to produce a babble of chatter and laughter whenever I walk past. I guess that must be the sound of the remaining 16 per cent of Australians.


Mike said...

Thanks for the post.
Hmmm...violence is down. I like that! not sure I follow the moral panic rising though....

The Editor said...

Mike -- see the first paragraph. There is a veritable tsunami of calls to raise the drinking age, close pubs etc in the name of rising violence, whereas the violence (much of which consists of extremely minor incidents anyway) is actually decreasing. Call that a moral panic if you like.

There is definitely a social problem with violence in this country. I think it lies deep in our national culture and you won't change that with prohibitionist regulation. I can't imagine what 18-21 year-olds would do if barred from pubs. I promise you, their private parties, unregulated and unsupervised, would leave today's pub action for dead.

Use of illicit drugs would balloon, the identity fraud industry would boom, illegal speakeasies would reappear, the market for home-distilled liquor would expand -- and eventually the authorities would understand the present system is less harmful.

Prohibition does not work.