Wednesday, July 12, 2006
“David Cameron might have a genuine, genuine passion for young people. He might! I’m not saying he doesn’t, but the overarching principle of the day is, like, ‘let’s just be liberal and get everyone to join our party.’ That’s what I think it is.”
It’s a rare to find highbrow media coverage of street culture that doesn’t make the blood boil, so when it does it needs to be acknowledged. This Monday’s Radio 4 Today program broke from their usual editorial agenda to cover urban regeneration and in the process actually seemed to feature some voices and opinions from people in urban London that are directly involved. About time. How come? David Cameron was talking about ‘hoodies’.
OK so my blood’s boiling again.
Not because Cameron was talking about urban regeneration. But because the rest of the media were calling this speech “hug a hoodie”. Arrrgh.
Nothing illustrates the gulf between those who grow up in underprivileged conditions and those privileged few charged with making change, than the clumsy, offensive way the mainstream media grab the wrong end of some catchphrase stick and then use it to beat people with.
A hoodie is a piece of clothing, little more. Utterly ubiquitous since they came over from US street wear in the ‘80s, people of all walks of life wear them. Recently, of course, in the UK the word “hoodie” contains a class slur. Literally, “hugging a hoodie” means embracing a piece of clothing. Except that the intent of the cringe worthy alliterative media hook-line is to embrace people from marginalised inner city communities, only in the most patronising terms possible.
Nonetheless it’s good, if a little strange, to hear a Tory leader embracing tolerant leftist policies, not least when we have a Labour government that when it finds being tough on crime isn’t working, it recommends being yet tougher on crime, perhaps with a little extra hard punishment thrown in.
The problem is with David Cameron that he seems to have a new policy every week. Only recently he was attacking Radio 1 for playing hip hop. Somehow he seems to think this and his new inner city policy are not contradictory.
Hip hop culture spawned the hoodie. Their history is inseparable like punk and the Mohican. So either Cameron is attacking street culture or he’s hugging it? Which is it? And as for attacking Westwood and, after that, Lethal B, Cameron would be better to listen rather than lash out – these are two men that command respect and have genuine reach within the very communities Cameron is trying to help.
The reality is it’s just another example of a politician putting the cart before the horse when it comes to a culture he and his peers don't understand, yet need to if they’re to make positive change. An item of clothing no more causes anti social behaviour than hip hop or grime music itself causes violence at raves (what grime raves these days?). They are functions of a culture not causes of it.
If Cameron should be bashing any station, given he now cares about street culture, it’s Radio 4. There is no doubt this institution exerts a powerful influence over government and policy making units throughout the UK. There is no doubt that it exerts a powerful influence over the UK, educating and informing the electorate.
But give or take the infrequent inner city viewpoint on Today packages, the station’s cultural agenda remains so woefully narrow - be it bickering about whether to ditch its ancient theme or Melvin “inclusive” Bragg’s pretentious and inaccessible “In Our Time” - that it excludes the very people that could most benefit from its educational output. Does this not widen the divide between the haves and have nots?
Podcast: Listen to the Today package from 10.07.06
BBC: David Cameron’s ‘hoodie speech’
The Times: “hug a hoodie”
BBC: Cameron attacks Radio 1 for playing hip hop
The Guardian: Lethal B replies to David Cameron
The Mail on Sunday: David Cameron returns Lethal’s fire