Stop the games be­fore death us do part

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION -

WHEN I heard that ac­tor War­ren Mitchell had died on Novem­ber 14, I was trans­ported back to when I was alone and work­ing late in the Gazette news­room in the 1990s.

I had stayed on to do a phone in­ter­view at a time agreed with Johnny Speight, who wrote the scripts for Till Death Us Do Part.

The com­edy se­ries ran for 54 episodes from 1965-75. Mitchell played Alf Gar­nett, whose racist and sex­ist com­ments were in­tended to mock the big­ots and make them look small minded and stupid. How­ever, the spout­ings of ‘Chair­man Alf ’ made the char­ac­ter a hero to the prej­u­diced, and I was very moved by how up­set the scriptwriter was that he had been hor­ri­bly mis­un­der­stood and was un­able to put it right.

He said in 1995: “I didn’t in­vent Alf. He was cre­ated by so­ci­ety. The fact that you raise th­ese points of view and make fun of them makes peo­ple in­clined to think about them. If you never men­tion them they just go on.’’

Speight died in 1998 but his bril­liant se­ries is never shown now, hav­ing been deemed non-PC. To­day’s BBC bosses clearly do not understand what he was try­ing to do. Para­dox­i­cally, it has since be­come fash­ion­able to spout ha­tred, most fre­quently via so­cial me­dia where bul­ly­ing by so-called trolls is com­mon­place. Some al­ter­na­tive co­me­di­ans de­light in push­ing the boat out by mock­ing groups like the dis­abled or el­derly.

Speight would have been par­tic­u­larly hor­ri­fied that to­day’s teenagers have grown up with easy ac­cess to ex­treme violence and spend soli­tary hours on PlayS­ta­tions, gaw­ping at games.

Which brings me to Paris. World lead­ers can talk and talk – and they should – but progress will be dif­fi­cult if we don’t try and turn the tide for a gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren who have grown up think­ing that graphic violence is en­ter­tain­ing. I avoid such films, but I once stum­bled on such a scene where the cin­ema au­di­ence were laugh­ing as limbs were shot off and blood spouted every­where.

The most chilling words I read af­ter the Paris mas­sacre were from a sur­vivor caught up in the ter­ri­ble blood­shed on the streets of his beloved city. He said: “I felt I was in a video game.”

Makers of such films and games have to start tak­ing some re­spon­si­bil­ity for the hellish road the world is tak­ing.

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