Stop the games before death us do part
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.