May 14, 2005 6:38 AM   Subscribe

AOPs on ASBOs - for non-Brits, that's Grouchy Old Nuisances. For instance, Roger Trotman, who feels like me about people who park their cars carelessly, or Alexander Muat, who just wanted a little peace and quiet, or John Kirkpatrick, who'd heard his neighbour warbling 'Jumping Jack Flash' just one time too many. It's enough to drive you to do a little 'Happy Slapping'
posted by TimothyMason (38 comments total)
AOP? I think you mean OAP.
posted by kaemaril at 7:11 AM on May 14, 2005

AOP? I think you mean OAP.

posted by TimothyMason at 7:14 AM on May 14, 2005

Does 'Happy Slapping' Exist?
"Reports suggest a new craze in which young people slap strangers and film the assault on mobile phones is on the increase. But does this trend actually exist or is it the product of media hype?" [BBC News | May 12, 2005]
posted by ericb at 7:28 AM on May 14, 2005

Has all the signs of a Moral Panic (opens in own frame) such as garotting (mentioned here - can't find anything fuller for the moment).
posted by TimothyMason at 7:35 AM on May 14, 2005

This Norman has just been "happy slapped".

What is a 'Norman'?
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 7:59 AM on May 14, 2005

Normans? Buncha armoured guys who came over here, decided they liked the place and started squatting in 1066. Never been able to get rid of 'em :)
posted by kaemaril at 8:05 AM on May 14, 2005

We have that in Chicago, but it usually involves a bunch of teenagers putting a stranger in the hospital. Sorry, since this is a Brit-oriented thread, in hospital.
posted by goatdog at 8:41 AM on May 14, 2005

"Old people are as frightening as lawless youth because, like the young, they have no responsibilities. They also have skills honed in wartime which make them especially dangerous."

Excellent reading, thanks.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:49 AM on May 14, 2005

There is something really creepy about the whole idea of dagummint handing out anti-social behavior orders. I know, it's not different than what we call a "restraining order" here in the US but the phrase itself is just so Brave New World. Or maybe THX1138.
posted by localroger at 9:44 AM on May 14, 2005

Plus they can play the age/illness/madness card when brought to account legally.
posted by raygirvan at 9:45 AM on May 14, 2005

I like the way, in the first link, the author doesn't expand "ASBO", and indeed makes it into a word 'asbo'... I'd be interested to hear what non-Brits make of that... go on then, chaps, what do you think it stands for? (no cheating, now...)
posted by altolinguistic at 9:47 AM on May 14, 2005

I'm sure this "Happy Slapping" thing is total media-generated bullshit. Simply because I know damned well that if any stupid brat actually did that to a stranger there'd be an instant response of "Distinctly Unhappy Punching the Lights Out Of".
posted by Decani at 9:56 AM on May 14, 2005

It is indeed creepy, part of Blair and Blunkett's campaign to place themselves so far over to the right on social issues that they could not be outflanked by the Conservatives. Apparently, however, it is not enough; one of Blair's first post-election announcements was that he was going to crack down on yobs. (Oh - and can someone teach that spell checker proper English - no 'yobs' indeed!).
posted by TimothyMason at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2005

altolinguistic, isn't it "anti-social behaviour order"? And I think Brits tend to treat acronyms as if they were proper names, with the first letter capitalized and everything else lowercase.
posted by goatdog at 10:02 AM on May 14, 2005

altolinguistic: Anti Social Behaviour Order, an act designed to prevent people like Margret Porter from attacking unsuspecting people with rhubarb.
posted by squeak at 10:28 AM on May 14, 2005

Was her brother really 'unsuspecting'? At least she didn't push a leaflet through his undefended letter slot. (You have to scroll down)
posted by TimothyMason at 10:41 AM on May 14, 2005

*shakes head*

re unsuspecting: Who knows she might have snuck up behind him with a rather large stalk - heh. Another article about it said his eye teared up and she felt badly but I don't think it requires an order that would throw her in jail for future rhubarb throwing.

Some of these orders are nuts: god forbid you use the word grass in England or Wales, or wear only one golf glove (it's sign your part of a gang dontcha know), put up posters, disrupt a class, hang out with more than 3 people at once or it'll be off to the tower with you.

ASBO's creep me out and think BlueStone summed it up well on his blog with, "This is tyranny by the petty."
posted by squeak at 12:10 PM on May 14, 2005

The usual convention in the UK is that if the acronym is spelt out (e.g. WTO) then it's in caps, and if the acronym is pronounced as a word (e.g. Nato) then only the first letter is capitalised.

It has to be said that anti-social behaviour is a problem in the UK. There are many places that are no-go-areas after dusk.

Gangs of kids congregate outside McDonald's on Friday night and abuse passers-by and damage property. The bus shelters are destroyed with alarming regularity; every time they are repaired by the council, they are destroyed again. The vicar of the local church was forced to move on after being targeted by mindless thugs. The buses and trains are covered in graffiti. The seats are ripped up and the windows are scratched. Industrial waste bins (and in one case a warehouse) are set on fire. Members of the fire and ambulance services are regularly attacked while performing their duties. Many town centres are no-go-areas on Friday nights.

I have concerns regarding the efficacy and civil liberty implications of Asbos, but there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the government.
posted by Boo! at 12:43 PM on May 14, 2005

Goatdog: Yes, the ones you can say as words. So Nasa, Aids, Asbo, but HIV, ACLU, TGWU.
posted by bonaldi at 12:45 PM on May 14, 2005

Hi Boo! It sounds as if England is pretty much the same as it was when I was an adolescent back in the 60s. If it has got worse - and I'm not convinced it has - then it may be in part because recent governments have seemingly encouraged the binge-drinking culture among the young. But I'm skeptical that even that has changed a great deal. City centres in the northern towns I knew were often extremely interesting places on a Saturday night.
Can government do much to stop it? I really don't know. But it seems to me that most of the proposals put forward by both Tories and Blairites have little merit, and will do no more than scratch the surface. The English have always been a pretty beastly race, but they have got less so in the last three or four hundred years. It wasn't because of Asbos.
posted by TimothyMason at 1:07 PM on May 14, 2005

"This is tyranny by the petty."

Umm, yes and no - I think it's a lot more complicated than that. There have been petty and frivolous ASBOs and that definetly needs to be worked on, however the uncomfortable truth is that this rather poorly designed law has been a god send to some troubled, mostly poor, communities. The behaviour of some youngsters when taken individually seems petty but when you have several of them in one area all these small annoyances become corrosive.

There's an article by Sue Townsend here that she wrote about an estate that was transformed, partly thanks to ASBOs. It's interesting reading.
posted by dodgygeezer at 1:13 PM on May 14, 2005

dodgygeezer, areas go up and down all the time - for many reasons. Looking at Sue Townsend's article, I don't get the impression that Asbos had much to do with what happened on that estate - what did have an effect seems to be that the residents themselves took things in hand, in intelligent and thoughtful ways. Oh, and street beat coppers. Get them out of their cars.
posted by TimothyMason at 1:31 PM on May 14, 2005

I was about to disagree with bonaldi but he appears to be correct. The Times Style and Usage Guide, for example, stipulates Nato (never NATO). When did this happen and why wasn't I consulted? This seems especially idiotic given that the organisation refers to itself as NATO.
posted by mleonard at 2:52 PM on May 14, 2005

The point is this: many of us are very privledged to live in areas where these anti-social problems do not exist, but many, mostly poor people are not so lucky.

I don't like ASBOs, my knee jerk reaction to them is that they're bad policy, everything about them makes my teeth itch, but here's the rub: who are we, in a bit of liberal hand-wringing, to say to people in these areas that they can't have protection from unpleasant behaviour. We may argue with a dismissive wave of a hand that there are deep social problems that need to be solved, but what do people do until then?

ASBOs have a potential for abuse, and I think certain things about them need to be fixed like the kind of restrictions that are handed out. I was initially very worried that because the burden of proof was lower for ASBOs they could lead to huge numbers of youths being incarcerated for a bit of graffiti, spitting, or swearing. But we're not seeing that - and the reason we're not is because the 'crimes' are petty and therefore it's very easy to comply. If you're told not to spray paint your ugly tags everywhere then you're just going to throw out your spray cans - easy.

Oh, and saying that there's always be young scallywags around isn't really tackling the problem. Everyone wants a higher standard of living these days - and I think it's only fair that a government should try to provide that.

Anyway, in all honesty I feel a bit weird about supporting ASBOs. They immediately struck me as a bit of right-wing over reaction, and in part they are - but ultimately I'm a working class lad and I think it's working class people this legislation is most beneficial to. It's working class areas and working class people that get affected the most by anti social behaviour and anything that improves the lives of the majority of decent people in poorer areas should be welcolmed. By the way, I thought flyposting companies getting hit with ASBOs was a pretty good thing too!
posted by dodgygeezer at 3:05 PM on May 14, 2005

Boo: the trick is to move to London. It's civilised there. Trust me on this. I was raised in Grimsby.
posted by Decani at 4:43 PM on May 14, 2005

Is it wrong to read this very serious discussion and think about how hawt the British are? Because I want to care about civil liberties and all . . .
posted by dame at 10:51 PM on May 14, 2005

I don't think I hold to the idea that there's always young scallywags around and so there's nothing to be done about the very real problems faced by people living in bleak estates. I do hold to the idea that there is a long-term trend in Western Europe (including the UK) for interpersonal violence to decrease. There may be hiccups in the trend, and the mass unemployment of the seventies and eighties, along with the failure of schooling to make much of a dent in the system of status/class inheritance, may well have lead to one such hiccup.

But Asbos are little more than sticking plaster; they are more symbolic than real in their consequences, signaling that government is doing something rather than nothing. And sticking plaster can make things worse if you don't disinfect and follow through to the point where the plaster is no longer necessary.

Which brings us back to the trend and the reasons behind it - which are complex, include things like increased police presence, a greater degree of social welfare, a rise in schooling and literacy, plus attempts to canalize and use the energies of young males in positive rather than negative ways. There are those who hold that New Labour know this, that they are trying to tackle the deep causes while at the same time keeping the Daily Mail voters happy with Asbos and anti-hoody rhetoric. I am not convinced.
posted by TimothyMason at 2:06 AM on May 15, 2005

TM: I wouldn't disagree with what you're saying. Like yourself I'd be very concerned if ASBOs are used and the underlying social problems aren't tackled. Like yourself I'm not conviced New Labour are up to the job. I suppose we'll have to wait and see how ASBOs pan out over the longer term - the early indications are that they may not be the civil liberties apocalypse I initially feared.

Is it wrong to read this very serious discussion and think about how hawt the British are?

dame - I'm just guessing but you haven't been over here lately have you?
posted by dodgygeezer at 2:42 AM on May 15, 2005

I dunno, I was over there last month and there were lotsa hawt Brits wandering around.
posted by goatdog at 9:08 AM on May 15, 2005

Wait, dodgygeezer, was there like an ugliness bomb sometime after 2003?
posted by dame at 9:58 AM on May 15, 2005

dame, I don't know what you mean by 'hawt', but the issue isn't just one of civil liberties against authoritarian busybodies. If the reports on what is happening in a number of working-class areas in the UK are accurate, then many people are finding *their* civil liberties curtailed by the behaviour of the uncivil. The latter enjoy the benefits of the freedom of the streets in such a way as to make it unpleasant and dangerous for others to share those benefits.

This said, I don't think Asbos are anything like an answer. They may not have lead to the apocalypse that dodgygeezer feared, but they have already begun to be used in cases for which we were told they were not intended. Moreover, it is not at all clear that they really do the job they were supposed to do.
posted by TimothyMason at 10:36 AM on May 15, 2005

Two years in the army would do 'em good. Bring back the birch. Lock 'em up and throw away the key. Short, sharp shock. Teach 'em some respect. In my day the local bobby'd give the blighters a clip round the ear and if he didn't, anybody else could.

Good Lord... I've been possessed by the spirit of my grandmother.
posted by Decani at 3:45 PM on May 15, 2005

Haven't seen it in Oz yet, but that just means it hasn't got will, I am sure.
Almost makes one pine for a Southern USian state with concealed hand guns laws.
Well, nearly.
posted by bystander at 9:15 PM on May 15, 2005

The ugly bomb that hit Britain

Chav Missile F1-11
posted by dodgygeezer at 1:09 AM on May 16, 2005

Boo!, are you in fact the editor of the Daily Mail? Were you passing through looking for filler items and decided to stay and make some of your ludicrously overblown statements about Britain going to the dogs? Will you be telling us next about how to put the Great back into Britain?
As far as I can see, kids hang around on street corners, then they hang around some more, a few might get up to some trouble but most will just keep hanging around, somewhat predictable as they have little else to do. Any terrorising of old people they actually cause is largely in the minds of old people, and how is that created? By newspapers and Nick Ross and their ilk constantly winding them up that the dogs are at the gate. Fear of crime is the main issue that needs to be tackled not some kids you just don't happen to like the look of.
posted by biffa at 2:48 AM on May 16, 2005

Decani, I lived in London (Paddington, just off the Edgware Road) for a while, and I did find it much more friendlier, multicultural, and pleasant. I'm planning to move back into the London area once I graduate. That said, I was the victim of two (unsuccessful) mugging attempts on two occassions over 24 months.

No, biffa, I've never read Daily Mail. But everything that I listed above is happening. Now, I'm too young to say that Britiain is going to the dogs, but I do feel that things, as they are, suck. Just look around you, or read the local paper. Agreeded, most people are decent, and 'hoodie fear' can be mostly attributed to overactive imaginations, but there is a small -- but significant -- minority that are treating others and their surroundings like shit. These are the people that need to be targeted.
posted by Boo! at 10:06 AM on May 16, 2005

dodgygeezer, may you be eternally assailed by the chav hordes for reminding me of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, you bounder!
posted by Decani at 5:15 PM on May 16, 2005

not that anyone's reading any more - I know what an ASBO/Asbo is, but I was making the false assumption that few people on this site would - guess it's not as US-centric as I thought...
posted by altolinguistic at 10:07 AM on May 17, 2005

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