Addicted to Violence


Society is addicted to it.

In homes. On streets. Outside pubs and clubs on a Friday night. After the football. On TV. In the cinema. On games consoles. On the web. In fact and in fiction.

We pursue it. We portray it. We glamourise it. We normalise it. We show it in slow motion replay. And we present it as entertainment.

I’m not about to come over all ‘Mary Whitehouse’ on you, but I am troubled by the consequences of it all.

Roll up, roll up for:

  • The serial killings
  • The gang rapes
  • The extremist executions
  • The teenage stabbings
  • The 24-hour news loops with scenes of atrocity playing on repeat

Is it any wonder that some of us are becoming desensitised; that some of us are losing the capacity to be shocked; that some of our young people in particular have lost sight of the consequences of their very real acts of violence; that some of us fail to give the most recent manifestation of terror anything more than a passing glance.

  • The murder of Kodjo Yenga
  • The latest killing game
  • The murder of Ben Kinsella
  • The latest torture flick
  • The murder of Milad Golmakani
  • The latest offering of horror porn
  • The murder of Dogan Ismail

Reality and fiction blurring.

And policing deals with the reality:

  • The domestic murders
  • The brutal sexual assaults
  • The shootings
  • The shankings
  • The street fights between strangers
  • The endless blood soaked scenes

I have stood in the places where violence happens – where the horror and terror are real.

Every police officer has.

So let me make a simple observation about some of the violent young men I have encountered during the course of my career: young men who have stabbed and shot and taken life, just like that.

The overwhelming majority of them grew up in homes where violence was a daily reality – where their mums and sisters were battered senseless whilst they looked helplessly on. The trauma caused in those haunted childhoods is beyond comprehension.

And it is that same trauma that becomes – in my experience – the primary cause of violence in later adolescence and adulthood.

But, alongside the terrifying reality, there are plenty of other influences on these young lives that are making things worse, not better.

These same young men are playing violent video games. They are watching violent films. They are viewing violent pornography. And the combination of these things does astonishing harm.


Are we surprised then, that some of them develop and maintain an entirely screwed up view of the world? Are we surprised that some of them end up holding a knife?

To be clear, I would never for one moment seek to excuse the behaviour of those who cause harm – but we do have a responsibility to try to understand what on earth is going on.

Is violence in society increasing? Is it getting worse? Those are questions that are almost impossible to answer – not least given the significant levels of under-reporting that we know exist. But certain things are clear. Violence has become more visible. More accessible. More normal even.

We, as a society, are letting those things happen. We are complicit in it all.





9 thoughts on “Addicted to Violence

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  1. Very good post. Extremely well said, and needs to be said. Very loudly. We are creating a very unliveable society by tolerating and normalising uncivilised behaviour. It’s completely perplexing to me that this is where the human race has ended up. Sad. As always to the emergency services personnel, in the UK, NZ and worldwide, thank you for all that you do.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well written as always. Media, of all types, is much to blame for the way things have become. No, it isn’t a new thing, all this violence and depravity, but knowledge of it is thrust in our faces at every opportunity by those in a position of responsibility. No standards (moral or otherwise), no discipline, no principles and an unwillingness of people in authority – and, here, I’m talking about law makers and those in charge of sentencing – to see that consequences are to be had for such abhorrent behaviour, these are the things which have allowed and, indeed, perpetuated this kind of appalling attitude towards our fellow citizens. The police force does an amazing and admirable job with the tools and rules they are governed by, but I think consequences need to be more of a deterrent. Irresponsible media products need to be more heavily regulated but it’s too late to truly tackle the problem because it’s totally out of control.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As always, a thought provoking and considered blog. I would respond via Twitter but more than 140 characters are required. I agree with everything that you have written although I don’t see this as a modern problem. People have always been fascinated by violent crime as circulation figures for the Illustrated London News and Police Gazette showed in the 19th century. We have gone through a century or so of relative social cohesion, moderated by the odd global conflict and achieved better levels of equality but violence, domestic and otherwise, has always been there. My father was a police officer in the early 60’s, my brother and I were Special Constables in the 90’s. Although the technology available over the years has changed and the number of officers has varied, there has always been an undercurrent of violent crime to deal with.

    I think the biggest issue that your blog exposes is the general ambivalence toward and in some circles, promotion of violence. Being exposed to violence in more graphic detail via media of all types makes our citizens, particularly young men, immune to its effects. It is not until they or one of their nearest and dearest gets hurt or worse still, that they start to appreciate what it actually means. Some not even then.

    As times get harder financially and people get more protective of their own, it falls upon all of us to press our leaders to respond in ways that benefit all of society. Simply increasing deterrence will not be effective on its own, it may even encourage worse acts of violence to avoid capture. Whilst I agree with deterrent sentencing, unless the wider societal issues are addressed (improved funding of both police and mental health services would be a good start) we will never see an end to this situation. Thank you John, I look forward to reading your next blog.

    Liked by 2 people

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