I wouldn't be surprised if One Direction were part of a government plan

These teen popstars have distracted youngsters from the delights of drinking in parks

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The screams sounded strangely healthy, cathartic even. The 5,000 One Direction fans emptying their lungs, would be quite the match for a crowd of football fans.

Those of us in the press pen at the premiere of the band’s new documentary This is Us, could hardly hear what they were saying to us. But then they were unlikely to share any bon mots. They were there to be screamed at, and cried at, and snatched at by the hungry 5,000.

Punch drunk from the barrage of decibels, I wondered if whether, just as adults need a common enemy to fear, so teenage girls need a willing target for their hysteria.

Having an enemy can be a good thing, it is said. A common foe can help unite a group, a country, even a continent. Over the years the country has been encouraged to unite against the Germans, the Eastern bloc and the fog of terrorism. Some argue it stops us thinking too much about the alternatives and strengthens the powers that be.

Could the same be true of popular culture in the reality show era? Just like the gap between the end of the Cold War and the new age of terrorism, the UK hasn't had as dominant a focus for teen-screamers since Take That first broke up. But One Direction offer just that focus. Quasi ubiquitous and so parent-pleasingly clean cut, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were part of a government plan to distract teenagers from the delights of drinking in parks and pregnancy.

Some may doubt that the man pulling the strings of the inoffensive 1D puppets – the perennially-open-shirted Simon Cowell – would think in this sort of geo-strategic way. But just remember the way he benevolently gave the nation X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent as a way of keeping its idle youth of the street on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

When the shows are over, the fans remain fixated on their idols via Twitter. This also happens to be the medium via which they decry critics of the brand, sorry band, and the young women who get too close to “their” pop stars. It’s also an ideal training ground for uniting against a common enemy...

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