Letter: Fear and prejudice breed vigilantes

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The Independent Online
YOUR COVER story on vigilantes ('Heroes and Villains', Review, 11 July) was another example of the overtly sympathetic media coverage given to this supposed phenomenon.

Over the last couple of years a moral panic over law and order has taken a firm grip on the UK. Cal McCrystal contributes to this by uncritically reporting the petty prejudices of those he interviewed. Behind all the talk of 'problem families', 'strangers' and 'people we don't like the look of' is the same fear of the poor or different that passes for social comment these days. It doesn't take much imagination to guess who the vigilantes are going to be harming: the working class, the young and black people.

But far more important than this is the way the debate is used by the police. By painting themselves as overwhelmed and under- resourced, they clearly hope to have their already inflated powers added to. If new weapons and attacks on defendants' rights were't enough, there is now the amazing suggestion of 'internment of suspected criminals'.

Those currently cheering on the men with baseball bats would be better off asking why fear seems to be the only thing everyone still believes in.

Nick Edwards

London N6