Happy Slapping Hits Panorama

It was ages ago that we were one of the first sources to identify Happy Slapping – back in January 2005, in fact. Since then, it’s grown from a tasteless prank – filming on a camera phone an unsuspecting victim’s reaction to being slapped on the cheek – to filming incredibly violent, illegal and unprovoked attacks.

Far from being a fad that died out quickly, it’s now gone mainstream, with these attacks being filmed and uploaded on sites like Google’s YouTube.

The BBC’s veteran investigative reporting programme, Panorama, tackled the subject last night with their Children’s Fight Club episode, including showing very disturbing footage of some attacks, interviews with kids who film the fights and the victims themselves. Probably most upsetting for the victims is that it’s humiliating enough to be beaten up, but really horrid to know that your peers and perfect strangers alike can see the evidence for themselves again and again.

Most horrid of all though (Google generally takes down films when they get complaints) are sites like Live Leak (no link as I don’t want them to get the Google Juice), which specialise in these types of video, along with other cool stuff like violence in the news and soldiers getting blown up. All accompanied by semi-literate and mainly racist comments from site visitors – it’s amazing that most of them have the intelligence to get out of bed in the morning, let alone navigate a browser. Maybe the nurses help them.

The founder of Live Leak is a tubby gent by the name of Hayden Hewitt, whose defence is a kind of free speech riff along the lines of “”Look all this is happening, this is real life, this is going on, we’re going to show it”. I bet his Mum’s proud of how he makes his living, or maybe he lies and pretends he’s a pedophile, to save her the embarrassment.

Of course, sites like Live Link and low life like Hayden wouldn’t survive without advertising revenues and hopefully one result of the programme will mean that this dries up for them.

So, happy slapping – or really the bastard second cousin of the original idea – is alive and well and unlikely to go away soon. Of course, sites like Live Link aren’t the cause of this phenomenon, merely unpleasant parasites living on others, much like a tape worm living in the belly of society.

The real problem – and one that the programme really didn’t get to grips with at all – is why kids are behaving like this in the first place. Take away the sites and they’ll go underground or swap videos via Bluetooth, which is how it all started. But the motivation for making these videos is much more scary than the simple fact that they’re available online.

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