"A suspected car thief who bombarded police with bricks and tiles during a rooftop siege was given a Kentucky Fried Chicken takeaway meal by officers to ensure his "well-being and human rights"...
...A spokesman for Gloucester police said: "He has been demanding various things and one was a KFC bargain bucket. Although he's a nuisance, we still have to look after his well-being and human rights. He's also been given cigarettes." - Telegraph, 7 June 2006
Now, bear with me here. You may not think that this old story is relevant to the recent sex abuse ring scandals in the north of England, but it stands out as one of the more stark examples of how many British public bodies instinctively react to bad press.
Let me clue youse in on how this one worked, and see if we can't draw some useful conclusions: Some local no-mark has hoofed it up onto a roof and is refusing to come down. Sending officers to climb up and arrest him would be very dangerous, so Plod decides - why not give the guy a bribe and arrest him when he comes down of his own accord?
A sensible measure all round, you might think - the offender winds up in custody just the same, and nobody ends up with a broken neck. Job's a good 'un.
But now there's a problem - suddenly the Daily Telegraph are on the phone, demanding to know why the coppers are pandering to criminals. A spokesman wracks his brains; he considers telling the journalist the truth as laid out above, and dismisses it. We can't just tell the truth here, he thinks, We'll get a monstering. I'd better think up a plausible excuse instead.
So the spokesman tells the press that the cops are forced, compelled beyond their will by namby-pamby laws, to give criminals free buckets of chicken. It weren't us, guvnor. I blame human rights, innit.
And let's be clear here - the coppers on the scene know that there's no human right to fried chicken. The spokesman knows that there's no human right to fried chicken and, unless he's a staggering berk of intergalactic proportions, the journalist knows it too. At every stage of this tale, everyone is fully aware that the human rights blah is a nonsense excuse, a made-up dodge to evade responsibility for an entirely humdrum act.
But the human-right-to-chicken story is perfect for everyone. The cops get off the hook by blaming a popular media bugbear, and the Telegraph gets a thumping Hell-in-a-handcart outrage story to infuriate their tottering, sexually-retired readership.
The story that hits the page is an enormous insult to everyone's intelligence but the very nature of the institutions involved dictates that it's the bullshit version that's presented to the public. It's inevitable.
Thus do we all as a nation get just that little bit more stupid, and more accepting of further nonsense in future.
So, zip forward to the present, where even the New York Times is getting in on the Rotherham sex abuse debacle, in an outbreak of reactionary buzzword-bingo - "Foolish western tolerance", "diversity", "liberal society so open-minded that both its brain and conscience have fallen out" etc and argle bargle.
The actual story depicted in the recent report, of course, is that local police basically regarded victims of crime as too scummy to protect, as evidenced by their habit of investigating these offences only just far enough to justify not investigating them. This tells us all kinds of terrible things about how the police investigate sex crimes; who has access to justice and how the UK treats its poorest citizens.
Admitting this, however, would open a massive can of worms for everyone involved, and nobody wants that to happen. So concerned parties put their heads together and think up an excuse.
What shall we say? they ask each other... And then someone at the back of the room pipes up. Could it be that we were just all... compelled beyond our will by a smothering culture of political correctness? Weren't we all possessed by the demonic forces of diversity and forced to deliberately dodge doing our jobs properly?
Nods, smiles. Oh yes, they say to each other, We were all so blinded by an abstract concept that we utterly failed in our most basic responsibilities. That's definitely what happened.
So now, we have the cops, the local MP and the Home Secretary all agreeing that oh yes, they were all just totally brainwashed by an alien ideology, compelled beyond their will to make a shocking horse's arse of their duty to protect the public. A fresh inquiry is announced, not to investigate e.g. the plainly appalling standard of sex crime investigation in the area, or to find out why the cops so clearly considered a bunch of young girls to be basically annoying scumbags, barely worthy of attention... but to find out just how horrifically everyone was driven bonkers by political correctness.
Which is to say, it weren't our fault, guvnor. I blame society, innit.
Cue hallelujahs across the land. And thus do we all as a nation get a little bit stupider, and more accepting of further nonsense in future.