Thursday, May 25, 2023

Brendan O'Neill: We need to stand up to morons like Mizzy

Too many adults are turning a blind eye to infantile delinquency.

By now, everyone’s seen one of those Mizzy videos. Mizzy, whose real name is Bacari-Bronze O’Garro, is an 18-year-old black kid in London whose ‘prank’ videos on TikTok show him entering strangers’ homes uninvited, asking random people in the street if they want to die, running off with an elderly lady’s dog and making fun of Orthodox Jews, including by trying to leapfrog over one of them. Pranks? I’m old enough to remember when these things were called crimes.

His alleged juvenile delinquency has been making headlines over the past week. Ageing journalists – me included, I confess – are flummoxed by this social-media trend of apparent cruelty for kicks. Youths filming themselves, with their faces in full view, as they appear to do things that are against the law? It’s surreal. I know the young crave validation online, but I didn’t know they were prepared to go to such lengths for a virtual thumbs-up. Some of Mizzy’s ‘pranks’ strike me as a pretty sickening trade-off between decency and fame.

And yet for me, the most unsettling thing about Mizzy’s videos is not the behaviour of the little scrote himself – it’s the nervy, panicked response of the people he seems to be harassing. Watch him walk into the plush home of a middle-class white family or get right up in a stranger’s face and growl: ‘Do you want to die?’ (The joke here is that he actually means dye. Do you want to dye your hair? So funny.) His targets seem bewildered. They erm and ahh and run off. I know it’s easy to feel bravado watching a vid on your laptop, to imagine how fearless you would have been in the same situation, but still – why hasn’t anyone clipped this runt round the ear?

It’s not a facetious question. In fact, I think the timidity of Mizzy’s alleged victims is key to the Mizzy phenomenon. It seems to me that the corrosion of adult authority, the inability of grown-ups to tell scrawny kids with iPhones to f**k off if they know what’s good for them, acts as a green light to unruly behaviour.

It lets the young know that there will be few consequences to their troublemaking. It’s an implicit invitation to anti-social behaviour. Just as snotty schoolkids know they can mess about when they have a jittery supply teacher, so clout-chasing TikTokers know they can do whatever they want in a world in which adults appear to have abandoned the moral responsibility to keep kids in line. We’re all jittery supply teachers now.

We weren’t saints when we were young, of course. But we knew mischief came with risks. An earful from an old man, a lady threatening to phone your school to report your bad behaviour, a young bloke telling you to pipe down this instant – these were pretty much daily experiences. The rebukes of our elders helped to temper our infantile antics. There was an understanding that while parents and teachers had prime responsibility for disciplining the young, sometimes strangers had a part to play in this social endeavour, too. When a kid or teen went out in public, he knew very well he was entering an adult world, where words would sometimes be had.

This is no longer the case. It feels like there’s been a great retreat of the grown-ups. Teachers are wary of disciplining their charges, lest they be accused of wounding the poor dears’ self-esteem. Parents, freaked out by pseudoscience that says kids will be screwed up for life if you shout at them or smack them, increasingly take a softly-softly approach. And the rest of us tend to stay schtum when young people muck about. When they shout expletives on buses, or gather in gangs and block pathways, or play that infernal tinny music on their phones.

Teenagers – who might be vulgar but are not dumb – pick up on this moral retreat. And they exploit it. Consider their out-loud music-playing on public transport, a real bugbear of mine. It seems clear to me that this is a knowing provocation by the young against the old. The little shits are laying claim to the territory of public life. This is our world now, they’re saying, and we can do what we like. I keenly remember getting a bollocking from a man on a crowded Tube train because the noise coming from my headphones was too loud. If you did that to a kid now they’d be on the phone to The Hague.

We end up with a generation who has never been told ‘No’. Who has never had a lughole slapped. And the consequences are as predictable as they are dire. We see not only Mizzy types with their rarely reprimanded infantile lawlessness, but also young people who think everyone must respect their nonsense pronouns, students calling for the destruction of ideas that offend their sensibilities, 15-year-old boys failing to give up their seats for old ladies. It turns out adult confidence was pretty important to the sanity and smoothness of everyday life. Who knew?

Mizzy milks another regressive trend, too – identity politics. In a creepily sympathetic chat with the Independent (I wonder if the Indy would be so soft on a white kid who had tried to leapfrog over veil-wearing Muslims?), he said: ‘I’m a black male doing these things and that’s why there’s such an uproar.’ Oh quit your whining. It’s not your skin colour people have a problem with, it’s your behaviour. You’re 18 years old! I am struggling to think of anything more pathetic than an 18-year-old, an actual adult, screaming in a stranger’s face for 10 seconds because twats on TikTok asked him to. Time to grow up, Mizzy.

Mizzy is now being charged over his ‘pranks’. Good. But we can’t leave everything to the cops. It’s not easy to confront disorderly youths. And it is striking that Mizzy appeared to mainly target vulnerable people or middle-class people, those even less likely to stand up to his crap. I’d love to see him say ‘Do you want to die?’ to a group of builders having a post-work pint in Cricklewood. But we have to make an effort. Adults need to regrow a backbone. Go forth and tell kids to switch off their music, speak politely to their elders and stop yapping about racial persecution and gender identity. They’ll thank you when they’re older.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer. This article was first published HERE


robert Arthur said...

Sue Bradford has a lot to answer for. Previous generations had a sense of justice and accepted appropriate punishment. Society operated somewaht as with the rules of boxing (often then quoted. )Now all stand on their "rights". At school I was easily influenced and inclined to fool away the time. A few strappings and a caning worked wonders. My father used to recount how in a Wellington suburb in the 1920s the local policeman would deliver blows to troublesome youths in the village on a Friday night. Now he would be knifed, charged, and fired.or bikie big brother would shoot him.

Anonymous said...

There is punishment and there is violence often reflecting an imbalance of power. Hitting a child or kicking a dog is as bad role modelling as violent video games and good guy/bad guy fights in the movies.
Discipline is different from violence.