Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
See end of review for chance to win The Fear Factory on DVD
Funded by the Nationwide Foundation, The Fear Factory was commissioned by a collaboration of youth agencies hoping to address the misrepresentation of young people and crime in the mainstream media. Featuring interviews with a range of political, legal and media figures, the resulting documentary demonstrates how political rhetoric and sensationalist news reporting has distorted our perception of reality over the past 20 years. The account is justifiably biased, providing a much-needed counterpoint to general mainstream prejudice.
A comparison of tabloids’ youth crime headlines from the past two decades, set against reliable figures, reveals the damaging work of ‘the fear factory’. Since 1979, political parties have engaged in what is described as the ‘law and order arms race’: The goal of politicians has been to sound the ‘toughest’ on crime – which has involved an extreme disregard for the facts. An ex-deputy editor of The Sun gives a first hand example of the process, saying that a piece of his own editorial almost certainly pressured Tony Blair into making reactive statements asserting his ‘tough on crime’ image.
Myth-busting statistics such as: ’83 per cent of people think that crime is on the rise when in reality it is declining’ highlight the power media wields over public perception, and asks us to question what we hear and read every day. A powerful quote from Winston Churchill reminds viewers that in recent eras, politicians saw their responsibility towards law and order as a serious matter, rather than an election-winning tool.
Personal stories are also intertwined with the opinions of politicians and journalists. Two men talk about their experience of the justice system, from young people into adulthood. Their accounts strongly support the underlying propositions of the film, namely that people aren’t ‘born bad’ and that the justice system is gravely inadequate.
While the documentary is informative, its reliance on the spoken and written word to paint the picture makes for an extremely dense film. All of the interviews take place in the same darkened room, with speakers occupying a Mastermind-style leather chair. There is little to break up the continuous interview footage aside from what might be archive footage, and some themed cutaways. These short clips only serve to tease the viewer into thinking they might get a break from the continuous monologues. Cinematically, The Fear Factory sorely disappoints.
The film features only short interview clips with young people, shot in same imposing setting. This is especially disappointing considering that the film was backed by various agencies working with young people involved in the youth justice system. If there wasn’t enough valuable footage of young people to include, a good look at the interview arrangement would explain why. How comfortable could any 15-year-old feel in a formal set-up also deemed appropriate for Cherie Blair? A film that is arguing that young people are misrepresented in the media should really be trying much harder to represent young people at all.
The Fear Factory ostensibly aims to make ‘people’ aware of the influence of the media and to change their views on criminal justice policy. For the most part, it succeeds. The question remains, however, who exactly is the film aimed at? As a seemingly credible source of information The Fear Factory scores highly. As a training and educational resource it could work, but only if it were be broken up with some discussion. As an inspiring piece of filmmaking, it disappoints.
Red Pepper has five copies of The Fear Factory to give away to readers. Email email@example.com with the answer to the question below, by 15 January 2012. Winners will be drawn at random:
What is the name of the commission chaired by Cherie Blair?
Watch the trailer at: www.thefearfactory.co.uk
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali