The Proper Gander column from the July 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard
‘Angry customers! Angry motorists! Angry countryfolk! Angry couples!’, all set to an urgent techno soundtrack and growling narration. Watching Channel 5’s Angry Britain: Mean Streets is like getting a testosterone-and-adrenaline-fuelled smack in the mouth. The programme hits us with scenes of public violence filmed mostly on smartphones and camcorders. For example, to show that our roads are a ‘cesspit of hatred’, a vigilante cyclist records his various altercations with irate, bleeped-out drivers. The show is so eager to make the point that Britain is ‘a place where rage is all the rage’ that each piece of fury-footage is repeated five or six times. The programme tries to justify its voyeurism through its ‘Anger Expert’ talking heads. A disgruntled customer videoed trashing a mobile phone shop is said to be ‘taking on the faceless corporation’. Scaled up by several thousand is the wrath directed at another symbol of capitalism, the Tory HQ in Millbank, London. In 2010, protesting students stormed the building, and largely aimed their rage at private property rather than individuals, unlike the riot police.
There is also footage of hunt saboteurs in action, with most of the aggression coming from the huntsmen. This shows that political anger has a different target to anger directed at an individual, although the programme tends to conflate the two. All the anger is caused by the system, even when it’s not directed back at it. The woman shown chucking her shopping at a man is probably frustrated by being unable to live a fulfilled life, and road rage is surely caused by already stressed-out workers negotiating badly-planned streets. Even the way the scenes are recorded tells us something about how capitalism encourages people to relate to each other. The shopping-thrower is videoed through twitching curtains by an unseen giggler, much like the man in the phone shop is filmed by excited onlookers through a window. Ironically, watching Angry Britain is enough to make you fired-up about changing our alienating society.