Mark Easton’s report for the Today programme (reproduced on his blog) about a study into civility by “social science think-tank” The Young Foundation is a classic of the Easton genre. He opens the piece with some Tory bashing, in this case reproducing a 2007 David Cameron quote which he then dismisses as “dangerously counter-productive bunkum”. He explains:

“Generalisations about declining standards of civility are inaccurate and problematic”, say the researchers….

I can almost hear a nation harrumphing at this idea. Where on earth did these “researchers” do their “research”?
The answer is partly in one of the poorest and most diverse neighbourhoods in London’s East End; Queen’s market in Newham to be precise.
“We observed how shoppers of a range of ethnicities queued patiently and stepped out of the way of prams and elderly shoppers”, they noted.
They also travelled to relatively prosperous communities in Wiltshire – Salisbury, Trowbridge and Frome – and recorded how “high levels of superficial civility… often hid deeper, covert incivilities” such as domestic violence, racism and prejudice against younger residents.

Poor ethnically diverse Newham is a paragon of civility because the people queue and step out of the way of prams. However, more prosperous (and – clearly implied – more white) communities display only “superficial civility” (queuing and avoiding prams is not superficial, evidently). These prosperous white areas are rife with racist wife-beaters, unlike the joyous melting pot of ethnic communities who all treat their women so well. (One wonders why the government is being forced to contemplate a law against forced marriage, then.)

The Young Foundation’s ideologically-driven conclusion would have been the same whatever the results of their study. If the noble people of Newham had not been good at queuing it would have been a sign that they’re all relaxed in each other’s company and happy to let others go ahead of them, unlike the stuck-up whities in Frome where queuing is just another blood-pressure raising inconvenience that contributes to domestic violence. And Mark Easton would have lapped it up just the same.

Incidentally, I heard the guy from the Young Foundation interviewed on R5L. What is it with the increasing number of spokespeople starting nearly every sentence with “So”? Is it a media training device to prevent “ums” and “ers” or something? It’s very irritating and unnatural.

(Be as civil as you like in the comments. UPDATE. Check out the opening comment by Umbongo for some background on The Young Foundation.)

UPDATE 2. Craig points out that one of the co-authors of the report is Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. Mark Easton fails to mention this, of course.

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19 Responses to CLASSIC EASTON

  1. Umbongo says:

    This was originally on the open thread below:

    Suddenly Today is interested in “civility”.  Sure enough a fake charity* – the Young Foundation – has dropped a pile of tendentious excreta into the public domain.  Apparently, contrary to popular conceptions, we are a more polite society than hitherto (well “New Britain” as exemplified by Newnham is apparently more polite than Devizes).  It’s drivel and politically driven drivel at that: just read this rubbish  
    Predictably, the trustees of the Young Foundation are a representative cross-section of the political class (and include the BBC’s favourite Moslem Mona Siddiqui) and the staff are prime candidates for getting off their lefty backsides and looking for a real job.  No wonder Today bigged up this crap.  Crap? Don’t tell me that areas of inner London – particularly Newnham (why was Newnham chosen I wonder?) – are oases of civility compared to the West Country.  Is it possible that the agendas of the Young Foundation and the BBC overlap?  
    * in the year to 31 December 2009 – the 2010 accounts are overdue – of £4.4 million coming in, it seems that at least £2.8 million came from the taxpayer.


    • D B says:

      I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment in the Open Thread before I posted, Umbongo. Thanks for added background on the Young Foundation.


      • Umbongo says:


        No apology needed but, as you, I think, have noted before multiple posting is a consequence of the way B-BBC is organised and, absent a clearing system among the posters, is likely to continue.  I must say it’s no big deal but can be frustrating when a comment is superseded by a post higher up the page.


  2. Billy-no-mates says:

    Of course, the irony is that the Today presenters are incredibly rude and never let anyone answer a question without interrupting them.


    • Demon1001 says:

      They do let some waffle on and lie without interruption.  It depends on what party they’re from.


  3. Jeremy Clarke says:

    I live in an ‘affluent’ area of the South-East and I can confirm that I – like all my friends – beat my wife, children and dog, deliberately get in the way of prams and jump queues. BECAUSE I CAN.

    I am also a vile racist and homophobe, and I strangle cats for fun. In fact, I am unspeakably evil, albeit covertly, because the Young Foundation says so.


    • sue says:

      Well, I live in an area of diversity. Not multicultural, diversity of the impoverished and the affluent.
      This study took place in Morrisons. At one nearby branch,  the picturesquely tattooed, pierced, or clinically obese who push trollies laden with beer, ready-meals and screaming toddlers were examined.

       At another, also nearby, stetson-hatted kaffeyeh-clad culturally and eco-aware cognoscenti purchasing sushi, dried beans, fresh fruit & veg (provided it doesn’t come from Israel) and squid.

      They’re all either quite rude, or quite polite, with no discernible difference between the the two groups. I have no idea what they’re like behind closed doors.
      I come into neither category, if you must know.

      This was a non scientific study.


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      So long as Easton has found a statistic which he can use to criticize the Tories, you’ll just have to suffer with that negative stereotype, Jeremy.


    • The Cattle Prod of Destiny says:

      You are Jeremy Clarkson and I claim my five pounds 🙂


  4. cjhartnett says:

    I regard this site as the Open University of the Digital Age.
    Bit like Radio schooling was for Skippy in Australia!
    In that spirit…if we`d like to create a few modules to link the BBC licence fee with increased rates of cancer( especially amongst Bulgarian/Roma women of pensionable age) then I`m sure You and Yors or Watchdog would be ahppy to fund the research!
    What`s that Skip?…


  5. As I See It says:

    Have you seen those British Airways adverts featuring a stick of rock with their badge and the slogan ‘we fly to serve’?

    Well break the BBC stick of rock and you will find ‘white liberal, self-loathing’


  6. Craig says:

    It certainly is a classic of the Easton genre. 

    One of the four unnamed Young Foundation “researchers” responsible for the report is a certain Rushanara Ali. If Easton had named the researchers, his readers might have recognised the name of the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. 

    Using a report co-authored by a Labour MP to have a sly dig at a Tory prime minister – and those Richard Littlejohn types who think we’re “going to hell in a handcart”? Classic Easton! (The Daily Mail-hating, all-twittering BBC fembots will love it though).

    He’s one of those BBC ‘reporters’ who receives adoring comments on his blog from left-wingers and far less appreciative comments from right-wingers. I rarely like anything he writes, his worldview being so far removed from my own. My bias is my own business, of course. His is ours. If he were an impartial reporter, his worldview (on drugs liberalisation, immigration, etc) should be a mystery to us.


    • D B says:

      Nice one on the Rushanara Ali spot, Craig. Another quick update is order, I think.


      • D B says:

        Another of the co-authors, Phoebe Griffiths, wrote an article for lefty website Open Democracy a year ago. It’s title? “Could diversity be making us more civil?” Her reason for coming to this conclusion? She walked around Newham market and saw people queuing and stepping out of the way of prams. That’ll be the in-depth reaserch used in the report and repeated by Easton. Perish the thought that there might be a pre-determined agenda for this Young Foundation report, eh?


        • D B says:

          I meant “Its title” not “It’s title”. Other typos I can let slide but not pointing that one out would’ve bugged me.


  7. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Will Young from the eponymous Foundation is on the News Channel right now getting free air time to defend his study and Easton’s report on it.  Huw Edwards is all chummy with his fellow Welshman, and explains that people really aren’t as rude as they say, lending support to Young’s position.  No challenges, just softballs and leading the witness.

    In the interests of balance, of course, the BBC has on someone to take the opposing viewpoint: Arthur Smith of “Grumpy Old Men”.  Brilliant journalism, intelligent treatment of a story, BBC. 

    Edwards closes the segment by asking if really everyone isn’t just more cynical these days, which can lead to bad manners.  Young says yes, he thinks so, and “we need to address that”.  Case closed, Narrative achieved.


  8. Martin says:

    Yet more crap from Sheena.


  9. tiger says:

    I’m sure that they are very polite in Newham except when the person is elderly;


  10. Grant says:

    Not sure if this is quite the place to post this. 
     But, one of the few BBC programmes of any quality is  R4  ” Money Box ”  , midday on Saturdays.
    The presenter, Paul Lewis, is excellent, partly because he is not obviously Left-wing,  but also because he really knows his subject , unlike buffoons such as Peston and Flanders.
    Last Saturday he referred to a “Left of centre Think Tank “.  I can’t remember which one, there are so many. I almost crashed my car.
    No doubt his “line manager”  will have sent him for re-programming.