Kate Connolly has been The Daily Telegraph's Berlin correspondent since autumn 2002. She previously worked for The Guardian and Observer and has lived in Vienna and Prague.
Monday, March 13, 2006
An unhappy export
Posted at: 16:15
There are plenty of seemingly innocent trends that reach Germany from Britain and become part of the popular culture here – among them Jamie Oliver, Robbie Williams, and much fashion, music, films and language besides.
But when I heard on the breakfast news this morning that the British had successfully managed to export "happy slapping" to Berlin, my heart sank.
"Lustiges Draufschlagen" or "Fröhliches Schlagen" as it has variously come to be known, is becoming a real problem in playgrounds across German schools.
For those who are lucky enough never to have encountered the craze, a short explanation: it invariably involves young people beating others up while their accomplices film the attack on a mobile phone. Video clips of the assault are then typically circulated in order to humiliate the victim still further.
"The macabre trend which is doing the rounds of Berlin’s schools, began in England three years ago," the Tagesspiegel reports today.
The Volksstimme simply refers to it as a "youth trend from Great Britain". Great. It fits so well into the picture many Germans already have of Britons as football hooligans and binge drinking louts. (The bowler hats and smog image went long ago, although it still lingers in large parts of eastern Europe.)
The police are trying to play the craze down, for obvious reasons, but they’re clearly worried enough for the crime prevention office to have produced an information leaflet to be sent out to parents warning them of the trend and advising them what they can do.
Some experts advise switching off the bluetooth function on the mobile phone to ensure that the films cannot be transferred free from one handset to another, while others say that parents should think twice before giving their children mobiles with a camera function.
Some of the most recent attacks are also the most disturbing.
At the Dag Hammarskjöld school in the southern district of Tempelhof last Tuesday a 15-year-old girl was attacked by 15 youths on her way home because she had laughed at a school mate during a lesson. They beat her up and filmed the attack which was discovered by police after her mother complained.
In the eastern district of Friedrichshain a large group of youths attacked passers-by with sticks and beer bottles. And in the case that has come to be known as the "Big Rabbit", rival pupils from schools in the neighbouring districts of Kreuzberg and Neukölln laid into each other in a local park and filmed the action.
"Kids are trying to prove to each other just who is the most brutal amongst them by showing their efforts on video, which also acts as further humiliation for the victim," said Christian Zorn, from the police department responsible for juvenile crime.
The police are dependent on pupils, teachers and parents reporting incidents to them, as they have no specific controls to search or confiscate mobile phones.
For the time being "happy slappers" are being filed under GBH in the police records, until the courts decide how to classify them.
Meanwhile there is evidence that the phenomenon is taking on ever more disturbing features after police raided a school in Bavaria following a parental tip-off and confiscated 200 phones.
On a large number of them they found violent videos, Nazi propaganda and violent pornography on the phones of children as young as 12 who swapped the images during breaks or after school.
Globalisation - it has its advantages and its pitfalls.
Kreuzberg...Neukoelln....lotsa ROPers there....hmmm......
Can't wait till some group of idiots tries this in texas.......
after they mop up all the blood they can use the deceased persons cameras to show as evidence in the justifiable homicide hearing...
BANG! bang bang bang bang bang bang, reload.
Could police legally confiscate 200 cell phones on a "parent's tip" in the United States? That just doesn't sound right to me. I also don't understand why the courts need to "classify" this absurd behavior. It's assault and battery. Plain and simple. They'll probably find some way to turn this into a big feel good issue that allows them to take away cell phones with video cameras "for the children".
This smacks of a weak judicial system.