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Britain’s got talons

Do our attitudes to television talent shows, celebrities and even animals betray an enduring national cruelty?

By Maggie Gee   June 2009

How cruel are the British people today? We certainly have a public history as battlers and brawlers. The image of a Brit at large—from Boudicca with a scythe to the football hooligans of the 1970s and 1980s—is not a soft and tremulous thing. As for now, the anecdotal evidence cuts both ways. In the media, we see a tide of sympathy for public figures afflicted with certain kinds of disaster: Princess Diana or Jade Goody dying young, Gordon Brown or David Cameron losing a child. This reaction often contains an excessive curiosity tinged with ghoulishness, but the latter element does…

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