Jesse Jackson dismisses MPs

By Alex Stevenson

Civil rights veteran Jesse Jackson spent the afternoon rejecting the views of MPs on the home affairs committee as he gave evidence on violent knife and gun crime.

Revd Jackson, 67, described knives and guns as the “weapons of choice” in Britain and the US respectively.

But in doing so he failed to back up the views of some of the MPs on the committee.

Keith Vaz, its chairman, has won praise for his concerns about the negative influence of the portrayal of violence in popular culture in video games and other media.

When questioned about this issue Revd Jackson had a different emphasis, however.

“Those who grow drugs in Afghanistan – they don’t listen to music,” he said.

“There is some link. Is art imitating life, is life imitating art? We want artists not to use their skills to desensitise people. but the economic impact of life options determines whether one is headed up or down.”

Conservative MP David Davies suggested that there was a “lesson for us that longer prison sentences can be quite effective” from some case studies.

Revd Jackson was unimpressed.

“So many of our youths are in jail for non-violent crimes,” he said, lamenting the way inmates learn “jail culture while trapped inside their walls”.

He warned that, in the US, the “unforgiven perpetual punishment” of being a felon bars those who have been released from prison from 60 jobs – including working in fast food restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

In his opening remarks Revd Jackson had compared social disadvantage to two seeds, with only one being exposed to sunlight.

He argued that society mirrored this problem, saying “the stunted one is not inferior”.

Gary Streeter put it to Revd Jackson that “seeds don’t have an individual choice, but human beings do”.

Revd Jackson replied that “an uneven playing field makes for uneven results. We are free. But we are not equal. Freedom is a victory over indecency. Equality requires investment.”

New US president Barack Obama has pledged to consider reviving the ban on assault weapons, Revd Jackson said. Guns in Britain are responsible for 8.8 per cent of all homicides compared to 68 per cent in the US.