We often get asked about the political views of Abridged. It’s a difficult question to answer. I think if you look at the overall its political leanings are clear, albeit in a pretty abstract manner. It very obviously doesn’t endorse one particular political party or philosophy and indeed is suspicious of pretty much all utopian or grand narratives whilst recognising that we’re all unavoidably part of someone’s or something’s conversation. We wouldn’t do an ‘anti-austerity issue for example or a ‘Post-Fordist’ something or other. Saying that, Abridged arose from a working class environment of tarmac and pebble-dash and maybe that’s where we gained our suspicion of easy ‘answers’ and snake-oil sellers. Terming an issue ‘Babel’ in these times is how we address the socio-political madness we find ourselves in. We don’t offer answers. We haven’t the expertise or authority. We do wish people would be nicer to one and other but we can’t see history changing much in that regard. We’re more interested in our philosophies appear and disappear, how anger grows and the rise and inevitable fall of old and new empires metaphorically and actually and the need to point at and blame…
We all need someone to hate. If not hate well to blame. We need a scapegoat. A demon, a devil. Actually, the origin of ‘scapegoat’ is pretty interesting:
‘The term was coined in 1530 by William Tyndale, who misread the Hebrew word ‘Azazel, the proper name of [a] Canaanite demon, as ‘ez ozel, literally the goat that departs. In Leviticus 16:8, the scriptures describe how two goats should be prepared for an offering, lots should be drawn, and one should be sacrificed to the Lord as a sin-offering, and the other given to Azazel and set free in the wilderness bearing the sins of the people.’ 
As the human race needed (for some reason) a hand in corruption it was said that Azazel (according to the book of Enoch) who was apparently one of the Grigori (watcher angels) that took a shine to the ladies of Earth, probably the same as those mentioned in the Book of Genesis in the Bible:
‘That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. … There were giants in the earth in those days; and also afterward, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.’ (Genesis 6:2-4)
The offspring were known as the Nephilim or giants, the behaviour of which was according to some legends the reason for Noah’s Flood. Enoch says that not only was God upset with the ‘sexual relations’ (which don’t sound consensual) with human women but also the fact that these Son of God taught humanity the arts of war through making weapons but also taught women about make-up and the like:
‘And Azazel taught men to make swords and knives and shields and breastplates; and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them; and bracelets and ornaments; and the use of antimony and the beautifying of the eyelids; and all kinds of costly stones and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways.’ 
Essentially they taught men to fight and women to look alluring. As if Man(and Women)Kind couldn’t figure those things out for themselves. It’s notable in the patriarchal world of the Bible (and contemporary Texas, Iran, ad infinitum.) that make-up is as evil as swords and knives. Who would have thought it?
A few millennia later in the summer of 1979 a young Derry kid is playing to death the very few records he owns. One of which is ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ by The Boomtown Rats which had just been released and gone to number 1 in the UK Charts. Those were the days when having a hit record really mattered and you had to really sell a lot to have one. The song was based on the sixteen year-old Brenda Spencer who went on a shooting spree at the Cleveland Elementary School near her home in San Diego, USA. She killed the headmaster and a janitor as well as injuring eight children. When asked why by a journalist she apparently stated that she didn’t like Mondays. Though at a parole hearing in 2001, she claimed she’d been on drugs and alcohol and was hallucinating at the time, thinking “commandos were storming my house.”.
At any rate the ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ song struck a chord. So to speak. The video accompanying it added to the charge of the song. It shows what first seems to be quite a rural idyllic working or middle class home and quite posh school and the protagonist or more directly murderer is depicted as a well-dressed pupil whose parents can’t understand why she did what she did. It’s actually quite a clever video for its time mixing up the real and unreal and critiquing the spectator/participant roles by suddenly revealing that the sitting room is a theatrical set and at the end of the video we see the band actually watching the video themselves.
Spencer’s early life was far from idyllic. After her parents separated, she lived with her father, Wallace Spencer, in virtual poverty:
They slept on a single mattress on the living room floor. Police later found half empty alcohol bottles throughout the house. In 2001 she accused her father of having drunkenly subjected her to beatings and sexual abuse. He said the allegations were not true. Spencer is said to have self-identified herself as “having been gay from birth.”
In early 1978, staff at a facility for problem pupils, which Spencer had been referred to due to truancy, informed her parents that she was suicidal. That summer Spencer was arrested for shooting out the windows of the Cleveland Elementary with a BB gun, and burglary. In December a psychiatric evaluation arranged by her probation officer recommended Spencer be admitted to a mental hospital due to her depressed state, but her father refused to give permission.
For Christmas 1978 he gave her a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle with a telescopic sight and 500 rounds of ammunition. Spencer later said: “I asked for a radio and he bought me a gun.” When asked why he might have done that, she answered, “I felt like he wanted me to kill myself.” 
So when the song claims that ‘there are no reasons…’ there obviously are.
Tangentially this wasn’t the first song with murder as its theme that this particular young boy owned. The previous year he had bought Boney M’s (of Rivers of Babylon fame) very groovy song, Painter Man, the B-Side of which was called He was a Steppenwolf, a strange tale of a man that falls in love with a prostitute who is on a suicide kick and persuades him to kill her:
‘My life is empty all around
Nothing that I ever found
Would fulfil me
So for a while I’ll be with you
When I say that we’re through
You must kill me!’
This was all done to a jazzy disco beat. And they say punk was nihilistic. Though he did have Sex Pistols and The Clash as well as of course The Undertones written on his parka and whilst he did actually like them he probably preferred Boney M.
There is no doubt that ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ is a great song and is closely allied the concept of the ‘Murder Ballad’, a particularly violent if vibrant genre of the folk ballad tradition:
‘In the 19th century, songs of violent death based on contemporary homegrown incidents supplanted the ancient European ballads of sword-wielding knights and their errant ladies, and pulled off the hat trick of reporting the news, thrilling the prurient listener with often gory details and providing a moral lesson. Frequently, the song outdid the actual event for blood. As popular singer Tom Waits observes, ‘These were the oral tabloids of the day….News just happens to be a meal best served hot.” 
Artistic types (and Politicians) of all descriptions have been exaggerating real events since the beginning of time (see what I did there!) for artistically dramatic effect or just to make a dull story good or a good story better. Politicians have generally just lied since the beginning of time. Geldof takes the story of Brenda Spencer and sanitises it whilst at the same time makes it for a middle-class audience more horrifying. If a nice ‘respectable’ girl goes off the rails our world is in immediate peril whereas if a working class lost cause goes on a shooting spree well it’s to be expected isn’t it? The same principal is still a trope in television, film and literature today.
If for example the family in Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin had been Working or even the mythical Underclass rather than Upper Middle Class it would have been less shocking. In fact the Daily Telegraph (as they perhaps might be expected to do) claimed it as a sign of ‘professional poverty’:
‘But all evidence suggests that time-deprived, well-off professional parents are inventing a new kind of child poverty. We are raising some of the most privileged and simultaneously most neglected children in history.’ 
It seems if you are well-off and resort to murder it is of more interest to people. Shriver admits as much:
‘I do think that one of the reasons we pay so much attention to those school shootings is because they’re all middle class. That also entails ignoring the school shootings that are lower class, which are mostly gang or drug related. They are all the same, but we focus on the middle-class ones. And only in that way would I call it a class issue.’ 
The terror of ‘working-class’ (and it’s the wrong phrase to use) television these days is that they sponge off the State, breed uncontrollably and behave terribly. If one of the ‘poverty porn’ progeny took out a rifle and went on a rampage the Telegraph and Daily Mail (to name but two) columnists would probably say that the only surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner. In fact Owen Jones makes a good point that the working-class have been replaced with ‘Chavs’ for example:
‘Vicky Pollard, a fictional character, who’s been somehow taken to be true. A fantasy of a working class woman “created by two privately educated, middle class comedians.’ 
It’s interesting that our Saturday night television schedule is essentially full of ritual humiliation of mostly working-class people on X-Factor, Pop-Idol etc. To be working class these days (at least to many commentators) is to be a failure so anything bad that happens in their lives isn’t particularly surprising. I’m not picking particularly on Kevin. ‘Troubled’ people are only interesting in film and fiction when they are talented. The myriad genii who are arses but get away with it because they solve crimes or cure diseases are testament to that. The rest just tend to be ignored or are merely victims.
Had Brenda Spencer been male she very probably would not have been immortalised in song or even remembered at all apart from those closely involved with the case. Guns are supposed to be for men and are wrapped in the American macho idealism and implicitly the fear of the ‘other’ propagated by gun advocate organisations. 88 percent of American women killed by gun violence between 1981 and 2013 were attacked by someone they knew.  Ironically the National Rifle Association (NRA) are having their cake and eating it through claiming that because of statistics such as those above women should buy more guns. It does seem from these stats that banning or controlling guns is very sensible and logical but because this is America we’re talking about and the fact that the NRA funds many politicians both Republican and Democrat means it isn’t going to happen any time soon.
It was necessary to create a fall from grace for Spencer rather than a logical if (extremely horrendous) outcome to a very dysfunctional upbringing. As Susanna Galbraith astutely points outs in the Abridged 0 – 1979 Editorial: It is easier for there to be a monster that for there to be monstrosity. One can be framed and blamed, the other must be swum through and breathed in. 
Now we greet with a weary sigh, a shake of the head and a snarky comment about America’s obsessions with guns the news of some kid shooting their school-mates. However back then that someone was singing about it – and that was how most young people on this side of the water heard about Brenda Spencer first – was something quite macabre and strangely subversive. And of course when you’re young you can recognise a killer line like ‘I don’t like Mondays’. One thing the video did make me at least think was that Spencer was a nice ‘well-behaved’ girl who suddenly went on a rampage for no apparent cause.
Apart from the occasional book or film (discussed below) Working Class children were very rarely depicted realistically in the arts and entertainment aimed at them. Working Class kids who read books inevitably read books mostly aimed at the Middle Class (whether British or American) at that time. The popularity of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five (which we all read) is testament to that:
The Five were solidly middle-class. The villains were mostly working class. The Five often hooked up with another child in their adventures, and those children often tended to be working class — often the unwashed masses who were in need of shoes or a pocket handkerchief, but once given them, used them wrong. Sometimes their parents were the villains and they had to be sent to a civilized home after the Five landed their parents in jail. 
Interestingly Blyton in The Famous Five encouraged us to believe (apart from ‘tom-boys’ such as George(ina)) that girls were weak, liable to burst into tears and run away at anything vaguely threatening and should not be trusted except perhaps as espionage agents with the implication that femininity itself is inherently untrustworthy. Some have made the point that Blyton undermines this with her portrayal of George but George is a kind of self-portrait and an indication of how the author saw herself rather than a comment on gender disparities. In a weird way in the Famous Five way of thinking a ‘poorly brought up’ female could easily have shot up a school had she have stolen a gun from a ‘responsible’ male such as Julian or Dick.
Whilst it was obviously there somewhere I’m having difficulty trying to recall working class literature from my childhood. It’s a bit of a struggle. There was of course a Kestrel for a Knave (Kes) by Barry Hines of and The Goalkeeper’s Revenge by Bill Naughton. Even those were based in England. I didn’t read any working class Irish children’s writing when I was young. Joan Lingard for example never made it to our school, not that I suspect that her books about across-the-barricades Troubles romances would’ve appealed to many of us in an all-boys school, at least not publicly. Though in my defence I think I was the only one that chose to read Jane Eyre rather than Treasure Ireland in class. There was a tendency towards social realism in 1970s writing for children and teens but I’m pretty certain that these books didn’t reach our school or library in vast amounts. Or if they did we weren’t aware of them. Judy Blume for example tackled puberty and teenage sexuality in her books but these were never likely to be on an Irish Catholic curriculum in the late seventies, early eighties. Not that our school really ever did ‘reading or ‘books’ with much conviction.
As Richard Brautigan put it ‘There wasn’t a single thing in there that reminded me of my existence.’ 
It might be fair to say that comics were the ‘working class-literature’ for kids in the 1970s. Yeah most were published in England and still obsessed with World War 2 and the Cold War or America and were all about super-heroes with perfect bodies and mostly white skin but they were read by millions and there were a few that pushed the envelope as they (maybe) say. In Britain’s grey crumbling society perhaps unconsciously preparing the way for Thatcherism there was a radicalism that was absent from most children’s mainstream literature of the time but reflected contemporary society. There was the influential 2000AD who satirised contemporary society by making a brutal lawman in a totalitarian society the apparent hero and many people fell (and are still falling) for it. There were others including:
the definitive football comic Roy of the Rovers; the hyperviolent Action, which ran for a little over a year from 1976 but earned questions in the House of Commons, the ire of censorship campaigner Mary Whitehouse and a television grilling for IPC’s head from Frank Bough; Battle Picture Weekly, which contained the vivid, punishing anti-war strip “Charley’s War”; horror comic Scream, with early work by iconic Watchmen creator Alan Moore; anachronistic but innovative “girls” comics like Tammy and Misty; and short-lived late-80s humour comic Oink!, which featured contributions from Private Eye and Viz cartoonists, sometime Fall bassist and BBC 6 Music host Mark Riley, and pre-fame Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker. 
Comics had been very formulaic with (one or two exceptions proving the rule) clichéd war stories with clichéd villains and even more clichéd heroes. 2000AD and Action creator Pat Mills looking back on the controversial Action comic commented:
‘Much of the material [in Action] is aggressive, working class or aimed at that difficult pre-teen age group which isn’t understood or liked by many publishers… I wanted a street level comic with black heroes, German soldier heroes, flawed heroes. Looking back, it was almost inevitable it would be banned because it requires great skill and commitment to outwit the media, who were circling it like wolves. Of course, there was the famous example of Frank Bough tearing Action up on television…’ 
Frank Bough probably doesn’t mean much to younger readers of this but he was a staple of BBC early evening family orientated television back in the day who was very establishment until he was inevitably uncovered (literally) in a News of the World sting.
Children are often more aware of what’s going on in society than given credit for and at that time had no trouble with a story about football that took in hooliganism or had as the hero a black boxer. Government and the publishers did, however:
“We must have seemed like a nightmare to these guys,” Mills smiles ruefully. “I told the management that I was going to do a story about a black boxer and they were horrified. They said the hero would have to be a white boxer, but perhaps he could have a black sidekick. I said, ‘Haven’t you heard of Ali?’” The story did appear as Mills intended, as BlackJack, written by John Wagner. This being a comic aimed at boys, Mills also wanted a football story. Look Out for Lefty didn’t just tackle the action on the pitch, but the violence on the terraces. 
Action in particular was aimed at working class boys. Comics previously had for the most part considered the working class as side-kicks to the heroes or used them for comedic effect. Real world stories with genuine characterization was of course going to run into trouble with the newspapers and that protector of 1970s morality Mary Whitehouse. In the USA ‘DOVE’ (Delegates Opposing Violent Education), a pre-Tipper Gore type Parental Advisory group put stickers on each issue saying: “CAUTION. This is a BLACKED publication. Certain writings in this work are not cleared by DOVE as being pro-child.” It should be noted that though not enforced as it was in the great comics are corrupting our children outbreak in the 1950s, comics in America nevertheless had a code of conduct (the Comics Code policed by the Comics Code Authority) to adhere to. Action it’s safe to say didn’t exactly abide by the rules.
Action went probably too far over the line in a war it could never win but compared to the dross that was being offered to children at the time it certainly was a star. It was eventually withdrawn despite selling over 180,000 copies a week and re-emerged neutered and bereft of its spark then merged with the Battle comic and disappeared.
In its short life ‘Action captured a side of Britain that otherwise only music’s clandestine subcultures would touch: the seductive, ultraviolent, bovvered-up, Diamond Dogs-meets-Scum world of street nihilism and black humour.’ 
Action was considered very definitely a ‘boys’ comic but in fact there is evidence the ‘girls’ comics in fact sold more comics from the post-war period ‘til around the 1980s. Studies claim that 94% of 14–15 year old girls read comics in the 1950s. Girls comics were however mostly: ‘conservative and conventional: often set in the safe, enclosed space of the school and based around a fixed social hierarchy (although this was sometimes disrupted).’  The ‘Romance’ genre would also come into fashion in the 1960s with the likes of Jackie at its height selling over a million copies per issue.
The majority of the 50s and 60s comics for girls were set in middle and upper-class situations but by the 1970s publishers were targeting working-class audiences specifically:
The 1970s brought another “new wave” of girls’ comics, headed by Tammy (IPC) in 1971. This group of titles were aimed more clearly at a working-class audience and filled with “kitchen sink” stories of angst and cruelty. The notorious “Slaves of War Orphan Farm” (Tammy, 6 Feb 1971–17 July 1971, written by Gerry Finley-Day with art by Desmond Walduck) exemplifies this trend. It begins with protagonist Kate’s parents being killed in the Blitz and her adoption by “Ma Thatcher” whose farm resembles a workhouse where the children sleep in a barn and are hired out as slave labour to other local landowners. Horrific punishments, attempted infanticide and fairly explicit violence colour the story throughout (Kate is repeatedly hit and knocked unconscious, although she seems to recover quickly) and, although the children finally escape, their attempts (and hopes) are consistently thwarted until the very end of the serial. 
Jinty for example ran some relatively normal contemporary school stories, eschewing a jolly hockey sticks angle and pushing something closer to kitchen sink drama (eg. “Pam of Pond Hill”, a Grange Hill-like series set in a comprehensive). But, as time went on, it became darker and odder, running series like John Wagner’s “The Blind Ballerina” (which has been described by acclaimed comic book writer Alan Moore as “cynical and possibly actually evil”). 
Misty, also created by Pat Mills as a girl’s equivalent to 2000AD was very definitely a horror comic with a moon and bat logo and stories about deals with the devil, possession and supernatural curses amongst other delights:
‘It was the last few weeks before I left 2000AD and I was looking forward to starting work on my next creation: Misty [published by IPC between 1978–1980 and running for 101 issues]. I took the title from the film, Play Misty For Me and my plan was to use my 2000AD approach on a girls’ comic: big visuals and longer, more sophisticated stories with the emphasis on the supernatural and horror. My role models were Carrie and Audrey Rose, suitably modified for a younger audience.’ 
Misty had a tendency towards the Gothic in its outlook, appropriating tropes and clichés from the horror and supernatural genres, building with errant behaviour or curses often leading the heroine to bad ends.
Granted, the horror for gals, science for guys thing grates now but when you consider that most girls comic stories previously were based in private schools and concerned romance, domesticity, fashion and hockey stick japes there was definitely progress made.
It was obviously still a world away from how Brenda Spencer was brought up.
To me one of the finest explorations of death by shooting (accidental in this instance) is Richard Brautigan’s ‘And so the Wind Won’t Blow it all Away’ published in 1982 and not considered one of his major works:
Needless to say, America has changed from those days of 1948. If you saw a twelve-year-old kid with a rifle standing in front of a filling station today, you’d call out the National Guard and probably with good provocation. The kid would be standing in the middle of a pile of bodies. 
The story is set in 1979 though the majority of the narrative occurs in 1948 when the main protagonist, Whitey, is 13 or 14. It is a story of a working class kid in a post-war society. Though not a children’s book as such would make a fine one, albeit probably not in the current environment of paranoia that exists within both the Right and Left of American politics in regard to children’s reading habits. And so the Wind… tells the story of a young boy who lives with his single mother (and occasional temporary ‘fathers’), collects beer bottles for pocket-money and fishes at a local pond. He isn’t a popular boy but unaccountably the most popular boy in schools becomes his friend. One day he has the choice to buy a hamburger or a box of bullets to go shooting apples in an abandoned local orchard with his friend:
I had a friend who liked to shoot apples … but he didn’t like to go to the junkyard to practice the little decisions of destruction that a .22 rifle can provide a kid. But I couldn’t shoot anything one way or another if I didn’t have any bullets.
Some bullets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . or a burger, a burger . . . . . . . . . . . . or some bullets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . paddled back and forth in my brain like a Ping-Pong ball.
The door to the restaurant opened just then and a satisfied customer came out with a burger-pleased smile on his face. The open door also allowed a gust of burger perfume to escape right into my nose.
I took a step toward the restaurant but then I heard in my mind the sound of a .22 bullet turning a rotten apple into instant rotten apple juice. It was a lot more dramatic than eating a burger. The door to the restaurant closed escorting the smell of cooking hamburgers back inside like an usher.
What will I do? 
He chooses the latter and unfortunately accidently shoots his friend dead. Though he is acquitted his and his mother’s life is ruined. Guilt drives to him to obsess over hamburgers, their history, methods of production and how they are best cooked. As John F. Barber, an authority on Brautigan pointed out in a recent Honest Ulsterman interview:
Whitey (Brautigan) offers his narrative from the perspective of a 48-year-old man, sitting, with his ear “pressed up against the past as if to the wall of a house that no longer exists” remembering himself as a 12-year-old boy. Everything is colored by this perspective. The chronology and characters of his narrative are fragmented by his stream of consciousness delivery and the ever presence of the novel’s theme and central component: death. 
Death of course hung around our childhood, told us who to speak to and who not to speak to, was draped around flag-poles and painted on kerbs and walls. It bordered everything. Brautigan looks back to a time when he was obviously an outsider who sought the company of outsiders, an alcoholic security guard, an ex-military man living in an old shack by a lake and the strange couple who bring their living room to the shore every summer. Outsiders are nowadays ‘loners’ and are generally now the bookies favourites to commit mass murder.
The book is also a lament to what Brautigan saw as the death of imagination in American society:
I had become so quiet and so small in the grass by the pond that I was barely noticeable, hardly there. I sat there watching their living room shining out of the dark beside the pond. It looked like a fairy-tale functioning happily in the post-World War II gothic of America before television crippled the imagination and turned people indoors and away from living out their own fantasies with dignity. 
Of course what Brautigan or most other people couldn’t anticipate was that the imagination didn’t die but was kicked and hectored until like a whipped dog all it saw was danger. Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe just a lack of good information made us leave our doors unlocked and talk to strangers. Maybe people didn’t know that people of a different colour or religion or sexual preference were getting discriminated against and sometimes even lynched. Maybe they did and just pretended not to. That’s the trouble with looking back. No-one’s really convinced it was better. We just need to pretend it was to get through today.
And to end I’ll say it again there are always reasons. Reasons why a young girl shot up a school, reasons why scores of people were killed by fire in a block of flats. God doesn’t act on his own. That’s the Abridged politics:
Anyway, I just kept getting smaller and smaller beside the pond, more and more unnoticed in the darkening summer grass until I disappeared into the 32 years that have passed since then.
 Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, 2011
 Richard Brautigan, And so the Wind won’t Blow it All Away, 1982
 And so the Wind won’t Blow it all Away, Richard Brautigan, 1982
 And so the Wind won’t Blow it all Away, Richard Brautigan, 1982