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Home > Culture and Society

Getting the horn

13 October 2002

Have you seen the signs? Screen-printed banners of justice, suspended majestically over motorway bridges. A call to arms which no self-respecting motorist can ignore:


Five seemingly straightforward and innocent words. But look closer. These noble signs are not saying: 'Honk to show your support for the hanging of child killers'. Rather, they seem to be suggesting that there is a direct causal link between the honking of your horn and the hanging of the killers. Honk in order to hang them.

But this begs the question: how many honks does it take in order for the killers to be hanged? Presumably, if it were just one honk (or a dozen or so) then the people who made the signs would simply have honked the requisite number of times on their own horns, and not wasted their time scrambling about on motorway flyovers with armfuls of corrugated plastic.

Suppose 100,000 honks were needed. Someone with a burning ambition to see the child killers put to death, and who knew that this could be caused by honking, could easily organize a group of ten or so honk-mates who would each honk 10,000 times (working, perhaps, in shifts, on different cars) - but instead we get the motorway slogans - which implies that a large number of 'unique honkers' is required.

But now a problem arises. The people who devised the slogans are clearly law-abiding citizens. They hate crime. Therefore they would be fully aware that in the highway code it states that you are only permitted to honk your horn when 'you need to warn other road users of your presence'. There is no special dispensation for hang-honking. Therefore, the honking of the horn to kill child killers must also, at one and the same time, be a warning honk to other road users.

You can't just honk willy nilly. That would be wrong.

So, if you're honking to warn other road users of your presence, do you have to try and imbue this honk with a secondary significance? To put something 'extra' in the honk which would somehow help the child killers to be hanged? Not necessarily. More likely what the sign means is that *any* honking will cause the child killers to die. It is not a time-specific imperative: you have to honk now in order for the child killers to hang. It's a general statement about honking. More like: 'Eat less to stay thin'.

But if this is true (which seems to be the case) then what you've got is a situation where child killers will obviously stop honking. They don't want to cause themselves to be hanged (or at least, those who aren't suicidal won't).

Therefore child killers will be driving around, never touching their horns, and as a consequence failing to warn other road users of their presence. It's a recipe for disaster. Someone's going to get killed. But what if it's a child?

What if the failure on the part of a child killer to honk causes a crash in which a child dies? The cause of the child's death can be traced straight back to the people who put the signs up: because if they never told the child killers that honking was likely to see them hanged, the crash probably would have been avoided. So in effect, the slogan writers would themselves become child killers. Which means that any further honking is going to cause them to be hanged.

This cruel circle of honking is already in effect. Too many child killers have been warned of the risks of honking. So the slogan writers have only one choice if they don't want to see themselves hanged for killing a child: it's to put up a series of new signs, saying simply:


Any other course of action would be madness.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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