I worked late last night, and didn't walk home until gone 10 o'clock. As I left the building, I could hear booming bass chants, interspersed with the higher pitch of women's voices - as though a football match was on.
As I got closer, I realised that this was yet another in the monthly series of organised pub crawls for students, put on by a company which charges the students and takes commission from the pubs to which they direct the crowds. I know, it's a shocking symbol of the decline in student standards that they can't organise pub crawls of their own - talk about capitalism appropriating youth culture.
The kids are divided up into groups and given t-shirts denoting which tribe they're in. They're encouraged to wear identical colours from top to toe, which for the women seems to mean matching knickers and little else. Then they're frogmarched around the streets in a tightly co-ordinated schedule - '14 minutes in Revolution, then we're on to Oceana'.
The frightening bit is the speed with which they develop a group identity. The t-shirts turn them into a cadre or a cohort (though really they function as control for the paid leader, and mean that security personnel can narrow down the suspects if anything untoward occurs). The chanting as I passed turned out to be the Blues singing their collective identity like a mantra, while the Orange girls responded with 'You're shit', as though there was some meaningful difference between them beyond the random assignment of t-shirts.
I don't know if you've seen a German film called Die Welle ('The Wave'). It's based on a true classroom experiment in which a teacher demonstrates the ease with which fascism can be inculcated by making a few tiny changes to the group: neater uniforms, better manners and a group name. It's different over here: all it takes is a coloured t-shirt and a few bottles of WKD and we're there… (just ask the EDL).