Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: London's Burning

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  • dcnbwz,

    The people organising and participating in these rounds of rioting simply don't care. They're here to loot, have a buzz, and smash things. To quote someone else not from this blog, "a lot of them want the life of girls, money, cars without having to break a sweat". It's a strong statement, but that doesn't make it true. It's also no coincidence that this is happening in the school holidays.

    It's been a thin veneer for a while now, small groups of kids pretty much lawless but not in the mainstream eye. Something obviously clicked that they could do what they wanted and get away with it. Which is now happening.

    There are conditions here that have allowed at least two generations to grow up outside of (another borrowed term I like) "the social contract"....when people ask where are the parents, it might be that they don't care, that they do care but can't stop their kids, or simply that they're part of it too. I don't know.

    These kids have no empathy. They appear to be nihilistic. And they don't care. Not all I know, but a fair few I would guess. And you have to look at how they have grown into this. A complex answer, not least the conditions some, if not all have to endure. Some will be down to upbringing, a majority down to peer pressure.

    How do you turn this around? And what's next? This is not a society any of us (and I'm sure if the looters could be turned around they would agree) wants. In fact it's the lack of a society which makes it all the more frightening, that and the speed at which it happened.

    I nervously await tonight, and am hating it. It's worth noting that similar conditions exist in Auckland and other centres in New Zealand - the poverty and wealth gap must be addressed now.

    uk • Since Sep 2009 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • dcnbwz,

    It's a strong statement, but that doesn't make it true

    Er. That was meant to say less true

    uk • Since Sep 2009 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to dcnbwz,

    there's an Edit option in the bottom right hand corner of your comment for 15 minutes - shows up when you hover over the comment

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16262 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to dcnbwz,

    the poverty and wealth gap must be addressed now

    or it will fix us

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16262 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sacha,

    the poverty and wealth gap must be addressed now

    or it will fix us

    You're not wrong. While it'd be crass to indulge in armchair pontification about underlying causes, there's no dodging the bleeding obvious.

    Thanks dcnbwz, great post.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3325 posts Report Reply

  • Andy Fyfe,

    UK • Since Aug 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    "It would be ironic if the communitarian philosophy advanced by Tony Blair....."

    No irony required models of motivated behaviour suggest that external regulation always has unwanted consequences.

    Meanwhile in case this one got missed....

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 707 posts Report Reply

  • Katie R,

    Call me a bleeding heart liberal (you wouldn’t be the first) but I am astounded by the media coverage of the riots and I have watched a fair few hours over here today and not just the beeb. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone the destruction and looting but the broadcasting of people’s messages about missing a football game or cancelling a trip North seems to completely miss the point. Yes, there are angry people whose lives have been disrupted and in some cases completely devastated by recent events but it might be nice to ask the bigger question that no-one seems to want to answer, which is WHY?

    If I hear another Tory MP refer to it as social media rioting or another irate person asking where the parents of these kids are then I might hand my own television out the window to someone. To whom I don’t know because it’s highly unlikely Brighton would ever join in the riots, it would ruin its reputation as alternative.

    Far too much conjecture and not enough reporting – and yes I know all the issues surrounding getting an interview from a brick throwing looter.
    Anyway, Sarah Carr puts it way more eloquently than I ever could.

    Brighton. UK • Since Aug 2011 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Far too much conjecture and not enough reporting – and yes I know all the issues surrounding getting an interview from a brick throwing looter.

    I think there has been a great deal of reporting, but yeah: I liked the simple descriptive accounts in the London Review of Books blogs much more than Tariq Ali pronouncing on Western civilisation before the fire were even out.

    But, from Andy's link above, a BBC World Service reporter got a brief audio interview with a couple of 18 year-old girls (which took some courage, given the number of attacks on journalists overnight). It's fascinating, not edifying.

    The girls also mention Blackberry Broadcast, which seems to be the major messaging platform for it all.

    Anyway, Sarah Carr puts it way more eloquently than I ever could.

    Hmmm. There are some good comments under it, but I've read a lot better commentary than that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18503 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Richard Seymour:

    The truth is that riots almost always hurt poor, working class people. There's no riot that embodies a pure struggle for justice, that is not also partly a self-inflicted wound. There is no riot without looting, without anti-social behaviour, without a mixture of bad motives and bad politics. That still doesn't mean that the riot doesn't have a certain political focus; that it doesn't have consequences for the ability of the ruling class to keep control; that the contest with the police is somehow taking place outside of its usual context of suspicion borne of institutional racism and brutality. The rioters here, whenever they've been asked, have made it more than abundantly clear what their motives are - most basically, repaying years of police mistreatment.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Tamsin6,

    Maybe I'll feel more like asking why later, but right now I'm too extremely angry. I can't be doing with asking why when they are looting my local shopping centre, and burning buses outside my friends flat. I will continue to ask where the parents are - because that is a major part of what is going on. How are there so many young people able to be out all night looting without any questions asked at home? What is life like at home? Why isn't there some wider parental authority that can keep these children (and many of them are children) at home? Where is the empathy of an entire generation, who can't see that their younger brothers and sisters are going to be stopped and searched with ever increasing frequency because of what they are doing now for kicks?

    I was asking this last year when they were chasing each other round the streets with fireworks 'for jokes' and beating each other up in the local park 'for fun' and so on and so on and so on. Now is not the time for why - now is the time for stopping it before the police use the plastic bullets they were rumoured everywhere to be considering. I've seen and heard the interviews with looters - they are basically saying variations of 'we're sticking it to the man, because we can' which makes me sick with despair. So yes - conjecture - how else can you begin to frame the questions?

    London • Since Dec 2007 • 123 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to BenWilson,

    So what was the difference to the lumpenproletariat?

    I don't see it as a pejorative term quite so much as Marx did, btw. They're still people, making choices that are a likely consequence of the system they find themselves in. They have to be accounted for in a fair society. They're also quite a rich seam of the most important people society ever produces - the various idle intellectuals and artists whose contributions simply aren't valued, and don't have a rich patron to keep them going.

    Lumpenproletariat: The term was originally coined by Marx to describe that layer of the working class, unlikely to ever achieve class consciousness, lost to socially useful production, and therefore of no use in revolutionary struggle or an actual impediment to the realization of a classless society...In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852), Marx refers to the lumpenproletariat as the "refuse of all classes", including "swindlers, confidence tricksters, brothel-keepers, rag-and-bone merchants, beggars, and other flotsam of society".

    Hmmm, I learn something new every day.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2326 posts Report Reply

  • Nat, in reply to George Darroch,

    There's also Cathy Freeman.

    And Ken Wyatt was elected to the WA parliament in the last election.

    I also came across this list of Aboriginal people in politics and public service.

    More would be better though.

    Sydney • Since Jun 2011 • 46 posts Report Reply

  • dcnbwz, in reply to Tamsin6,

    Most of them are children, you're right. And they don't care.

    It is about them, this is the instant gratification generation that we appear to have reaped. Yep there's other factors, but what I'm seeing is sheer "Fuck it no one can stop us".

    They're obviously not sticking it to the man. He's quite safe behind closed doors and wealth. They're sticking it to themselves, their communities, small businesses, people's homes, just generally groups that can't afford to lose anything.

    I've got no answers - London's quiet so far, sort of, but Manchester burns, and the right wing are crawling out of the woodwork. Yet it's still fundamentally a bunch of lawless kids who are doing what they want and getting a buzz out of it.

    uk • Since Sep 2009 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    The only disadvantage is that civil unrest could eventually become an election issue, but it could be spun in favour of the conservative party as a Law and Order issue only?

    That Theresa May story was cropping up as one of the 'most read' on the Guardian website yesterday....

    I wonder if their web elves did a naughty bit of shuffling the link to a prominent position.

    Also, from Channel 4's snowmail news roundup:

    what a day it has been already. Politicians hauled back to work, booed on the streets, facing public fury at the lack of security.

    Shops in Birmingham city centre were looted and 138 arrests were made, but when the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, went on a walkabout today he was jeered. Boris Johnson encountered similar heckling in London.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2326 posts Report Reply

  • dcnbwz, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Actually it was great to see Boris shown up for the twat he really is.

    uk • Since Sep 2009 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to dcnbwz,

    Actually it was great to see Boris shown up for the twat he really is.

    He looked desperate at that stand-up in Clapham, didn't he?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18503 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    He looked desperate at that stand-up in Clapham, didn't he?

    Footage here

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2326 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington, in reply to Russell Brown,

    He looked desperate at that stand-up in Clapham, didn't he?

    Well done to those people. Calmly and clearly telling him that he'd failed.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 881 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Peter Darlington,

    Well done to those people. Calmly and clearly telling him that he'd failed.

    Meh... Part of me says that being a scratching post is just part of Johnson's job; and without some trussed up looters to kick the shit out of, he's the best option on offer. But, honestly, if I'd been in their position nobody could have said or done anything that would have made me happy.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11781 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to 3410,

    You can always rely on the New Zealand Herald to bring the flatuous boobery, can’t you?

    ETA: Flatuous. That's a typo to keep - flatulence + fatuous = NZ Herald!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11781 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I'll say.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'm continuing to find good reporting much more compelling than any amount of hand-wringing analysis.

    Esther Addley's report from Hackey for The Guardian is fascinating. It appears that even people who stood on their front steps defending their homes until 2am have a pretty nuanced view of the rights and wrongs of the situation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18503 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Meanwhile, the burning-down of the Sony-PIAS distribution centre is a cultural tragedy. A very long list of independent music labels and artists have lost all their warehouse stock -- UK copies of the Phoenix Foundation's Buffalo included.

    It seems that insurance should cover a good deal of it, but it's going to take these people a while to get back in business.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18503 posts Report Reply

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