London

by Kieran Healy on August 9, 2011

So, the city’s on fire, looters roam the high streets, maybe it’s kicking off in Birmingham and Leeds, too. Consider this an open thread to blame Twitter and praise the Big Society.

{ 277 comments }

1

Sandwichman 08.09.11 at 12:54 am

When bankers do it, it’s called a bailout.

The law doth punish man or woman
That steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
That steals the common from the goose.

2

bjk 08.09.11 at 1:22 am

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.

One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: at each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.

Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: “If only,” they love to think, “if only people wouldn’t talk about it, it probably wouldn’t happen.”

3

Straightwood 08.09.11 at 1:23 am

Keynes must be spinning in his grave at the economic quackery of prosperity through austerity ravages his homeland.

4

Tom 08.09.11 at 1:29 am

It’s to be hoped Keynes clotheslines Powell a time or two as he spins.

5

sg 08.09.11 at 1:33 am

I really hate the phrase “kicking off.” It says everything you need to know about the pointless machismo of soccer.

6

bjk 08.09.11 at 2:03 am

Like the Roman, I see the streets of London drowning in rivers of Chinese electronics and Italian shoes.

7

Tony Lynch 08.09.11 at 2:55 am

“the deputy prime minister said recent events also demonstrated the necessity of the coalition government’s GBP111 billion austerity drive.

Clegg also said rioting and looting in London over the weekend was needless opportunistic theft and violence and completely unacceptable. “

So there you go…

8

Adam Michael Luebke 08.09.11 at 3:00 am

London should really call in Captain America, otherwise this rioting nightmare will never be put to an end.

9

Omega Centauri 08.09.11 at 3:12 am

If I can go out on a limb. I’d say 90 percent of the looters are there out of simple opportunism. Its the other ten percent whose motivations I’d like to hear discussed. I think these sorts of events are greatly amplified by opportunism. Maybe they can even be sustained by simple opportunist hooliganism. But real frustrations are required to get this sort of thing started.

So I have questions about underlying motivations. And I’d love to hear from our UK colleagues, about whether this is just a simple blowing off steam tantrum, or maybe the start of something more fundamental.

10

Sandwichman 08.09.11 at 3:22 am

I’d say 100%. Why the hell would anyone loot, except out of “simple opportunism”? The question is not “what motivates people to loot?” It is “what happened to their motivation to NOT loot?”

11

Omega Centauri 08.09.11 at 3:27 am

Maybe I should rephrase it a bit. Is this simple frustration plus opportunism, plus disregard for social norms? Or is this what happens if you try to do Tahrir square without having Eqyptian levels of discipline to keep the worst sorts from ruining the whole thing.

12

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 3:31 am

@Sandwichman: Absent the police that motivation has vanished, as in LA circa 1996. But in LA the private use of force effectively supplemented government force. That’s a bit harder in England, thanks to the absence of a right to bear arms.

13

John Quiggin 08.09.11 at 3:35 am

The Guardian suggests that part of the problem is that police crowd control tactics have evolved to intimidate political protestors through methods like kettling, which turn out to be useless against rioters whose objectives including looting, vandalism and random mayhem. Military dictatorships display the same problem on a larger scale – the military is good at dealing with domestic opponents, not so good against foreign armies.

14

Jack Strocchi 08.09.11 at 3:53 am

Omega Centauri @ #10 said:

Or is this what happens if you try to do Tahrir square without having Eqyptian levels of discipline to keep the worst sorts from ruining the whole thing.

Good lord, the traditional British stiff upper lip will be quivering with shame when Londoners look to “Egyptian levels of discipline” to set the standard for public assembly.

I seem to remember the phrase “the Arab Street” striking a distant chord, and not connoting the orderly transition of power. Whatever happened to the famous British tradition of patient queuing for service and good-humoured public meetings?

Pretty clearly this “protest” signals the death knell of organized Left-wing resistance to the City’s depredations. Fortunately Marx has already come to the rescue, with the indispensable concept of lumpen proletariat.

But what can you expect from the denizens of the low dens when the high-rollers in the City sets such a bad example. Both the financial over-class and the feral under-class are little better than looters, with no political consciousness for the nation.

Its high time for the hard-working respectable middle-class to make itself heard, “firm smack of government” style, with an irate letter to the editor of the Times. Unfortunately all the Majors (retd’) from Surrey are long since dead and buried. And the editors of the Times are part of the problem, not solution.

15

Jack Strocchi 08.09.11 at 3:58 am

Humble Suggestion for post title: “London Burning: the sequel.”
History repeating itself, first time as tragedy…

16

The Raven 08.09.11 at 4:11 am

In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Coverage here: http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2011/08/panic-on-streets-of-london.html

17

speranza 08.09.11 at 4:16 am

Seems to have provoked some uncommonly self-aware commentary in the Telegraph.

As an American I can only imagine this is analogous to those moments over here when things are getting so bleak someone like David Brooks suddenly starts making sense, in spite of himself and everything he stands for.

18

Bruce Wilder 08.09.11 at 4:20 am

Of course, it’s August, and all the really incompetent are on vacation in Italy or Spain — that might explain Mary Riddell being able to swing one past a vacationing Telegraph editor. Ah, for the days of Peregrine Worsthorne!

19

Stark 08.09.11 at 5:03 am

… So yeah, Ken Livingstone for Mayor?

20

Nabakov 08.09.11 at 5:09 am

All part of London’s rich history of such things. Could be ginned up into some heritage tourism action.
http://anathematician.c8.com/lrrs.htm

21

Buck Farmer 08.09.11 at 5:09 am

Despair not for British society!

Rioters in Tottenham had the deceny to form an orderly queue taking turns to loot a sports store.

22

Jack Strocchi 08.09.11 at 5:43 am

Here’s wikipedia’s potted list of London Riots covering the modern period. Politically speaking, spot the odd riot out.

23

Michael Mouse 08.09.11 at 5:54 am

I think it’s worth paying at least a little attention to people who specifically predicted riots – see e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/15/theresa-may-cut-police-budget-without-violent-unrest?cat=uk&type=article – and I’m not talking about the Home Secretary, Theresa May, whose “Don’t worry, there won’t be riots” line deserves to reach Michael “No hurricane” Fish levels of notoriety.

24

Jim Buck 08.09.11 at 6:58 am

I feel fairly certain that me posting this here could not be construed as inciting public disorder via social network:

25

Sam Dodsworth 08.09.11 at 9:19 am

Pretty clearly this “protest” signals the death knell of organized Left-wing resistance to the City’s depredations.

Arguably, this is what the organized left-wing resistance has been trying to prevent. Not sure it’s the death-knell for organized protest though – if anything, it makes it easier to distinguish protest from rioting.

26

Sam Dodsworth 08.09.11 at 9:22 am

And meanwhile, if anyone in London (or Liverpool or Birmingham) wants to help deal with the aftermath then follow @riotcleanup on twitter or see http://www.riotcleanup.com/ for details of how you can help.

27

Chris Bertram 08.09.11 at 9:30 am

Good to see so much instant wisdom on display from our friends in Australia, Japan and North America!

I think it is probably reasonably simple, actually. Lots of poor undereducated kids with zero prospects (and hence no fear of harming them) who hate the police (often for very good personal reason) and fancy a ruck with them. And once one group shows that this is easy to get away with, then others get the same idea – and there’s lots of safety in numbers enabling mass theft and robbery.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, blames it all on “mindless criminality”, which rather raises the question of why there’s a sudden eruption of “mindless criminality” under her government.

Punditry prize of the week goes to ever-hapless Nick Cohen, with his “No riots here” column appearing just as Tottenham went up in flames:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/07/nick-cohen-recession-misery

28

Chris Bertram 08.09.11 at 9:45 am

Incidentally, Kieran, I remember us exchanging some comments a while back about how RIM and their Blackberry were being squeezed between Apple and Android. Subsequently, I repeated this opinion to my teenage niece, who pushed back quite emphatically on the grounds that she and all her mates love the Blackberry messaging service. Well it seems as if the Blackberry is indeed the phone of choice for your young looter, precisely because of said service. Perhaps RIM do have a future after all, just so long as they actually get to sell the phones rather than getting them nicked.

29

Chris Armstrong 08.09.11 at 10:16 am

I’d agree with Chris Bertram at 27, basically. Yes, there’s a lot of opportunism involved, but for most people it remains true that you don’t, fundamentally, go out and steal yourself a tv when the opportunity presents itself if you actually feel a good deal of allegiance to a society and its rules. So there are deeper issues at stake.

The interesting question is why these people don’t feel such allegiance. When that question gets asked by the commentariat on tv and radio, the question always seems to mean: ‘what is wrong with these people?’ But it could also mean: ‘what is wrong with the system, such that it generates no loyalty to itself, such that the police are widely hated, and people take such joy in spontaneous acts of rebellion?’ The answer is: a lot.

30

JulesLt 08.09.11 at 10:25 am

Chris – although they may be ditching their Blackberry’s quite quickly, given RIM’s statement about collaborating with the police. (I also read that Facebook’s chat is pretty much killing BBM because it’s cross-phone platform).

31

logern 08.09.11 at 10:44 am

In the U.S.A. this might be the result of a disaffected underclass with no midnight basket programs. (or to translate – no real budget for social welfare projects, because we would be depending solely on family values which doesn’t “just happen because you wish it to” because the right would be running the country and they don’t believe in forcing taxpayers to invest in such things.)

But what’s going on there?

32

logern 08.09.11 at 10:45 am

“basketball” not basket.

33

guthrie 08.09.11 at 10:46 am

To judge by the comments from the police, they are hated because they prevent what is often called the underclass from having their own way. And in the case of the looters, I think it obvious that is the case.
Other people will hate the police because they’ve been subject to stop and search too many times and experienced casual racism from them. But I don’t think that the groups necessarily overlap so much. The common complaint is that people in the nice middle class suburbs don’t appreciate what goes on in the schemes and suchlike, and don’t realise how much feral youth there is out there, carrying on with drink drugs and stolen cars.

34

Jim Buck 08.09.11 at 11:21 am

Paul Deller from the Metropolitan Police Federation said: “Morale among the police officers dealing with this incident, and within the police service as a whole, is at its lowest level ever due to the constant attacks on them by the home secretary and the government in the form of the Winsor and Hutton reviews into police pay and conditions.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14438924

Deller was on TV this morning. He was licking his lips, and could hardly supress his glee at the improvement in the prospects of MPF members.

35

NomadUK 08.09.11 at 11:23 am

And guthrie@33 provides as crystalline an example as possible of missing the point entirely.

36

Jim Buck 08.09.11 at 11:29 am

Let me put a caveat on 34. It might not have been Deller on tv this morning. It definitely was some top cop from that shop; and he was definitely licking his lips. My apologoes to Mr Deller, if it wasn’t he.

37

bert 08.09.11 at 12:15 pm

#12
There’s certainly an argument that during the LA riots, Korean storeowners were able to protect their property by shooting at people. The alternative would have been to rely on the LAPD. But arguing that this is how it should be – that under American gun laws all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds – demonstrates the closed mind of a reflexive nationalist, nothing more. There are plenty of American commenters here at CT. I wonder how many will look at what happened in the UK last night and decide that the situation would have been improved by more guns.

Today there’s #riotcleanup. We’ll see what happens tonight, and a rosetinted view would be deluded, but there is some sense (in Hackney at least) of the community pulling together. In LA by contrast, my sense as an outside observer is that the riots reinforced social divisions and exacerbated tensions. “One year after the riots fewer than one in four damaged or destroyed businesses reopened, according to the survey conducted by the Korean American Inter-Agency Council.” That’s from a wikipedia article that ends with a Texan politician using the LA riots to justify the sale of assault rifles.

38

The Raven 08.09.11 at 12:19 pm

“Lots of poor undereducated kids with zero prospects (and hence no fear of harming them) who hate the police (often for very good personal reason) and fancy a ruck with them.”

And these groups would not exist if it weren’t for decades of the British equivalent of Reaganism.

39

Left Outside 08.09.11 at 12:24 pm

My theory is that these folk never consented to being policed in the first place. They only didn’t used to loot because they feared getting caught. Now they think it unlikely they’ll be caught they’ve let loose. More analysis here, which is heavily caveated and uses the word equilibria, so you know its good.

40

Left Outside 08.09.11 at 12:25 pm

Also, its the school holidays and the weather is nice. We desperately need rain far more than we need the army, police or community resistance.

41

Steve LaBonne 08.09.11 at 12:34 pm

Conservatives (and the plutocrats whom conservative politicians serve) pride themselves on their hard-headedness, so I’m constantly amazed at their inability to understand that social peace and the security of property are goods, which like any other goods must be paid for. You can pay for ever more brutal policing (with questionable returns in the long run, and then you pay yet again whenever containment fails, in the currency of lives and property destroyed) or you can pay for a welfare state that gives everybody a stake in the system. But you WILL pay, one way or the other.

42

Nababov 08.09.11 at 12:43 pm

Anyway, it’s not like the rioters are taking billions in taxpayers’ money to maintain a lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.

43

Recovering Banker 08.09.11 at 12:49 pm

From my view in London, there is no understanding of the motivation behind what is going. In my direct experience, it felt more like “Mars Attacks!” than any sort of deep, philosphical raging against the machine…

44

xaaronx 08.09.11 at 1:19 pm

This works as the best commentary on the London riots and looting, I think. Also applicable to the US with some names and details changed.

45

AcademicLurker 08.09.11 at 1:29 pm

Looks like the conservatives finally succeeded in making Magaret Thatchers “there is no such thing as society” quip a reality.

Hope they’re pleased with the result.

46

Recovering Banker 08.09.11 at 1:30 pm

Altamount might be a good analogy. Social networking has previously been used for fun (flash mobs) or for positive change (Jasmine revolution), but what is happening now in London is the dark side of social networking.

47

Eileen 08.09.11 at 1:31 pm

I like to read the comments on online newspapers (such as: http://news.sky.com/home/article/16046248) in order to get a feel for the public response. I was pretty dismayed at the paucity of intelligent responses to these riots. A large majority use language I find extremely uncomfortable: referring to rioters as “subhuman”, “animals”, “thugs”, “feral children”… all implying that the poster, of course is a civilized, decent, and most importantly, superior human being. I don’t doubt that what is happening is criminal, but to question the humanity of disaffected people, to advocate an even higher level of control (curfews and assemblies bans) and “hard punishment” and “re-education” of the rioters is missing what is plainly obvious: the social contract is broken for these people. This is not a random outbreak of immorality which can be solved by using an even bigger stick for punishment.

48

Nababov 08.09.11 at 1:35 pm

“Things got out of hand and we’d had a few drinks. We smashed the place up and Boris set fire to the toilets.”
– David Cameron, Bullingdon Club – Christ Church College, Oxford, 1986.

49

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 1:37 pm

@37: There is a big difference between LA and London in that the LA riots were racially motivated and targeted whites and Koreans. These riots seem to be doing more damage to property, including people’s homes and are about taking whatever can be found. Either way, the knowledge that the owners of such homes and shops are willing to defend their property with force would be a strong deterrent. The police are fundamentally incapable of providing the bourgeois rights of property to the poor, and that is what we are seeing right now.

@Jack: sure, the middle class could restore order. Do I really need to point out that it will do so on the basis of the BNP, not a restoration of the welfare state? Ordnungspolitik does not lead to a just society.

50

ChasW 08.09.11 at 1:38 pm

Young people in the UK, born on sink estates which have been allowed to crumble have no hope of ever owning a home, or being eligible for social housing, they face a lifetime of rent bondage on minimum wage , being decanted into housing benefit ghettoes miles from work, family and friends, working to 70 with pensions under threat and a health service being run down to push people into the private sector. Oliver Letwin tells low wage public service workers struggling to pay their rent that they need to experience the fear of unemployment to make them work hard – at the same time the Independent calls for the big banks to be granted a blank cheque from the taxpayer to prevent systemic risk, rendering the concept of moral hazard redundant. A severely disabled woman is told she must expect to sit in her own sh*t overnight because the funds needed to help disabled people live a decent life are being channeled via the Bank of England to fill this year’s bonus pools. Old Etonians, born into privilege are jetting back from Tuscany to lecture the chavs on meritocracy and how their ‘failure’ to seize the opportunities available is a consequence of their own shortcomings rather than an accident of birth. The earnings of top executives, with the keys to the safe, rise by 1/3 (the equivalent of raiding the mini-bar on the Titanic) as the median wage declines and taxes rise on the poorest, while Osborne signals more tax cuts at the top.

It actually takes quite a lot to get a riot started in the UK, but this frog’s been simmering for 30 years. Grotesque inequality breeds resentment and the winner-take-all mentality at the top has bred a contempt for any sense of fairness or social justice and, in turn, convinced some that the laws are made by and for the ruling class. The rioters are simply reminding politicians that ‘we are all in this together’. Unfortunately, politicians no longer have the levers of control.

But to claim it’s simple ‘opportunism’ begs the question: why now?

51

Barry 08.09.11 at 1:43 pm

Why not? Push people far enough and eventually you’ll get a backlash; predicting when and exactly where is the tricky point; similar to trying to figure out when a market bubble will pop.

52

bjk 08.09.11 at 1:52 pm

For those who are arriving late, I’ll helpfully provide a summary of the first 47 comments:

a) responsibility flows in one direction. Society has failed the “protestors.”

b) the protestors need more welfare. They were very troubled by the coalition cuts and austerity measures.

c) sure there is plenty of opportunism, but who can blame them? Blame Reagan and Thatcher.

d) civil order is breaking down on the television screen, but what about those banksters, eh?

e) we need more midnight basketball

f) race has nothing do with this, unless you consider the racism of society. Always blame racism first.

g) then blame the cops, they must be responsible for this too. They’re like firefighters who light fires and then demand a raise.

53

Tim Wilkinson 08.09.11 at 1:57 pm

54

Walt 08.09.11 at 2:00 pm

bjk, ask yourself if you’re adding value.

55

Tim Wilkinson 08.09.11 at 2:03 pm

I wonder what BJK thinks is going on? Judging by the level of reading comprehension exhibited here, the analysis would not be cogent.

56

bob 08.09.11 at 2:09 pm

great post bjk. i don’t think anything more needs to be said

57

Michael 08.09.11 at 2:14 pm

bjk above forgot one (see @16 above): they tried to contact the police, they tried to get the media to respond. None of this worked. (It was never going to work.) So they did the next best thing.

Now we’re reminded that they’re there. And there but for the grace of god go us.

58

bert 08.09.11 at 2:20 pm

LA and London are different? Fine. It was your comparison.
Watson, lad, you need to explain why it would have been a good idea to have made deadly weapons widely available to last night’s looters.
If you can’t do that, you’ll continue to look complacent and foolish.

59

Jim Demintia 08.09.11 at 2:20 pm

@48 race has nothing do with this, unless you consider the racism of society. Always blame racism first.

So what you’re saying is, CT commenters are the real racists?

60

Jim Demintia 08.09.11 at 2:24 pm

@ Watson Ladd.

Armed citizens defending their property from “looters” worked very well in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

61

Sandwichman 08.09.11 at 2:25 pm

Do not feed the troll.

62

Omega Centauri 08.09.11 at 2:25 pm

Chas @46. Thats what I expected the answer would be, but I didn’t want to supply it not being close to the action and all. So the same screw the poor, enrich the rich dynamic has been going on in the UK as well as here. Not surprising that it eventually leads to this.

63

Nababov 08.09.11 at 2:35 pm

I actually agree with bjk, but not for the moral reasons he, she or it wants to be agreed with.

I totally agree with ChasW.

If the undeservedly rent-seeking super rich and their political poodles treat their society like crap, then no wonder it all turns to shit.

64

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 2:39 pm

@Jim: If you think the lessons of Katriana and LA were that the state can provide security you have a very different idea then I do about what that looks like.

@bert: There is a saying in America that “God made man, Colt made them equal.” The rioters have the ability to use force already: there are hundreds of them, they are armed with bricks and crowbars, and they are willing to burn buildings to get what they want. Guns would not let them do much more then they can already do. But they would enable those who are the victims of the rioters to defend themselves, as would letting the community (unarmed) play a part in preserving order. Do you think that if the people of Croydon were used to playing a part in the preserving of order in the community that they would abandon that role the way the Metropolitan police has?

65

Jim Demintia 08.09.11 at 2:47 pm

Actually, one of the lessons I took from Hurricane Katrina is that the state should provide security. And its failure to do so amidst the violence that followed the storm in fact has roots in the history of the federal government’s decision not to intervene when armed civilians took it on themselves to defend their property from newly emancipated slaves during and after Reconstruction (i.e. Posse Comitatus).

66

Chris Bertram 08.09.11 at 2:50 pm

I’m sure that the people of Croydon are very glad of the advice you’re dispensing from, I think, Chicago, Watson. Good to know that some people know what the right solution is in all times and places. If I’m not mistaken, there was a nasty incident in Chicago recently where large swarms of youth used force of numbers to steal from stores on Michigan Avenue (so when I was there in July there were cops at every intersection, pulled from the rest of the city where they were doubtless needed more). Perhaps not all that different.

67

MPAVictoria 08.09.11 at 2:56 pm

Watson if the shopowners had easy access to firearms wouldn’t the rioters have that same access?

In response to your other comment the lesson I learned from Katrina is that the government shouldn’t abondon people to fend for themselves in the middle of a disaster (and that former heads of horse racing associations should not be placed in charge of emergance response agencies), not that more guns would have improved the situation.

68

MPAVictoria 08.09.11 at 2:58 pm

Read abandon for “abondon”. Sorry, I need more coffee.

69

alph 08.09.11 at 3:00 pm

We Americans who understand guns were entirely unsurprised by that recent incident in Norway where the Right-wing Christian terrorist killed 69 people with nothing but a brick.

70

Sebastian 08.09.11 at 3:01 pm

I’m going to take the rare opportunity to totally agree with Chris Bertram at 27. A bunch of people who’ve had run ins with the police see an opportunity to mix it up with them with little or no danger to themselves.

I’m sure there are additional factors, but at this point (and the comments both here and in more conservative places illustrate it) there seems to be a lot of “X therefore everything about my personal political program is correct” going on. For example blaming Thatcher seems a bit much. Hasn’t she been out of power for the entire lifetime of some of the rioters? Of course ignoring underclass problems by saying they ought to be more moral (the typical conservative response) seems stupid too.

An cleavage point that might be enlightening if we could get past the right/left narratives: the damage is mostly (though not exclusively) medium to small businesses and personal homes (as opposed to estates). I.e. the rioters are going after the ‘good’ middle class, not the upper class that has been fucking them over. What’s going on there? Is it pure opportunity (the rich are too far away to get to)?

71

Jim Demintia 08.09.11 at 3:02 pm

Err, that should read when armed civilians took it on themselves to “defend their property” from newly emancipated slaves during and after Reconstruction.

72

Nababov 08.09.11 at 3:04 pm

And then the cops turn up and can’t work out who’s shooting at shooting at who for what reason. Whaddya think their response is gonna be.? Lotsa guns kill lotsa people.

73

MPAVictoria 08.09.11 at 3:09 pm

“Is it pure opportunity (the rich are too far away to get to)?”

That would be my guess. In my experience middle class and poor sometimes share living space but rich and poor almost never do. Would someone with a bit more familiarity with the specific geography of London chime in on this?

74

tomslee 08.09.11 at 3:14 pm

Regular CT commenter Phil’s summaries and point of view are a good read, here and here.

75

Chris Bertram 08.09.11 at 3:22 pm

Actually, you can be be pretty rich in parts of London and have a bad estate just next door. But, judging by an interview with “riot girls” I just listened to on the BBC, they think of anyone who has a business as being among the “rich people”.

76

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 3:36 pm

For a slightly different slant on the London/UK scene than the usual leftist echo-chamber here, I would suggest people here read Daniel Greenfields piece@ http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/39282

I would be interested (really! NOT a pro forma rhetorical utterance) in reading this crowds’ critique of his pov.

77

Gareth Rees 08.09.11 at 3:36 pm

It’s worth remembering that the cuts haven’t hit people with full force yet: the housing benefit changes (which will cap the amount payable at the 30th percentile of market rents) come into effect next April and, if enforced, will result in a wave of evictions—of working families as well as unemployed—across London.

78

MPAVictoria 08.09.11 at 3:39 pm

virgil xenophon

My what a balanced and well written article.

79

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 3:40 pm

PS: The writing style may be a tad florid for the academic set, but the essence is there..

80

NomadUK 08.09.11 at 3:42 pm

I would be interested (really! NOT a pro forma rhetorical utterance) in reading this crowds’ critique of his pov.

‘These are the children of the welfare state…’
‘This lawless materialism is the essence of the welfare state…’

So, given that his entire piece is nothing more than a pro forma rhetorical utterance, why should you expect anything more in return?

81

bert 08.09.11 at 3:42 pm

bq. Watson, lad, you need to explain …

Nope, not even close. But while you continue to struggle with that, there’s another second-order consideration.
Let’s assume we agree about the kind of cities we want. Public spaces where people aren’t afraid; private spaces where people feel secure.
Now imagine a world in which Watson Ladd gains power. Weapons can be freely traded, and the use of guns both to threaten and to defend property is privatised. In recognition of the inadequacies of the police, the permitted use of force spreads in an ad hoc manner, reflecting the immediate perceived needs of each situation.
Would this promote the growth of the kind of cities we want to live in? Or would it encourage the spread of the kind of social problems you complain about in LA?

It’s a much looser question, of course, and an invitation for you to waffle in response.
It seems clear, to me at least, that it’s a question you’re entirely on the wrong side of.

82

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 3:42 pm

MPA Victoria/

I didn’t say it was balanced, now, did I? Or is it beneath you to comment on its general thrust?

83

Substance McGravitas 08.09.11 at 3:50 pm

Virgil, nobody should comment on Canada Free Press articles ever because they are crazy nonsense for loons.

84

MPAVictoria 08.09.11 at 3:50 pm

virgil xenophon

Oh come off it.
I am endeavouring to be more polite to people on the internet so let me just say that the article in question is rubbish and treating it as more than rubbish would be a complete waste of everyone’s time. Including yours. If you really believe the the position taken by that article then our views are so far apart that we might as well be speaking different languages.

85

Sebastian 08.09.11 at 3:51 pm

Virgil, that piece is exactly what I’m talking about when I say that people are using this as “X, therefore my entire political program must be enacted”. Essentially his argument is that this happened in the UK, therefore social programs are bad.

For example he writes: “What kind of people behave this way? Those who have come to think of wealth as an infinite pile from which everyone grabs as much as they can.” Has he no sense of history? All sorts of people behave that way. Some of them might believe of wealth as an infinite pile from which everyone grabs as much as they can. Others might believe (rightly or wrongly) that they have been deliberately excluded from a limited pile. Others might just enjoy smashing things. Others might have all sorts of motivations that I’m not thinking of right now. But he lazily assumes a motivation that just happens to support all of his priors.

86

bert 08.09.11 at 3:55 pm

I just followed the link in your screenname, btw. Not what I was expecting.
Did you write this?

“All submissions should conform to the Chicago Manual of Style”, apparently.

87

ogmb 08.09.11 at 4:02 pm

Dublin, Dundee, Humberside?

88

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 4:07 pm

@bert: Of course that history of arms ignores the role of guns in defending blacks who could count on the police to assist in lynchings. By definition the poor and marginalized cannot count on the state to protect them. The police serve those with power, guns serve those who hold them. I am not suggesting private law, but rather a recognition of the fact that the protection the police offer is as a deterrent, not a proactive force. When seconds count, the police are minutes away. In the US you cannot hold them responsible for failure to enforce the law, even when this failure directly leads to your death. Force is already permitted to defend ones life if necessary, and ones property as well. The question is who has the means.

We already acknowledge that individuals should provide for their own safety against fires by installing smoke detectors, having an evacuation plan, and when the building catches on fire leaving it, despite the presence of the state and the guaranty to contain conflagrations. Why can we not agree that the police by containing crime are not capable of preventing it directly nor of directly insuring the safety of individuals, any more then firefighters can repair broken stoves?

89

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 4:07 pm

Ah yes, bert, “when seconds count the police are only minutes away” is a “truism ” that happens to have the added advantage of actually being true. Which is why Ladds commentary dovetails so nicely with Greenfields piece. When the bonds of social constraint are broken (we will probably differ as to casual factors) there are not enough police in the world available on a timely basis to prevent the small shop, pvt home, etc., from being looted. So your alternative is for the law-abiding citizen to flee for his life and call his insurance agent at a safe remain as he watches his life’s work, net worth and/or a life-time of personal memorabilia (if pvt residence) go up in smoke or be carried away, eh?

And what of those trapped and unable to safely flee, as were those white State Fair goers in Milwaukee, Wisc., last week when set upon by mobs of gleeful black rampaging youth attacking women and children as well as adult males as they left the Fair? Far better, I guess, to remain hospitalized for life in a coma like that Emergency Technician at the LA Dodgers baseball game after getting kicked in the head rather than dispatching the “wilding” thug to the reward he so richly deserves so that his special brand of “fun” will never be visited upon another hapless, unsuspecting defenseless victim, right?

90

Uncle Kvetch 08.09.11 at 4:13 pm

I was hoping for a little insight and perspective from commenters in or from the UK. Instead it looks like we’re going to get a 300-comment thread on the 2nd Amendment. Something the Internet hasn’t seen nearly enough of.

91

bert 08.09.11 at 4:16 pm

I’ll let you two flail around.
Meanwhile, fuck me. Where can I get a gun?

92

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 4:18 pm

No, what I am arguing does not go with Greenfields piece! The rich are already served by the police and have nothing to fear from the riots. One cannot sieze capital in a robbery. How exactly do you think one carries off a factory? The average robbery victim in the US is a worker who makes less then $40,000 a year, and who loses a great deal of his assets in the robbing. The police in Chicago have killed 40 people this summer. Do they serve the poor, are they the looters that Greenfield imagines them to be? Taxation is not theft for the same reason that the executioner is not a murderer. Society must ultimately be supported by acts that are not voluntary, and that it is moral to coerce.

My argument is not about some imagined social order being preserved, but rather about defending the most basic of institutions in all societies: that murder and robbery not be visited upon the innocent. Again, the theft of possessions, and the violence that accompanies it, is distinct from expropriation. The expropriated is deprived of his property in one smooth action, a simple signature. The robber threatens his victim with grave harm. Violence outside the political process is distinct from rebellion. What we see in London is common thuggery, rather then the protest that the police are so able to contain.

93

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 4:23 pm

Sebastian@80/

Nicely put. Such criticism is exactly what I was seeking (not that I hadn’t perceived of the same sort of objections–as well as others–but mainly in order to sample a range of thought processes from those “on the left” with which I, as a “man of the right” am ordinarily in disagreement. ) My motto, btw: “Often in error–never in doubt! ” lol

94

politicalfootball 08.09.11 at 4:24 pm

The police in Chicago have killed 40 people this summer.

“Only” 16 killed, last I checked. More than 40 shot though.

95

Chris Bertram 08.09.11 at 4:35 pm

I realise that there are (some) Americans who think that everything is about _you_, but this is actually happening in the UK.

96

neonnautilus 08.09.11 at 4:36 pm

From Crooks and Liars:
In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

97

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 4:43 pm

Watson Ladd/

I think you are mis-reading Greenfield. He too emphasizes the small-business owner, etc. But his larger point about the informal restraints on the civic culture being broken are, to a degree, valid. Remember, during the Great Depression almost 1/4-1/3 of the total American population were jobless. yet riots of any sort were rare. An “old timer” who could remember such things once told me back in the early 80s that in Louisville, during the depression on hot sweltering nights the people surrounding Central Park in the “Old Louisville” section just off the CBD (yes, Louisville has an Olmstead-designed park system too) took their mattresses out of their un-airconditioned homes and slept in the Park. Today that would be to think the un-thinkable,,

98

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 4:46 pm

@politicalfootball: You are right and I was wrong. I got confused with the two numbers.

@Chris: That’s exactly my point. Crime happens in the richest part of Chicago and the police are out in force. Crime happens on the West or South sides and the police basically ignore it. Crime in poor areas is not a result of inherent criminality but a result of the police doing nothing about it. The University is each year begged to extend the area of its own police force to supply additional officers to the surrounding community.

@Nababov: I’m not suggesting we have vigilantes roam the streets. Rather, that people have the means to defend themselves when they feel their life or home is in immediate danger.

@alph: I wasn’t arguing that guns are useless to criminals, rather that they aren’t needed for the rioters to do a lot of damage.

@virgil: For someone who extols the virtues of violence you picked a strange username. After all, Virgil writes of a “coughing up the life-giving blood” etc. and the life of a mercenary ends quite badly for Xenophon. Its not that the perpetrator of the heinous crime you describe deserved to die, but rather that the use of force to preserve ones life is justified.

99

engels 08.09.11 at 4:47 pm

Evidently someone a the BBC really likes that ‘riot girls’ clip as it’s linked to from just about everywhere on their website. You’d almost think that only two people took part in the riots. Their interview with Darcus Howe (or ‘Marcus Dowe’ as the cretinous Fiona Armstrong refers to him) was also really something:

100

mds 08.09.11 at 4:49 pm

With notably rare exceptions, the Great Depression was free of crime and rioting.

101

Myles 08.09.11 at 4:53 pm

I think some kind of credit must be extended to the relevant authorities (in this case, David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson) for not freaking out and refusing to engage in a hyperactive way.

George Orwell, in The Lion And The Unicorn I think, once noted to the effect that English government and order relied on a kind of complaisance from the very top. I think this particularly applies well here. The basic problem is that the more the legitimate government engages with the rioters in any kind of way, whether via water cannons or whatever, the more we make them equal and opposing parties when they clearly should not be equal parties.

Thus I think it was actually quite masterful of Cameron to delay the cancellation of his vacation until the very last moment, and the same for Boris Johnson (despite the heckling). The rioters are an amorphous mass of angry persons and worked up emotions looking for a target, and the government is the most obvious such target around which all that anger and worked-up emotions could cohere. By excusing themselves, the heads of legitimate authorities and thus the most visible targets around which the rioters could emotionally and politically cohere, from the country, and more importantly in enacting a muted response, Cameron and Johnson have done what is probably could be done in their personal capacities. After all, they hardly have any specific skills in policing and public order that their presence would be of any operational help to the police.

102

Omega Centauri 08.09.11 at 4:58 pm

Chris @70. Thats my perception as well. Anyone who has substantially more than me is “rich”. So if you live/work in a poor area but are middle class yourself, you are percieved as being rich, and being one of them, even if your own perceptions are quite different.

103

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 5:13 pm

Watson Ladd/

When is defending the right of self-defense extolling the “virtues of violence?” And you are making HUGE unwarranted assumptions not based upon the evidence. NOWHERE did I say that, had the EMT now in a coma somehow survived the attack relatively unscathed, he would have been justified in hunting down his assailants and meting out his own personal brand of fatal “justice”–only that he certainly had a justified right imo, to be legally capable of employing armed resistance at the point of attack in the absence of police presence/protection–a point with we both seem to be in agreement. That the two slimeballs who perpetrated the crime deserve to die imo, automatically follows from the constitutional/legal basis I would use to justify their killing. i.e., the right of armed self-defense when one’s life is threatened–alone ample enough legal, constitutional AND moral justification..

104

Jim Harrison 08.09.11 at 5:14 pm

During the Great Depression, people perceived the Federal government to be on their side, at least once FDR took command; and the Labor Party in England actually supported working people during those years. Which contrasts dramatically with the current situation where all ruling parties are conservative and there aren’t even any large opposition parties in the U.S. or the U.K. that credibly represent the interests and values of large proportions of the population. The electoral choices are plutocracy and plutocracy moderated by technocracy. Since legitimate and effective democratic means of exerting political influence been systematically suppressed, is it any enormous wonder that what’s left is spasmodic, unintelligent, or merely criminal?

105

novakant 08.09.11 at 5:18 pm

For god’s sake, they’ve looted Oxfam in Ealing and all sorts of other charities and they set fire to an occupied residential building containing 26 flats in Tottenham – some people are just stupid thugs.

106

Antoni Jaume 08.09.11 at 5:24 pm

“@alph: I wasn’t arguing that guns are useless to criminals, rather that they aren’t needed for the rioters to do a lot of damage.”

If you’ve got guns you don’t need to wait for a riot.

107

nick s 08.09.11 at 5:27 pm

Actually, you can be be pretty rich in parts of London and have a bad estate just next door.

And you can be in an area that’s grown more affluent via people seeking the next affordable, gentrifiable part of town — Dalston, Peckham, etc. — and still be aware of how that exposes the social fractures, even as regeneration money gets pissed away on vanity projects.

As for the ‘riot girls': in an environment where consumer goods are the things over which you can claim ownership, nabbing more of them while ‘owning’ the streets gives you the temporary illusion of power.

108

dsquared 08.09.11 at 5:31 pm

the usual leftist echo-chamber

a phrase which, in my experience, is a pretty infallible indicator of something that’s not going to be worth reading.

109

blavag 08.09.11 at 5:32 pm

London Calling,
Clash:
London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared, and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
London calling, now don’t look to us
Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain’t got no swing
‘Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing

[Chorus 1:]
The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, you can go it alone
London calling to the zombies of death
Quit holding out, and draw another breath
London calling, and I don’t wanna shout
But while we were talking, I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain’t got no high
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes

[Chorus 2: x2]
The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

Now get this

London calling, yes, I was there, too
An’ you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
After all this, won’t you give me a smile?
London calling

I never felt so much alike [fading] alike alike alike

110

Steve LaBonne 08.09.11 at 5:33 pm

Yes, some people are stupid thugs. Some stupid thugs live in the slums. Others live in walled mansions surrunded by security guards. Which lot has more power to harm the rest of us?

111

tomslee 08.09.11 at 5:34 pm

@virgil xenophon I would be interested (really! NOT a pro forma rhetorical utterance) in reading this crowds’ critique of his pov.

I thought, OK I’ll take a go at this. So I read the article looking for something – anything really – that had any actual evidence behind it, that was not simply the restatement of a prejudice. And I found nothing. So if you want a critique, it would go something like this:

The new counterculture draws in two groups, disaffected upper middle class white youth and lower class black youth. — No it doesn’t.

These are the children of the welfare state with little in common except a rejection of the commercial way of life. — No they aren’t.

Neither the entitled white university brat or the posturing ghetto teenager has any interest in working. — Wrong. At the very least, you (in New York) have no evidence that these are the groups involved (even putting aside the crude racial stereotypes), and no evidence about their attitude to work.

An understated civil war is already raging in Europe, between Muslim and African immigrants and the society they have penetrated. — Wrong. And what the hell does this have to do with the riots?

And on and on. There really is no point. Sorry.

112

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 5:47 pm

Another pov sure to be labeled a “screed” by some here may be seen by James Lileks’ comments about a “Clock-work-Orange” society and quoting Theodore Dalyrymple: “What’s It Going to Be Then, Eh?”. Be sure to focus on the para right beneath the vid. See@ http://ricochet.com/main-feed/What-s–It-Going-to-Be-Then-Eh

Comments?

113

Steve LaBonne 08.09.11 at 5:52 pm

virgil, nobody cares about the latest garbage spewed by stupid assholes like Lileks and Dalyrymple.

114

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 5:53 pm

Sorry, link bad and I can’t get it to work. If interested, Google.

115

nick s 08.09.11 at 5:54 pm

An arsehole citing an arsehole citing an arsehole? That’s a lot of arseholes.

116

hartal 08.09.11 at 5:55 pm

117

tomslee 08.09.11 at 5:55 pm

the end product of a state that excuses everything with the warm bath of sociological bromides, divorces itself from its cultural antecedents, anesthetizes the lower classes with payouts and a meretricious culture, and finds itself stuffed to the gunwales with pleasure-seeking sociopaths addicted to a life of sensation, both personal – and usually meaningless – and vicarious, which only fuels resentment for those having a better quality of sensory fulfillment – I disagree with every single assertion here and almost all those in the rest of the article. Seriously – what do you expect when you post this kind of evidence-free borderline racist rant (“divorces itself from its cultural antecedents”)? There is no conversation to be had.

118

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 6:02 pm

Steve LaBonne/

LOL. Once again I see nothing has changed here: “C’est une dialogue de sourds.”/”Ships passing in the night”–you name it. Like a M.C. Escher drawing of up the down staircase of alternate parallel universes.

119

Barry Freed 08.09.11 at 6:02 pm

I’m waiting for the links to the latest from Steve Sailer and/or Charles Murray accompanied by entreaties to engage in an open dialogue. It seems it’s either this or the 2nd Amendment (!). Jesus fucking wept.

120

bh 08.09.11 at 6:03 pm

Since I too am an American, and a Chicagoan, I’ll make this about me, too.

Watson, I’m friends with a number of shopowners, many of whom have been victims of crimes in their place of business. What you’re saying about guns for them is a videogame fantasy — it’s Heinlein, not criminology.

Your abstracted guessing at these issues really doesn’t add anything here.

121

Marc 08.09.11 at 6:11 pm

Virgil: in your linked article I got as far as

“Neither the entitled white university brat or the posturing ghetto teenager has any interest in working”…

and decided that it was not worth continuing.

I hope that helps.

122

Steve LaBonne 08.09.11 at 6:14 pm

Just tragic, ain’t it, virgil? Since none of the deaf people here can listen to your oh so sincere attempts to draw them into meaningful conversation, I guess you’ll have to, you know, just go the fuck away. Please.

123

johnny99.1 08.09.11 at 6:24 pm

@Kvetch @ 85 “I was hoping for a little insight and perspective from commenters in or from the UK.”

Here goes – The reaction living and working in London that I’ve heard today from people of all ages and political persuasions is pretty uniformly of the “string them up from the lamp columns” variety.

David Cameron and Boris Johnson’s statements seem to me somewhere pretty far to the liberal/left of most working people in London, who are horrified at what has gone on. I think either would have got a standing ovation if he’d come out today and announced that Northern Ireland trained soldiers were on their way driving water cannons over from NI. Depending on where you stand they are either commendably restrained or totally out of touch.

If you stand broadly on the side of “rehabilitation and understand” rather than “take responsibility for yourself – lock them up and throw away the key” then I think you’ve lost ground. I think a generally liberal, urban living, population have hardened their attitudes considerably.

This may mark a sea change in attitudes to law and order and a shift towards a much more authoritarian view across a lot of people who didn’t previously hold this view.

124

Steve LaBonne 08.09.11 at 6:29 pm

This may mark a sea change in attitudes to law and order and a shift towards a much more authoritarian view across a lot of people who didn’t previously hold this view.

Having seen this happen in the US more than once in my lifetime, I think you can count on it. That’s one of the the tragic things about the whole situation. It was pretty much predictable that something like these riots would happen sooner or later, yet when they do they can only make life worse for everybody except authoritarian politicians. Trying to avoid getting into exactly that no-win situation in the first place is pretty much what social democracy is about.

125

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 6:35 pm

@bh: But do the shopkeepers have the right to employ such violence? Violence after all is the means the police use to deter disorder and gain compliance with the law. We all agree that violence should be used, the question is how, and by whom, and to whom? My argument has two points:

1: The working class is not now served by police

2: They have the right to defend themselves against imminent lawless attack.

From this I conclude they should use this right, to avoid the banditry now plaguing London. Such an exercise would not end the banditry, but would increase the costs of engaging in it. It would ensure that it does not harm those who exercise such a right: the renters whose flats are now in flames, the storeowners who have lost a great deal of their wealth and livelihood, and the bystanders who have been sent to hospital by the rioters.

126

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 6:43 pm

I see some of the CT crowd here today are just as testy, prickly, classless and foul-mouthed as usual–and just as innurred to the realities of the real world as they ever were..Quelle dommage..

Maybe johnny99.1 can inject some reality here..

127

Steve LaBonne 08.09.11 at 6:43 pm

Maybe you can pull up your skirts and primly fuck off.

128

bh 08.09.11 at 6:44 pm

Watson — Arggh… contrary to what you seem to believe, this is not an issue that can be understood simply with an enormous ego and a couple of Gary Becker books.

I really wish I could communicate just how callow, simplistic, and meaningless these logic-chopping exercises of yours are. Get out of your dorm and go talk to people who aren’t in your bullshitting society, because you don’t actually know anything yet.

I’m done now, I promise. Looking forward to hearing more from people with knowledge on the ground…

129

BillCinSD 08.09.11 at 6:46 pm

“Trying to avoid getting into exactly that no-win situation in the first place is pretty much what social democracy is about.”

and pretty much why wanna be authoritarian politicians let the situation fester in the first place

130

Kevin Donoghue 08.09.11 at 6:53 pm

Just discovered that I know the guy who took the broom picture, which is nice.

131

CRW 08.09.11 at 7:06 pm

We are with a group of American university students between Bayswater and Notting Hill, definitely an upscale neighborhood. Last night we heard sirens and smelled smoke until the early morning–our students witnessed people breaking windows and looting–there were vehicles set on fire just two or three blocks over. Friends in south London had their high streets burn. I feel the same sadness as when I watched New Orleans drown. It seems too soon to turn it into a political wrangle.

132

Andrew F. 08.09.11 at 7:07 pm

Has no one noted how much damage the rioters and looters are doing to their own communities and themselves? When the state has implemented austerity measures, burning and looting businesses in one’s neighborhood is a really bad idea.

Those engaging in the disorder, frankly, have much less insulation against the costs of their actions than do those outside the communities.

There is little that is rational, much less justifiable, in the disorder. One hopes that the real victims – all those who are most exposed to the rioting and least able to bear the costs – are given adequate help. And that those responsible are made to pay.

133

Substance McGravitas 08.09.11 at 7:12 pm

Has no one noted how much damage the rioters and looters are doing to their own communities and themselves?

No, nobody has.

134

virgil xenophon 08.09.11 at 7:12 pm

Drudge, linking to Amazon.com.uk claims American baseball bats are currently selling like hotcakes in the UK. Gee, I wonder why?

135

Steve LaBonne 08.09.11 at 7:12 pm

Has no one noted how much damage the rioters and looters are doing to their own communities and themselves?

That’s exactly what I just did at 118, and others did it more explicitly earlier in the thread. Reading comprehension fail.

Did you have a point?

136

Tom Bach 08.09.11 at 7:35 pm

re baseball bats: The British have given up on Cricket?

137

Marc 08.09.11 at 7:36 pm

This sounds a lot like the US ghetto riots in the 1960s – counterproductive (in the sense of prompting a hostile reaction) and destructive to the communities involved, but motivated by actual and severe social problems. Understanding the latter does not imply that you fail to recognize the former.

138

Lemuel Pitkin 08.09.11 at 7:48 pm

This sounds a lot like the US ghetto riots in the 1960s – counterproductive (in the sense of prompting a hostile reaction)

Is that so obvious? It seems clear that the riots also motivated some extension of the welfare state.

139

bert 08.09.11 at 7:48 pm

140

logern 08.09.11 at 7:50 pm

Normally, symptoms are confined to internal damage.

It’s not that thugs arose to assault nice middle class neighborhoods with their misdirected anger just out of nowhere.

No, the symptoms of the problems have just broken their normal constraints.

Suddenly, the “good” people are alarmed that a malignancy is showing up where it’s not wanted.

141

Marc 08.09.11 at 8:11 pm

Lemuel: The Nixon backlash was substantively fueled by law-and-order rhetoric, and white flight from the cities was dramatically escalated by the riots (e.g. Detroit, Newark). The seeds of the Reagan (and Nixon) Democrats in the north can be attributed pretty directly to the aftermath of the riots.

It’s hard to come up with a case in my memory where they helped liberal causes, to put another way; do any examples come to mind?

142

roac 08.09.11 at 8:28 pm

It’s hard to come up with a case in my memory where they helped liberal causes, to put another way; do any examples come to mind?

Yes. The Fair Housing Act, which had been kicking around Congress for years, was enacted in a hell of a hurry following the 1968 MLK riots. The causation is beyond dispute. Which is not to say that the riots were a Good Thing in the Sellar/Yeatman classification.

143

Dan 08.09.11 at 8:38 pm

I think the Daily Mash has got it spot on: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/riots-caused-by-society-or-lazy,-thieving-pricks,-say-experts-201108094174/

“seismologists reported a sudden lurch to the right as people who own tagines found themselves calling for the immediate deployment of the Parachute Regiment and a couple of RAF Tornadoes”

144

Tim Wilkinson 08.09.11 at 9:20 pm

145

skippy 08.09.11 at 9:47 pm

146

Hidari 08.09.11 at 9:48 pm

For those who question the so to speak ‘value’ of riots, they might want to reflect on the fact that gays and lesbians now have (inadequate but real) rights because of the Stonewall Riots and not because of the Stonewall ‘letter writing and moderate progress within the boundaries of the law movement.’

147

Marc 08.09.11 at 10:10 pm

Fighting back against an abusive police raid on a gay bar isn’t the same as looting shops and middle-class houses. Analogy fail…

148

Tom Bach 08.09.11 at 10:14 pm

Hidari:
Wasn’t it both? I mean aren’t, at least in the recent past — say from the Suffragettes on, marginal groups’ political successes the result of violent and non-violent means?

149

Hidari 08.09.11 at 10:17 pm

Er no. What actually happened was people being a bit miffed at what looks like murder by the police.

But as you say, ‘looting’ ‘middle class’ houses. Oh the horror.

150

Watson Ladd 08.09.11 at 11:21 pm

So they are angry at the police, and so steal mobile telephones and burn down furniture stores? Seems a bit misplaced.

151

Bruce Wilder 08.09.11 at 11:28 pm

@137 et alia: “like the US ghetto riots in the 1960s”

The race riots of the 1960s in the U.S. were usually triggered by police misconduct, in a general atmosphere of racial tension with the police. In that respect, I suppose there’s a superficial resemblance to the situation today in London.

In terms of the larger economic context, the contrast is striking. The U.S., in the 1960s was in the midst of the great egalitarian expansion, which had begun in 1932, and been accelerated by WWII. The social conformity and political paranoia created by the extreme solidarity of WWII was wearing off, after 1958, both the Democratic White Supremacist Right and the Republican Business Right was in eclipse, and the Liberal Consensus dominated social, cultural and economic politics. The amazing affluence afforded by the automated mass-production of the Second Industrial Revolution had spread out geographically, and the decision was taken to fully admit the last excluded classes: the South, blacks and women and gays.

LBJ’s Great Society would reduce the number of people in poverty markedly, in the first great Keynesian expansion, and Civil Rights laws, adopted by overwhelming popular majorities, swept away de jure racial discrimination.

Intellectuals in sociology and history were chewing the remaining cud of Marxism, and spitting out theories of revolution, right and left. It was a very popular topic in the 1950s and 1960s. The notion that the riot/revolution started, when heightened expectations were dashed, was quite popular conventional wisdom; I can remember Barrington Moore (or someone like that) applying it anachronistically to the French Revolution. And, it had its vulgar expression in a lot of hot-headed rhetoric from young black men and white boys with student deferments from the draft. It was kind of weird in a way: riots in the moment of liberal triumph. Just on the level of police conduct, though, it is clear that it took a while for the previously oppressed to lose their shame, and find paths for ambition, as well as time for police to adapt, and professionalize their conduct. The 1960s were the time, when the police, in both the U.S. and the U.K., started giving Miranda warnings, and stopped routinely beating confessions out of suspects.

The Stonewall Riots in NYC were a faint echo of the large-scale race riots earlier in the 1960s. But, in many respects, the same core dynamic was at work: the flashpoint was oppressive and abusive police conduct, which had become archaic in light of decisions already taken by the society at large. The Sexual Revolution was past its mid-point (circa 1967). The society as a whole had already made a number of key decisions on sexual and gay rights. The police had not gotten the message, however, and were engaged in a routine, pre-mayoral campaign, “clean-up” the city program. Police conduct would be reformed — it was already being reformed, in the sense that the legal steps to legalize “gay bars” had already been taken, and Vice Squad practice had begun the switch from prosecuting gay victims of blackmail to prosecuting the blackmailers, etc. Like the blacks, gays would take inspiration from the Stonewall Riots, organizing “Gay Pride” parades, which have continued and spread around the world. That celebration of “pride” was the antidote to the shame internalized after decades of systematic humiliation and oppression. So, Stonewall was less about demanding something from teh Man, than about the oppressed adjusting to the possibilities of new status, already granted in principle.

A major crime wave started in the U.S. in the 1960s that only began to peter out in 1990s. Rates of violent crime climbed markedly. It is hard to know if this crime wave was socially and politically endogenous, a by-product of social and economic change, or just lead poisoning.

The economic context, today, is just the opposite of the 1960s U.S. The U.S. and U.K., today, are at an extreme of economic inequality, and the total global wealth — the proverbial pie — is shrinking, and appears likely to shrink for many decades to come. Instead of a Liberal Consensus setting the agenda, we have a Plutocracy dominating all. The only part of the “Left” represented in politics is a corrupt neo-liberalism, rationalizing every plutocratic theft and seizure as “serious” and “practical”. If the filthy rich are to retain their stupendous claims on wealth and income, larger and larger swaths of the mass population will have to be progressively excluded from any hope of affluence and prosperity.

This kind of progressive exclusion will require changes in law and police conduct. To a large extent, those changes in law have already taken place: Britain is, in formal legal terms, an authoritarian police state, complete with universal surveillance. Naturally enough, the first to feel the tightening grip are poor black immigrant communities; they are to be excluded from any possibility of economic affluence, in a society in which social mobility is at a total standstill. This riot, then, may be a mere rehearsal, for what promises to be a long-running play of increasingly authoritarian police conduct, enforcing economic exclusion and oppression. Humiliation will, no doubt, be a part of the police, judicial and propaganda program that accompanies progressive economic exclusion and oppression, and shame will follow. (Maybe, someone will organize shame parades to comemorate the occasion, like the Orange parades in Northern Ireland.)

It is not entirely coincidental, I suppose, that the Wisconsin recall election is taking place today, as public employee unions put on the block for economic exclusion by the Republican Governor there, attempt to use the ballot box in place of violence. We’ll see how well that goes, as well.

152

Substance McGravitas 08.09.11 at 11:31 pm

the decision was taken to fully admit the last excluded classes: the South, blacks and women and gays.

It was?

153

hartal 08.09.11 at 11:40 pm

I don’t think the subtle distinctions he is trying to make hold up, but I’ll wait for the longer piece. I think what he writes here is interesting. Kenan Malik is a curious guy, someone who tries to be a reasonable, scientific anti-racist as if a scientist during the Salem Witch Trials would be reasonable only if he was willing to entertain seriously the charge of a woman being a witch only to refute it carefully, and in a somewhat qualified manner.

http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/five-quick-points-about-the-riots/

154

Bruce Wilder 08.10.11 at 12:21 am

@152: It was?

Yes.

155

Substance McGravitas 08.10.11 at 12:21 am

Who made that decision?

156

Bruce Wilder 08.10.11 at 12:33 am

@153

“Subtle distinctions” or unsubtle denials?

157

bob 08.10.11 at 12:40 am

you import an underclass and this is the result. that’s my structural interpretation

158

Andrew F. 08.10.11 at 12:44 am

Steve Labonne @135: That’s exactly what I just did at 118, and others did it more explicitly earlier in the thread. Reading comprehension fail.

First, you didn’t comment at 118. Always a good idea to get your own details straight before claiming “reading comprehension fail.” Second, aside from one or two comments attempting to organize a cleanup, I saw no discussion of the folly of harming businesses in the midst of austerity measures. I did see a great deal of discussion regarding, variously, gun control, that the right-wing is to blame, gun control, that the right-wing is to blame, and some warnings about a more authoritarian state (which I think are erroneous).

Did you have a point?

I don’t think my point was unclear. I’m happy to clarify anything in the post that you find difficult to understand, though.

Marc @137: This sounds a lot like the US ghetto riots in the 1960s – counterproductive (in the sense of prompting a hostile reaction) and destructive to the communities involved, but motivated by actual and severe social problems. Understanding the latter does not imply that you fail to recognize the former.

Well, I can understand the existence of a problem, though, without agreeing that it caused those who rioted and looted to do so. Most people did not, after all, riot and loot.

The socioeconomic causal narrative can be taken too far though – it can have the effect of removing responsibility – or cause – from the individuals who actually rioted. Viewed as a response to social and economic conditions, the we agree that the rioting is severely dysfunctional. Those rioting aren’t viewed as human beings undertaking decisions, but as persons that having been prodded this way and that way, finally just “lashed out.”

159

Tom Bach 08.10.11 at 12:58 am

Andrew F: Steve LeBonne at, right now, 124:
Having seen this happen in the US more than once in my lifetime, I think you can count on it. That’s one of the the tragic things about the whole situation. It was pretty much predictable that something like these riots would happen sooner or later, yet when they do they can only make life worse for everybody except authoritarian politicians. Trying to avoid getting into exactly that no-win situation in the first place is pretty much what social democracy is about.

The numbers here move about as comments come on line. If I wanted to be needless confrontational I would insert some snotty comment here about; but, I don’t so I won’t.

For what it’s worth, I also wondered what your point was.

160

Steve LaBonne 08.10.11 at 12:59 am

I’m happy to clarify anything in the post that you find difficult to understand, though.

I found it quite easy to understand- it was your usual substance-free, holier than thou wankng. Carry on.

161

Bruce Wilder 08.10.11 at 1:15 am

@152

Yes, “a decision was taken”. I hope it is obvious that I’m using a metaphoric short-hand by ascribing agency to society as a whole and speaking of a singular “decision”. But, societies do make collective choices about culture and politics and economics, although maybe societies make those choices in waves, not singularly. There’s definitely such a wave — several concurrent waves — beginning in the mid-1950s, or so, as the Liberal Consensus takes hold, concerning a whole agenda of reforms and liberalizations. The Liberal Consensus is a kind of zeitgeist way to label the phenomenon, but the phenomenon is real enough, however one labels it; the vast majority of people, in the country, including elites, come to accept, as shared conventional wisdom, a liberal agenda of social, political and economic reform. There are those, like William F. Buckley, Jr., noisily protesting every step of the way, of course, but from a position of self-conscious isolated minority status.

I could catalog a whole series of cultural events and turning points and legal and political decisions, to document the timing, but this is a comment, not a history of the 1960s. From the moment, the Warren Court ruled unanimously in Brown and LBJ started contesting with the Senate Republicans over the Civil Rights Act of 1957, both sides championing the bill to look good before a national audience, it was pretty clear where the politics of racial segregation was headed. The Warren Court’s decisions implementing legal changes on a range of issues, from racial discrimination to the publication of obscenity to police procedure, followed definite themes.

There are “revolutions” in civil rights and race relations, and in sexual politics. And, a big economic expansion. There’s a whole series of choices, decisions and developments, which continue into the 1970s, and later, but the trend is set, by the initial adoption of the Liberal Consensus agenda and its guiding principles of individual autonomy and social and economic egalitarianism. (Eventually, the whole thing is subverted by Nixon and Reagan and a political re-alignment.)

I could spin out a whole catalog of political decisions and cultural events, in series, to document step-by-step the political and cultural “revolutions” of the 1960s.

Anyway, my point is that the 1960s riots come after, not before, the reforms and liberalizations had been accepted in principle by the society at large. So, to the extent that one is wondering whether riots “accomplish” anything, it is important to take that timing into account.

By parallel construction, I’m arguing that the 2011 London riots are occurring after “a decision has been taken” to begin a process of progressive economic exclusion, as a means of maintaining (and financing), during a widely anticipated, prolonged period of economic stagnation and decline, an extreme concentration of wealth and income, which will be enforced by increasingly oppressive legal authoritarianism and policing.

162

Substance McGravitas 08.10.11 at 1:30 am

Thanks for elaborating.

163

rhino 08.10.11 at 1:46 am

Substance@162

I’m finding it hard to read if you’re being sarcastic here, would you clarify?

WRT 161: I think you might even say that the riots are not merely occurring after the decisions, but they are an almost inevitable result of those decisions. And I feel your assessment of a bleak future for Britain is depressingly accurate. For all of us really.

164

Andrew F. 08.10.11 at 1:56 am

Steve @160: I found it quite easy to understand- it was your usual substance-free, holier than thou wankng. Carry on.

Another substance-filled comment for me.

Tom @159: For what it’s worth, I also wondered what your point was.

It was a comment made quickly, Tom. I thought it was striking how much discussion there was about socioeconomic causes, and how little about the magnitude of the dysfunctionality of the response. There were two or three groups in most of the comments – the rioters, the upper class, and the right-wingers. Upper class/right-wingers take X policy actions, causing rioters to respond in Y way.

I wanted to broaden the focus so that the rioters are explicitly understood as having the same amount of agency, and perhaps more pernicious effects on the relevant communities, as the upper class or right-wing. It’s curious that the people who engage in looting and burning are viewed entirely as an organic outgrowth of a community, which is then set in opposition to the upper class and right-wing. There’s an important element of truth to this, of course, but the interests of the rioters and the rest of community diverge sharply, as do their norms, in important ways. Moreover the interests and norms of the non-rioting community, and that of the upper class and right wing, converge in important ways. Separating, clearly, different groups and interests, rather than simply lumping in the rioters with the rest of the community, is essential to understanding a workable solution.

165

Substance McGravitas 08.10.11 at 2:16 am

I’m finding it hard to read if you’re being sarcastic here, would you clarify?

That’s an honest thank you. I don’t buy the societal decision – then even more than now there are large portions of society unhappy with providing equality to some of the groups enumerated – but I appreciate the effort. It’s as if society is an animal at war with itself, or perhaps like me on a bender.

166

Bruce Wilder 08.10.11 at 2:33 am

@164 “I wanted to broaden the focus so that the rioters are explicitly understood as having the same amount of agency . . .”

I don’t think someone with the “same amount of agency” as the upper class is likely to lash out in such violent despair. I see little that is rational, much less justifiable, in the disorder, which suggests to me, that the rioters are in positions, where they have much less power and agency.

The political system is far more responsive to the ruling classes; that’s why they are called the ruling classes, and, to my way of thinking, ruling implies a greater degree of responsibility for conditions, and a greater degree of strategic agency.

In a slave revolt, no matter how bloody pointless, I don’t blame the slave. ymmv

167

Bruce Wilder 08.10.11 at 2:36 am

@165

No war, but class war.

168

Watson Ladd 08.10.11 at 2:40 am

@Andrew F. Whose community?

169

Myles 08.10.11 at 2:53 am

I suppose at least one should be glad that this isn’t a New Labour government handling this. (Perhaps that the same kind of riots would not have occurred absent Coalition cuts, but I don’t think they made as much difference as some think.) Just imagine David Blunkett or Charles Clarke handling this, and Tony Blair talking about zero tolerance.

At the end of the day, there must be grievances, but that there are grievances doesn’t mean that the grievances are legitimate. What’s the grievance? That society hasn’t looked after them? But how? How does society look after people of the kind who were torching shops and houses with no sense of restraint whatsoever?

In North America, people would say “get yourself into a trade” or something. You know, become a roofer. Or a bartender. Or something. But the kind of behaviour demonstrated in these riots are indicative of not even the bare minimum of that kind of temperament or inclination. At some point, the agency of society and government stops and the agency of the individual begins. I honestly don’t know on which side of that point these people are, but the evidence so far is not encouraging.

Normal people can, and are, pushed beyond the breaking point by deplorable external conditions. I’ve almost been there myself. But this kind of looting, a kind that manages to be both gratuitous and premeditated, isn’t just being pushed beyond the breaking point; it’s psychopathy and pathology.

170

William Timberman 08.10.11 at 2:56 am

@ Bruce Wilder

Applause, just plain applause. Having been through the events of the Sixties in the U.S, sometimes in precisely the places and the times you cite, I’m amazed at how well they jibe with history as I experienced it. We’re all conditioned by such experiences, I suppose, and therefore our judgments are suspect, but FWIW, a tip of the hat to someone who, despite the negative incentives of the modern age, clearly hasn’t stopped making sense.

171

Tony Lynch 08.10.11 at 4:00 am

“it’s psychopathy and pathology.”

Gee, you really have been thinking things through.

172

engels 08.10.11 at 4:11 am

Al Jazeera: Rioting for ‘justice’ in London

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/08/2011891555226219.html

173

Mandos 08.10.11 at 5:01 am

Is it any surprise that someone who religiously cheers all the policies that have created these underclasses by reducing the availability of jobs in developed countries also subscribes to the belief that anyone can just get a job by magic and will?

174

Emma in Sydney 08.10.11 at 5:23 am

Nothing Myles says is a surprise, Mandos, as you point out. In fact, I was getting concerned that he hadn’t shown up to deplore the behaviour that he admits he ‘honestly doesn’t know’ about, but at the same time is convinced is psychopathic and pathological. I thought something bad might have happened to him. But it seems not. I guess.

175

Meredith 08.10.11 at 5:56 am

Channeling my reactions to other recent CT posts and mixing it with my reactions to these posts (I think I’ve at least skimmed all of them), and also my reactions to everything going on in GB, Wisconsin, Hama…; to Obama; oh and yeah, to that global economic crisis:
The neo-liberal technocrats + plutocrats (on all points of the political spectrum, including what we laughingly call “the left” these days) + the various -isms (e.g. racism and sexism, though the latter is usually ignored though it’s crucial to the mix) = riots, whose cause can’t be reduced to any simple formulation but is part of a counter-nexus. (Counter-nexus — did I just say that? Sorry.)
God, I feel like some kind of old-fashioned Marxist (or, as I would have preferred in my youth, when we worried about these things, Marxian). And, yeah, this is (given my upbringing and orientation) also a Christian response (hello Cornell, hello, Martin — and hello any generous spirits of any “faith tradition”).
The word ALIENATION comes to mind. Mix in adolescent anxieties and immature versions of self-assertion/affirmation (make that especially MALE adolescent anxieties — this doesn’t get females off the hook, by a long shot, but just sayin’).
People can be very very poor yet not for a moment contemplate looting/theft/appropriation (choose your poison) IF they have (drumroll) a sense of SOLIDARITY with others in the face of life’s vicissitudes (hey, crap will happen, no matter what — and we all die, in the end), a reasonably secure sense of their own individual AGENCY in the world, of a FUTURE that they can project themselves into. It’s not news that small shopkeepers (the petit b.) and poor kids in the estates/hoods (yea old lumpen) will be falsely pitted against one another.
I am truly not some old left Marxist, but gee whiz, there’s some basic wisdom in that old-time stuff.

176

Meredith 08.10.11 at 5:58 am

Please ignore cross-outs — not “mine.” I won’t burden folks with my computer problems of late.

177

may 08.10.11 at 6:15 am

the social programs being axed because the country can’t afford it were introduced at the end of the 2nd world war when Britain was on it’s knees after 6 years of total war.

at the time the national debt was through the roof.

what’s different?
the debt is throught the roof now,though corporate riches are somewhat enhanced this time.

hmm.

178

Hidari 08.10.11 at 6:24 am

@150

I know the rioters are biting the hand that feeds them. I’m sure they would much rather be biting the hand that is repeatedly punching them in the face. But at the time the riots ‘kicked off’ the hand that was punching them in the face was attached to David Cameron*, and was busy not tipping waiters in Tuscany.

Had it been available I’m sure it would have been bitten. But one does what one can.

*I believe it still is, and is now busy flapping about ineffectually.

179

Hidari 08.10.11 at 6:32 am

@153

Shorter Kenan Malik.

1: These riots aren’t political. I mean they are political, but the fact that they are political doesn’t mean they are political.

2: These riots aren’t about race. I mean they are about race, but the mere fact that they are about race doesn’t mean they are about race.

3: These riots aren’t about unemployment. I mean they are about unemployment, but merely because they are about unemployment doesn’t mean they are about unemployment.

4: Anyone who talks about what the community wants or needs, such as myself, should be ignored.

5: Even though the rioters are awful, there are other people who are more, or possibly less, awful. (Or who possibly have the same level of awfulness: it’s hard to be sure).

(Apologies for the lack of logical thought in this piece, I will update it with reasoned argument later).

180

chris y 08.10.11 at 7:37 am

Is it any surprise that someone who religiously cheers all the policies that have created these underclasses by reducing the availability of jobs in developed countries also subscribes to the belief that anyone can just get a job by magic and will?

The best one line summary I’ve heard yet was from my wife: “What the fuck do they expect when there are a million NEETs?”

181

Sam Dodsworth 08.10.11 at 8:26 am

This Guardian piece is a bit impressionistic but does at least make the point that there’s more of an age/race/gender mix among the rioters than most of the reports imply:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/09/london-riots-who-took-part?cat=uk&type=article

182

BT 08.10.11 at 8:52 am

183

Jack Strocchi 08.10.11 at 9:13 am

PS to Petty Unifying Theory:

May I suggest we take a step back and survey the wreckage? There is plenty of blame to go around, for both sides of politics.

Among its many mixed-up blessings, post-modern society brings the semi-collapse of moral codes in both the over-class and under-class. Meanwhile the middle-class keeps its clean nose to the grindstone, busy as a blue-arsed blowfly. So Wall Street+Mean Streets clean out Main Street with charges and taxes.

Both ends of the class system have more or less escaped accountability. The former because they can cook the books, the latter because they evade the books. By contrast the middle class is all-too accountable, being both supervised and supervising.

Its too busy to engage politically, working 24/7 to pay off our mortgages, shuttling two cars for the daily run-around, saving up to put the kids into better schools etc. It would be nice to have Marc Rich on speed dial or at least let off steam on the streets, but who has the money or time?

To be sure, politicians pay lip-service to “working families”. But thats just boilerplate for election campaigns. Meantime the over- and under-class have dedicated political lobbies, ever-ready to spin blatantly criminal behaviour.

Twas’ not ever thus. Once upon a time the nation had centripetal forces -faith, flag and family. (Admittedly after suffering a SIW during the Great War.) That checked the centrifugal forces of class.

But this past generation post-modern liberals have been busy under-mining the traditional pillars of society. The EU does not seem to be an effective substitute, yet. So it does not take much austerity for the thin veneer of civility to collapse.

I don’t have any grand solutions apart from urging the alert citizenry to be ever-vigilant. But middle class people are, by nature, reluctant to express political class consciousness. Its a little unseemly. (They will engage in special interest group politics, but that has little ideological valency.)

A modest proposal: lock the banksters and the gangstas in the same cell, throw away the key and let God sort ‘em out.

184

Chris Bertram 08.10.11 at 9:17 am

What stands out for me is the comprehensive failure of the police. They’ve really shown that they can enjoy themselves battering students and envirnonmental protesters (as well as bullying individuals – especially black ones) but faced with tough poor kids from estates looting, and they just stand well back and let shopkeepers be ruined.

(Note also that this comes after repeated lying in cases such as de Menenez, replicated in the Duggan cases where they briefed that there’d been a shoot-out, after all the revelations about police being paid by News International, and after the green-infiltration sex-with-activists scandal. Truly they are in a bad place.)

185

Chris Bertram 08.10.11 at 9:19 am

Jack surveys the scene from Australia, and finds that all that he reads confirms him in the view he had all along, a bit like virgil above really. Quelle surprise.

186

Kevin Donoghue 08.10.11 at 10:28 am

“…faced with tough poor kids from estates looting, [the police] just stand well back and let shopkeepers be ruined.”

Could it be that they are making a point to a government which thinks they cost too much? (That’s a straight question, not a claim that it’s all very simple if you just accept my pet theories.)

187

Sam Dodsworth 08.10.11 at 10:43 am

Could it be that they are making a point to a government which thinks they cost too much?

I’m not seeing any gloating from the police officers I follow on Twitter – although there’s plenty of anger about proposed cuts. And no significant criticism of orders, which I might expect to see if the idea came from high up without involving the rank-and-file. So my guess is probably not, unless the culture of omerta is stronger than it looks.

188

Uncle Kvetch 08.10.11 at 11:14 am

Jack surveys the scene from Australia, and finds that all that he reads confirms him in the view he had all along, a bit like virgil above really. Quelle surprise.

True, but you gotta give it up for Myles. Anybody can do “I’m thousands of miles away and I don’t have all the facts, but it’s clear to me that…” It takes a certain je ne sais quoi to take that to “it’s clear to me that if my preferred party weren’t in power, things would be even worse.” That’s how it’s done.

189

Sam Dodsworth 08.10.11 at 11:19 am

So… rubber bullets and water cannon for the next student demo, anyone? It seems peaceful protesters are the only ones who’ll stand still long enough to get a dose of “robust policing”.

190

soullite 08.10.11 at 11:27 am

Tell me, oh wise idiots. Why, if ‘90%’ or ‘100% of the looters are just criminals, do they not riot every weekend. Forever. Both in the past and the future? If most of them are criminals, than surely they could have organized these riots at any time. Why did they wait for a reason if they didn’t need a much larger group of people already rioting out of anger and hopelessness to hide behind? If, as some of you suggest, there are entire neighborhoods full of thugs and criminals, then why is this only happening now?

Or maybe you’re just upper class twits making up shit in order to justify your own desires.

191

Sam Dodsworth 08.10.11 at 11:42 am

@soullite

It’s a scientific fact(*) that when the number of guns and bibles per head drops below a critical level then disorder instantly starts up. The logical conclusion in this case is that it was Mark Duggan’s gun – confiscated, please note, by agents of the state – that sent us below the threshold.

(*) There’s no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact.

192

Guido Nius 08.10.11 at 11:43 am

I am not an egalitarian by any means but with this I think it is clear that Chris B. is right in that too much inequality, as such, is the mother of a lot of evil. I sure hope that people do realize that using swearwords to refer to children is not going to be part of the solution, & I do hope that people remember why they hated the Murdochites that now come back en masse to preach what they were always paid to preach.

193

Andrew F. 08.10.11 at 11:43 am

Bruce Wilder @166: I see little that is rational, much less justifiable, in the disorder, which suggests to me, that the rioters are in positions, where they have much less power and agency.

It’s completely irrational from the perspective of the community affected, but that’s too high a level of analysis – and, of course, most of the communities in question aren’t rioting. If we get more granular, we can focus on the particular individuals rioting and looting. Their interests diverge in important ways from the rest of the community, and their decision calculus does as well.

Where you see a community oppressed, and the rioting and looting as an expression of violent despair to use your phrase, I see a large number of mostly young males taking advantage of a police force temporarily overwhelmed. Where you want to use analysis at the level of classes to understand this, I want to use an analysis that takes divisions within classes seriously.

In a slave revolt, no matter how bloody pointless, I don’t blame the slave. ymmv

A slave revolt? Really?

Chris Bertram @184: They’ve really shown that they can enjoy themselves battering students and envirnonmental protesters (as well as bullying individuals – especially black ones) but faced with tough poor kids from estates looting, and they just stand well back and let shopkeepers be ruined.

Oh come on, the police engage on a much more regular and more dangerous basis with “tough poor kids from estates” than they do with students and environmentalists. Describing them as essentially cowardly bullies is unjustified.

Stopping looting and rioting is a question of resources, not the inner virtue of the police. One must respond to a riot with an organized force sufficient to defend itself and quell the disturbance – you can’t simply hurl numerically insufficient units into the fray. Political protests allow police to mobilize beforehand, so that the organized force required is already there. Outbursts of riots, by contrast, don’t. And if the location of the riots and looting was in some sense coordinated, that would make it all the more difficult.

194

Matt McIrvin 08.10.11 at 12:21 pm

bert: I’ve already seen Americans claiming that in a society with permissive gun laws, the riots never would have happened. They don’t consider Los Angeles to be a place with permissive gun laws.

195

engels 08.10.11 at 12:32 pm

“Rioters in Tottenham had the decency to form an orderly queue…”

That’s the true spirit of Britain there: ‘keep calm and carry on looting.’ (Goes back centuries.)

196

Watson Ladd 08.10.11 at 12:33 pm

@Jack: The middle class expresses its class nature in the BNP. The middle class is the working poor, and very easily the not working poor at all. That its its class nature, not the false consciousness of the middle class.

@Matt: Koreantown in LA wasn’t affected because of the defense organized by those who lived and work there.

@soullite: Think of the criminality or lack of investment in society as the tinder, and the shooting of Duggan as the match. The riots now have nothing to do with what sparked them off. Or could you explain why anger at the police should express itself in theft?

197

Chris Bertram 08.10.11 at 12:34 pm

_Describing them as essentially cowardly bullies is unjustified._

Have you or any member of your family been on the “wrong end” of an encounter with the police?

198

sg 08.10.11 at 12:41 pm

soullite, this shit happens every weekend in London. It just got concentrated on this particular week. The Daily Mash summarizes it: “Meanwhile, in Manchester, debate continues over whether the city had experienced serious social unrest or a Tuesday.”

199

ajay 08.10.11 at 12:58 pm

Tell me, oh wise idiots. Why, if ‘90%’ or ‘100% of the looters are just criminals, do they not riot every weekend. Forever. Both in the past and the future?

As sg says, they do, in fact, commit crimes every weekend. And during the week too.

faced with tough poor kids from estates looting, and they just stand well back and let shopkeepers be ruined.

44 police officers have been injured so far in the riots. Over 450 people have been arrested.

200

sg 08.10.11 at 1:05 pm

Backing up ajay, there was a very disturbing video yesterday of police in some suburb being outnumbered and driven off – maybe 8 police vs. about 100 thugs. I’m not unsurprised at their being disorganized and having a poor central response, but let’s be fair – no one in their right mind would have done any differently in the circumstances, and anyone who did would be looking to get in serious trouble.

The point about police corruption is important though. Britain needs a thorough review of police activity, and in my opinion serious corruption charges need to be brought against a lot of people involved in the NoTW scandal (just for starters). As ever, they could learn from Australia.

201

Chris Bertram 08.10.11 at 1:06 pm

Given the nature of the disturbances, ajay, I wouldn’t be surprised, but note that they claimed that 70 police were injured during a climate change protests, but the truth turned out to be different:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/16/kingsnorth-environment-police-inquiry-injuries

202

ajay 08.10.11 at 1:13 pm

201: good point. Probably none of them were really injured. They were all standing back and letting the looting happen after all.

203

Barry 08.10.11 at 1:21 pm

Meredith @ 175, perhaps you could have somebody fluent in – well, any human language – review your comments for clarity, sense and meaning?

204

Chris Bertram 08.10.11 at 1:23 pm

No not saying that, just (a) saying don’t take reports at face value since they’ve lied in the past (b) providing evidence for my claim that they normally have few inhibitions about hitting ordinary protestors. The Kingsnorth link backs up both.

205

engels 08.10.11 at 1:28 pm

44 police officers have been injured so far in the riots.

43 if you don’t include the officer they are no longer claiming was shot by Mark Duggan…

206

ajay 08.10.11 at 1:31 pm

Chris, I hate to keep disagreeing like this, but if you want to say “the police have lied about officers getting injured at protests in the past”, the way to prove it is not with a story about a junior Home Office minister lying.

207

Chris Bertram 08.10.11 at 1:45 pm

FFS, ajay, when the minster says “I was informed … ” who do you think informed him?

208

Steve LaBonne 08.10.11 at 2:04 pm

Cops lie all the time. In the US we even have a word, “testilying”, for when they do it on the witness stand.

209

politicalfootball 08.10.11 at 2:07 pm

That’s the true spirit of Britain there: ‘keep calm and carry on looting.’

In the U.S., this is also true of Wall Street.

210

Sam Dodsworth 08.10.11 at 2:36 pm

ajay, the really crass, obvious, cases of the police lying tend to be over civilian deaths because those sometimes get investigated. But are you suggesting that it’s unreasonable to assume that the force that lied about Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, and mark Duggan might be less than truthful about injuries to their own?

I would also cite the “lightbulbs filled with ammonia” supposedly thrown by demonstrators on March 26th and the mysterious incident in which Jody McIntyre was accidentally struck by the batons of police who were helping him out of his wheelchair as examples of police testimony that, while not refuted, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

211

MPAVictoria 08.10.11 at 2:45 pm

I agree with both ajay and Chris. Most police officers I know, or have had dealings with, are dedicated professionals trying their best to do a difficult job. Some however are power mad assholes who are just dying for the oppurtunity to get a good boot in.

212

ajay 08.10.11 at 3:16 pm

FFS, ajay, when the minster says “I was informed … ” who do you think informed him?

This may shock you, but unlike you I’m not entirely convinced that politicians always tell the exact truth.

213

Chris Bertram 08.10.11 at 3:30 pm

Strangely enough, ajay, I’m not entirely convinced of that either. But I know enough about how the House of Commons works to think that a specific number on police injuries will have been supplied to a minister by his department (the Home Office) who will have sourced it from the relevant Constabulary. Not very likely that he just made the number up himself.

214

Satan Mayo 08.10.11 at 3:35 pm

The middle class is the working poor, and very easily the not working poor at all. That its its class nature, not the false consciousness of the middle class.

What?

215

bert 08.10.11 at 3:52 pm

I have a limited appetite for the more handwringing sympathy-with-the-oppressed stuff on display here and elsewhere. But I can appreciate where it’s coming from.
This man, on the other hand, is a bad-taste joke.

Upthread a few comments, Matt McIrvin mentioned some of the gun arguments getting made. Remember, there were people blaming the bodycount at Virginia Tech on the university’s on-campus gun ban and the state’s restrictions on concealed carry permits.

There’s a difference between honest muddleheadedness and outright derangement.
The way some people’s minds work seems very foreign to me.
Fwiw, it’s the same story with the overtly religious.

Some have said they want some English-sourced insight. This is worth a look:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/10/liverpool-riots-mob-mayhem

216

Josh G. 08.10.11 at 4:10 pm

A bit of an aside, but Chris Bertram @ 184 mentioned “tough poor kids from estates looting.” This was slightly jarring to my American ears, since here in the US, “estate” is roughly synonymous with “mansion.” Am I correct in assuming that in the UK, it instead means something similar to what Americans would call “the projects”?

217

Jim Demintia 08.10.11 at 4:23 pm

Yeah, in the U.K., the term for the public housing is council estates.

218

bert 08.10.11 at 4:39 pm

The kids won’t be going to public schools either.
That means something very different over here.

219

ajay 08.10.11 at 5:30 pm

213: you don’t think it’s possible that the relevant constabulary said (truthfully) “well, our onsite medics treated 70 policemen” and the minister might have exaggerated? You know, sexed up the evidence a bit? It’s been known for ministers to do that. Ah well.

217: or, north of the border, “housing schemes” or just “the schemes”. Whence “schemie”, the Edinburgh version of what the English call a chav.

Incidentally, the Guardian’s got someone watching the rioters go in front of the magistrates now and liveblogging it. Occupations listed so far: college student, unemployed, not given, teaching assistant, not given, scaffolder. All men, late teens to late twenties.

220

elm 08.10.11 at 6:01 pm

ajay @ 219: Are you claiming the Jr. Minister exaggerated? If so, show evidence.

Did a police spokesperson contradict him? Should that have happened?

The text of your posts consist of not-very-informative speculation and and pedantry on this point.

221

Kevin Donoghue 08.10.11 at 6:40 pm

The more I read of all this (see this account for example) the more it looks like profit-driven raiding activity. The Vikings are still with us. I suppose it will end in another bloody Levitt & Dubner whimsy-nomics book. But it is all so seriously horrible that the reaction of the usual jerks doesn’t seem to matter much.

222

Tim Wilkinson 08.10.11 at 8:13 pm

bert – like Kenan Malik (see Hidari @179 above). yer man there seems to suppose that intention exhausts explanation, which in the case of obviously none-too-rational behaviour is quite moronic:

In 1981 I could have cited unemployment (check), low-income, single-parent family (check), experience of police brutality (check) as factors in my participation, but none of the above even remotely came into my thinking then and I doubt it is stoking today’s unrest, either.

Kevin Donoghue @221: An excellent piece, though your conclusion seems superficial to say the least. The author has a more nuanced view.

Fair enough if you want to ignore her conclusions, I suppose (though perhaps not, since they will have played a part in her choice of which events to describe). But while ‘profit [i.e. acquisition] -driven raiding activity’ may describe the behaviour of some of those turning up in cars after the actual rioters have smashed places up and it becomes clear there’s no heat around, but it doesn’t seem to be a good description of this:

I watched teenagers loot an electrical good sole trader’s shop. Don’t get me wrong when I say this, but if they’d nicked the TVs and laptops I could almost understand it, but they simply brought them outside and smashed them to bits in the street.

223

Tim Wilkinson 08.10.11 at 8:34 pm

ajay: nice stats.

224

Kevin Donoghue 08.10.11 at 8:38 pm

Tim, I’m puzzled. There’s no mention of TVs and laptops in the piece I linked to. But no doubt my take on these events is superficial; I’ve never lived in England and can’t make much sense of what is going on.

225

Tim Wilkinson 08.10.11 at 8:46 pm

Yes, well you may be puzzled. That was me being a dickhead. I was referring to this:

http://chaplainmediacity.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/salford-riots/

which I somehow thought was your link.

So apologs for asperity. But it is a good piece (the one I’ve linked to I mean), and quite insightful, I thought.

226

Tim Wilkinson 08.10.11 at 8:49 pm

Yeah, I forgot I had gone on to read this: http://bloodandtreasure.typepad.com/blood_treasure/2011/08/incident-at-shopping-city.html, which is a link to the chaplain’s account, and thence the chapain’s account, before returning here to be mildly rude to you.

227

Kevin Donoghue 08.10.11 at 9:00 pm

Absent evidence to the contrary I reckon they are both honest accounts, describing different incidents from different viewpoints. Blood & Treasure has more in common with the War Nerd than with a Salford vicar.

228

logern 08.10.11 at 9:44 pm

It occurred to me while watching a talking head discussion last night, that there is some confusion between criminality as an effect, or as a protest.

Just as famine survivors aren’t protesters of famine, they are the results of it. Criminality can be an effect, a protest, or both. That’s for someone to sort out.

229

Andrew F. 08.11.11 at 1:15 am

Chris Bertram @197: Have you or any member of your family been on the “wrong end” of an encounter with the police?

Completely irrelevant Chris. You claimed, remember, that the police are afraid to engage with “tough poor kids” but “enjoy…battering students.” It’s a claim rendered improbable by the fact that the police engage quite regularly with violent persons, and infrequently batter students and environmentalists. And it has nothing to do with my personal experience.

There’s also, moreover, no contradiction between a cop being prone to excessive force and abuse, and that same cop acting quite courageously in the face of danger. Courage is not necessarily a function of one’s respect for civil rights.

230

bert 08.11.11 at 1:50 am

Not sure I follow you, Tim.
It struck me as a worthwhile piece of commentary from someone who had been in the situation we’re talking about, at the relevant age, and who had since got some maturity and a pit of perspective.
A trained logician could make short work of it, I’m sure. I posted the link anyway.

231

rhino 08.11.11 at 1:59 am

Bruce at 166

“In a slave revolt, no matter how bloody pointless, I don’t blame the slave. ymmv”

I want you to know I am stealing this, and claiming it as my own. Pith personified.

232

Myles 08.11.11 at 2:42 am

In a slave revolt, no matter how bloody pointless, I don’t blame the slave. ymmv

I don’t think anyone blames the slave. Does anyone blame Spartacus?

But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be prosecuted and sanctioned as according to the law of the land. Thus the revolting slaves following Spartacus were nailed to the cross, and the rioters of today shall be conveyed to jail or be ordered to do community service, as appropriate. Civilization will and must go on; sympathy and blame do not enter into it.

233

Sandwichman 08.11.11 at 2:47 am

“Civilization will and must go on…”

Three cheers for Civilization! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

234

Omega Centauri 08.11.11 at 3:23 am

As a physicist by training, I look for the statistics of the atomic players (in this place people). If the number of want-to-be out of control people crosses some particular threshold, then we have a phase transition into an unstable state. And one thing that is new, is the flash-mob. Maybe the percentage of hooligans required before the whole situation become unstable has changed, and possibly quite dramatically. So then the issue becomes, how do we get the majority of people who don’t want rioting/looting, to be able to assert their collective will? Perhaps we all need to be wary now as perhaps the organizational capability of psychopaths has just gone way up.

Also, obviously the whole sense that one should follow the rules(norms) has been eroding terribly. The examples of eggregious cheating by the overclass, just gets lots of people thinking, how they should break the rules to get ahead if the opportunity presents itself. Why following the straight and narrow, thats for suckers! Yet another change in the distribution of attitudes, which together with flash-mob organization capabilities might mean we all could be in for some interesting times.

235

Sandwichman 08.11.11 at 3:31 am

“perhaps the organizational capability of psychopaths has just gone way up…”

I dunno. They haven’t that done badly for centuries in their capacity as “the ruling class”.

236

novakant 08.11.11 at 4:38 am

“Slave revolt”, “Class struggle”, “Stonewall riots” – you guys are sure trying hard to totally ignore what actually happened and instead impose a narrative that suits your preconceived ideas. It would be funny if the whole thing weren’t so sad.

237

Jim Harrison 08.11.11 at 5:08 am

If the English rioters are anything like the people I met when I lived in a terrible neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut, they have very limited understanding of how the world works, hence the tendency to think that burning out a local shop keeper is a blow against the ruling class. During the Watts riots back in the 60s, white people were terrified that the angry blacks would boil out of their ghettos and burn down nearby middle class suburbs; but that never seemed to happen, perhaps because underclass individuals, at least in my experience, tend to have remarkably circumscribed geographic horizons. The accounts I’ve read of what’s been going on in the U.K., whether moralizing or forgiving, seem to ignore the lived experience of ill-educated rioters who don’t necessarily inhabit the same world as educated professional or middling class folks.

238

Harold 08.11.11 at 5:10 am

Myles is an example of the worst decadence of “civilization”.

239

Anisthenes IV 08.11.11 at 6:36 am

Jim Harrison @237 makes a valid point: “If the English rioters are anything like the people I met when I lived in a terrible neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut, they have very limited understanding of how the world works”.
I’d add that they have, however, a stronger understanding of (and resentment for) structural unfairness than most of us, if more difficulty in analysing and describing it than the CT contributors I’ve read.

240

Guido Nius 08.11.11 at 7:22 am

A civilization would react more civilized to uncivilized behavior. I am not the biggest fan of the purist approach to human rights but going on record saying that it is all blablabla & to hell with it is pre-excusing yourself for human rights violations. If I would have known that footage from security cameras could be used without any due process, I would have been a lot less supportive of putting them up there. Anyway, they won’t be there for a lot longer; just until somebody found a more or less secure way of vandalizing them.

241

logern 08.11.11 at 7:46 am

novakant 08.11.11 at 4:38 am
“Slave revolt”, “Class struggle”, “Stonewall riots” – you guys are sure trying hard to totally ignore what actually happened and instead impose a narrative that suits your preconceived ideas. It would be funny if the whole thing weren’t so sad.

You mean, more like this:

http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2834278.html

242

Tim Wilkinson 08.11.11 at 9:11 am

novakant @236 (like the government, which knows perfectly well that this looks very bad for them) is trying hard to totally ignore what actually happened and instead impose a narrative about you guys trying hard to totally ignore what actually happened and instead impose a narrative.

The international press are capable of reporting what this is. For one domestic restatement of the bleeding obvious, try Seumas Milne.

Which is what I was trying to point out to bert, @222: just because political protest was not clearly the motivation of (many of) those involved, that OBVIOUSLY does not mean that the events can’t be explained by reference to wider conditions.

Of course if they really couldn’t be explained, you would not expect them to have been predicted, as they widely were, including, to repeat, by yrs truly here on CT last April, in the context of the Bristol riot:

I don’t think this is insignificant at all, nor only of interest in the context of the Tesco Problem. I think it may be an indicator of, and may also function as a catalyst for, a growing and widening mood of discontent, and specifically robust antagonism towards police in this kind of situation. I reckon the long hot summer of 2011 has officially kicked off.

Everywhere you look, you will see the same thing: a false dichotomy between sober, well-informed and explicitly political protest carried out in an orderly Rawlsian self-denying fashion on the one hand, and on the other, random outbreaks of lawlessness that just happen to have occurred on this lot’s watch.

This is what you get – of course you do – from govt whenever there is rioting.

To enforce this denial of reality, all explanation is angrily denounced as excuse-making. Exactly like the ‘with us or with the trrrists’ accusations of giving comfort to the enemy by discussing the causes of terrorism, ‘insurgency’, etc.
(Interesting comment here, btw, if anyone fancies trying to check it.)

The Today programme this morning featured someone from the Spectator desperately and transparently burbling the party line about the irresponsibility of political ‘point-scoring’ and the need for solidarity with the government – for illustration of this, reference to…Dunblane!

243

bert 08.11.11 at 10:39 am

I think I understand you now, Tim. Superimposed narratives are both inevitable and necessary. Reactionaries and hardliners have already set out their own narrative, and are attempting to shut down debate by branding competing narratives “political”. They now need to be taken on.
I don’t disagree. And the article at the end of my link would be nobody’s idea of the last word on the subject.
A word of advice, though. If this is a political battle, be very careful about whose side you end up on. Seumas Milne is not someone I’d expect to handle this at all deftly. But in fact he does a pretty good job with his moral indictment – I can imagine that piece getting approving nods from well beyond the Guardian editorial office.

I suspect you may disagree. But from what I’ve seen, in the very different context of national party politics, Ed Miliband has struck a good balance between competing pressures. Let’s see how he does in today’s debate.

244

Andrew F. 08.11.11 at 12:04 pm

Tim @242: Which is what I was trying to point out to bert, @222: just because political protest was not clearly the motivation of (many of) those involved, that OBVIOUSLY does not mean that the events can’t be explained by reference to wider conditions.

Wider conditions can certainly enable these things to occur, but some seemed to imply that conditions had grown so desperate, and the communities involved had so little to lose, that the riots and looting were a forced expression of violent despair.

But of course things aren’t that desperate – most of the communities did not riot, did not loot, and are likely collective victims of the criminal behavior of those who did on a regular basis.

Enabling conditions here likely include inadequately sized police forces, a higher baseline and tolerance of criminal behavior, better coordination among looters, higher unemployment, lack of virtue on the part of the looters, and lack of coordination by the vast majority of the community opposed to the rioting and looting.

245

Tim Wilkinson 08.11.11 at 12:21 pm

bert – Well, I was only recommending that piece, not endorsing whatever Milne may yet come up with, sight unseen.

I would clarify one thing, without suggesting you’re not aware of it. Reactionaries and hardliners (qua Rs & HLs) who insist that blaming the govt mustn’t be permitted because it denies individual responsibility genuinely (though ideologically) miss the point that blame (and responsibility, explanation) is not limited to a one-to-one correspondence with nasty events – as you say, different levels of explanation etc. are ‘superimposed’.

The government on the other hand are clearly quite aware of the underlying socio-economic hydraulics involved, and are using the reactionary approach as a pretext. I.e. rather than ‘we shouldn’t blame the govt because all blame must go to the rioters’ their actual (private) reasoning is ‘all blame should go to the rioters because we mustn’t blame the govt’.

It’s not even just a question of non-cognitive causation, either – while there have been distinct things going on (Tottenham started as a fairly standard police/race riot), plenty of those involved in looting have, with varying focus and sophistication, described their own conception of what they are doing as rebellion against various kinds of injustice, or at least as political – that is, concerned with power relations, including those over property.

246

Steven 08.11.11 at 1:44 pm

I know the discussion has moved past this, but I’d still like to clarify something here. Consider the following:

“Watson, lad, you need to explain why it would have been a good idea to have made deadly weapons widely available to last night’s looters. If you can’t do that, you’ll continue to look complacent and foolish,”

and

“Watson if the shopowners had easy access to firearms wouldn’t the rioters have that same access?”

Indeed, in both cases. But this is what is not understood: the rioters are opportunistic cowards, and even if they were armed, knowledge that shop and homeowners were likewise armed, would be sufficient to deter the vast majority of them from violence and looting.

Armed robbery is based on armed cowards picking unarmed victims. The rare heist by a team of trained thieves, armed to the teeth, going up against the army of men defending the bank vault or armored car is exceedingly rare, predominantly the stuff of movies, and not what would unfold in London in any case.

If these thugs were armed but honestly thought that there was a chance of having to shoot it out with homeowners, car owners and shopowners as they committed their arson, etc., they’d lose their fervor pretty quickly. This is how it goes with cowards. If you want to see what armed cowards look like in action, American style, take a look at the footage of the two kids in Philadelphia shooting into a bus full of innocent riders because one of the riders ahd direspected a woman by telling her not to spank her child therein. She called for the gunman by phone, and they shot up the bus. If they thought there was somone who’d return fire, it would have been a much different story. They wouldn’t have even come.

If they weren’t cowards, and this wasn’t just about petty theft against people who can’t protect themselves, then they’d be revolutionaries, plotting Fawkes-like events year-round.

The idea that the goverment should have primary or sole responsibility to protect citizens works in everyday situations. In war, well, we’ve seen how well it works in war. A riot is somewhere in between. Citizens–especially ones with a decent grasp of where their communities are headed–should expect to live in any everyday world, while making modest preparations for a riot.

247

MPAVictoria 08.11.11 at 2:28 pm

“But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be prosecuted and sanctioned as according to the law of the land. Thus the revolting slaves following Spartacus were nailed to the cross”

Myles are you actually coming down on the side of crucifixion? Sometimes your posts make me wonder if someone is playing a very long practical joke on CT commentators…

248

bert 08.11.11 at 2:34 pm

I’ll put this as gently as I can. Your evidence doesn’t support your case.
Rather than respond, I suggest you take a moment to think this through again.
Try to consider, honestly and without prejudice, why the easy availability of guns is a problem rather than a solution here.

249

dictateursanguinaire 08.11.11 at 2:39 pm

“If they weren’t cowards, and this wasn’t just about petty theft against people who can’t protect themselves, then they’d be revolutionaries, plotting Fawkes-like events year-round.”

So something cannot be a legitimate social movement or social expression (as opposed to ‘mindless criminality’) unless it happens year-round? I’m not sure that that’s a coherent thesis. I also don’t see how simmering tension/anger is any less legitimate because it only spills over into violence when things like the recent police controversy happen. Sure, some of it’s opportunistic, in a sense. C.f. how a heck of a lot more people marched for civil rights in the US when it became clear that there were enough fellow protesters that they would have safety in numbers and be listened to. There’s not much point in being a lone-wolf martyr, so why does it matter than some of these people are only out on the streets cause everyone else is? Can you think of any significant social movement ever that was truly ex nihilo?

250

Jim Harrison 08.11.11 at 5:14 pm

The morality of the rioters is not necessarily a very important issue in the long run because whether or not there is ever a legitimate reason to steal a TV, such behavior is very likely to increase with lower levels of social spending and higher levels of inequality.

The situation reminds me of what happens in the United States every time it is pointed out that some particularly vicious criminal had an appalling childhood during which the poverty and abuse he suffered was ignored by local governments and schools. In such cases, the inevitable insistence that the malefactor is nevertheless responsible for what he did always strikes me as a ritual washing of the hands on the part of society. Right thinking people evade any recognition of their own responsibilities by insisting on the legal responsibility of the monster as if the juridical question were the only moral issue raised by such events.

251

Myles 08.11.11 at 6:25 pm

Myles are you actually coming down on the side of crucifixion? Sometimes your posts make me wonder if someone is playing a very long practical joke on CT commentators…

Well the punishment in the antiquities for insurrectionary activity is execution, and cruxification is one form of execution which was considered suitable for serious violations of the law such as insurrectionary activity. That was the law as given, the persons engaged in insurrectionary activity knew the law very well, and they elected to take the rational risk of overthrowing the regime which, had they been successful, would have allowed them to have evaded this law.

Given that in a scenario of Spartacus succeeding it’s pretty much guaranteed that most innocent Roman patricians and lots of plebeians would have been slaughtered, it’s hardly a cause for moral outcry if on the other hand, based on the law the revolters knew very well, that they are executed according to a stipulation they understood very well, under a scenario where they failed. The gamble is weighted on both sides; you can hardly make an argument that the slaves should get to slaughter everybody if they succeed and get off scot-free if they fail. They are fully aware of the risks, and they elected to take them. (And I’m not even going to bother with the argument that we should be just as morally outraged if the slaves succeeded and then slaughtered their masters; I mean seriously, the absurdity of this is obvious.)

252

Myles 08.11.11 at 6:33 pm

(Which, if I may be allowed to add, is why I don’t favour drastic punishment for London rioters. Their could reasonably have expected fairly lenient punishment under the laws prevailing pre-riot, and thus those are the laws which should apply. The “cut off all their welfare” nonsense is idiotic.

Tighten the rules for the future, and crack down on the rioters while they are actually rioting. Don’t change the rules ex-post. Make it understood that if this happens again, punishments would be a lot more severe.)

253

Chris Bertram 08.11.11 at 7:21 pm

Andrew F.

_Completely irrelevant Chris._

Er no, because I also wrote “as well as bullying individuals – especially black ones”. If you’d been on the receiving end (or someone close to you had) then I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t have written what you wrote.

254

MPAVictoria 08.11.11 at 8:12 pm

“Tighten the rules for the future, and crack down on the rioters while they are actually rioting. Don’t change the rules ex-post. Make it understood that if this happens again, punishments would be a lot more severe.”

Would you support crucifixion of rioters in the future if it has been made clear that this is the punishment?

255

Harold 08.11.11 at 8:46 pm

“Civilization must be preserved, even if we have destroy everything it stands for, in order to do it” has been the mantra of the right wing for some time now.

256

skidmarx 08.11.11 at 9:36 pm

most innocent Roman patricians
Let’s be tough on Myles and the causes of Myles, particular when his cause is defending slave-owners.

257

Harold 08.11.11 at 9:40 pm

Civilization for me but not for thee. In the name of defending “civilization” Mr. Cameron has been eliminating libraries and police, while he dallies among the art masterpieces and fine wines of Tuscany.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/11/opinion/when-budget-cuts-lead-to-broken-windows.htm

258

Sandwichman 08.12.11 at 2:24 am

Will Davies:

However, I’m also troubled by how weak the sociological, socialist and structuralist analyses of these events have been over the last few days. Attempts by Ken Livingstone and Polly Toynbee to peg these events to the Coalition’s economic policies look very flimsy, seeing as the cuts are only just beginning. Even if 15% of the public sector had been axed in May of last year, I think it would be crudely economistic to assume that people might therefore divert their energies from community drama projects to smashing up JD Sports within the space of 15 months. And while global capitalism may be in meltdown, this is not (yet) represented in the unemployment figures, which are not as bleak as many have expected.

The dilemma for the Left, and for sociologists, is the following: whether or not to trust people’s own understanding of what they’re doing. And if a young looter says nothing about politics or inequality, and displays no class consciousness, to what extent can a culturally sensitive democratic socialist disagree with them? For sure, the Old Left would have no problem re-framing the behaviour of an egomaniac teenager burning down his neighbour’s shop in terms of class. That’s what crude Marxist ‘critical realism’ meant. But the New Left, along with the ‘cultural turn’ in sociology, was meant to be slightly more capable of listening.

http://potlatch.typepad.com/weblog/2011/08/london-riots-the-idiocy-of-left-and-right.html

259

Myles 08.12.11 at 2:44 am

Would you support crucifixion of rioters in the future if it has been made clear that this is the punishment?

Rioters should be made to understand that the Army will be called in the next instance of riots. I doubt cruxification is involved.

Let’s be tough on Myles and the causes of Myles, particular when his cause is defending slave-owners.

This hardly matters. The slaves understood very well what the possible consequences of insurrectionary activity were, and they made a reasonable decision to take the risks of obtaining those consequences, for what presumably was a greater likelihood of obtaining satisfactory results of their success over SPQR. The fact of the matter is that the slaves undertook highly dangerous activity for which they understood and expected cruxification to be a fairly likely (and squared and forthright) outcome; you could hardly maintain order if you let people get away at that point, because then there’d be no deterrent whatsoever. It’d be like advertising the death penalty for murderers and then at the actual court session revealing that it was just a bluff; it’s just not a tenable way to run things, whether you are a left-wing or a right-winger. I don’t see what morality’s got to do with it.

260

MPAVictoria 08.12.11 at 2:55 am

“I don’t see what morality’s got to do with it.”

I for one believe you Myles….

261

Harold 08.12.11 at 3:00 am

There is no way the British rioters can be compared to the Spartacus slave revolts. These were not people who “understood very well what the possible consequences of insurrectionary activity were, and they made a reasonable decision to take the risks of obtaining those consequences.”

These were mostly teenagers and children engaging in hormone-fueled, out-of-bounds behavior — as used to happen regularly in black ghettos and even on white campuses when I was young — young people with no stake in society, nothing to lose, and a lot of diffuse pent-up rage, who live in the moment and have no thought for whatever for the consequences. In fact the consequences may well be very terrible, the city of Newark, New Jersey, has yet to recover from the riots of fifty years ago.

262

Harold 08.12.11 at 3:48 am

Riots for me but not for thee.

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/08/10/david_cameron_riot_condemnation_bullingdon_club_irony/index.html

“As a student at Oxford in the late 1980s, … [David] Cameron was part of a members’ club (the British equivalent of a fraternity), which ritualistically smashed up local restaurants. Unlike the rioters, however, Cameron’s club, The Bullingdon, was exclusive and notoriously elite.”
****
“The Bullingdon Club — a members’ only dining society in the university preserved for the most privileged of (male only) students — is known for breaking the plates, glasses and windows of local restaurants and drinking establishments and destroying college property in Oxford. (The U.K. newspaper, The Independent, described it as a club ‘whose raison d’être has for more than 150 years been to afford tailcoat-clad aristocrats a termly opportunity to behave very badly indeed.’) New recruits are secretly elected and informed of this by having their college bedroom invaded and ‘trashed’

263

Tom Bach 08.12.11 at 3:51 am

In Nazi Germany it was illegal to be a Jew. If we follow Myles logic civilization demanded that being murdered for being a Jew was right. Obviously, there is something wrong with Myles logic. Civilization isn’t the sum total of the current set of prejudice of this or that powerful elite but is rather an aspiration. For some of us, the aspiration is seeing to it that the least among us aren’t debased, murdered, or otherwise abused. For amoral thugs the aspiration is seeing to it that violating the law, howsoever amoral it might be, is punished to fullest extent of an amoral system of social organization.

264

Harold 08.12.11 at 4:09 am

Myles would doubtless recommend that Mr. Cameron be crucified!

265

Tom Bach 08.12.11 at 4:12 am

And just as by the way, it’s not just that slavery was and is wrong but also that enforcing laws about slavery and slave revolts led to wretched results. Don’t believe me? And why should you. Read Dubois book on Haiti and its successful slave revolt and the repugnant response from Jefferson and France. Millions in “fines” and an international embargo because, you know, Haiti had successfully destroyed one of the worlds most murderous slave regimes. The law, as some one or another noted, is an ass.

266

Harold 08.12.11 at 4:41 am

Crucifixion for thee, and dropped charges for me:
Fernanda Wanamaker Wetherill’s 1963 South Hampton, LI, debutante party (note, $6,000 damage in 1963 = c. $45,000 in today’s money)

http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1964/4/16/new-york-court-clears-sophomore-of/

Excerpts:
“After a full night of festivities nearly 100 of the guests …-marched at 6:30 a.m. from Miss Wetherill’s home to a neighboring mansion that had been rented by the family as a dormitory for the male guests, accompanying the stragglers was a twist band which finally left them at 9:30 a.m.

Breaking, Swinging, and Shooting

It was then that most of the real damage occurred. Until about midday the youths ransacked the mansion breaking all but six of its 1640 windows, swung from chandeliers, and shot at milk bottles with an air rifle.
****
Of the 14 originally indicted, including one girl, ten have won dismisals, three were treated as youthful offenders, and one is awaiting a trial by jury, which he requested.

The figure of ten dismissals includes all seven defendants who went on trial this week. One had the charges against him dropped on Monday, two on Tuesday, and Molyneux and the three others yesterday.”

267

novakant 08.12.11 at 7:07 pm

I’ll leave the last word to this brave Hackney resident:

268

Andrew F. 08.13.11 at 2:52 am

Chris @253: Er no, because I also wrote “as well as bullying individuals – especially black ones”. If you’d been on the receiving end (or someone close to you had) then I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t have written what you wrote.

So if my civil rights are violated by a police officer, then I am justified in claiming that police officers are sadistic cowards?

If a doctor is careless in his diagnosis, then I am justified in claiming that doctors are careless?

If a British official is a traitor, then I am justified in claiming that British officials are traitors?

You get the point. Leaving aside what you think such an experience would do to my judgment of police generally, such an experience remains irrelevant to your claim.

269

Mordaunt 08.13.11 at 8:28 am

What stands out for me is the comprehensive failure of the police. They’ve really shown that they can enjoy themselves battering students and envirnonmental protesters (as well as bullying individuals – especially black ones) but faced with tough poor kids from estates looting, and they just stand well back and let shopkeepers be ruined.

I really think that this comes under the heading of “making mock of uniforms that guard you whilst you sleep”.

It’s Copper this and Copper that
an’ “Copper it’s your fault!”
But it’s “Where the fuck is Copper?”
When they’re trashing JD Sports

270

Tim Wilkinson 08.13.11 at 9:15 am

Standard issue authoritarian bollocks, straight out of Hobbes for Dummies. There has to be some kind of police force, so take what you’re given and lump it. (Reinforced by: if, like me, your face fits and you keep your head down and do as you’re told you’ll probably be OK.)

271

Chris Bertram 08.13.11 at 11:32 am

_So if my civil rights are violated by a police officer, then I am justified in claiming that police officers are sadistic cowards?_

No the point is that treating urban youth like this is routine and part of police culture, and a big part of the explanation of what happened. Most middle-class white people don’t experience the sharp end of this, but if you had done, you’d be less inclined to write what you wrote.

See today’s FT btw

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/df5180a0-c4ed-11e0-9c4d-00144feabdc0.html

272

Andrew F. 08.13.11 at 12:05 pm

But Chris, you didn’t simply say that some police abuse their power, and that this is particularly the case in poorer and more violent neighborhoods.

Instead you claimed that police “enjoy…battering students and environmentalists” and bullying black youths while, when confronted with “tough poor kids” step back and allow them to burn down shops.

The statement in the first sentence is true. It’s the blanket attribution of sadism and cowardice in the second statement that I find unmerited, regardless of my personal experience. A cop who abuses his power can be a particularly horrible thing. I have little doubt, however, that most do not (which is not to understate the degree to which a minority of corrupt cops can be a major problem, but to note how wrong your blanket attribution is). And of course the implication of cowardice is just without connection or foundation; abusive people can also be courageous.

It may be that I’m simply misreading you, or that your words conveyed more than you intended.

273

Mordaunt 08.13.11 at 1:34 pm

270,

I’m tempted to answer your post on its own level and and ask that now we’ve tried having the police in control of the situation and the violent criminals in control of the situation which you felt was preferable.

Actually, that’s not my position. In abstract I think that institutions and practices that are subject to criticism and debate are healthier than those that are not. In concrete my small practical knowledge of the way the police operate and my general taking of an interest in the world around me lead me to the tentative conclusion that as far as the police are concerned there are plenty of things that could be improved. However, the one occasion where I was unfortunate enough to find myself in a position where I had to protect someone from a violent criminal tough kid from an estate I found the experience rather frightening and am very grateful that there are people braver than I who are prepared to do this sort of thing on a regular basis. Whatever you think of the police, in this instance the officers on the front line were asked to control a dangerous situation where it was distinctly possible that they could be injured or killed. I therefore regard dishing out virtual white feathers from the comfort of one’s armchair to be a little bit shabby.

274

Chris Bertram 08.13.11 at 4:08 pm

_but to note how wrong your blanket attribution is_

Well we can go with the idea that there’s a culture in the police that promotes this kind of thing (one bolstered by the lack of successful prosecutions over the years) or with the “a few bad apples” theory that you seem attached to. I know which I prefer.

275

Andrew F. 08.14.11 at 1:29 am

A culture that promotes the enjoyment of beating students, the bullying of minority minors, and the refusal to “face” “tough poor kids” committing property damage?

The third part is rendered a bit dubious by the fact that most police race towards a report of a violent crime in progress – while other people will generally, wisely, cross the street to avoid one.

As to the first two parts, we should remember that of the huge number of daily interactions with police officers, most do not involve any violation of civil rights, even though many of those interactions might be highly unpleasant. Of those that do involve violations, many will be enormously difficult to prosecute.

Rather than convictions, I’d look at the universe of disciplinary measures, from suspensions to forced resignations to terminations.

276

Jack Strocchi 08.14.11 at 10:28 am

Chris Bertram @ #185

Jack surveys the scene from Australia, and finds that all that he reads confirms him in the view he had all along, a bit like virgil above really. Quelle surprise.

I have been around the block once or twice. In my travels I have lived and loved in London and several other continents. Not saying I am Mr Cosmopolitan. Just that I do have some experiential basis for comparison. Lyin’ eyes and all that.

London of the noughties compares unfavourably with the London I was familiar with in the eighties and nineties. It has gone downhill culturally and morally.

Last time I was in London, in 2006 not so long after the 07/07 attacks, I came away pretty disgusted with the place. Bobbies everywhere toting sub-machine guns. Crimped, mean-spirited expressions on the High Street. Public drunkedness after-dark.

It also compaes very unfavourably with other great metropolises in Asia, America and Europe that I have stayed in over the past few years.

FWIW here is my explanation for the London Riots.

Proximate Cause: social disparities of the GFC plus social networking of the flash mobs.

That explanation does not, however, explain why London has had looting riots whilst other GFC-hit cities have remained relatively orderly. So why is London different, and worse, than other great cities?

Ultimate Cause: No comment (an unguarded comment would most likely draw a ban for violating comments policy)

277

Brenda 08.14.11 at 5:03 pm

@266

You don’t actually have to go as far back as that to get a whiff of the pungent smell of hypocrisy. As Salon was almost alone in pointing out, David Cameron was a member, in the 1980s, of the Bullingdon Club, an elite, rich boys club that specialised in, I suppose you might call them ‘mini-riots’ in local restaurants, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. And young D. Cameron was very lucky to escape without a police record for those little escapades (indeed, David Cameron almost certainly ran away on one particular night when arrests were made and then lied about it).

Nick Clegg on the other hand, rather mind-bogglingly, is a convicted arsonist.

But it’s different when rich people do it isn’t it?

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