« profile & posts archive

This author has written 2362 posts for Larvatus Prodeo.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

434 responses to “London burning II: The sociology of civil disorder”

  1. John D

    Unleashed had this to say:

    While the conservative raison d’etre is the transfer of public wealth into private hands, what’s been going on in Britain since the election of Cameron is hardly the short-term sell-offs to small investors, like Thatcher’s purchasers of ex-council houses or our own Howard’s “shareholding democracy” float of Telstra. Cameron’s Tories are not interested in even pretending to enfranchise the working-class or middle-class, let alone the underclass from which the majority of London’s rioters have sprung. What’s been going on is nothing less than a social revolution where public services have been stripped and withdrawn to structurally prevent any social enfranchisement of the non-ruling classes whatsoever. Public healthcare is facing privatisation. Welfare services have been shredded, benefits cut, school resources cut, community centres closed down, libraries shut, arts funding eroded. Public broadcaster the BBC has taken bloody hits and the introduction of stiff university fees has removed forever the opportunity of many to access higher education. The rhetoric is that of austerity, but the reality is a full-scale assault on any social means by which the middle, working or underclass of this country can access even an image of class agency, let alone the social tools to aspire or achieve the privileges of Cameron’s elite.

    What I like about Australia is that it is still a place where the child of poorly educated working parents can still reasonably aspire to a very good education and a real chance of achieving their dreams.

  2. Helen

    Laurie Penny’s article has gone viral! My cousin in the UK just sent a link to me, and the AGE has put an edited version in its National Times online!
    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/anarchy-reigns-and-a-nation-struggles-to-understand-why-20110809-1il4a.html

    Well deserved, too.

  3. alfred venison

    yes, that is a good, insightful article at unleashed – by one Van Badham, by the way.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  4. akn

    Yes. Privatizing the NHS not only hits at the service users but educated and trained sections of the working classes. If the rioters had any politics they’d have slogans for the coppers like the one I saw put into play with good effect during the Patrick’s blockade at Port Botany: “your job next”. But they don’t and SBS news just had a report about white ‘vigilante’ groups out to ‘defend their communities’. Here we go.

  5. Helen

    (Returning from link) Wow, that Van Badham article is excellent, too.

    From SG on the other thread

    Labour and the Guardian need to stop blaming everything on Thatcher. FFS, the Labour Party was run by a Vampire between 1997 and 2007, and has 50% responsibility for the GFC. Get over Thatcher!

    Actions have consequences. This is why we have a thing called “history”.

    Most of the commentary I’ve read is talking about Cameron and neoliberal Labor rather than Thatcher. But the whole last half century is a continuum of growing neoliberalism and materialism as Badham so ably reminds us.

  6. sg

    akn:

    Privatizing the NHS not only hits at the service users but educated and trained sections of the working classes.

    almost every other functioning health system in the western world is “privatized” in a meaningful sense. Australia, Germany and Japan spring to mind as very good examples. The NHS is the last bastion of a failed socialist experiment and it is terrible. On the last thread I said that Britain needs to look overseas for ideas. How to reform the NHS is one of those ideas that they should be looking (far) east and (far) south for ideas about how to solve.

    Helen, it wasn’t just Thatcher who conceived of the UK as a banker’s wonderland with everyone else as their servants. New Labour had this as their central plan – run an economy on a ponzi scheme and pay the underclass to shut up and fuck off. That didn’t work. These riots are just as much about industry policy as they are about social policy.

  7. Fran Barlow

    The news of the intervention of the EDL is very troubling. “Jack England” was saying that his 50 wanted to “direct” the patriots who’d come out to protect their communities.

    Sidebar: Spoke to Leni on Skype, who is in Bath at the moment. Apparently a group of police just ran past the front of his building in hot pursuit of a group of youths.

  8. adrian

    So in what ‘meaningful’ sense is Australia’s health system privatised?

  9. sg

    adrian: GPs are private providers of services. You pay them, and are reimbursed through the government insurance scheme, which sets a minimum amount on what the GP can charge you. Australia also has a large private sector, and dental and opthamology services are privatized, as are a large proportion of non-hospital based specialists.

    The tertiary care system is publicly run to some extent, and the only entirely public system is the insurance itself.

  10. adrian

    This is completely OT, but thanks, I know how the system works and I know the definition of ‘meaningful’, and I think you have it completely arse about but never mind it’s rather irrelevant.

  11. wbb

    Meanwhile the new Liberal Victorian state government is cutting funding to public libraries.

    The Baillieu government is slashing funding to public libraries, and these cuts will leave councils with an estimated $5.7 million less to spend on libraries over the next four years. Understandably, councils are deeply concerned about these cuts, particularly councils that encompass areas with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage and lower than average numbers of people with computers at home.

  12. adrian

    Yes, my apologies, Mark.

  13. sg

    well Adrian, perhaps you could compare it with the NHS, which is entirely state run and where everything is free, but woe betide anyone who wants to get their dental work done for free (because all the dentists are opting out) and too bad if you want to get decent services or even be able to see a GP after 5pm. Let alone get a service from your GP other than a paracetamol and a referral.

    Britain has/had some seriously socialist projects in health care and housing, and its health care is dismal by OECD standards, its housing market is a disaster, it’s overcrowded and cramped, and the social housing system is being rorted terribly. It’s a classic model of how not to fix social problems and urban decay.

  14. Patrickb

    My impression is that London is a very … difficult place to live. SG wonders why our lower class youths don’t have as nastier nasty streak as their London cousins? Probably because the weather is nicer here and the don’t live cheek by jowl in run down streets in which they regularly dodge the black beamers of the smart set.

    This has been soaking into the fabric of all societies of a while, it has ignited in the UK because of the extra pressure. I think Cameron’s response is meant to make him look strong but what he doesn’t want to face up to is that most of the population think he and his ilk are vacuous toadies. I mean, holidaying in Tuscany? Couldn’t he go to Brighton or Southend just for appearances sake? Mind you Blair was worse, he spent the summer on Sir Cliff’s Caribbean island (seriously Liberace if you ask me).

  15. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Fran: they’re having riots in Bath now? Home of Georgian architecture Roman antiquities and the Avon canal? One of the great tourist townships of South England? [*]

    Now that’s overegging the pudding. What’s next for the terrible truants of this disunited kingdom? Oxford AND Cambridge?

  16. sg

    Mark, health is a huge area of inequality and a major reason for concern in the UK. But this inequality hasn’t changed since the 19th century, despite 60 years of the NHS. It’s an important part of the bigger picture, which is the huge waste of resources and money that have been thrown at poverty and inequality in the UK. Why are they so uniquely wasted there? Why are their poor areas so blighted? Why is education so terrible? Britain doesn’t have any answers, and (more relevantly to us) the British left was so completely out of ideas that their “solution” to these problems was … Tony Blair.

  17. Patrickb

    Is just me or SG ranting, and has been for some time? It appears that the actual topic of the rioting as been supplanted in their mind by some vague anecdotal blurting about the evils of socialism … or something.
    Anyway BOT … sorry to interrupt.

  18. adrian

    It’s not just you Patrickb.

    If it’s spreading to a place like Bath – middle class England personified – who knows what’s going on. Mind you that was 40 years ago, maybe it’s full of grim housing estates these days.

  19. Occam's Blunt Razor

    I lay much of the blame for this at the feet of the courts and the Police. They appear to be neither respected or feared. Weak as piss response allowing this to get out of hand. One night I can understand as it would not have been expected – the second night and after is unexcusable. Should have been making arrests at the casualty departments of the hospitals – not looking at cctv and facebook.

  20. alfred venison

    dear Occam’s Blunt Razor
    arresting people in the casualty departments of hospitals?
    on what grounds – ’cause they’re poor, young, and have presented to casualty with an injury?
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  21. Katz

    One idea unites all looters. “There is no society.”

    Looters have taken Thatcherism to its logical consequence by privatising the application of property laws.

    Ultimately, all property rights are underwritten by the state. Why should the state withdraw from so many areas of control and oversight and yet continue to intrude in the manner in which matters of ownership are settled. The rioters have discovered a far more efficient means of deciding ownership.

  22. Phil.

    “I lay much of the blame for this at the feet of the courts and the Police. They appear to be neither respected or feared.”

    Out of the mouths of babes. No wonder nobody has any answers.

  23. Phil.

    “dear Occam’s Blunt Razor
    arresting people in the casualty departments of hospitals?
    on what grounds – ’cause they’re poor, young, and have presented to casualty with an injury?”

    No because they’re not Anglo Saxon looking.

  24. Charlie
  25. alfred venison

    dear Phil
    “No because they’re not Anglo Saxon looking”.
    yeah (sigh) i ‘spose that’s what he means, but as we know, he’d still miss out on half his “culprits” using that kind of “sieve”.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  26. akn

    sg @8: it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone could concieve of the Australian public hospital system or Medicare as privatized (in any sense) but then I hadn’t factored your views in either.

  27. Phil.

    “yeah (sigh) i ‘spose that’s what he means, but as we know, he’d still miss out on half his “culprits” using that kind of “sieve”.”

    O/K agreed. What about the coppers saying to a potential arrestee(for want of a better word) ” Repeat after me, The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” The response could be graded on the coppers grasp of elocution, before any arrest is made. A sure fire way to get the guilty scrotes. After all they’re all working class yobbos, according to the media.

  28. akn

    Sorry Mark: wrote above to sg @ 8 before reading the following comments from 8 on. Will stay on topic hereafter.

    The apolitical have always been political. These kids are Tony Blair’s children.

  29. alfred venison

    dear Phil
    mmm, its sounds like a plausible strategy, provided remedial training is made available so that “the coppers grasp of elocution” would not result in false arrests & i fear there would not be enough places in henry higgins’ night school elocution course for all the police that would need it.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  30. Phil.

    “mmm, its sounds like a plausible strategy, provided remedial training is made available so that “the coppers grasp of elocution” would not result in false arrests”

    So the false arrests should just continue until they nab a culprit then?

    I suppose if they arrest five hundred kids for no reason, the law of averages must kick in and they will be able to prosecute at least one guilty rioter. On a serious note, one must live a fish bowl if you can’t see what’s going on here. By the time Cameron has finished divvying up the rest of what’s left of Britain’s wealth to his mates, taken a bit more money out of social welfare, I’m sure rioting in old Blighty, will become the norm. Not rioting, will make you a social outlaw.

    Chances are, you’ll be more likely to be arrested for knitting in public.

    I despair.

  31. Lefty E

    Ill say one thing: if the ‘injured boy with bag’ video becomes the motif of the 2011 UK riots, then nothing will be learned from it.

    Its a self-indictment – only in the UK could a random opportunist theft like that be caught on video from 3 different angles.

    Its a post-democracy – and has been for years.

  32. Helen

    All that surveillance really seems to have made the UK really safe, hasn’t it, Lefty E! :-/ (Wasn’t that supposed to be the rationale?)

  33. BilB

    Listening to a couple of kids being interviewed on the BBC this morning as they waited for it “to start up”, a few thingns become evident. UK kids are very conscious of the outcome to themselves on being caught. “If I get caught” one said “it’d be my first offence, so that’s all right”. Their parents thought that they were “juss ouh an about”. A psychologist interviewed earlier talked about crowd mentality, deindividualisation in groups, the anonynimity of darkness, and a belief that the police are powerless to stop the activity. He also talked of trigger events and the fluid communication with social.

    Put all of that together and I think that at the base there is a core acceptance in the young that shoplifting is “ok as long as you don’t get caught”. Once the initial riot took place more organised street gangs kicked of events in other places and other kids opportunistically joined in. The fires interestingly started in the burning of cars, which is learnt behaviour for those who steal cars where the burning of the cars is used to eliminate evidence, and moved on to the burning of buildings probably more out of arsenistic curiosity, and now a new learnt behaviour. The other vector is population density, the ready availability of participants, which are a small percentage of any population but with larger densities amount to largish numbers.

    Conclusion?

    Clockwork Orange on steriods.

  34. BilB

    OBR @ 26,

    It is not that the courts or the police that are weak, it is that the laws handed to the police to administer that are soft. This is the responsibility of the collective opinion of the country. It is a tough row to how getting kids through their development years: the terrible two,s ;the tantrum 5’s; puberty; the rebellious teens; the political awakening university years;…….to finally deliver Europe’s finest end product, the Winging Pom.

    A step back to the past will not work so well anymore as arresting, sentencing, bundling onto boats and shipping the culprits to the colonies will land them in Sydney…strikeout..no no, will land them in Kuala Lumpur. Maybe that would work.

  35. su

    The other side of that analogy with Clockwork Orange BilB is that the state had been dreaming up new means of torturing deterring kids from gathering in public spaces; the “mosquito” speakers that fire ultra high frequency sound at them, the use of Classical music to move them on from bus shelters and railway platforms. Treating young people as if they are animals (“rats” as the young woman described them on the news last night) if they gather together in public spaces while simultaneously removing the few venues designed to allow them to come together and socialize; they’ve put the squeeze on a class of people with few options.

  36. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Backing up what sg is saying about the kids these days, there’s UK riots: ‘Being liberal is fine, but we need to be given the right to parent’:

    Stirling’s analysis is more nuanced – citing poverty, unemployment, failings of the education system, police harassment, among other triggers – but he believes parents have become afraid to discipline their own children, and warns this is at least part of the problem that has erupted across cities this week.

    “Bad behaviour and criminality has been glamorised on the streets. Teachers are scared to punish children. The modern child isn’t frightened of their parents. They don’t care if the police lock them up,” he said.

    Hovering between sympathy for the youths’ sense of alienation and anger at their stupidity, he said the continued police stop-and-search tactics damaged children early on. “There is a big problem with stop and search. These searches leave a scar, a mark on that child. I condemn the violence, but we have to look at the frustration that everyone is going through. They don’t have a platform, so they let off their frustration on the streets,” he said.

    Stop-and-search: stupid in London, stupid anywhere else.

  37. jules

    Did anyone know about the deaths in custody march in front of New Scotland Yard 3 months ago?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeTnvCxWp1E&NR=1

  38. Labouring the Point

    This was an interesting paper which examines the relationship between austerity and anarchy in europe between 1919-2009

  39. Dr_Tad

    Mark, you write, “I’d close by noting once again that events of this sort are intensely frightening for those living through them. That should not be forgotten.”

    Not for everyone. I’d say that for many of the participants (and there have now been many thousands of them, in many places) this has been the opposite, a brief period where fear of the state’s coercive function has been punctured. It is impossible to explain the widespread nature of the events in any other way.

    We shouldn’t forget that very important fact, because to see these rioters as outside the experience of “those living through” the riots is to accept the simplistic dichotomy that seeks to exclude their actions from the mainstream of society, to parcel the rioters as a marginal “other”. The rioters are part of the “us” as well, and through their collective actions (however inchoate they may be at times) they have intruded into the false sense of safety created by a state that seeks to structure them as a “them” which can be kept out.

  40. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Camreon has just approved – after five days – the use of water cannon.

    What a nice idea.

    I hope he got approval from the EU.

  41. Chris

    OBR @ 47 – and they can put out the fires at the same time!

  42. calyptorhynchus

    #9 SG

    Have you had any experience of the NHS, or are you just repeating what you’ve read on the (UK) Daily telegraph website?

    I was born and grew up in Britain (I left in 1991), both my parents and all my relatives had excellent health care (in and out of hospital). I personally had good experiences of the NHS consistently: I saw a GPs promptly, got specialist appointments promptly and received world class hospital care.

    By contrast I couldn’t believe how expensive and inefficient the Australian healthcare system was when I arrived, and I still can’t. For example, why on earth does the government maintain a chain of offices throughout the country simply to pay out money. Why can’t patients pay the gap to GPs and have GPs claim the payment from Medicare? Why does it take months or years to get a specialist appointment?

  43. Aidan

    Katz said:

    Ultimately, all property rights are underwritten by the state. Why should the state withdraw from so many areas of control and oversight and yet continue to intrude in the manner in which matters of ownership are settled. The rioters have discovered a far more efficient means of deciding ownership.

    I think this was covered by ‘The Young Ones’

    RICK: You put that back! That’s my personal property!
    NEIL: You just said all property is theft, Rick.
    RICK: Well, yes, it is.
    VYVYAN: Yeah, so I’m nicking it.

    “There will be riots” – the words of the young regarding the decision by Haringey Council (Tottenham, Wood Green) to close 8 of it’s 13 youth clubs. That video was published on the 31st of July. Prophetic no?

  44. Fine

    I put my original version of ‘Anarchy in the UK’ on my old turntable last night. The Sex Pistols were prophets.

    It’s interesting to watch Julien Temple’s doco ‘The Filth and the Fury’ about the state of the UK in the ’70s and how there was a similar feeling of hopelessness for young working-class people. Punk exploded in the summer of ’76. Thirty-five years later there’s another sort of explosion.

  45. Link

    It is always remarkable how out-of-touch the big end of town and politicians can be in their ivory towers of wealth, stability and certainty from the millions and millions they govern and hold in contempt. Demonising people who are being forced to live well below the poverty on welfare and resenting such people for using up greedily coveted resources inevitably leads to fear and loathing.

    Witness Gerry Harvey suggesting that helping no-hopers was a waste of resources because such people did nothing to contribute to society. He was stupid enough to say what possibly hundreds of the country’s wealthiest and wannabe wealthiest actually believe to be true. Or our Julia stubbornly refusing to bring Newstart into the 21st C because she wants people to get a job. I have some news for Julia. . . .

    It’s callous beyond belief. The irony is that the big end of town make money hand over fist by actually doing very little. It’s not that they’re necessarily more intelligent or more educated but much more likely that they operate unscrupulously with no regard for anything or anyone else. And any poor/black/white/primary school teaching/middle-management anarchist/pregnant teenager/tertiary qualified artist writer can see that plain as day. It’s not a problem that is going away. An us vs them mentality, wilfully ignoring underlying causes, and simply oppressing such people with more brutality will only serve to coalesce much more organised anarchist/terrorists into more targeted action.

    Frankly, some days I could punch such people in the nose or wish them some great deprivations to force them into empathy.

  46. Huggybunny

    I see linkage between the events in Libya,Egypt, even Syria and the UK.
    The scale of things is different but the drivers are much the same. Huge disparities between rich and no prospects of any legitimate kind for the young. In all these countries they have nothing to lose but their chains, the political awareness will follow. I heard a guy on the ABC this morning he was describing the recent removal of youth programs and despite the desperate dog whistling by the other Fran he ruled out race as a factor.
    This is a phenomena that will occur in any country given that a significant fraction of the population is presented with no prospects.
    Wait ’til it spreads to the US and the guns come out.

    Huggy

  47. sg

    This eyewitness report tells of parents sending their children into stores to do the looting because they’re too young to be arrested, and describes a fairly organized style of looting.

    This set of brief interviews in Liverpool makes the attitude of the kids clear. I particularly love this:

    Asked if he felt guilty that other residents had their cars reduced to cinders, the older man said that, if a resident had come out and said it was their car, the group had moved on to another. “If you leave your car outside when there is a riot going on, it’s going to happen, isn’t it? Breaking stuff is part of a riot, otherwise, it’s just a protest.”

    I saw this attitude every day in the UK: if you don’t intervene directly to very carefully protect your stuff, it’s not the other person’s fault if they steal it or break it. Everyone constantly trying to avoid blame for their own behaviour.

    calyptorhynchus, yes i have experienced the NHS, as a child and an adult, and worked in a job connected to it. My Grandfather starved to death in an NHS Hospital. I’m well aware of its failings, and they are legion.

    I think it’s fairly easy to say that Britain has a lot of problems in its private and public infrastructure, and we who live in Australia or Japan are lucky in comparison.

  48. alfred venison

    dear Occam’s Blunt Razor
    “I hope he got approval from the EU”.
    the use water cannons is common in the eu.
    it was teresa may, cameron’s home secretary, who said use of water cannons is ‘unbritish’.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  49. Helen

    SG,

    Helen, it wasn’t just Thatcher who conceived of the UK as a banker’s wonderland with everyone else as their servants. New Labour had this as their central plan – run an economy on a ponzi scheme and pay the underclass to shut up and fuck off.

    Yeah, that’d be why my comment also specified “Cameron and neoliberal Labor “.

    The NHS is the last bastion of a failed socialist experiment and it is terrible.

    Not everyone appears to agree.
    http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2011/07/12/an-eye-opening-adventure-in-socialized-medicine/

  50. sg

    Don’t you think it’s a bit much to blame this on Cameron, Helen? He’s barely been in power, his cuts have only just started taking effect, and he wasn’t responsible for the most recent recession. Would he even have a rationale for the cuts if the previous government hadn’t pissed a huge amount of govt money up the wall through the GFC?

  51. dj

    If looting is “ok as long as you don’t get caught” then I can only say that these youths have learned well the lessons taught by those who used the cover of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to invade Iraq; the Murdochs and their lackeys; the Met police who couldn’t lie straight in bed; all those politicians who have claimed false expenses and took brown paper bags or directorships, and a large number of financial sector executives. People have been saying for years these behaviors were not right, that they were (and are) corrosive of any notion of community but they were all okay (as they have always been) because they were carried out by the great and good.

    As Lefty E pointed out in the other thread, it’s a bit hard to take seriously anything that Cameron says about “mindless violence” and thugs.

  52. Link

    Huggy that is a seriously scary scenario–rioters in the US wiv guns.

  53. akn

    If the UK privatizes the NHS whose going to dispense low cost Prozac to the parents and Ritalin to the kiddies? It’s a mistake I tell you. The UK, One Nation under CCTV and One Medication Regime.

  54. alfred venison

    dear Labouring the Point
    the article you refer to @ 45, by Jacopo Ponticelli & Hans-Joachim Voth, can be found at:-

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1899287

    at first glance it might appear “firewalled” but look for the link at the top of the page labelled “one click download” and you can make it yours, too.

    thanks for the tip off to this, it looks interesting and i have a longish bus trip coming up.

    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  55. wizofaus

    sg, Cameron may not have much personal responsibility, but there’s good reason to suppose a part of the trigger was the closure of youth centres and services provided to these communities, which was done under the auspices of his government. However I’d accept the most of the damage was done over the last 2 or 3 decades.

  56. adrian

    Er I think Helen has made it clear that she’s not just blaming Cameron.

    Moving beyond anecdoteville for one moment, well said [email protected] This morning we had the sight of that dear old Mr Murdoch telling us all that he is going to stay on because his company had increased its profits and those little problems that the company had were just one little corner of a vast empire and had nothing to do with him.

    Meanwhile those responsible for the GFC escape any scrutiny, let alone punishment, and we’re acting surprised that the disenfranchised display breathtaking cynicism?

    Not only has hope been removed from their lives, they’re seeing what others can and do get away with and acting accordingly.

  57. Yarvee

    When all is said and done, this business is all about anger- anger born of the loss of human dignity. It’s the bitter harvest from two generations political and social policies that have conspired to produce an ever widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. There will be opportunists operating on the fringes like anarchists and neo- nazies and yes, even thrill seekers. But make no mistake- the police shooting burst the seal of a vast seething, core of anger. And I don’t share the optimism of some previous writers about Australia. Don’t forget Howard only got his hands on the levers in 1996. That’s when he started implementing his version of Thatcherite policies. I’m already seeing signs of a large, angry young underclass developing. Even in a city like Canberra, packs of angry young people- boys and girls- are prowling the streets every night. A man was brutally murdered with a baseball bat and machette in towntown Canberra the other morning for $21 and a mobile phone. The same anger spilling over in GB will also erupt here in time. It’s like watching a slow motion trainwreck.

  58. OldSkeptic

    The single biggest factor is our ‘elites’ behaviour.

    When you have a self centered (sociopathic?), looting elite with absolutely no limits on what they do, that are effectively immune to any laws … then why shouldn’t Joe Soap do the same? Fairness is a cornerstone of social cohesion (even if it is built on a fantasy).

    Look at the GFC, how many British bankers and the rest of the financial elite (and their hangers on, supporters, etc) have been punished, despite clear evidence of fraud (etc)? How many are doing even better off now (largely with taxpayer money no less)?

    Yes, there has been a collapse in ethical standards in Britain, but it happened in their elite decades ago. The lower classes are just catching up. Realistically what is the ethical difference between someone who smashes in a shop window and steals something and someone who fraudulently steals billions .. and who then gets bailed out by ordinary people who are expected to suffer for it? Answer: The looter is far less harmful to society.

    So the rot (as in many other countries) starts from the top down, until there is an explosion (as in many other countries).

    Let’s face it what is the difference between Britain now and (say) Egypt. corrupt kleptocratic elite stuffing more and more into their pockets – correct, suppressive society for the ‘lower orders’ – correct, freedom from the ‘law’ for the elites – correct, a whole generation condemned to endless poverty – correct , etc. The sight of the various elites saying “you shouldn’t do what we do” is simply hypocrisy of the highest kind.

    I mean planning tax cuts for the rich while cutting social programs? That’s what’s so interesting about modern western elites – they are full of hubris and mind bogglingly stupid. Smart elites never push social cohesion too far and are well aware that tensions can build until there is finally an explosion.

    Personally I think this will probably die down slowly, but this should be taken as a major shot across the bows and teach the fact that social cohesion is not infinite*. Will the UK elites learn from it? Not a chance. So it is the next blow up that everyone should worry about.

    * For example: yes you can have austerity but it must be perceived to be fair. That is, the elites have to take their hit as well by higher taxes, etc. Forget the econo-babble by the neo-liberals, it is not about ‘economics’ it is about shared sacrifice. Plus dealing with lawlessness has to start from the top. You’ve got to jail the big boys (preferably sharing a cell with Big Buba for a long time), at least some must be thrown to the mob at regular intervals.

  59. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    sg: I’m hard on David Cameron because his austerity measures have been demonstrated to things worse, economists told him repeatedly that they would, and he had options open to do otherwise. He might talk a great talk about “broken society”, but it comes across as bullshit when he’s breaking it more.

    Just to underline what a git David Cameron is: he is still discussing cuts to the police, even after what happened.

  60. Lefty E

    This video is a must: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/video/2011/jul/31/haringey-youth-club-closures-video

    From 12 days ago, before the riots: “After Haringey council shuts eight of its 13 youth clubs, local teenagers express fears that boredom will fuel violence between young gang members on the streets of north London: “I used to go to a couple of youth clubs, but there’s nothing to do now…nowhere to go”

  61. Lefty E

    I think its quite accurate to blame a share of this on Cameron: he’s insituted theecent cuts, which, inter alia, have led to youth clubs shutting, and higher and further ed being cut off to many.

    I mean, there’s video testimony of kids – before the riots – saying “we’ve nothing to do now, there’ll be riots’.

    I cant speak about the NHS today – but when I lived in the UK in the mid 90s it was a better system than Medicare: no co-payment, ever, for GPs, and prescription medicaton was free.

  62. alfred venison

    dear Yarvee @ 66
    “I don’t share the optimism of some previous writers about Australia”.
    i’m in fact alarmed at the complacency of some who hold to the view that “it can’t happen here”.
    your sincerely
    alfred venison

  63. Katz

    At some level of consciousness, irrespective of how apolitical a person may be, such a person living in Britain could not have missed the fact that Cameron’s austerity program declared millions of Britons as surplus to national requirements.

    There are many ways that individuals may respond to that news. Taking revenge on society is one way.

    Cameron called for the establishment of a “big society”. He may take some consolation in the fact that the looters presently tearing up English cities have probably never acted in concert with more of their fellow citizens. For these looters this is the biggest social in which they have ever participated.

    The looters are sharing an intensely social experience. They will talk about it, remember it and recreate it with others for the rest of their lives. The most salient question is how it will be remembered.

    Events in Melbourne serve as a fascinating parallel.

    Some readers might know that something very similar happened in Melbourne in November 1923. The downtown area was utterly trashed and looted. The police, on strike at the time, were missing. Into the void rushed members of Australia’s secret armies. Violent street battles raged.

    The dominant myth that arose out of this episode was that Communists masterminded the violence. This was nonsense, of course, but it provided an explanation for both sides. Thousands of participants could apologise that they had been duped by traitors. Loyalists found added reasons to adhere to the huge secret armies that were so much part of the lives of Australia’s “respectable classes”.

  64. Sam

    It can’t happen here? Think: Cronulla.

  65. sg

    I just went to my local gym and saw a daytime TV show giving a Japanese-style explanation of the riots, complete with anime pictures. The description is a tad long to share here so it’s at my blog. The moral of the story: any social problem can be captured perfectly through manga.

  66. Labouring the Point

    Alfred Vennison,

    love your meat.

    I didn’t encounter a firewall perhaps go this way.

    It is an interesting paper.

  67. tssk

    Have a look at the front page of the telegraph in the UK

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8694494/UK-riots-David-Cameron-condemns-sick-society-as-grammar-school-girl-in-court-over-riots.html

    They were, some told us, the alienated poor, those without hope, lashing out in rage and despair. But as the accused London rioters started appearing in court they included university students, a rich businessman’s daughter and a boy of 11.

    So a lot of these are middle class looters. (And most white.) I still be the aftermath will be a crackdown on welfare recipients. The poor will yet again be punished for the crimes of their ‘betters.’

  68. Sam

    Not surprising that the middle classes are in on it. It was revealed some years ago that the leaders of the worst football hooligan gangs were bankers – assessing your loan application on the High Street Monday to Friday, putting on the bovver boots and cracking skulls on the weekend.

  69. Phil.

    “Not only has hope been removed from their lives, they’re seeing what others can and do get away with and acting accordingly.”

    In a nutshell. It is sad the adults haven’t come to the same conclusion, that the world is run by a mob of shysters. This is just the start of what’s to come.

  70. alfred venison

    dear Labouring the Point
    thank you for your kind remark.
    the paper only appeared to be “firewalled” at first (panicky) glance, perhaps i was unclear.
    and thanks for the further link – i recommend other interested folks should prefer your link to mine, because yours includes a comments thread as well as the paper, and one never knows what further goodies may be linked to by intelligent, on-the-ball commentators.
    top of the day to you.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  71. murph the surf.

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-feds-harvey-norman-option–2-years-interest-free-20110810-1imxf.html
    .
    Main Street meets Wall Street.
    Tax hikes must be coming – the rich and the big corporations will have to pay more.
    Some spending cuts will happen but taxes must rise.

  72. Adrien

    To update on some of the analysis, the prediction that a number of the usual suspects would turn the events into a partisan football has unsurprisingly been borne out. “It’s all Labour’s fault, it’s the welfare state’s fault, etc.” To be fair, there’s a dollop of stupid on parts of the left side of the fence too.

    With all due respect Mark, it seems to me that those who don’t play ideological ping-pong with this issue are rare exceptions. As usual one notices the transgressions of the other side more than that on one’s own, but:

    The assumption that this is an ‘understandable’ response to austerity measures or proof of the moral superiority of Keynsian economics is groundless. What’s in evidence here is a total lack of empathy. It ain’t just the Toffs what’s gettin’ bashed bro’.

    Likewise the relegation of this mess to mere criminality. To be sure the rioters are criminals, but criminality on this scale actually challenges the legitimacy of the law. In a functioning society it simply does not happen. And, moreover, will encourage the State to become even more draconian.

    And that all said how much do we actually know about….

  73. dave

    Mark, I thought Davies speculative

    Ask today’s rioter what he is doing, and he will reply using the language of self, pleasure, economic freedom and individual recognition. This borders on the concerns of the Left, when it enters into identity politics, but for the most part it is entirely neoliberal.

    to be apolitical and possibly very close to the mark.

    From my limited reading/viewing there does seem to be an absence of substantive politics behind the violence other than the frequently asserted causality of poverty,decay and despair. While the social forces are considerable, as a few here have pointed out, the economic conditions in the UK could be worse. Which is where Davies analysis seems strongest. Sure we can paint it as rich v poor but there does seem to be something else going on.

    And I must echo huggy’s thought that if the mentality Davies described takes root elsewhere, in particular the US, things will get very ugly. The thin blue line has always depended on a more or less orderly society to function.

  74. Helen

    With all due respect Mark, it seems to me that those who don’t play ideological ping-pong with this issue are rare exceptions.

    Very much in the eye of the beholder. As they say over at Crooked Timber: I righteously condemn, he analyses in a balanced fashion, they play ideological ping-pong.

  75. Helen
  76. tssk

    Apologies if this has already been posted but this is right on the money.

    http://nathanieltapley.com/2011/08/10/an-open-letter-to-david-camerons-parents/

    Just let me be clear about this (It’s a good phrase, Mr and Mrs Cameron, and one I looted from every sentence your son utters, just as he looted it from Tony Blair), I am not justifying or minimising in any way what has been done by the looters over the last few nights. What I am doing, however, is expressing shock and dismay that your son and his friends feel themselves in any way to be guardians of morality in this country.

    Can they really, as 650 people who have shown themselves to be venal pygmies, moral dwarves at every opportunity over the last 20 years, bleat at others about ‘criminality’. Those who decided that when they broke the rules (the rules they themselves set) they, on the whole wouldn’t face the consequences of their actions?

    Are they really surprised that this country’s culture is swamped in greed, in the acquisition of material things, in a lust for consumer goods of the most base kind? Really?

    There is hope for this country. But we must stop looking upwards for it. The politicians are the ones leading the charge into the gutter.

  77. adrian

    Great link tssk.
    Nathaniel Tapley has done more research in a couple of days than most of our journos do in an entire career. And he is a better writer as well.

  78. Dr_Tad

    dave @82

    “It’s us versus them, the police, the system,” said an unemployed man of Kurdish origin in his early 20s, sitting at the entrance to a Hackney housing estate with four Afro-Caribbean friends who nodded in agreement.

    “They call it looting and criminality. It’s not that. There’s a real hatred against the system,” he added, listing what he saw as the police prejudice, discrimination and lack of opportunity that led him and his friends to loot shops, torch bins and hurl missiles at police on Monday.

    “There’s two worlds in this borough. More and more middle classes are coming and we’re being pushed out. The shops are pricing stuff like it’s the West End, we can’t afford the rents. We’re the outcasts, we’re not wanted any more.

    “There’s nothing for us.”

    From here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/09/britain-riot-contrast-idUSL6E7J91RM20110809 (sorry, can’t get usual link thing to work)

    Suggests a more developed consciousness about the problem (and the enemy) than you’re implying. This should not be surprising, it seems there is quite a lot of crossover between the rioters and the youth who joined the student protests last year.

    The crisis at the top of society (economic and political) and collective mass action are cutting against the received ideologies pretty fast. My favourite bit is this:

    “The politicians say that we loot and rob. They are the original gangsters. They talk about copycat crimes. They’re the ones that’s looting, they’re the originals.”

    🙂

  79. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    The assumption that this is an ‘understandable’ response to austerity measures or proof of the moral superiority of Keynsian economics is groundless. What’s in evidence here is a total lack of empathy. It ain’t just the Toffs what’s gettin’ bashed bro’.

    C’mon, Adrien – we all know most of the rioters couldn’t tell Keynes from Hayek even if they were in a competition for a lifetime supply of lager. I’m saying that austerity measures in this particular circumstances are dumb, have already had effects on the situation, and may cause damage in the future. Explanation isn’t justification.

  80. tssk

    If you want to have a laugh at David Cameron’s expense check this out…

    http://wosblog.podgamer.com/2011/08/10/david-camerons-new-best-friend/

    You may have seen David Cameron on the news today, anointing himself head of the “New Moral Army”, promising a “fightback” against rioters, and praising (at 0.53) “the million people on Facebook who’ve signed up to support the police”. The group in question was created, and is run, by this lovely chap: @SeanBoscott

    (and a screengrab of a ‘joke’ I’m not going to repeat here.)

    Oh dear oh dear Prime Minister. We know you’ve just come back from hols but do check your links so you can avoid gotcha moments like this.

  81. Fine

    Dr. Tad, of course it’s looting and criminality. There are reasons for it occurring. But denialism doesn’t help. To call that a developed political consciousness is a bit sad. Who exactly are they stealing from? Their own neighbourhoods, for a start. Who have they harmed? Mainly just other working class people. There’s obviously a great deal of inchoate anger there, but not much political analysis.

  82. Adrien

    Very much in the eye of the beholder. As they say over at Crooked Timber: I righteously condemn, he analyses in a balanced fashion, they play ideological ping-pong.

    Mmmm really?

    At the moment one of my fave online activities is to boot up LP and Catallaxy posts on the same issue and compare the commentary. I expect that the opinions will be compliant with the doctrines of socialist and liberal ideology, and y’know what… They are.

    This situation has not abated, the smoke hasn’t cleared, the fire’s not out and the final death toll won’t be in for a while yet people have decided to pronounce judgement on the causes without any pause for reflection. This is about the failure of Keynsian economics? Well if Keynsian economics is so hot why is Cameron in the hot seat? Britain is a democracy yeah? And then there’s timid inference that this might be The Revolution. OMG

    This is no revolution. This is a revolution – http://stillchaos.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/sunday-words-4/

    It’s characterized, among other things, by social coherence, by an organic will to order. Any coherence here? Any order? No.

    I could go thru the commentary here and at Catallaxy and demonstrate meticulously that what concerns the vast majority of commentors is the righteousness of their side of politics. Will I? No. It would be useless. Is that just my opinion? Sure.

    You want another – this is failure and the failure is born by the political classes because you are all bad leaders.

  83. Adrien

    Explanation isn’t justification.

    True.

  84. Dr_Tad

    Fine @90

    The problem with your approach is that it writes off anything outside narrow definitions and assumptions.

    Of course riots are “criminality”, but we live in a society where what rioters do is “criminal” but what bankers do on a much grander scale is defined as fine for people in their position. The word “criminality” gets us nowhere in figuring out what is going on here precisely because it is a normative judgement and not a fact.

    You speak of rioters stealing from “their” neighbourhoods as if the commonality of interest between local citizens is a given. The vast majority of stealing has been from businesses, large and (to a lesser extent) small. There are serious class cleavages at play that using the word “their” totally masks.

    Who have they harmed? Well, actually the majority of the violence against people has been directed at the police (who you cannot count as working class in the sense you suggest). The majority of the property damage has been against businesses. I’ve been amazed, given the extent of the rioting, at how few horror anecdotes a hostile media has been able to drum up.

    Finally, there is much more politics in what the rioters are telling the media (the few times they are allowed a voice) than much of the condemnatory elite commentary that is designed to rob meaning from the conscious collective activity of people on the streets. Such commentary is not politics; it is a denial of the political.

  85. Robert Merkel

    Bob Carr likes Theodore Dalrymple’s take in the OO.

    Can we jointly award them an Agincourt Award for somehow managing to find parallels with Amy Winehouse?

  86. Fine

    I’m in a hurry so I can’t say much Dr Tad.

    But, you’re comment about the police reminds me of the great, radical filmmaker Pasolini’s comments on the ’68 riots that the children of the middle-class are fighting the children of the working-class i.e the police.

    I didn’t say the bankers weren’t criminal. Of course they are. That doesn’t mean looting isn’t criminal as well.

    As for the commentary that the people they’re attacking aren’t of their class – I find Marxist definitions of class a very old-fashioned and unsatisfactory way of explaining the world. The idea that the local shopkeepers are the enemy makes me roll my eyes.

    The idea that these people working from a conscious collective activity is absolutely risible. All evidence we know so far points to a variety of people working from a whole range of overlapping positions.

  87. Marisan

    So what is it?
    Revolution?
    Civil War?
    Or the complete breakdown of society?

    How’s it going to be controlled?
    By the Police? Not successful so far. How many jails will have to be built? How many new jailers recruited?
    By the Army? How long will they shoot their own kids for? What happens when the Army refuses it’s orders.

    The western world is caught between a rock and a hard place.

    Remember, ruling class, there is a lot more of us than there is of you
    Ask Charles and Camilla about their meeting with the disaffected during the student riots.

    The youth have figured out that there is no rule of law without the consent of the ruled.

    And also remember that youth, in their own minds, are immortal.

  88. Marisan

    There is a rough beast that this way comes.

  89. Helen

    Fine, I think your definition of “political” is too narrow in that you are stipulating that the rioters have to have a conscious and overtly political motivation before we can use the word. I think in the sense that the explosion may have been caused (caveat Adrien, I said may, I’m not pronouncing or claiming to have the last word on anything), by a concatenation of economic, social and political forces, that, to me, is political, there’s no need for the rioters to be aware of it.

  90. Helen

    Marisan, if thinks it’s trudging towards Bethlehem someone needs to gently tell it it’s going the wrong way.

  91. Katz

    It’s certainly criminal. But is it wrong?

  92. Eric Sykes

    What Katz @ 72 said.

  93. Patrickb

    “My Grandfather starved to death in an NHS Hospital”
    Sorry to hear that but I still think you talk BS. We have no idea what circumstances surrounded the incident you allude to yet you expect us to accept that the entire NHS was singularly responsible? That’s a fairly pathetic argument. And given that similar incidents occur under “privatised” systems such as ours it looks like there isn’t a healthcare system that would satisfy you. Sorry about the OT but this trash argument needs taking out.

  94. adrian

    At the moment one of my fave online activities is to boot up LP and Catallaxy posts on the same issue and compare the commentary

    Well I suppose if your idea of a good time is to compare chalk with cheese, good luck to you.

  95. billie

    Adrien @91

    Well if Keynsian economics is so hot why is Cameron in the hot seat?

    Cameron is not following Keynesian economics, he is following Chicago school economics – the sort of stuff that Pinochet implemented in Chile in the 1970s which led to an impoverished populace that was too cowered by the military junta to do anything but survive and go into exile.

    Britain got out of the morass of the great depression by spending everything it had, and hadn’t, fighting world war 2 and then when it was absolutely broke introducing the welfare state in 1947. This meant that the working class had enough to eat, access to health care, jobs etc.

    Comedian Bill Oddie’s older sister born in 1940 died at age 5 days from ‘failure to thrive’, a very common description on infants’ death certificates in working class areas where people had been unemployed and underemployed for over a decade. And of course we know Bill Oddie because he went up to Cambridge University and played the fool with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme ?? on The Goodies.

  96. Marisan

    For too long we have been told “Obey the rules and society will take care of you”

    That’s a fabrication perpetuated by the elites but we went along with it because, on the whole, it benefited us.

    Now, in one of the biggest stuff ups in capitalist history, they made the mistake of taking the velvet glove off and showed us the iron fist.

    Think of Gerry Harvey wanting to import foreign workers for his horse stud because Australian workers cost too much. (Subtext: If you don’t take what I’m willing to give you I’ll take the bread out of your mouths) All the while complaining that we won’t buy from his stores.

    If you want to know what happens if you rock the boat just ask Pauline Hanson (And, no, I don’t support her)

    The youth in Britain have just proved that the iron fist is a myth merely by removing their consent to being ruled.

  97. Marisan

    billie

    Twas Graeme Garden

  98. akn

    This situation calls for policy rethink in England. A new approach to social inclusion given that the old one, which meant opportunities flowing from an education and meaningful work, is no longer attainable for all. England needs a 1:1 ratio of social workers to rioters. Nice girls and young men in decent clothes with proper lace up shoes and the right sort of condescension to really put these street rats in their place. Administer patronising attitudes and forms that no-one could understand to them until they die from humiliation and tedium. And SSRI’s. And legalise it; distribute it like the Soviets used to do with Vodka.

    England. What a urinal.

  99. Fran Barlow

    Fine said:

    I didn’t say the bankers weren’t criminal. Of course they are. That doesn’t mean looting isn’t criminal as well.

    It also doesn’t mean that what they are doing isn’t looting. Certainly, embezzlement isn’t as visible in real time, and of course there isn’t the extend of physical violence, but it is, as Alice might have said, much of a muchness, save that in the case of the bankers, their muchness is much more.

    Sidebar: Interestingly, the term, embezzle was at its inception, a lot closer in its provenance to looting. In Old French, besillier means torment, gouge, destroy</em and embesillier was to steal, make disappear. The notion of achieving this by fraud was not attested until about 1580 — nearly 300 years later.

    As for the commentary that the people they’re attacking aren’t of their class – I find Marxist definitions of class a very old-fashioned and unsatisfactory way of explaining the world. The idea that the local shopkeepers are the enemy makes me roll my eyes.

    Well Marxist definitions of class are of very long standing, so that’s not surprsing. They are an excellent example of “old-fashioned” but those definitions don’t make the petit bourgeoisie the class enemy. They are an intermediate class. Nor do those definitions accord the lumpenproletariat the status of allies of the proletariat. Marxists see both these classes as potential sources of danger to the proletariat, for somewhat different reasons. Neither of these classes can play an independent rols as a class in resolving the contradiction between the expanding forces of production and the realtions of production, and so ultimately they are likely to fracture and come to the aid of one of the major classes — the proletariat — the producer class — or the bourgeoise — the exploiting class.

    From a Marxist point of view, the failure of the working class to draw to its cause (the struggle for workingclass control of the means of production, distribution and exchange) all or most of those ruined by capitalism is a consequence of the failure of the class to develop distinctively “class-for-itself” politics, instead submitting to one variant or another of bourgeois politics, and the defence of the right to trade in labour power.

    One may accept or reject this view, but one should at least know what one is rejecting or accepting.

    The idea that these people working from a conscious collective activity is absolutely risible. All evidence we know so far points to a variety of people working from a whole range of overlapping positions.

    As others have noted, politics is not necessarily a conscious activity. We note, often enough, that forms of political exclusion — ableism, sexism, racism, homophobia — need not take explicit or conscious form when uttered. Similarly, raging at one’s effective exclusion from the polity, that one has been cast out as some sort of non-citizen need not, (and probably will not) take on an overt paradigm of the social or author a vehicle for the creation of a new politics, to have a political character. Indeed, it need not even express a clearly defined idea. Yet those two girls interviewed on BBC recently who simply said:

    it’s about the Conservatives, in’it? It’s like we’re tellin’ rich people we can do what we want and they can’t stop us.

    I call that political, its simplistic and visceral quality notwithstanding.

  100. Fran Barlow

    MODS: please correct ital tag before and embesillier

    TIA

  101. tssk

    But what’s the solution? (Given that we’re still assuming all the looters were the poor which has already been shown to be false.)

    The job market is shrinking, entry level jobs are disappearing either being outsourced or automated. And in the UK there’s only one job available for every 47 jobseekers.

    And our answer seems to be to tell the unsuccessful 46 that they are lazy scum, bludging off the system.

    Maybe we just need to be even firmer. “C’mon lads! Bootstraps!”

  102. Marisan

    Hi Tssk

    “But what’s the solution? (Given that we’re still assuming all the looters were the poor which has already been shown to be false.)”

    They are the poor and the soon to be poor.

  103. Marisan

    Hi again tssk,

    “Maybe we just need to be even firmer. “C’mon lads! Bootstraps!”

    Tell them to start their own businesses.

    After all is easy to make a million dollars.

    All you have to do is master the art of lying, cheating and stealing.

  104. sg

    Dr_Tad, you really are kidding yourself if you think the British lumpen proletariat – or the British working class, for that matter- have any class consciousness. Race consciousness they have in spades, but class consciousness is completely absent. And given how poorly educated they are, and how much they despise learning, it’s unlikely they’re going to look up a term like “class struggle” anytime soon. Even if by some miracle they bother to loot a bookshop.

    As ever, class analysis will fail here through a failure to understand culture.

  105. Jikky

    This is no revolution. It would be a revolution if they left the retailers alone. If they specifically went around to the richer bankers and higher paid public servants houses and ripped all their gear off then THAT would be a revolution. You won’t get any traction unless you target your oppressors with some sort of precision.

  106. Marisan

    Jikky

    This is the precursor of a revolution.

    There a people watching this especially the failure of the state to control the riots.

    If they can’t control spotty faced youth on the streets how are they going to control an organized revolution.

  107. adrian

    Look sg, I’m getting a bit sick and tired of your gross generalisations of a whole nation’s ‘working class’ whatever that means. Imagine if you similarly denigrated another nation’s people or said (God forbid) that all Aborigines were useless bludgers.

    I get it that you had some bad experiences. Get over it – it doesn’t mean that all the British ‘working class’ people are the same, or that an entire culture can be dismissed as lacking in any redeeming features.

  108. Marisan

    NBN News (Newcastle)

    There are now Vigilantes on the streets protecting their communities.

    I thought the Police were implacably opposed to Vigilantes.

    Appears not when the ruling class is threatened.

  109. Jenny

    Notwithstanding commentary that the occasional rich kid or low-level worker has taken the opportunity to do some looting it seems like a no-brainer to me that the riots are initiated by those that feel excluded from society. The obvious barrier to entry is lack of education. I don’t know how effective public education is in England, but that is where I would be looking for explanations of the riots. I’d also be looking at our schools in trying to assess the chances of it happening here.

    My view, admittedly informed by not much more than the occasional chat with teachers and having had two kids go through the system is that educational systems are still brutal in sorting out winners and losers. For example, I know of a bright year 12 student who stopped attending for six weeks with major depression issues. To her credit she managed to fight back but only with huge support from parents and private tutors, in the face of an unforgiving system. I suspect that similar systems are leaving huge numbers of kids feeling like failures, forever excluded from the Nike/Samsung world.

    So it seems to me that the lesson of the English riots is that there is urgent need to ensure our public schools provide as many chances as necesary to enable kids to acquire sufficient educational attainment to join society. I suspect that means more teachers, better teachers, tutors and other catch-up mechanisms. It also means assessment systems that are geared to attainment regardless of number of attempts and less focused on overall pass/fail evaluations for a semester or period of time. It seems to me that the English experience is telling us that spending more on education might save us from some huge bills down the track.

  110. Marisan

    Hi Jenny

    That’s not going to happen as long as the parasites are sucking all of the money out of the system

  111. billie

    The riots are happening in poor neighbourhoods where there are 47 applicants chasing every job. In London you have the really poor living side by side with the really wealthy financial sector workers being paid international level salaries. Evidently London schools that hire Australian teachers are full of kids described as “work refusers” who basically are non-cooperative, disruptive students who wield power over the teachers ability to get a pay rise through of their [lack of] performance. What a way to wield power!

    These rioters don’t compare themselves to the poor of Africa or India but rightly compare their opportunities to those of their neighbours. As commentators have said, it costs money to entertain yourself in London and with youth centres closed this is the greatest sport on offer!

  112. alfred venison

    dear Marisan @ 96
    as usual, you cut to the chase. well done.

    this *is* really very serious and bigger than britain.

    “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be reborn?”

    W.B Yeats “The Second Coming” [1919; pub 1921]

    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  113. Adrien

    In London you have the really poor living side by side with the really wealthy financial sector workers being paid international level salaries.

    Mmmm sustainable social architecture? Anyone ever read Give Me Liberty by Frank Miller? It depicts a future wherein poor neighborhoods are ghettoized literally, turned into jail.

    We have the same thing in Melbourne, to a lesser extent. Luvee yupsters with super-cool renovations to old factories or thee latest eco-futurist schtick. And bulk public housing down the road and all around. Lots of people about at night walking small dogs with hairdos that cost more than these people see in a month.

    These rioters don’t compare themselves to the poor of Africa

    Yes they do. Africans do. It’s a very self-aware diaspora. Torn to shreds by 200 000 years of beef.

  114. Adrien

    you really are kidding yourself if you think the British lumpen proletariat – or the British working class, for that matter- have any class consciousness. Race consciousness they have in spades, but class consciousness is completely absent.

    That’s not true at all. What’s the basis for that assertion. And are you aware that ‘class’ and ‘race’ have historically been the same at times.

    The word “criminality” gets us nowhere in figuring out what is going on here precisely because it is a normative judgement and not a fact.

    No? Here’s a fact: there’s a law, if you break it they lock you up. Theoretically anyway. 🙂

  115. Marisan

    alfred venison

    As always Alfred I never know weather you are mocking or complimenting.

    But thank you for the full quote

  116. alfred venison

    dear Marisan
    its a powerful poem, one of my favorites of yeats (along with “Among School Children” & “An Irish Airman Foresees his Death” & “Easter 1916”).

    perhaps this will clarify my elliptic observations re mock vs compliment, eh.:

    “O Harry Heine, curses be,
    I live too late to sup with thee!
    Who can demolish at such polished ease
    Philistia’s pomp and Art’s pomposities!”

    [ezra pound’s “Translator to Translated” from his “Translations and Adaptations from Heine” (“Lustra” 1911)]

    substitute “Marisan” for “Harry Heine” & “politics” for “Philistia’s pomp and Art’s pomposities” & you ruin the meter (pound, like yeats, was a master of rhythm & meter) – so i didn’t .

    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  117. dave

    Yeats was somewhat downcast after WW1, hence the apocalyptic sentiments. I’m not sure this situation is in the same league…yet

  118. OldSkeptic

    Oh well, just wait till it happens here. I’m sure we will get the usual propaganda, the usual piffle, the usual ‘crackdown’.

    Fran and Jenny good on you for being some of those who actually get it (plus a few others of course, some sort of). As for the rest of you:

    Matthew 7:3-5: (see the bible is actually good for something) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

  119. Fine

    Helen and Fran, I didn’t say this wasn’t political. I said the rioters weren’t operating from a collective political consciousness. Two completely different things.

  120. akn

    Marisan @116: NBN news in Newcastle. Dear Heavens. The only news service that is supplemented by super brief pictures of ‘The Pope’ or ‘a car’ or, best of all ‘a cow’ when discussing live beef export and all to supplement the spoke word. Astonishing degeneracy. I know, I’ve seen it recently. And the editing. And the ongoing reports about those poor trees in Laman St. Aaargh. You poor thing.

  121. Dr_Tad

    Me at Left Flank, clearly not a post aimed at convincing the Right.

  122. Fran Barlow

    Fine said:

    Helen and Fran, I didn’t say this wasn’t political. I said the rioters weren’t operating from a collective political consciousness.

    Tad’s phrase was “a more developed consciousness about the problem (and the enemy) than you’re implying.” Your original was “a developed political consciousness” — Similar, but not the same.

    Your repeated use of the term “criminal”, depoliticised the actions in the riot and fits well with the dominant narrative of “thugs” who “are not merely sick but broken”. While few would dispute their criminality, this is not all there is to know about these events. While they certainly don’t, in the main, have “a developed political consciousness” they do have the beginnings of an appreciation of their social exclusion and whose interest lies behind it. That’s doubtless what Tad was saying when he saif their consciousness was more developed that you’d implied.

  123. Fran Barlow

    Mark asked:

    With respect, Fran, how do you *know* that {they do have the beginnings of an appreciation of their social exclusion and whose interest lies behind it}?

    From the repeated utterances of those participating who ventured an opinion. Again and again, they say they are taking aim at the rich and letting them know that “we can do what we want”.

    Your quote, as it is mapped to these events, denies what the protestors have frequently said — that they feel excluded, that there is nothing there for them, that their neighbourhoods are being gentrified and that they won’t be able to live there.

    We can hear what they say, even if we see that they themselves don’t comprehend entirely what it means. Theirs is a cri de coeur and so is ill-formed and inchoate, but nevertheless, it is clearly a repudiation of the idea that living life in the old way and allowing the rulers to run the streets on behalf of the privilged as they see fit is not inevitable.

    They are bound to be beaten down, because ultimately they have no specific goals, nor a vehicle for anything other than the status quo ante, but as so many said years ago — lessons about about class struggle are often best learned at the end of a policeman’s truncheon than from an afternoon browsing the manifesto.

  124. John D

    Greg Sheridan had this to say on the UK situation in the middle of an harangue on the wretched state of the European model:

    Schools, universities, local councils and an endless array of quasi-government bodies preach a bowdlerised, ersatz morality, policing language for sexist anachronisms, censoring Enid Blyton, preaching a detached, sterile ideal of tolerance. But amid normal people these blandishments have no authority.

    The secular mind may rejoice at the post-religious moment of Europe, and especially of Britain. But an unemployed youth, with no tradition and no real education, with enough money more or less but not many prospects, with no source of moral authority and no help in understanding any basis for right and wrong, nothing to control an impulse, and knowing nothing of British history except that it was shameful and sexist and racist — how exactly does this youth become integrated and whole, and indeed happy?

    The article does present plenty of scope for disagreement but the section above does suggest some of the fundamental questions that an inquiry into the cause of the riots should try to answer:
    1. Why is the youth unemployed?
    2. Why has the youth no real education?
    3. Why does the youth lack the moral strength and sensibilities that would stop the youth participating in looting and arson?
    4. Why isn’t the youth “integrated and whole, and indeed happy?”

    Theodore Dalrymple had this interesting comment in Thursday’s Australian:

    …although youth unemployment in Britain is very high, that is to say about 20 per cent of those aged under 25, the country has had to import young foreign labour for a long time, even for unskilled work in the service sector.

    The reasons for this seeming paradox are obvious to anyone who knows young Britons as I do.

    No sensible employer in a service industry would choose a young Briton if he could have a young Pole; the young Pole is not only likely to have a good work ethic and refined manners, he is likely to be able to add up and — most humiliating of all — to speak better English than the Briton, at least if by that we mean the standard variety of the language. He may not be more fluent but his English will be more correct and his accent easier to understand.

    The coal miner’s daughter I married has said to me that she made a conscious decision when she was 14 to change from her coal miner’s dialect to educated “grammatical” English. It would have been a bit hard to be accepted into the professional world if she had been convinced by the politically correct to stay with expressions like “I seen the cat.”

  125. John D

    David Cameron seems to be in denial or lacking the mental tools to appreciate complexity:

    The riots that tore through London and other major English cities for four days had nothing to do with politics or protest but were motivated by theft, British prime minister David Cameron said.

    Addressing parliament, which has been called back from its summer break to address the riots, Mr Cameron said rioters behind Britain’s worst violence in decades would be tracked down and punished.

    He dismissed the rioters as no more than opportunistic criminals and denied the unrest was linked to planned spending cuts, or the death of 29-year-old man Mark Duggan.

  126. Patrickb

    @132
    Well, how do you they don’t? Looking at what we have before us, large numbers of lower class people destroying or appropriating the property of others, I think it’s safe to say that they are aware of their current position in the social order and that they despise that construction of them. It would appear that they are considered to be little more than beasts, that is the subtext behind “teen pregnancy”, “underachievement”, “criminality” or “the British underclass [that] has incubated over generations” (thanks Paul Sheehan for the last one), all terms that were and are regularly applied to other outsiders such as the indigenous inhabitants of our own country.
    I think it’s somewhat elitist to dismiss their capacity for understanding ” their social exclusion and whose interest lies behind it”. They are living in it.

  127. Joe

    I think Cameron’s response has been interesting– firstly a very tough, no compromise law and order position, followed by the threat of water cannon and rubber bullets. And now the prospect, only the prospect mind y out, of calling out the army to contain the situation!

    Now, just step back from that for a minute, because this “trope” is very dominant at the moment. This is basically the method of Gadaffi and Assad– very aggressive and violent. There is no room even for dialog. This is not acceptable in a so-called western democracy.

    Also the British Labor Party need to make this point. There is no overt political demand from the looters, etc, but youth unemployment in the UK is almost 20%. Everyone needs to start demanding a more rational– in the sens of based on constructive dialog– politics.

  128. Lefty E
  129. Joe

    It is depressing that way that the looting has been accepted as being non-political. How are these kids supposed to organise into a political group? Does anyone think they have enough time to meet two times a week and discuss political concepts? Some people have mentioned the poor standard of the education that these people are getting, their social situation etc.

    Well we need to invest more money in education. And not try and make money from Asian students by selling education as a product. We need to give families a real chance to partake in society and not concentrate on increasing the profitability of the top 200 countries listed on the stock exchange.

    Neo-liberalism is FAIL. It represents a redistribution of wealth to the richest in the community. It has no other function. To continue down this track, post 2008, post 20(13) is to drive at top speed off a very high cliff.

  130. Joe

    And by the way, this is what’s left over from the service-economy. Bosses, who get to vote and servants, who have to put up with it.

  131. jules

    Hey you know what, knowing you are on one side, and the rest of the world is on another and you are irrelevent and superfluous to its needs actually is a form of collective political consciousness.

    WE already knew how worthless and useless these little shites were, as some people have expressed on this thread already. They obviously have no redeeming features, and are nothing but a drain on society.

    Its pretty clear they are universally despised, innit.

    If they succeed in burning down the city then some of them face the very real prospect of not having to live the way they used to anymore.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1zci07Kono

  132. FDB

    “… which, dare I say it, 127 comments later, is precisely what I argued in the OP”

    That was just occurring to me as I read down!

  133. Jacques de Molay

    “Understanding the UK riots”

    Chris Cocking, Crowd Psychologist on Al Jazeera:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NalRVGQIZM&feature=player_embedded

  134. sg

    Fran,

    they do have the beginnings of an appreciation of their social exclusion and whose interest lies behind it

    is that why our Audi driving rioters killed three South Asian men guarding their mosque? Is that why parents sent their children into shops to loot?

    They don’t have the foggiest whose interest lies behind their social exclusion. If they did, they’d be taking on the police despite the increase in numbers. And they would be targeting political enemies rather than corner shops.

    Adrian, in case you hadn’t noticed, class analysis and discussion of class interests by its very nature requires making sweeping generalizations about a whole class of people. I was responding to Dr_Tad’s overly hopeful class analysis.

    And, since I happen to have British citizenship and to have lived in the UK as a child and an adult – and have British parents – I think I’m quite within my rights to talk about the class and nation I was raised in. I feel I understand them quite well, actually, which is why the composition of these riots doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  135. Jikky

    Here we have an orgy of stealing, conducted in the context of an orgy of stealing preceding it (bank bailouts, stimulus packages, global warming lie expenses) and yet some people are claiming its because there hasn’t been enough stealing. They want stealing to be greater as a factor. They call the stealing “spending.” and claim there isn’t enough.

  136. Katz

    Theodore Dalrymple:

    No sensible employer in a service industry would choose a young Briton if he could have a young Pole; the young Pole is not only likely to have a good work ethic and refined manners, he is likely to be able to add up and — most humiliating of all — to speak better English than the Briton…

    Funny that. In all likelihood these Poles’ teachers were trained and originally employed by the Polish Communist regime.

    Cameron’ speech is proof that the Tories have learned nothing from this episode. But, of course, every schoolboy knows that Tories are ineducable.

  137. akn

    LeftyE @139: a disgrace. Water cannon! Tear gas!

  138. akn

    John D, that’s a wonderful implosive rant from Greg Sheridan:

    The secular mind may rejoice at the post-religious moment of Europe, and especially of Britain. But an unemployed youth, with no tradition and no real education…

    meaning they don’t forelock tug any more and the droit de seigneur has lapsed…

    with enough money more or less but not many prospects

    they have enough money not to starve to death…where’s Malthus when you need him

    with no source of moral authority and no help in understanding any basis for right and wrong

    they hold people like me in contempt and anyway I can’t understand a word they’re saying

    nothing to control an impulse …

    the gallows! the hulks! the wheel!

    and knowing nothing of British history except that it was shameful and sexist and racist

    some ars*hole told them the truth…how did that happen?

    how exactly does this youth become integrated and whole, and indeed happy?

    thirty previous generations of proud Britons were happy to die for the flag…what’s wrong with these little muthas…I just don’t understand

  139. adrian

    Yeah, I like the ‘no source of moral authority’ bit.
    Now that the New of the World’s closed down there must be nowhere to turn, although I’m sure that The Sun’s still worth a look.

  140. adrian

    Guy Rundle:

    The form the riots are taking may well be dictated by the nature of postmodern society?—?the content is still dictated by politics. The Right’s half-arsed theorising on this wont disguise the truth?—?these are Thatcher’s children, and this is Thatcher’s England, still and again, and in its third decade.

    If we had a halfway decent press in this country, Rundle would be writing for a major daily and the likes of Paul Sheehan would be relegated to some insignificant far right blog like Catallaxy.

  141. Terry

    But for how long can the UK left keep blaming everything on Margaret Thatcher? its like the propensity of the US right to blame everything on “the sixties”.

  142. Helen

    It would have been a bit hard to be accepted into the professional world if she had been convinced by the politically correct to stay with expressions like “I seen the cat.”

    Really, these events have been followed by a tsunami of making-shit-up from the Right. When and where has anyone ever advocated, or taught, retaining “I seen” instead of “I’ve seen”? Oh, that’s right, nowhere.

  143. wizofaus

    Even if blaming everything on Thatcher had any justification, it doesn’t strike me as helpful. The interesting question is which particular government policies over the last 30 years or so are likely to have contributed towards the problem, regardless of who instituted them.
    I’d tend to think the majority of them would have happened under Major and Blair’s auspices.

  144. Katz

    Terry:

    But for how long can the UK left keep blaming everything on Margaret Thatcher? its like the propensity of the US right to blame everything on “the sixties”.

    But Terry, “the sixties” was never president of the US, whereas Thatcher tore up the old political economy of the UK and replaced it with a new new one that turned large sections of the population into mendicants. Such disasters can persist for generations.

  145. adrian

    I don’t think anyone’s blaming everything on Thatcher, but that is surely where it started, enthusiastically carried on by everyone (including the particularly odious Blair) since – with the exception (according to Rundle) of Brown.

  146. Katz

    The Right looks back to a Golden Age when things in Britain were “good”.

    I challenge mouthpieces of the Right to nominate a date of the last moment when things in Britain were “good”.

  147. Eric Sykes

    Not sure if anyone’s come across this from Zygmunt Bauman on what’s going on … worth a read .. consumerism coming home to roost

    http://www.social-europe.eu/2011/08/the-london-riots-on-consumerism-coming-home-to-roost/

  148. alfred venison

    dear Terry
    the functional equivalent of thatcher in the usa is ronald reagan not “the 60s”. Sheesh.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  149. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Patrick Dunleavy from the LSE Blog on the indolence and complacence of the Tories in power:

    Ministers froze public sector pay for two years, because it helped fix the books, and then publicly pilloried every high paid public servant. There was no consideration that perhaps the government would need allies on their side. The Chancellor and Chief Secretary enforced unsustainable cuts of up to 40 per cent in departmental budgets over four years, including radical surgery on the police budget. Ministers tripled student fees and scrapped the Educational Maintenance Allowance, which millions of teenagers at school and college had come to rely on. When those affected protested, ministers smiled knowingly – they knew that ‘special interests’ would wail and moan, but these things were do-able. The government would face down its critics and resolution, political élan, would win the day.

    In her excellent (and entertaining) book The March of Folly, the historian Barbara Tuchman dwelt on the quality of ‘wooden-headedness’ in political leaders – the capacity to rack up political fiascos in the face of (lots of) advice to the contrary. The recent collapse of public order across London, and its threatened or near collapse in every major city of the country, will be an object lesson for political science students for years to come in how close a government can come to creating a crisis out of almost nothing, through inattention and neglect of the complexity of governance.

  150. sg

    A British migrant in Australia explains the view from a distance, and like many who have left the UK, pins it on a slowly failing culture of resentment, greed and selfishness.

  151. Lefty E

    yeah anyway… after all the mandatory braindead bleating about law and order, from Tories who rushed back from Tuscan vacations to deny social divisions played a role in this crisis – loads of money will now pour into these areas, just as they did after the Brixton riots.

    In that sense, the riots will great, big, ugly… and, pehaps unintentionally – effective.

  152. Fran Barlow

    Mark said:

    @124 – Yes, Fran, but how selective are you being? You’ve got to watch for confirmation bias.

    That caveat applies with equal force to those arguing the contrary — that this is simply mindless anomie. (I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is your position, but it applies all the way between my position and this and thus to yours too).

    I think a mistake is being made if people want to impute class consciousness. Go back to the distinction between a class “in itself” and “for itself”.

    I’m very much aware of the distinction. Clearly, the youth-centred groups at the frontline in the disturbances are not an economic class in the sense we normally understand the term, but they clearly see themselves as having an identity which might, in the 1970s, have fallen under the heading “sub-altern”. It’s a clearly a form of identity with all of the othering that attaches thereto. Moreover, their “other” maps at least in part to the dominant propertied classes. In their conflict with the people riding shotgun for these privileged groups (the political class and its police), they feel the need to coordinate their activities in a loose way. So in these admittedly modest senses they have moved beyond merely a sense of shared indentity and interest, to a view that they must act in concert against those with contrary interest to realise their own. That’s the first step to the for itself standard.

    Now ultimately, such an identity is inherently unstable — membership of the group will be in far greater flux and internal conflict than the major economic classes we discuss or even the petit bourgeoisie yet at this instant, it is no less real for that.

  153. Dr_Tad

    Lefty E @166

    The Drum commissioned an article from me on exactly that. Should be up later today.

  154. Dr_Tad

    I generally want to back Fran more than Fine (and Mark) here, but perhaps by making the following three observations:

    The riots are political in nature.

    But they are not a conscious political movement.

    Nevertheless, while there is great unevenness in the political consciousness of the participants, many have quite a highly developed level of politics (although not of the safe, official variety).

    That is all. 😀

  155. Adrien

    That’s doubtless what Tad was saying when he saif their consciousness was more developed that you’d implied.

    And the basis for that is? Do any of you have any experience of this ‘political consciousness’ of which you speak? This isn’t some proto-revolutionary movement this is a breakdown of civility. They aren’t the same thing at all.

    I reckon you should all go and watch Mad Max. Shame when you need a movie to gift you a reality check. But there you go.

  156. Lefty E

    Cool, look fwd to that Dr Tad.

    Meanwhile, in breaking news: Gaddafi recognises ‘East Staines Massive’ as the legitimate government of the UK. 🙂

  157. alfred venison

    dear Dr Tad
    thanks for the tip off – something good to read at the drum again.
    but at the moment the abc news site is down (true).
    everyone, please, don’t rush there all at the same time, eh? 😉
    your sincerely
    alfred venison

  158. sg

    leftye at 166, given Cameron seems hellbent on maintaining the cuts to the police force, I think he might not be interested in spending any extra money on the rioting areas. His whole philosophy is that govt spending causes these problems in the first place. If he holds his nerve on the cuts, which he appears to be doing, then those areas will get nothing.

  159. Lefty E

    Oh, they wont make a fuss sg. Neither did Thatcher when she poured money, hand over fist, in to Brixton (and swallowed her pride and let the EU do the same).

    But since there’s absolutely no other way to prevent this happening all over again – they will.

  160. Sam

    No sensible employer in a service industry would choose a young Briton if he could have a young Pole

    I have some first hand experience to report on this, having been in London a couple of years ago and served in cafes, shops and restaurants by young Poles.

    They were – without exception – surly, rude, unhelpful and resentful.

  161. dj

    Tottenham was under consideration as an area for an Enterprise Zone and was not one of the areas named in the first batch recently announced. From what Boris Johnson apparently told a group of locals the other day, I don’t think it will miss out once all the areas have been named.

  162. Ootz

    Thanks for the Patrick Dunleavy link Down&Out. The paragraph just prior to the one you quoted gave me a sense of foreboding.

    For a Conservative party that had been out of power since 1997, the return to government was always going to be difficult. But it was hugely compounded in their case in 2010 by the culture that developed amongst the resurgent Tories, contemptuous of the Brown government as it became mired in economic crisis and the PM lost touch with the electorate. Senior civil servants have told me repeatedly that what astonished them about Conservative ministers coming into office was their combined confidence and complacency. The Tories had convinced themselves that governance was easy, both ideologically because they wanted a smaller state and minimal public services, and in personal practice.

    Look at our alternative Government, all cocky, confrontational and hell bent to bring budget into surplus, lower taxes and scale down state and public spending. One is left wondering how ‘the battlers’ will react, will we see ‘facebook’ riots and ‘wide screen’ looting on our shores?

  163. Helen

    Here’s the candidate for the looniest “analysis” of the week, and an Agincourt award as well. Societies with unmarried mothers = polygamy = cause of the rioting. Maybe we could have another award – the “LOLWUT?!” Also, the writer describes himself as a specialist on “low culture”!

  164. adrian

    “No sensible employer in a service industry would choose a young Briton if he could have a young Pole”

    Well they don’t answer back and pay rates are next to nothing, but they don’t make the most responsive of employees.

  165. zorronsky

    @171.. Or maybe just English rioters get the thumbs up from Countries interested in social justice after decades of the effects of Thatchers “there is no such thing as society”.

  166. wizofaus

    Helen, I dunno…it seems a reasonable enough hypothesis, and it’s testable. The use of the word ‘polygamous’ is problematic though – I would have thought polygamy implies one (usually male) partner is expect to support multiple (female) partners and all their children.

  167. Occam's Blunt Razor

    The clear statement of “we can do what we like” from rioters and looters represents the impact of the breakdown of institutional and individual respect within society. One of the significant results of the Welfare State and Politcial Correctness is a couple of generations who do not fear any consequences or accept responsibility for themselves.

    Well, you can do what you like but your hoodie isn’t going to stop a rubber bullet round from hurting like hell. And that bandana over your face isn’t going to stop the stinging of the teargas. And if you have a fire bomb in your hand then that is an offensive deadly weapon against which lethal force can be employed.

    The first night I can understand the Plod being caught short.

    The second night there should have been an overwhelming presence on the streets and the use of all means of non – lethal force.

    The third night should have seen dismounted Troops backing up the Plod.

    Fourth night – armoured vehicles and helicopters should have been deployed because they have a significant psychological presence and have excellent protection, optics and communications gear.

    Instead we have UK Police Services (no longer Forces) which believe in “policing by Consensus not Water Cannon”. The underwhelming intial response should see som heads roll but given the PC nature of the UK Police Services I doubt that will be the case.

    At the same time we have a society which has been constantly told that they are not allowed to use force to defend their own property and those who have done so are arrested, handcuffed and charged for doing so. I applaud those ethnic and social groups that have gone on to the streets to defend their property.

    As much as I like the UK, I am once again reminded as to why I am so happy to be an Australian and understand why so many from the UK want to come and live here.

  168. Lefty E

    “The UN’s first ever report on the state of childhood in the industrialized West made unpleasant reading for many of the world’s richest nations. But none found it quite so hard to swallow as the Brits, who, old jokes about English cooking aside, discovered that they were eating their own young.

    According to the Unicef report, which measured 40 indicators of quality of life – including the strength of relationships with friends and family, educational achievements and personal aspirations, and exposure to drinking, drug taking and other risky behavior – British children have the most miserable upbringing in the developed world. American children come next, second from the bottom.”

    http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/71/generation-fcked.html

  169. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    “They were – without exception – surly, rude, unhelpful and resentful.”

    Sam: do you mean the Poles or the Britons?

    I’m reminded of this Armstrong and Miller sketch.

  170. Tim Macknay

    This is basically the method of Gadaffi and Assad– very aggressive and violent. There is no room even for dialog. This is not acceptable in a so-called western democracy.

    I think this is nonsense. However misguided Cameron’s analysis of the causes of this riot may be, the government’s first priority has to be the restoration of order and safety on the streets. Using methods like water cannon and teargas is not unreasonable if lesser methods have proved inadequate.
    The time for dialog is after calm has been restored. Whatever the rioters’ grievances may be, as long as the riots persist they are threatening the safety of a much larger number of citizens. The response would be the same in any democracy, regardless of who was in office and whatever the ostensible motives of the rioters. A social democratic government in Sweden would use the same approach if faced with a similar situation, as would the government of a socialist state like Cuba.
    Assad and Gaddafi’s approach is to send in the troops to open fire on peaceful protestors, and to drag people off to secret cells and torture them. The comparison is ridiculous.

  171. sg

    Adrian at 179, about Poles:

    Well they don’t answer back and pay rates are next to nothing, but they don’t make the most responsive of employees.

    and at 116:

    Look sg, I’m getting a bit sick and tired of your gross generalisations of a whole nation’s ‘working class’ whatever that means.

  172. Lefty E

    As we were saying….

    ‘It was the same when riots erupted in London and Liverpool 30 years ago, also triggered by confrontation between the police and black community, when another Conservative government was driving through cuts during a recession. The people of Brixton and Toxteth were denounced as criminals and thugs, but within weeks Michael Heseltine was writing a private memo to the cabinet, beginning with “it took a riot”, and setting out the urgent necessity to take action over urban deprivation.’

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/10/riots-reflect-society-run-greed-looting

  173. adrian

    Hey sg, I know it was a pretty lame joke, but it was a joke nevertheless…

  174. Fran Barlow

    Tim Macknay said:

    Using methods like water cannon and teargas is not unreasonable if lesser methods have proved inadequate.

    Assuming one imagines such methods would prove adequate. It’s unlikely water cannon would be useful as those involved are not an aggregated mass and are highly mobile.

    response would be the same in any democracy, regardless of who was in office and whatever the ostensible motives of the rioters.

    Of course, the prospect of a large-scale riot in any genuinely inclusive society would be tiny, and easily suppressed by fairly orthodox small-scale policing.

    It is telling however, that Cameron’s pitch to block social networking tools on the basis that they are vehicles for the challenge to the authority is something that almost any authoritarian regime will cite when it suits them.

    The real issue here is that having initiated what is in effect, a serious economic assault on large sections of the urban poor, what Cameron has people debating is how to suppress the consequences of this very policy. It now seems likely that the budget for policing will have to be ringfenced. The overhead of protecting the cuts to everything else, is a more coercive set of relations between the state, and those who stand behind its policies, and the working (and non-working) poor.

  175. Adrien

    They were – without exception – surly, rude, unhelpful and resentful.

    Yes. But that was only because they were trying to culturally assimilate.

  176. adrian

    Lefty [email protected] – I guess the question is, is the current mob of cowboys as smart as their predecessors?
    Cameron’s strikes me as a glib smartarse, but who knows, he may have someone with half a brain advising him.

  177. Adrien

    It is telling however, that Cameron’s pitch to block social networking tools on the basis that they are vehicles for the challenge to the authority is something that almost any authoritarian regime will cite when it suits them.

    Yes how radical. So different from Mr Blair’s ‘inclusive’ ubiquitous CCTV coverage.

  178. adrian

    Think Pole without the capital P, sg…

    That’s quite good Adrien, but maybe it’s only compared to mine.

  179. andyc

    Helen @ 178: “Here’s the candidate for the looniest “analysis” of the week, and an Agincourt award as well. “

    Nice, but then, there is this.

    There might be the occasional hint of sense in the article, but oh, the comments…

  180. Fran Barlow

    Adrien said:

    So different from Mr Blair’s ‘inclusive’ ubiquitous CCTV coverage

    It is, and it’s a credit to you that you were able to discern the difference.

    Well done.

  181. sg

    sorry Adrian, I didn’t realize it was a joke – that exact phrase gets used all the time by white British about Polish workers. I just assumed you’d read the propaganda…

  182. Adrien

    It is, and it’s a credit to you that you were able to discern the difference.

    You are seriously asserting that? Mmmm you are quite the authoritarian aren’t you? There is definite trend toward ubiquitous state surveillance and control. This is a bipartisan phenomenon. This riot will even more establish the legitimacy of surveillance and recording of social networking data, mobile phone records etc.

    But of course, considering Blair was a Labor PM and therefore one of the ‘good guys’, putting cameras everywhere isn’t fascism, it’s social democracy. It’s only fascism when the Tories do it.

  183. Adrien

    Or perhaps I’ve misread you. What is so justifiable about CCTV surveillance then?

  184. Tim Macknay

    Fran @189:

    Assuming one imagines such methods would prove adequate.

    True.

    It’s unlikely water cannon would be useful as those involved are not an aggregated mass and are highly mobile.

    Maybe.

    Of course, the prospect of a large-scale riot in any genuinely inclusive society would be tiny…

    Quite probably true.

    …and easily suppressed by fairly orthodox small-scale policing.

    A large-scale riot would be easily suppressed by fairly orthodox small-scale policing? I rather doubt it.

  185. sg

    Adrien, when I lived in London I considered CCTV to be a huge boon. Just for three little examples:

    my colleague’s brother was robbed at knifepoint by two hoodlums, in the suburb where I live. They marched him at knifepoint to an ATM and forced him to withdraw all the money he could from all his cards. He lost about 800 pounds. My flatmates and I had a chat about this and the only solution we could think up (besides leaving all but one of our cards at home most of the time) was to try and march those boys through areas with lots of CCTV, so that they could be caught later. Or maybe you could even get rid of them by pointing out to them that they were being filmed.

    In the Curzon cinema bar, I was threatened with a glassing by some random arsehole who got angry with the person sitting next to me for “looking” at him. My response was to ask him if he was going to do it right in front of the CCTV camera.

    In a bar in Soho, a guy wandered up to my table and tried to pick a fight with the Japanese girl who was sitting with me. You read that right, he tried to pick a fight with a Japanese girl. Again, the bar was full of CCTV, so if (to use the repulsive British phrase) anything had “kicked off” she would have been in a position to get him arrested after the fact.

    Lots of people like to claim that CCTV is “intrusive” surveillance. What’s intrusive about life in London is the constant crime. Ubiquitous surveillance is the only answer you have to the random strangers who try to pick fights with you, attack when you aren’t looking, rob you, or rob your house. It certainly saved me from at least one tavern brawl that I really was not in the mood to participate in, and would have exonerated me from trouble in two more had I not been able to prevent them.

  186. wizofaus

    “Ubiquitous surveillance is the only answer”

    So…that’s why every other first world city has needed it. What makes London so special?

  187. sg

    Its crime rate.

  188. jules

    Looks like some of the people being charged in this debacle are middle and upper middle class people, not just the local “underclass. Employed people with (seeming) reason not to riot. I can understand why people who don’t feel part of the society they live in would tear things apart, but not why some of the people alleged to have done this would, and I can see a difference between rioters and looters, tho someone may be both. But its not really what I expected.

    None of this should take away from why the riot started or the sort of life offered to the people on the margins in Britain. Someone called Pankaj Mishra reckons this can be laid at the feet of Thatcher and they actually have some valid points. If you broke it 30 years ago and no one has fixed it since, as much as they deserve blame for not fixing it, you still broke it.

    I’m watching Al J news on SBS right now and people are being driven away in Serco vans. if that isn’t a symbol of why they happened I dunno what is (ie privatisation and “there is no society”). And honestly if I was lobbying for Serco and donating money to a political party i’d be reminding them that this sort of thing is actually good for my business and it’ll certainly play well to the electorate if you look tough on these “criminal thugs”. But I’m not a sniveling, soulless shitbag so I’ll leave that to someone else. Cos the failure of the state suits them – more taxpayers money in their pockets as they deal with the consequences of less taxpayers money spent on programs to keep people out of prison.

    There could be positives tho – Erik Prince runs a company that specialises in response to urban disturbances these days, maybe Cameron could cut the budget to the riot squad and privatise its function. The riot squad needs equipment, extra training and pensions and medical care, all of which costs money. These situations are business opportunities, not crises and Thatcher obviously was thinking of this exact situation, someone like Prince has proven experience in this area. And given the state of the economy some foreign business investment could help turn things around.

  189. wizofaus

    Yes – I’m asking why is London’s crime rate so high?
    From what stats I can find, other than Robbery, the crime rate in London isn’t especially higher than other UK cities. But I must be reading the data wrong when trying to compare it to, say, New York, which supposedly recorded 580 violent crimes per 100000 population in 2008, whereas the equivalent figure for UK cities on average is supposedly a whopping 20000 (recorded as 20 per 1000)!
    (From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_London and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_New_York_City)

  190. sg

    According to your links, wizofaus, the rate outside of London is also very high. Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool also have cctv, you know.

  191. Adrien

    What’s intrusive about life in London is the constant crime. Ubiquitous surveillance is the only answer you have to the random strangers who try to pick fights with you, attack when you aren’t looking, rob you, or rob your house.

    Most of the CCTV examples you give are private surveillance cameras. I’m not one for the doctrine that says if it’s privately owned it’s not authoritarian but when the government is filming everyone, everywhere there’s all sorts of potential to deprive you of privacy and freedom.

    I don’t think surveillance in the only answer. The real answer is to fight back. This riot has underlined a glaring problem for all the people in the first world and that is that they have no experience of, or way of dealing with, violence. This is known.

    Whatever one’s response to this is the greatest threat to the liberty of people is their own lack of agency in the face of the unacceptable. Increasingly we are asking that the state intervene and we have surveillance cameras, police patrols everwhere…

    And you think this will make you safe. The Nazis used the same fears to seize power and when they did so they unleashed a most terrifying threat to safety. But here and now we all take freedom for granted and have incr5easingly fuzzy notions of what constitutes it.

  192. wizofaus

    (For comparison, Melbourne supposedly recorded a little under 3000 assaults per 100000 last year. One would have to suggest there are significant differences in the way such numbers are collected to explain such discrepancies).

  193. Adrien

    Looks like some of the people being charged in this debacle are middle and upper middle class people, not just the local “underclass.

    Yeah. Wonder what’s going on there. Could it be that there simply is no longer any cohesive cultural bond by which empathy and notions of justice are extended throughout the nation-state? Could it be that we’ve reverted to a certain tribalism wherein morals apply to one’s own little every changing crew and whomsoever finds themselves outside is fair game?

  194. wizofaus

    And other surveys show, rather sadly, that Australia generally has the highest crime rates in the world:

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/internatCrime.php

  195. Katz

    Oh dear:

    Using methods like water cannon and teargas is not unreasonable if lesser methods have proved inadequate.

    It doesn’t take a military genius to recognise that water cannons are completely inappropriate for dealing with looters.

    Looters are interested in staying as far away as possible from concentrations of police. Looters want to steal stuff and scarper off home with their booty with as little bother as possible.

    Water cannons are useful only against concentrations of folk who are determined to make a political statement against the coercive power of the state.

    Those who call for water cannons in the light of recent events are either idiots or they have a hidden agena of using these events to ramp up oppressive measures against political expression.

  196. Fran Barlow

    Tim Macknay said:

    A large-scale riot would be easily suppressed by fairly orthodox small-scale policing? I rather doubt it.

    I do too. What I should have said was that the likely scale of “riot” like activity in such a society could be dealt with by orthodox small-scale policing.

  197. sg

    when the government is filming everyone, everywhere there’s all sorts of potential to deprive you of privacy and freedom

    … do go on. How, exactly?

    I don’t think surveillance in the only answer. The real answer is to fight back.

    Bullshit. I doubt you’ve ever fought back, and if you have you know that no one will come to your aid, and you’ll get your arse kicked. As for doing it in the UK – have you actually met the people you’re suggesting we should “fight back” against? We’re talking here about hardened criminal scum, and/or groups of shiftless kids who will happily smack the crap out of you for nothing more than a pound. And what exactly are you going to get if you fight back? Even if you beat them up, you just validate their world view, and you will not win an arms race against these people. Those men standing around their mosque with baseball bats thought they were fighting back – until someone rammed three of them with a sports car and drove away.

    That’s why CCTV and ASBOs (another thing commentators who haven’t lived in London just don’t get) were invented. To enable people to fight back through social action.

    When I moved to Japan I rapidly learnt just how liberating it can be to be able to move around in public without any fear of crime. Compared to the supposed loss of liberty caused by CCTV, the loss of liberty caused by crime and the fear of crime is huge. Until you’ve lived in a crime-free society you don’t realize how terrible crime is.

  198. John D

    The Poms are just clueless. If this had happened in Australia at least one inquiry would have been announced by now.

  199. Jacques de Molay

    Until you’ve lived in a crime-free society you don’t realize how terrible crime is.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dz4HEEiJuGo

  200. Fran Barlow

    Adrien said:

    You are seriously asserting that? Mmmm you are quite the authoritarian aren’t you? There is definite trend toward ubiquitous state surveillance and control.

    There’s a world of ethical difference between electronic surveillance in public places and attempts to suppress the right of folk to exchange notes over social networks. If you really can’t see that, I can’t imagine how a conversation on the topic with you could prove useful.

    People ought to have the right to associate with each other, not only in the physical world, but the virtual one. The mere fact that some may use that to facilitate criminal conduct is no different from the fact that some people use the freedom to associate in the physical world for criminal purposes. Yet, with some exceptions where a court has so ordered it, we don’t as a rule tolerate state control over who people can associate with in the physical world. Those anti-bikie laws have just been struck down, and IMO, the control orders for alleged “terrorists” ought to go as well.

    When surveillance amounts to no more than the passive gathering of data in public places, nobody whose activity is lawful need be concerned. I’d favour robust protocols over who could access the data, how long it should be kept and in what circumstances it could be used. Nevertheless, there’s currently no law stopping any group of concerned citizens simply doing this privately, and uploading it all to youtube all day all the time. That would be a massive invasion of privacy.

    We saw during recent protests that this surveillance actually entrapped police officers doing the wrong thing in relation to a man in the vicinity of an active protest. In days gone by, there’d have been no evidence, but today, even the police have to think twice before crossing the line.

    The fact of the matter is that if you are the victim of a serious crime, your chances of getting back the life you had before you became a victim are, in practice, near zero. If a well-placed camera discourages someone from thinking (s)he can get away with assaulting and robbing you, I call that a very good thing. If a camera can provide an unimpeachable alibi against a misconceived criminal charge, then again, I’d say that is a good thing. If cameras can underpin more effective and efficient deployment of police resources, then again, I’d say that is a good thing, because it means inter alia, that we can have fewer of them.

    But of course, considering Blair was a Labor PM and therefore one of the ‘good guys’, putting cameras everywhere isn’t fascism, it’s social democracy. It’s only fascism when the Tories do it.

    Nonsense. The Tories were/are not [email protected] They were aggressive class warriors, but cameras are the least of the things for us to worry about. Cameras make it harder to fit people up.

    Cutting social services on the other hand …

  201. akn

    Eric Sykes: thanks for the ref to Zygmunt Bauman; always worth the read. I hadn’t realised that Bush said, the day after 9/11, that America should ‘go back shopping’.

    Jules: privatizing the riot and public order squad? Now, there’s an idea. Plenty of edgy Yank vets to bring in who still wanna git some. But not the Russians, oh no, not them. Maybe Blackwater Corp? Infinite growth opportunities here.

  202. sg

    Following up on Fran, the complaints against cameras seem to me to be similar to the complaints against DNA testing. It seemed like such an intrusion into personal liberty – until it started getting people off death row.

  203. Adrien

    SG – How, exactly?

    Please read 1984 and then come back.

    Bullshit.

    Eloquent. What’s with the hostility?

    I doubt you’ve ever fought back,

    Wrong.

    and if you have you know that no one will come to your aid,

    Wrong it’s been happening quite a bit in Melbourne actually.

    Even if you beat them up, you just validate their world view,

    They don’t have a worldview.

    Until you’ve lived in a crime-free society you don’t realize how terrible crime is.

    That doesn’t make any sense. There’s no such thing as a crime free society and, as someone who has been bashed and more than once and not too long ago, you don’t need to live in a crime free society to know that all that sucks.

  204. Fran Barlow

    Can I say, since we seem to be heading off in that direction, that I really resent the uttering of the nanny state trope. I’m much less bothered by the prospect of a nanny state than a f***-you state — one in which we simply deem everybody’s problems as matters for them to sort out privately.

    IMO, we humans do best when we form coherent communities, based on equitable principles and respect for the legitimate claims of others. Where the state steps in, resources permitting, to make that the lived experience of everyone, and most especially protecting the interests of those who may not be in a sound position to exercise informed choice, while otherwise respecting personal autonomy, I’d say the “nanny” deserves our support and respect.

    And if the nanny gets a little too officious and intrusive, then by all means let us remind her of the boundaries.

    If however, rather than a nanny, we have some substance-abusing layabout, who is found prostrate on the couch amidst the growing squalour as the children run amok, or perhaps even worse, one beholden to a powerful abusive criminal, then we have no nanny state but a f***-you state. That, it seems to me, is the real danger. That, in a sense, has the kind of state the UK has had for at least the last 30 years, which is why the kids are running amok now.

    Worryingly, it is the kind of state for which some on the right of our polity now seem to be reaching.

  205. Dr_Tad

    Here I am again, causing more trouble at The Drum.

    Please read and pass on.

  206. sg

    Adrien, you can’t compare cctv to the televisions in 1984. You need to do better than that. How does publicly-situated cctv impinge on my freedom?

    The people who are robbing and looting in London do have a worldview, of might-makes-right and take what you can. When you fight back on a personal level you simply validate that viewpoint. When you fight back on a social level – through the law, the police, and a law enforcement system that actually works, treats everyone equally and isn’t corrupt – then you destroy that viewpoint. You tell them that they’re part of a polity and they aren’t allowed to commit crimes, neglect their children or use them as criminal accomplices. It creates a completely different atmosphere, one that is sadly missing in Britain.

    My last sentence was meant to finish with “you don’t realize how terrible crime is for restricting your freedom.” A poorly thought-out sentence, that one.

    Crime and the fear of crime are a form of oppression. Japan has a much lower crime rate than Australia or the UK, and it is a very very liberating feeling.

  207. Dr_Tad

    Although, I liked my original title better and will use it when I repost the original text at Left Flank. I reckon Drum titles can be a bit naff.

  208. Chris

    Looks like some of the people being charged in this debacle are middle and upper middle class people, not just the local “underclass. Employed people with (seeming) reason not to riot. I can understand why people who don’t feel part of the society they live in would tear things apart, but not why some of the people alleged to have done this would, and I can see a difference between rioters and looters, tho someone may be both. But its not really what I expected.

    Well I think a lot of people involved in the riots didn’t actually put a lot of thought into what they were doing. Not to lessen their culpability, but its pretty common for people to get caught up with what a group is doing and just follow….

    Can I say, since we seem to be heading off in that direction, that I really resent the uttering of the nanny state trope. I’m much less bothered by the prospect of a nanny state than a f***-you state — one in which we simply deem everybody’s problems as matters for them to sort out privately.

    Well I’d prefer we have neither a nanny state nor a f***-you state! I think its reasonable to be concerned if the government has the capability to too easily track what *everyone* is doing. And with face recognition we’re heading in that direction. Just in case the government of the day gets delusions of holding onto power or persecuting minorities.

  209. Adrien

    If you really can’t see that, I can’t imagine how a conversation on the topic with you could prove useful.

    Would you please desist from treating me as if inherently nefarious simply because I have a different point of view? I do see the distinction and was expecting you to make it. However I believe that this is part of a continuum wherein the line that limits state power is persistently eroded for reasons of public safety.

    When surveillance amounts to no more than the passive gathering of data in public places, nobody whose activity is lawful need be concerned.

    Yes indeed, if you have nothing to hide you have no reason to be worried. This is the logic of the Patriot Act. Little by little we are being subjected to more surveillance and more control. The arguments you muster to support state CCTV surveillance will be used when the state wants to intervene in online social networking. They won’t ban it. Cameron’s a dickhead for saying that. But they will put funds into monitoring it.

    When the nation-state was originally developed with inbuilt protections against said state eliminating the liberty of the people it was not done so with modern communications technology in mind. This technology demands a rethink of those safeguards. A rebolstering of them. New notions of privacy have to be developed and a new line over which the state cannot cross must be established.

    Unfortunately we take liberty for granted as if it were something carved in the very cornerstones of the Universe. We forget that it’s to be constantly maintained. We have a culture of disempowerment and lack of agency. This inclusiveness of which you speak does not get facilitated simply by issuing dole checks it’s a a matter of social interaction which can only be performed by humans one to the other.

    Instead we have a culture whereby we insulate ourselves from those who are outside our circle and scream for the government to intervene at every little inconvenience. There may be an argument for state CCTV cameras everywhere. One that is compatible with a free and democratic society. But considering the complete absence of consideration on the part of so many to the potential of such surveillance to kebosh our liberty I have my doubts.

    At some point the government will intrude on our liberties according to the increased trend of surveillance and control and we will all know that our freedom’s been evaporated. By then it’ll be too late.

  210. Darryl Rosin

    [email protected] “I’d favour robust protocols over who could access the data, how long it should be kept and in what circumstances it could be used.”

    I take the opposite view. The only democratic control on surveillance footage is for all of it to be available to anyone on demand. Privacy is over, most people just haven’t realised it yet.

    d

  211. Joe

    Adrien and sg’s exchange above kind of reminds me of road rage:

    From wiki:

    As early as 1997, therapists in the United States were working to certify road rage as a medical condition.

    Another syndrome of an increasingly ant-social society? This was almost legitimised by the media at the time, as far as I recall. I do remember the articles, as well as the surreal experience of sitting in a traffic jam as two strangers got out their cars and beat the crap out of each other ala fight club, only to get back in their cars and motor off at 20km/h 10mins later. What a desperate expression of your individuality and freedom. And a lack of control. I kind of hopelessness in the face of one’s situation.

    I mean, to return to the looting, and the types of people involved, we’re bombarded by advertising which is designed to stimulate us to buy a product– regardless of whether or not we can afford it or of the context which leads to a person not being able to afford something and the opportunity presents itself to “just take it.” At the same time we have an economy pathologically focused on the moment, it’s very understandable that people got involved.

    It’s actually very superficial to say that the looters are just inherently criminally minded. Or even to concentrate only on the macro-context of education, employment, family etc. This is yet another syndrome of social dysfunction, politics is unable to deal with it, seemingly… The number of issues which western society is facing is starting to pile up and while we have a long way to go still, we really do need to start working through some of them. We need reform. Increasingly we need economic reform, because the current system is not working.

  212. sg

    Yes indeed, if you have nothing to hide you have no reason to be worried. This is the logic of the Patriot Act.

    Not the same at all.

  213. Tim Macknay

    Water cannons are useful only against concentrations of folk who are determined to make a political statement against the coercive power of the state.

    If you say so. I wasn’t aware that the effectiveness of water cannon technology was dependent upon the subjective motives of rioters – are they like psychic readings, perhaps?

    But seriously, it may be that water cannon would be useless for dealing with this type of situation – I’m not an expert. However, AFAIK they can be, and are, used to suppress riots.

    Those who call for water cannons in the light of recent events are either idiots or they have a hidden agena of using these events to ramp up oppressive measures against political expression.

    Oh, get your hand off it.

  214. Joe

    Great article Dr. Tad!! 5 outa 5!

  215. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    The clear statement of “we can do what we like” from rioters and looters represents the impact of the breakdown of institutional and individual respect within society. One of the significant results of the Welfare State and Politcial Correctness is a couple of generations who do not fear any consequences or accept responsibility for themselves.

    ORB: as Mark said in the last “London Riot” thread, he wanted people to think like “social scientists”, rather than everyone finding their own pet cause for the affray. Or two pet causes, as you did. Let’s take each one by one:

    Welfare State: an insufficient explanation. As Guy Rundle pointed out yesterday, other European countries – especially the Scandinavian ones – have even more comprehensive Welfare States, yet have not had riots like England. I say “England” because the bulk of the violence is concentrated in England. Scotland and Wales also have welfare – more substantial ones, so I gather, but have been relatively absent in violence. And people I know on permanent welfare would be unable to riot, such as a very nice woman with epilepsy.

    Now the Welfare State may be a bad addictive to an already toxic mix of ingredients: bad housing flats, bad parenting (see below), little jobs, lack of public spaces, lack of public figures to look up to, and a “surly, rude, unhelpful and resentful” national culture. Then you end up with something like the events in Harry Brown. But by itself, “Welfare State” is insufficient.

    Political Correctness: since you haven’t defined what political correctness means for you, I’m at a loss how to analyse it. If I take PC as a redefinition of the old “Ideologically Sound”, then you can say it’s being against racism, sexism and homophobia. So how does this lead to rioting? Quite the reverse. A racist hoodie is more likely to be in racial gang violence, a sexist is more attuned to slapping women around, and homophobia goes with gang-bashing.

    PC possibly could lead to a “slap on the wrist” in certain situations when they’re not deserved, but since blacks are about 8 times as likely as whites to be stopped and searched in the UK, I don’t think a surfeit of PC is the problem. And “slaps on the wrist” are more likely to happen when the judiciary and police are overwhelmed.

    Now there have been complaints from people that they don’t know “how to parent”, and that could be sort of PC-related: well-meaning social workers supply confusing information to mums and dads, and suddenly they don’t know what to do with their kids. Or it could be that parents don’t know how to discipline their children without smacking them around.

  216. jules

    I was thinking ex-kaibiles actually akn, sentral americans don’t take no shit from their public. Erik Prince founded Blackwater, but he left and is (IIRC) currently working in Dubai building a paramilitary force of some kind or other, aimed at preventing the sort of public disorder we saw in the middle east this year.

    Voluntary DNA testing is a different thing to compulsory DNA testing btw. And cameras everywhere … that just sucks. They did that in one of my local towns the other year. Its annoying in principle, cos innocent until proven guilty is one thing, but having a general population so untrustworthy that they need to be watched 24/7 goes right against that principle.

  217. jules

    sentral?????

  218. Darryl Rosin

    [email protected] “This technology demands a rethink of those safeguards. A rebolstering of them. New notions of privacy have to be developed and a new line over which the state cannot cross must be established.”

    Sorry Adrien, but technology trumps policy every time. How is it possible to create a line that the state cannot cross? If we try to ban surveillance the net effect will be only the rich and powerful have surveillance.

    In about 5 years, assuming trends hold, you’ll be able to buy a tiny camera (like the size of a camera in a phone) that records a years worth of audio and video, with GPS, motion detection, face recognition, indexable searchable etc for about $100. Sitck it on your spectacles, your hat, behind your ear, what ever.

    The only sustainable notion of privacy is that you have none.

    d

  219. Joe

    Daryl, that’s rubbish.

    Maybe for the technological proletariat, but like everything, privacy will still be possible for those that can attain it. And don’t confuse data with information– we’re now producing so much data that we can’t even save it let alone process it. We have no chance of being able to process even a significant portion of the amount of data that we are currently producing.

    There will be a technological reaction to any trend which goes in the direction that you are postulating. Because that direction is not politically stable.

    Do some research into darknets. There is much more to come.

  220. Katz

    If you say so. I wasn’t aware that the effectiveness of water cannon technology was dependent upon the subjective motives of rioters – are they like psychic readings, perhaps?

    I presume that you think that a passive-aggressive tone is indistinguishable from a logical argument.

    The motives of looters can be deduced from their behaviour. They break into property and steal and destroy. When the cops turn up with their water cannon and teargas they disperse and attack somewhere else. Looters can strike many places at the same time. A water cannon can attack only one concentration of persons at a time. This should not be too difficult to understand. However, if you think that psychic readings are required to deduce that fact, then perhaps you really would profit from consulting a medium.

  221. Joe

    jules — sentral scrutinizer […dumm dum dedum dadumm dumm dum…]

    Fick mich, du miserabler Hurensohn, du miserabler Hurensohn,
    Streck ihn aus,
    Streck aus deinen heissen gelockten…”

  222. Joe

    Katz said:

    I presume that you think that a passive-aggressive tone is indistinguishable from a logical argument.

    Works in the newspapers and on TV … 😀

  223. dj

    Wow, going by Twitter, it seems the Dutch really like Theodore Dalrymple. What’s up with that?

  224. Darryl Rosin

    [email protected] “Do some research into darknets.”

    Yes, there will be ways to move data around in seekrit, but frankly that’s not very interesting or useful by itself. Aside from information wanting to be free, information isn;t much use without *action*. You know, the movements and noises your body makes?

    d

  225. Dr_Tad

    Joe @229

    Why, thank you. 🙂

  226. Darryl Rosin

    Oh another point

    “privacy will still be possible for those that can attain it.”

    well, quite. The rich and the powerful will have it and the ‘proletariat’ (technological and otherwise) will not. This is why a get a bit stropy about surveillance and privacy. I rather like the idea of a law that says “all CCTV cameras, irrespective of their ownership and location, must stream an unencrypted signal advertised to the public.”

    If our Masters are watching us, I’d like to know exactly what it is that they are watching.

    d

  227. Joe

    Daryl, you seem to have misunderstood, there is generally some kind of hierarchy like data->information->knowledge->*action (if you want to make it vaudeville).

    At the moment we are at data and can’t even get to information. AI is stale and stuck in the 80s. What is important is to realise that the internet and other forms of communication have a physical location, and the people/institutions that own the location have a great deal of power over the information which is on their servers.

    If you mean that we will all be tracked and logged, that is simply not possible for a number of reasons. The first reason being simply the reason above, no body at the moment is able to process the amount of data meaningfully that such a system would generate.

    Anyway, we shouldn’t deviate too far from the thread’s topic. I would be interested to hear more about your ideas on the subject, but there will be an opportunity soon, methinks 😉

    Wow, that Theo Dalrymple sounds like a pretty crazy guy:
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Theodore_Dalrymple

  228. jules

    Chris @223, thats a good point wrt to people acting in ways they wouldn’t normally. I dunno if that justifies it all tho. I share your concerns about the nanny state too, or the F.U. state. There is surely a happy medium we can find, and honestly, compared to the way I thought the world would go 15 years ago, there is more threat to privacy and more prying eyes in the general public these days. Nearly everyone has a mobile phone with a camera these days. How secure all that info is I dunno.

    There have to be limits to the “nanny state” tho. People need to get over their obsession with life being a safe, risk free environment. The welfare state isn’t the nanny state at the same time. Either is asking people to pre set a limit on how much money they want to gamble. IE to be responsible for what they are doing and think about it.

    The nanny state is what stops people from buying pure MDMA at the chemist and consulting with their doctor on the safest way to dance the night away to whatever it is kids do that stuff to these days. Its the NSW Police Facebook page thats sposed to encourage people to spy on their neighbours or something. Its mandatory filters and no adult video game rating, not the right wing talking points.

    Darryl @225 You’re right and I demand you show me all the video your mobile devices have taken in case I find something that might support any potential legal activities I may be involved in.

    Cheers.

  229. akn

    Japan a crime free society?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg4uogOEUrU

    Ya kiddin’ me?

    Institutionalised crime in the UK and the great big fail of the British Labour:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mlGCQu4Scg&feature=related

    Corporate and political role models for today’s yoof. And anyone wonders why the yobs are rioting? They do have the teev, ya know?

  230. Joe

    dj, thanks for the link re: Dalrymple.

  231. jules

    Those who call for water cannons in the light of recent events are either idiots or they have a hidden agena of using these events to ramp up oppressive measures against political expression.

    Oh, get your hand off it.

    “We have a cheaper more effective form of crowd control that doesn’t damage the surrounding property and is extremely effective and mobile. Its called Active Denial and we’ll sell it to you. Its specially designed to deal with todays social media inspired unrest.

    You can combine it with our new social media keyword monitoring service that carefully targets criminal slang and updates daily. We’re experts, please contact Greg Hoglund for details.”

    joe @236 – yes of course.

  232. Darryl Rosin

    Joe, agree on the potential for a thread derail. Disagree on a bunch of other stuff. I think of the technology as a prosthesis, which might be where we diverge. David Brin has some powerful thoughts on this stuff in ‘the Transparent Society’ and I think Charlie Stross’ latest ‘Rule 34’ has some interesting conceptions of policing in a data saturated world, based on the excerpts i’ve read.

    d

  233. Darryl Rosin

    [email protected] “You’re right”

    thanks. I had you picked as a person of rare insight and judgement.

    ” and I demand you show me all the video your mobile devices have taken in case I find something that might support any potential legal activities I may be involved in”

    Ok, but you’ll probably be disappointed. I don’t take photos and video much. But come around anytime.

    d

  234. akn

    Jules:

    … but having a general population so untrustworthy that they need to be watched 24/7 goes right against that principle…

    I dunno. I’m going to totally whiteslice country town this weekend; lawn bowlers all; Saturday leaf blowers. I’d kinda like to keep an eye on that lot. They gimme the creeps.

  235. Tim Macknay

    I presume that you think that a passive-aggressive tone is indistinguishable from a logical argument.

    Nothing I said could form the basis for such a presumption. My comment was flippant because your express claim that water cannon are only effective against people with political motives was patently ridiculous.

    The motives of looters can be deduced from their behaviour. They break into property and steal and destroy. When the cops turn up with their water cannon and teargas they disperse and attack somewhere else. Looters can strike many places at the same time. A water cannon can attack only one concentration of persons at a time.

    I note your insistence on using the term “looters” instead of “rioters”. As I understand it, a considerable amount of rioting occurred in addition to looting, and my comments were informed by that understanding.

    I’m a little surprised that you appear to have taken the Cameron line that there is no political component to the rioting. But I suppose if you believe that there was no actual rioting, only looting, that makes sense. Of a sort.

    I agree that the fact that water cannon are only effective in one location at a time is clearly a limitation on their effectiveness at dealing with rioting at multiple locations. However, it does not follow that such tactics would have zero effectiveness. People knocked down and soaked by water cannons may well “quickly disperse” but may also be less inclined to “attack somewhere else”. In any case, it does nothing to detract from my general comment that, if there is widespread rioting and more conventional methods have not worked, more extreme methods such as water cannon and teargas may be appropriate.

    This should not be too difficult to understand. However, if you think that psychic readings are required to deduce that fact, then perhaps you really would profit from consulting a medium.

    Given that you earlier accused me of making a passive-aggressive remark, your comment is unfortunate. Still, at least you didn’t try to defend your earlier insinuation that I have a hidden, oppressive agenda .

  236. jules

    Rioting is one form of behaviour and looting is another, and often the two are closely associated and a rioter may also loot. Looting could also be political, or politically defined ala katrina and the looters.

    But they are different and looting is associated with riots cos the usual conditions, that stop people nicking stuff, are not in play. A water cannon is a weapon thats useful against masses of people but not necessarily against looters.

  237. sg

    come on akn, that’s ridiculous. Now the tsunami is an act of crime? Some kind of celestial looter, was it? How many people died due to that reactor explosion, anyway? Five are dead in London due to the riots.

    Ridiculous.

  238. jules

    Daryl.

    If you’re limiting what you are talking about re surveillance to cctv type info then this:

    “I rather like the idea of a law that says “all CCTV cameras, irrespective of their ownership and location, must stream an unencrypted signal advertised to the public.”

    If our Masters are watching us, I’d like to know exactly what it is that they are watching.”

    Is even more right.

    I missed it last time.

  239. su

    Oh my gods, an Adrien Vs Sg sneer-off, a grudge match made in heaven and I’ve only gone and missed it.

  240. akn

    No, it’s not ridiculous sg. The corporate capture of regulatory bodies and indeed of the state in Japan, otherwise known in polite circles as corporatism, is criminal in so far as the consequences are concerned as well as the mode of operation. Crime and the perception of crime is classed, as we know. Blair is regarded as a war criminal by many. I’d count Howard and Bush in there as well. The corporate criminals and state criminals in Japan as well as Bush, Blair and Howard all wear nice clothes, have degrees, nice wives and don’t say ‘innit’ every second sentence. but their crimes outrank by a massive order of magnitude the crimes of the looters and a rioters in England; but you don’t see them as criminals? I see the rioters and looters as criminals but don’t buy into the idea that they’re the only crims out and about. Your class bigotry is showing mate.

  241. FDB

    “Joe, agree on the potential for a thread derail.”

    “Disagree on a bunch of other stuff.”

    Well yes. Therein lies the potential.

  242. Darryl Rosin

    Oh,and Joe? the white zone is for loading and unloading only. if you need To load or unload, go to the white zone.

    I leave observations about Telefüken U-47s for others.

    d

  243. Darryl Rosin

    FDB, I am a conduit for the raw power of trivial truths tonight. Gaze upon me, ye mighty, and tremble.

    d

  244. Patrickb

    @164
    “The March of Folly” should be in the reading list of any aspiring leader. Of course it won’t be, it would remove their raison d’etre.

  245. sg

    su: someone sneered?

    akn: it’s not a matter of class prejudice. They’re completely different types of crime, enacted in different ways, enabled in different ways, done for different reasons and prevented by different methods. You don’t, for example, prevent rioters rioting by having better governance systems (though better governance would have surely prevented the initial trigger). You can’t prevent violent crime in the UK by having a better system of checks and balances on the activity of nuclear power plant operators.

    My point was about the fear one has walking the streets of one’s own community on an ordinary evening. Corporatism doesn’t enter into this, and the worst excesses of the zaibatsu (or whatever they’re called now) don’t rate a sniff compared to being afraid of being mugged. As I said above: crime and the fear of crime are far more important cultural limitations on our freedom than something like a corrupt govt (which the UK govt surely is) installing some cctv cameras.

  246. John D

    We tend to unconsciously divide the world into those who are included in our “moral consideration” those we strongly exclude (think Hitler) and the rest. Moral progress is in part the advance of the moral consideration boundaries. The boundaries can be pretty fuzzy at times and depend on what moral issue we are talking about as well as what is going on around us.
    The boundaries can also go into retreat when we decide that something undesirable is going to happen anyway. (Think “might as well nick that….cause its going to get nicked anyways.”)
    What made me think of this was what my son found to be the attitude of some drug addicts in San Francisco. They said it was OK to shoplift from large shops but not OK to do the same to small business. For these addicts there was a moral boundary between large and small business, a boundary that may well have moved depending on how desperate the addict had become for a hit.
    In the case of the riots it is interesting to contemplate what is happening to the moral boundaries of the looters, the police and various politicians.

  247. akn

    sg:

    <blockquote<…They’re completely different types of crime….

    Correct. Some crimes are punished and the perps are vilified and hounded as chavs, oiks, neds etc. Others go unpunished and the perps are treated as honourable men and women whose public standing and superannuation are untouchable.

    That’s class bias in operation.

  248. su

    John D, it sounds to me like California drug addicts distinguish between petit-bourgeouis and haute. What was that again about Marxist class analysis being anachronistic?

  249. John D

    Su: The small business’s are people. The large business an amorphous “them.” Cameron on the box is talking like someone who wants to vilify and depersonalize those people “who aren’t like us” and contract the moral boundaries to allow open slather on those who have offended real people like Cameron.

  250. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Lefty [email protected]: I think this is the report that the Adbusters site referred to:

    http://www.unicef.org/media/files/ChildPovertyReport.pdf

    How does Australia score? Not enough data to actually tabulate. Looking through, I got the impression that Australia is below average, but not as dire as others.

    But Britain is pretty shithouse on almost all metrics. Since the report was taken in 2007, I suspect things have got worse.

  251. akn

    A ripper article on New Matilda (http://newmatilda.com/2011/08/12/remember-sydney-riots) that draws on the work of Don Weatherburn (http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/resources/pdfs/184.pdf) who shows that the “can it happen here” idea is redundant because it already has. The NM article is very clear about causes: entrenched poverty, intergenerational welfare dependency, lack of social services, ethnicity, over Policing.

  252. Fran Barlow

    Tellingly, having just yesterday afternoon, contrasted the nanny state trope with what I dubbed the f***-you state thatn one of the right, the estimable Theodore Dalrymple, gives a candid synopsis of the thinking underlying it, and its usages:

    What is a f***-you state?

  253. Jess

    So now the councils are kicking people out of public housing if their kids were involved in the riots.

    Way to go England – making people homeless will definitely solve all your problems.

  254. Sir Henry Casingbroke

    @267 Fascinating stuff in the link, Fran. Dalrymple gives ideology its head to lead reason and causality. It’s nothing new. You can take any social phenomenon and provide a solution/explanation by way of whatever ideological position obsesses you. Very similar riots/looting occurred in the wake of the Rodney King flogging by police in LA in 1992. The US is not exactly a welfare state, is it?

    I am reading “Blood Lands” by Timothy Snyder at the moment. It’s a historical sweep about Eastern Europe in the 30s and 40s caught between a rock and a hard place of Stalin and Hitler. In both cases, the murderous regimes operated under tortuous “logic” to fit in their ideological positions as they went on jailing and killing their own citizens.

    To give him his due, Dalrymple identifies people with what could only be described as “borderline personality disorder” – when people walk around who are seemingly angry all the time, or in a state of hypomania. Almost any provocation can then trigger a rage episode.

    I happen to think that this anger is not entirely an automatic result of economic circumstances but of a chemical imbalance in the brain. If there are enough people so afflicted in any peer group it can lead to group mass psychosis and mobs are formed. In this case such mob formation is facilitated by social media.

    Such rage is triggered by a dysfunction in the part of the brain that deals with self-control.

    So is it chemical? (Cocaine, high-content THC skunk, bad, fast-food diet?) Is it as a result of dispowerment in a social sense? Some flaw in parenting? Both these theses are floated in this pamphlet here: http://www.cmhamj.com/pamphlets/Mood%20Disorders/0801.pdf

    Ridiculous pronouncements by the likes of Dalrymple are, as they say, unhelpful.

  255. akn

    Fran: the English right really is having a total meltdown, isn’t it? I love that Dalrymple’s opening comments are that he’s scared of nasty looking people on the street. Black people, perchance? And, as Jess’s post indicates the Poms are about to create a wave of homelessness. It won’t be long before we hear of plans for ‘Teh Australian Solution’ … after all the place is already full of homeless petrol sniffing darkies on welfare quarantining who show no respect, so a few more won’t make any difference. We also have a media and a racist right who will make them feel right at home.

  256. wizofaus

    Oops, I realised belatedly that in fact my maths was rather off trying to compare crime stats between London and NY – it should only of course be 2000 per 100000 rather than 20000. This is still way higher than the official figures for NY (*), but about the same as in most Australian capital cities. So sg, while there’s no question London has a good deal more crime than Japan, would you really feel that crime in most Australian capital cities is sufficiently high to justify widespread CCTV surveillance?

    (*) with the usual caveat that virtually all U.S. cities have far far higher homicide rates than anywhere else in the developed world. Personally if I had to choose between somewhere with half the chance of getting killed and somewhere with a third of the chance of getting beaten up, I know which way I’d go. Though I’m rather skeptical that that ‘third’ figure is really correct)

  257. Marisan

    Jess

    “So now the councils are kicking people out of public housing if their kids were involved in the riots.

    Way to go England – making people homeless will definitely solve all your problems.”

    That will merely change Looting and Stealing from a recreation to an occupation.
    I hope Britain has enough spare money in the budget to finance the costs of incarcerating these people. Currently $65,000 pa in Australia although I’m sure SERCO will put in a lower bid.

  258. jumpy

    akn
    “””And, as Jess’s post indicates the Poms are about to create a wave of homelessness.””””

    Those homes wont be boarded up and signed “never to be used again”
    They will be tenanted by needy people who are less..erm..riotous.
    The only NEW homeless are those who had their homes burnt down or businesses destroyed(sending them into poverty) by ” the righteous rioters ?”
    The parents that condoned their children’s crimes should be given accommodation, its called prison.

  259. jules

    Thats a good article akn, and it does make some relevant points.

    The riots in mentioned in Sydney, the riot at Palm Island and these London riots all followed a death either at the hands of police, or blamed on the police by an over policed under privileged community. The LA riots happened cos of an unpunished police beating.

    Whatever the other causes the trigger for these events is usually a death associated with a heavy, and heavy handed, police presence. In a community that feels the police is “the enemy”.

  260. jules

    Wow Fran that Dalrymple guy is off his head. “If there were any justice in the world the poor and screwed over would have even less than they have…” or words to that effect. Wow.

    Thats the seed for many more riots right there.

    BTW Sir Henry, you are also right. These riots were caused by too much skunk weed. Wait a minute… what?

  261. Fran Barlow

    Sir Henry Casingbroke said:

    Dalrymple identifies people with what could only be described as “borderline personality disorder” – when people walk around who are seemingly angry all the time, or in a state of hypomania. Almost any provocation can then trigger a rage episode.

    It sounds like projection. I wonder if, when he is waling about, he is ever not in a rage and wanting to vent on some worthy target? Admittedly, as he notes in the interview, he did suffer a severely unpleasant disruption to his slumbers in a Manchester hotel as someone was beaten to a pulp rather too noisily for his liking, so one can perhaps forgive him his confusion. According to him, one can’t tell joy from rage these days, so perhaps he’s just confused … in addition to bearing poor folk homicidal animus.

    The other fascinating result of this is the return by the courts to some of the sentencing practices one imagines applied at the time just preceding transport to Australia.

    You know the youngest person I’ve heard of is an 11-year-old girl who admitted to throwing stones and smashing windows and joining a large riot of 30 men and three girls. She’s been given, for example, a nine-month referral order – she lives in a foster home already.

    {…}

    I mean a lot of these people are getting, you know, as much as nine months in jail, six months in jail for simple burglary. One man, I think, got several months for stealing several bottles of water. This is an electrical engineering student who faced obviously a good career. A dental nurse with a baby son…

    MARK COLVIN: Six months?
    ANNE BARKER: He got six months…
    MARK COLVIN: And that was, the account I saw said it was for GBP3.50 worth of water?
    ANNE BARKER: That’s right, and he claimed that he was thirsty, he hadn’t even gone out necessarily to join the riots but had been passing by at the key time when this store had been ransacked and just helped himself. And there are plenty of other cases like him. You know, one 24-year-old man who cared for his mother, got five months for stealing wine and sweets, and similar cases like that.

    As Jess notes above, ASBO provisions are being used to force evictions from council housing. How long will it be before prison hulks will need to be built on the Thames to house them?

    Let there be no doubt — austerity measures in Britain, like the financial boondoggling that was said to be their warrant, are cultural WMD, and it is scarcely surprising that the victims of this are not ‘going quietly’.

    People who are fearful and angry and abused rarely act in rational or coherent fashion to address their problems, but their actions nonetheless tell us that there is a problem — a serious one — and it’s not one that rational people can begin to address by invoking notions of “criminal thuggery” or “social malaise” or “not just broken but sick” unless by these we are describing massive system failure, perverse incentive, the desire to exploit the vulnerable and malign neglect.

  262. billie

    Mike Carlton article “Plundering toffs rule on their own terms” in 13 August Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that the British Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor for the Exchequer Osborne, and London major Boris Johnson were expensively educated school boys who trashed restaurants and evaded police on their drunken nights on the town.

    The difference between them and the rioting CHAVs is simply money and priviledge

  263. Jess

    Jumpy: It doesn’t matter if they replace them – where are the evicted going to go?

  264. jumpy

    Jess, “where are the evicted going to go?”
    To the back of the housing list.
    Or applying for refugee status in Oz seems to be fashionable, being “victims” of an oppressive and cruel police state( as some here would have us believe).
    Seeing as there is no such thing as an “indigenous Englishman” , their all immigrants anyway.

  265. Lefty E

    I see Cameron has been talking about using police “surges” next time – which is an interesting metaphor to use. Open class war.

    He’s doing an excellent impression of someone determined to learn nothing from the episode – but then so did the whole parliament the other day. Where’s a penal colony for one’s excess populations when you need one?

  266. Fine

    I’m waiting for the boatloads of Poms to start arriving at Christmas Island.

  267. su

    Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb has an article at Unleashed.

    @Akn– the Hickey family, by all accounts, continues to be persecuted by the police because Gail Hickey refuses to take the death of her son quietly and has taken the case to the UN Human Rights Committee. Unfortunately for police the latest bit of harassment, the arrest of Gail’s niece at 8 am in the morning, was caught on camera, so her counsel was able to lay bare the ways in which police lie and collude to fit up a victim of their campaign of persecution.

  268. sg

    Sir Henry Casingbroke:

    when people walk around who are seemingly angry all the time, or in a state of hypomania. Almost any provocation can then trigger a rage episode

    Actually, I saw a lot of these people in the UK, and it was scary. Once my partner and I had to duck into a butcher’s shop because the guy behind us was so scary – and he was just arguing on his phone. In fact, where I lived in the UK (Finsbury Park and then Kings X) you could have a several week period where the only mobile phone conversations you would hear would be screaming matches. Every day you would hear someone telling their partner or child to shut up, in a really hateful tone. And people would routinely just explode, at someone else on the bus or train or at someone they didn’t know in a bar.

    London really is a scary place.

  269. tssk

    I feel so sorry for that woman about to be evicted because of the alleged actions of her son. Hopefully she’ll hold her head up high while being evicted, brawling and crying would be unseemly and might disturb some on their way to brunch.

    Sadly I predict her and her son will be picked up by police for sleeping under a bridge or sme other vagrancy charge thus showing that they are sadly repeat offenders.

    I’ll leave the last word to Dickensian re-enactment chief Eric Pickles.

    ‘I will consult on whether they have wilfully made themselves homeless and that we don’t have a duty to provide a home.

    That may sound a little harsh but I just don’t think this is the time to pussyfoot around.’

    Hear hear Mr Pickles. May you have a Merry Christmas.

  270. Fran Barlow

    An interesting article in the (British) Daily Telegraph, notwithstanding the use of the term “moral decay”

    Peter Oborne

    Another reference to a passage in Marx might also be apt here, though I might have quoted it purely on the strength of that fabulous French word, crapuleux*:

    Since the finance aristocracy made the laws, was at the head of the administration of the state, had command of all the organized public authorities, dominated public opinion through the actual state of affairs and through the press, the same prostitution, the same shameless cheating, the same mania to get rich was repeated in every sphere, from the court to the Café Borgne[2] to get rich not by production, but by pocketing the already available wealth of others, Clashing every moment with the bourgeois laws themselves, an unbridled assertion of unhealthy and dissolute appetites manifested itself, particularly at the top of bourgeois society – lusts wherein wealth derived from gambling naturally seeks its satisfaction, where pleasure becomes crapuleux [debauched], where money, filth, and blood commingle. The finance aristocracy, in its mode of acquisition as well as in its pleasures, is nothing but the rebirth of the lumpenproletariat on the heights of bourgeois society

    The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 (Part 1)

    .

    * crime motivated by financial gain …

  271. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Everybody’s forgetting their history. What did Britain use as prisons before transportation to the colonies? Hulks. That’s right – obsolescent ships floating in the Thames or the Severn or whatever body of water made a convenient place to keep the ne’er-do-wells.

    So no boat loads of refugees from England, thank you. If they’re so desperate for prisons or housing, they can float some tube carriages on kapok.

  272. Dr_Tad

    One way of understanding the rioters is looking at what they did. But the problem is that the media narrative of indiscriminate violence against individuals and small businesses doesn’t match the evidence they can dredge up, except in a few (surprisingly rare) cases. As the media has by and large taken a law & order view of the riots, shouldn’t there be more instances being splashed all over the front pages — especially given that probably tens of thousands of rioters (more?) were out on the streets?

    It is one thing to recognise that people sat at home terrified they would be attacked by rioters, another to demonstrate that lots of them actually would be (let alone were).

    Happily, we can rely on The Sun to luridly detail the crimes people have been charged and convicted for. See here.

    Note that these are almost all simple property crimes (most from big corporate chain stores) and that the interpersonal violence recorded is exclusively against the police. Now, a sample of those arrested is not necessarily a “representative” sample, but there is a class and anti-state character to the riots that the talk of “mindless criminality” seeks to disguise.

  273. Katz

    Looters should be forced to eat English food. That’d teach them.

  274. Adrien

    How is it possible to create a line that the state cannot cross?

    Yep technology is boss. That’s why all wars since WWII used nukes.

    How is it possible to create a line that the State can’t cross? Jay-sus!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Here’s a few terms for ya:

    Seperation of powers
    Habeas corpus
    Checks and balances

    Go back to school.

  275. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Thanks, Patrickb and Ootz.

    Underlying Cameron’s inability to learn from history, he’s trying to pick a fight with Tim Godwin. He’s trying to foist ex-NYPD Bill Bratton on them as a “special advisor”.

    “I’m being hired by the British government to consult with them on the issue of gangs, gang violence and gang intervention from the American experience and to offer some advice and counsel on their experience,” Bratton told Reuters last night. Downing Street said Cameron thanked Bratton for agreeing to a series of meetings in the UK this autumn to share his experiences tackling gang violence. Bratton will provide counsel “in a personal capacity,” it said in a statement…

    Orde set himself against Cameron’s plans to allow outsiders to join the force at high ranks, saying: “The leadership of this service understands policing. We all started where our brave officers were the other day. We start at the bottom, we move up and we learn and we move on.”

    Other “bright” idea by the Tories: elected police commissioners. Cameron could force it through in the Commons, but he should remember that he’s depending on a very shaky and demoralised junior partner. I don’t know if he’s going to last his full five years.

  276. Adrien

    “The March of Folly” should be in the reading list of any aspiring leader. Of course it won’t be, it would remove their raison d’etre.

    Oh my gods, an Adrien Vs Sg sneer-off, a grudge match made in heaven and I’ve only gone and missed it.

    Not the same at all.

    http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2011/08/13/twilight-of-the-institutions/

  277. Helen

    Here’s a few terms for ya:

    Seperation of powers
    Habeas corpus
    Checks and balances

    Go back to school.

    Adrien, it would have been quite possible to make that point without the rudeness and superiority, which would greatly have enhanced it in terms of the civil discourse we all claim to want. It would also greatly improve the reading experience for the rest of us.

  278. Joseph.Carey

    @291 I have to say I avoid septic lawyer.

    She lacks empathy, the starting point in understanding anything.

  279. Adrien

    “The March of Folly” should be in the reading list of any aspiring leader. Of course it won’t be, it would remove their raison d’etre.

    Raise my glass to that.

    Oh my gods, an Adrien Vs Sg sneer-off, a grudge match made in heaven and I’ve only gone and missed it.

    But wait there’s more. Steak knives n’ all.

    Not the same at all.

    Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry, just had to get that out.

    Please understand. Our political system is a new thing in human history which overwhelmingly dominated by rigid hierarchies. Only the Romans with their wooden conservatism managed to keep something like an open society going. And of course they capitulated to authoritarianism. As Machiavelli has noted centuries ago: the reason their state remained stable so long is because they managed to combine elements of monarchy, oligarchy and democracy. each element balanced off the tendencies to decadence in the others.

    In the 1760s and 70s Jefferson designed a state based on the lessons hard won by thousands of years of blood-soaked precedent. A state designed to keep law and order intact without oppression. (Just don’t mention the black folks ssshhhh). France followed, Napoleon spread it about and the United Kingdom followed cautiously.

    That’s democracy folks. Actually polity: a combination of ancient systems that separates and balances power, that keeps any one entity from becoming too powerful – from dominating the others. It’s young and fragile and has a tendency not to work. It needs care and loving attention.

    It’s also the Modern Rationalized State, ubiquitous that has such power as to produce Hell and deliver it direct to your house: Auschwitz, Hiroshima, helicopter gunships, bio-chemical ordnance, pyscholgically enhanced torture? It’s the will to power: how many politicians do you actually trust? How many US chiefs of staff? “Priz.ners in ni**a town it’s a dirty little war”. Very dirty. Listen all you hippies:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCa0mPRrQPw&feature=related

    This liberal society drive ain’t just bourgeois bollocks to keep the proles down folks – it’s all so much older than that. There’s a point. It keeps the state from crushing us. And by increments it could do just that.

    I don’t want all the CCTV cameras taken down. As you’ve said it’s a public place. I’m quiet well-used to the idea. But in England they are everywhere. And this is largely because the ‘people of the street’ have one advantage over the homeowning majority – the use of violence. ‘Middle-class’ people typically have little or no experience of violence and this makes them marks. They call to the State for protection because they can no longer stand up for themselves. And no-one gives a fuck about anyone else.

    If there are State-controlled cameras everywhere, always recording, what material can be compiled about the private habits of the small thoroughfares? What exercises in control might a sociopath with power invent? We don’t realize. Many thought email was private, it’s not. The technology is available that could make micro-surveillance of populations possible. We must draw a line somewhere.

    If you can’t see what’s wrong with meekly accepting the encroaching surveillance techno-state than what weapons will you fight David Cameron with if he decides to ban social networking for undesirables?
    And d’ya really think Tony Blair is a socialist comrades? Honestly. Let it go. Blair is a TV era technocrat for a badly educated population who think their vanity and comfort the #1 priority of the Universe.

    Was it the Ruling Classes fault? You betcha. but not for the reasons you think – http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2011/08/13/twilight-of-the-institutions/

  280. Adrien

    Apologies I must’ve sent the quotes by mistake.

    She lacks empathy, the starting point in understanding anything.

    That’s simply not true. And’s not a very nice thing to say at all. She has an icy mind. Stanley Kubrick had an icy mind, a certain clarity obtains. She’s a very private person and she wears an armour in the arena. For good reason.

  281. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Adrien and Joseph: I don’t know about lack of empathy. Appalling logic may be more of a problem at their place. Noticing that (a) poor places are common throughout the UK, yet (b) the riots only happened in England (except for one or two around Swansea), SkepticLawyer concludes:

    Which of course means that poverty as an explanation for the riots is also meaningless.

    Which is of course bollocks. No riots in Oxford or Cambridge that I can see, and my earlier worries about Bath were misplaced. Riots seemed to be associated with poorer areas in England, rather than richer. We all know that.

    A reasonable person may judge poverty as an insufficient explanation, and yes: it is insufficient to explain the riots. Ms. Lawyer is correct to lambaste the powers at the top, and links to Peter Oborne’s fine article: The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom. The things discussed inside are also a contributing factor.

    But discarding “poverty” because it is insufficient is silly. We’re all adults here – we should be able to handle several explanations for an event, balance them according to contribution, and see which ones cause or are caused by others. As Mark said, let’s “think like social scientists”.

  282. Joseph.Carey

    @294 and 295

    Perception is all. It’s fundamental to personal liberty.

    Icy = cold = unempathetic, in my world view and experience.

    If you think poverty has no relation to or bearing on another’s perspective or behaviour, then you lack empathy. It’s really very simple.

  283. Adrien

    But discarding “poverty” because it is insufficient is silly.

    But you haven’t really addressed her point. There are more places in Glasgow and much poorer yet no riots? Why? In fact I’m not sure I’ve seen a significant left-wing rebuttal of the arguments against poverty being a factor in crime. I don’t entirely agree with those arguments but they do demonstrate that poverty isn’t enough or even necessary. Yet for the Left it’s fundamental.

  284. Adrien

    JC – Perception is all. It’s fundamental to personal liberty.

    Very Zen. I wonder if you’re self-mastery will serve you if subjected to violence.

    Icy = cold = unempathetic, in my world view and experience.

    SL loves animals and has a sense of humour. You’re worldview and experience don’t count for much.

    Perception is all. It’s fundamental to personal liberty.

    Icy = cold = unempathetic, in my world view and experience.

  285. Adrien

    If you think poverty has no relation to or bearing on another’s perspective or behaviour, then you lack empathy. It’s really very simple.

    SkepticLawyer hails from Logan City originally. I’m a Brizvegas lad myself, (Chapel Hill) and believe it: LC is workin’ class mate. She endorses the view that poverty and inequality are not the prime factors in this kind of behaviour. That does not mean mean she lacks empathy for the working class. You might want to read someone a little more extensively before casting such damning judgement upon them. If she did feel that way Legal Eagle would hardly be working with her, it’s her main thang, equality.

    Funny some lefties. They harp on and on ’bout the dehumanzation of the Other and then turn ’round and treat those who disagree on some issue or other exactly the same way. For some reason it brings that episode of The Young Ones to mind. Where Rik calls up Thatcher to tell her he wants no more social prejudice or hatred by 12 noon tomorrow or he’ll set off a bomb. Then tells Neil off ’cause: ‘I hate you.’

    Don’t know why exactly. Guess I’m getting scattered in my old age. ‘Nuff said on the subject. It’s OT, think what you want.

  286. Katz

    Which of course means that poverty as an explanation for the riots is also meaningless.

    There may exist in this enormous universe a planet where everything happens for a single reason.

    The planet Earth is not that place.

  287. Joe

    Adrien says:

    In fact I’m not sure I’ve seen a significant left-wing rebuttal of the arguments against poverty being a factor in crime.

    Leftwing, batwing, (perhaps Casey will be-incarnated.) Stop mindlessly stereotyping your opponents. Rebuttal of the argument that poverty (aka context) has no impact on crime.

    Well, let’s take a look at the other end of the stick.

    The only factor which determines a person‘s likelihood to commit a crime is their biological uniqueness.

    But hang-on, that’s not how the argument goes, because the argument usually continues along lines of biological types of people having a predisposition— certain chromosomes, injuries in childhood. We can’t consider drug or alcohol use, because that would already push us over into the realm of context having an effect. Perhaps certain types of human have a predisposition to poverty? But what could you conclude from this line of thinking? It all makes no sense.

    On the other hand, if you look at the measurable evidence of who’s in jail, the percentage of inmates who have completed secondary school is a minority. The type of biology that enables a person to be a member of the professional class, seems to be the deficiency in the common criminal. Or they’re better at hiding their crimes. Or their crimes, as in their anti-social behaviors are harnessed in ways which are not defined as criminal— for example, defrauding lending institutions by signing up people who have no chance of ever being able to pay off a loan.

    Anyway, the death toll on German roads has been falling consistently since the 60s. Maybe there is something to the biological debate– the bad drivers are dying off? Or maybe the standard of driving is improving? I’ll leave that to you all to make your own judgement on that!

  288. wizofaus

    Adrien, certainly nobody I’m aware of has argued poverty is *sufficient* cause. And given there are examples of riots started among non-disadvantaged communities, it’s not strictly speaking *necessary* either. But these are rare – and there’s no shortage of data showing very high correlation between areas of socio-economic disadvantage and increased anti-social/criminal behaviour, of which rioting is an extreme and thankfully reasonably infrequent manifestation.
    So it’s pretty much either
    a) socio-economic disadvantage tends to trigger anti-social/criminal behaviour
    or
    b) people that are inherently anti-social/criminal often aren’t able to succeed economically

    It would be foolish to suggest b) is completely false, but it runs into lots of problems when you do comparisons across different countries, and isn’t really able to explain why certain communities contain especially low or especially high proportions of such people.

    On the other hand, a) in its *simplest* form isn’t true either – once you control for certain factors, there isn’t a direct correlation between levels of poverty and levels of crime. However what seems to be true is that certain other factors seem more likely to take root, especially breakdowns in relationships between families and between citizens and authority figures (especially the police), and its these factors that are most strongly linked with criminal behaviour. It certainly seems to me government policy could be best focused on looking for methods that prevent these breakdowns. This inevitably involves investing some initial amount of money. I’d say there’s good reason to suppose that the investment would ultimately pay for itself in purely financial terms, but even if it didn’t, the degree towards it would improve the lives of the least fortunate among us would be well worth the cost.

  289. GregM

    If you think poverty has no relation to or bearing on another’s perspective or behaviour, then you lack empathy. It’s really very simple.

    Poverty?

    You must be joking or very ignorant about what poverty is and how people who truly know what poverty is deal with it.

    Go to some place that has real poverty as a pedestrian part of its life, where the vast majority of the population lives in what would be, to the rioters, poverty beyond their comprehension.

    Go to a country where the sheer affluence of the people you label as living in poverty would be seen as giving them a life of luxury.

    Go to Indonesia. Go to Vietnam. Go to Cambodia. Go to the Isaan provinces of Thailand. You will see there people living in quiet dignity, sharing among themselves and always committed to building their communities and sacrificing so that their children have a better life.

    You say Skeptic Lawyer lacks empathy. Perhaps. What she has, though, is perspective and common sense.

  290. wizofaus

    Joe “Or they’re better at hiding their crimes.”

    There’s a lot more to that than many would be keen to admit. Obviously there is significant variation in individual tendencies to commit crimes, but there’s also significant variation in individual’s abilities to convince others of their innocence. To oversimplify – those that wind up with convictions are a combination of those with high individual criminal tendencies and those with average criminal tendencies but low ability at dissembling.

  291. Katz

    She endorses the view that poverty and inequality are not the prime factors in this kind of behaviour

    “Poverty and inequality” is a very convenient portmanteau phrase. However, the relationship between those two concepts is complex. Clearly, if the looters were literally starving and if they looted only edible items, then explaining their behaviour in terms of poverty would not be problematic. However, the poverty referred to may not be absolute poverty but is instead relative poverty. In that case the items stolen would be less likely to be food and more likely to be articles that represent opulence or status. I believe that it is undeniable that much looting targeted such items.

    Further, some relatively well-off folks were caught looting random items like bottled water. These acts are gestures of contempt against conventional morality, expressive of dissatisfaction with the present order of things.

    It should not be too difficult to perceive that individuals in a mob may be driven by a complexity of motives.

  292. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Adrien: insufficiency is not irrelevancy. It is a logical fallacy. Do I need to say any more?

    If you are wondering as I why there were no riots in Scotland, it seems like they have different system of care. Or that the poorer areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh are on the periphery of their cities. Or maybe because it was raining that week.

  293. Down and Out of Sài Gòn
  294. Katz

    Meanwhile, in Italy, Berlusconi sees the writing on the wall.

    The measures range from a special levy on incomes above 90,000 euros to higher taxes on income from financial investments and cuts in the cost of government, notably through a cull in the number of local politicians.

    Rather than punish the poor, he has resolved to throw the wealthy to the lions.

  295. sg

    Adrien, you mentioned that there were no riots in Oxford or Cambridge. Actually, Oxford has some very poor “estates” outside of the pretty touristy areas, and when I was in London 2 years ago a doco was made on the petty crime occurring in those estates. I think it was by that Frost chap (could be wrong). Apparently 80% of all call-outs for firemen in the Oxford area are nuisance fires (in bins and abandoned houses) set by the kids from just a couple of estates, and one fireman has died in the process of putting them out. There is significant property crime and they showed some chilling examples of the kind of bullying and violence that goes on in and around Oxford.

    Poverty and inequality are everywhere in the UK. We know that places with higher poverty and inequality have higher rates of crime, but this doesn’t mean that individuals commit crime because of their poverty, or that the poorest people in an area are necessarily the criminals. But there is a very high level of crime in Britain that can’t just be explained by poverty, and as GregM observed, people in much poorer and more challenged parts of the world have a better sense of community spirit than those estates.

    As the Polish girl who jumped from the window observed, there is something sick about British society. Cameron was right to talk about “broken” Britain before the election and it would have been very good if instead of falling back on kneejerk nationalism and stupid pride, the British left had agreed with him but challenged his vision. But in the process they might have to accept that some of their much-vaunted socialist experiments – the NHS and social housing, particularly – have not worked to reduce inequality, and a new vision is needed.

    But that would have meant turning their backs on the New Labour project. Or worse still, accepting that Labour and the labour movement have failed to work for the betterment of the British working class; failed to guide them to a better place; failed to help them preserve their “communities.” And that this has been a problem for a lot longer than New Labour has been around.

    Far easier to blame Thatcher and whinge about “the cuts.”

  296. Joe

    Yes, sg, it’s not poverty as such, which is just a description– it is how one responds to poverty which is important. And by telling poor and underprivileged people to just dummy up, you alienate them, disenfranchise them and in some cases antagonise them to the point that they react anti-socially.

    Britain has become a toilet, it is true. There was no need for this to happen, none. It happened because the British ruling class was unable to adapt to being the ruling class in a small European nation and no longer the ruling class of the British Empire. Now, we see them, in true ruling class style, brown-nosing the American elites. It’s pathetic.

  297. skepticlawyer

    SG, I must admit I quoted one of your comments from one of the other threads on this issue on one of the ‘riot’ threads at our place; I should have told you, but I’m in the process of changing jobs so it slipped my mind. It was the one where you made the comment about ‘nasty dogs’ (yes, that image has stayed with me, because it’s just so damned true).

    And yes, if people read my post, my principle point is pointing out that large parts of Scotland (particularly in Glasgow) are much, much poorer than the areas in England that went up; indeed, some of the Scots regions are closer to the ‘entrenched poverty’ being offered up as explanation for what is going on in England by some on the left.

    Nicholas Gruen disagrees with him, but I think Oborne makes some very good points (mainly about lawyers facilitating shittiness, something I can comment on as a lawyer in Britain; we’ve all got our stories about representing arms manufacturers and tobacco companies).

    In addition, as soon as Alex Salmond (Scotland’s First Minister) complained that the riots were an English phenomenon, and argued that Scotland is a ‘different society’ (meaning the BBC had to start calling them ‘England Riots’), I thought it was worth combining Salmond’s points with Oborne’s, and adding my own observations on the rule of law.

  298. adrian

    I think the point is that most people ‘on the left’ acknowledge that there are a multiplicity of reasons for what’s happened.
    Simplistic responses are for the simple minded and most of those have come from the right.

  299. GregM

    I think the point is that most people ‘on the left’ acknowledge that there are a multiplicity of reasons for what’s happened.
    Simplistic responses are for the simple minded and most of those have come from the right.

    The village idiot has spoken.

    He has, once again, left us all, Left and Right, stunned by the clarity of his vision.

    While we go around trying to work out, in our own inadequate ways, what is happening with the London riots he gives us his credo
    “Simplistic responses are for the simple minded”

    In saying so he is true to himself, even if he does not know it.

    We bow down in awe of the village idiot.

  300. adrian

    Fuck off GregM.

  301. skepticlawyer

    And I failed to provide a link. That’s what too much good red will do to you the next day (it’s all right, I’m not an alcy, just celebrating my new job).

    Here it is:

    http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2011/08/13/twilight-of-the-institutions/

  302. Russell

    The aspect of poverty that could be relevant here is not related to material goods but to feelings of powerlessness. In their God-awful estates they have TV – they can see that many people have more choices and chances than they do.

    A riot is fabulously exciting – the energy level is intoxicating. The energy charges you up and you feel powerful. Powerful enough to take the chance to do what authority forbids. And they’re young – hormone driven risk-takers.

    Adrien – I think you’ve said this kind of thing more than once “‘Middle-class’ people typically have little or no experience of violence and this makes them marks. They call to the State for protection because they can no longer stand up for themselves”

    There are endless stories in the papers of people who ‘stand up for themselves’ and get badly bashed, often by a group of adversaries. Anytime you think you’ll stand up for yourself, with your fists, there’s a very good chance, no matter who you are, of ending up seriously injured. Are you really suggesting we forget about laws and start settling things by force?

  303. adrian

    Yes, feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, and the resentment fueled by others having so much and getting away with so much must have something to do with it.

  304. Katz

    Scotland wrestles with its own demons:

    In 2004 and 2005, sectarian incidents reported to police in Scotland increased by 50% to 440 over 18 months. Scottish Government statistics showed that 64% of the 726 cases in the period were motivated by hatred against Catholics, and by hatred against Protestants in most of the remaining cases (31%).

    Social and economic tensions are enacted in ways conditioned by culture and historical memory.

    England hasn’t experienced a proper sectarian riot since the Great War.

  305. Lefty E

    There’s a lot more social solidarity in Scotland – where contemporary England is defined by the lack of it.

    That’s almost certainly more important in this context than comparative levels of deprivation

  306. Patrickb

    @242
    ” AI is stale and stuck in the 80s”
    Are you doing some research in this area?

  307. John D

    The ABC reported here that:

    Public housing tenants in London are facing the possibility of eviction over their involvement in the riots and looting that tore through English cities this week.

    Wandsworth Council in London’s west has served an eviction notice on a council tenant whose son has appeared in court, charged over a riot at nearby Battersea.

    The tenant and son are believed to be the first in the country to face the prospect of losing their council-owned home as a result of the riots.

    Other councils including Manchester, Salford and Nottingham, as well as Westminster, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham have threatened to take similar action.

    British prime minister David Cameron backed the council’s action, saying people who “loot and pillage their own community” should no longer be allowed to live in social housing.

    It sounds as though England has gone back to the sort of thinking that said it was OK to mount punitive expeditions against Aboriginal tribes when the Europeans believed someone from the tribe had committed an alleged crime.
    Most of us who have been teenagers or raised difficult teenagers should feel an injustice has been done if we were thrown out onto the road because a teenage son had committed some crime.
    It is this sort of unfairness that can turn a fairly pointless disturbance into a fight against injustice.

  308. skepticlawyer

    There’s a lot more social solidarity in Scotland – where contemporary England is defined by the lack of it.

    I think this is true, subject as mentioned above to sectarianism and its near relation, ‘Old Firm’ violence.

  309. Joe

    PatrickB,

    No, I’m not doing research in this area. I have done a couple of intro-seminars though. What great new advances are you thinking of which have occurred in the last few years, Patrick?

    Expert systems crashed and burned and since then I thought we’ve basically just gone back to computing, and information processing etc.?

  310. jules

    Its not much poverty as social exclusion.

    OH and some cops shot someone then lied about it, refused to inform the family and generally behaved like cops. Then a bunch of them attacked a 16 year old girl at a peaceful protest. In case anyone forgot. (Then they behaved like either a pack of cowards or held back cos of their budget cuts btw.) Tho the guy and girl were just chavs or blacks (or ferals or muslims I forget which), and so they don’t really count as people.

  311. sg

    Hi skepticlawyer, congrats on the new job, whatever it is (unless it’s riot control; if so, hahahaha, sucked in). I have posted over at your place, but I thought I’d repeat a part of what I said over there here, since I think it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re not British (or, as I mentioned over at yours, if you are).

    A lot of people are taking these riots as a sign of the failure of welfare and govt programs, and this is the philosophy underlying Cameron’s cuts before the riots. But it’s worth bearing in mind that in Britain, everything is screwed up, not just govt programs. The banks, the train system, the mobile phone companies, the gas and electricity companies, the retail sector, the service sector – it’s all crap. Consider these examples:

    for the 8 months that she lived in London my partner found it extremely difficult to charge her pay-as-you-go phone, because every time she went to a phone shop the system was down (and of course she couldn’t get a contract even though she was a British citizen earning 25k a year, because she hadn’t lived in one place for 3 years). My mobile phone company started billing me for a second handset that I never ordered, and sent the bill to the wrong address – I only found out when the debt collectors started calling; a bank failed to pay my water bill with the money I gave them and I had to actually force them to call the water company to get the debt collectors off my back; I know two people who withdrew all their money from their bank account (thousands of pounds) without ID or a card; my bank cancelled my bank card twice due to “fraud” that was actually me using the card, but failed to catch a Sicilian gang stealing money from my card; BT sold all my contact details to a known criminal gang from Spain; my landlord was illegally renting her house while a member of a housing co-op, but there was nothing we could do to stop her increasing the rent every 30 seconds; every single fucking restaurant in London charges you a 15% service charge and reduces their staff’s wages by an amount exactly equal to the “tip”; British pubs routinely fail to wash the beer taps, so you get really sick on even the smallest amount of alcohol; the seats on the Tube are so filthy that the Victoria Line seats are actually rimmed with black dirt (you can see it); several newspaper companies hand out free newspapers every day around the tube, but people just throw them away after they’ve read them, and the papers pile up so deep in the Tube that they jam escalators (but no-one cares or tries to stop it or change it); in every men’s toilet of every mid-tier or higher bar, there is a black man who sells you perfume shots for a dollar and will try and get tips for handing you paper towels; every taxi driver goes the long way; there are signs all around London telling women not to take unlicensed minicabs in case they get raped.

    The worst though is my friend, Miss S, a Japanese girl, who was renting a room illegally (probably) from a council flat tenant; he tried repeatedly to have sex with her and when she refused he secretly tried to rent her room to her Korean friend – his intention was fully to just kick her out with no notice and nowhere to go, get in her friend, and have sex with her instead.

    This is life in London. You have never, ever in your life met so many grafters, cheats, liars and cutpurses as you will find in London. There is no more wretched hive of scum and villainy in the galaxy. And until they look at this cultural problem – it exists at every level, in different forms, but is at its worst amongst the poorest and least educated – they will never understand why their working class would rather rob Wiis than care about their social circumstances. It is the ultimate social expression of “the devil take the hindmost.”

  312. Patrickb

    @273
    “The only NEW homeless are those who had their homes burnt down or businesses destroyed(sending them into poverty) by ” the righteous rioters ?””
    They might want to check their insurance policy before joining the queue at the soup kitchen. Some might actually end up in front.

  313. Patrickb

    @323
    I’d say that the big advance in AI the realisation that trying to build a self aware system without really understanding what and how self awareness is, is a doomed project. Nonetheless a lot of the peer-to-peer networking software has benefited from AI ideas.

  314. sg

    David Cameron’s new “supercop” isn’t saying what he wants to hear

  315. skepticlawyer

    SG, your experiences of London tally with mine, which is why I knocked back a ‘Magic Circle’ law firm job to take a lower paid but much nicer position with a firm in Scotland (hence the celebration).

    When I was living in London (and working for the Home Office; hence the experience of Croydon, which used to house some Home Office premises on the High Street), the following occurred:

    1. Lloyd’s Bank managed to debit rather than credit my partner’s monthly salary (he was a senior academic, so this was a lot of money). This meant all his direct debits bounced and he was piling up fines, but the bank refused to do anything about it for three days (this is standard) until I completely lost my rag in the branch and said things that would probably lose me my practicing certificate had I been a lawyer back then.

    2. The same bank ‘lost’ hundreds of pounds of my money when I had deposited said moneys, in cash, in the branch. Fortunately, I had kept the relevant documentation. I kid you not.

    3. My partner at the time was black, and because he was quite senior, he drove a late-model BMW. We often went to visit DEM (one of the other bloggers over at our place) in Wales, where she was living at the time. Every time we made the trip along the M4 and Byron drove, we were stopped. Whenever I did the driving, we weren’t stopped.

    4. Before I moved in with my partner (and the reason I moved in with him), he noticed that my utterly sodden landlady had exposed electrical cable running next to the water pipes throughout the house. As he was a civil engineering lecturer, he had a kitten and I moved poste haste.

    5. DEM used to be a tech journalist starting to ‘move up’ before becoming disabled (she has MS). After she had been put on benefits, she attempted to do a little freelance work, only to find that her EMTR was a colossal 295.5%; for any earnings above £20 a week, she lost (and still loses) a pound each from three separate benefits payments designed for the severely disabled. She went to the local CAB, because she wanted to do some work (MS waxes and wanes) to keep her hand in. The woman at the CAB said, straight up, ‘have you considered asking them to pay you in cash?’

    6. During the credit boom, because I was a well-paid employee (I was an interpreter), I was routinely sent credit cards, unasked for, in the post.

    I could go on, but apart from that, what you said.

    ‘Never live in London, it’s a hole’ has become my motto.

  316. Maggie

    Have a look at this commentary, I think it hits the nail right on the head
    Shopocalypse Now http://criticalmassfilm.com/blog/?p=50

  317. Lefty E

    Well, the chav-nots will have to confront reality.

    London is hole. exciting pace to live when youre in your 20s. WTF anyone would be doing there *by choice* after that is beyond me.

  318. OldSkeptic

    At least someone agrees with me:

    The UK Telegraph:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peteroborne/100100708/the-moral-decay-of-our-society-is-as-bad-at-the-top-as-the-bottom/

    “I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.”

  319. Dr_Tad

    I highly recommend this piece on the riots and the responsibility of the Left by London-based activist and writer Kevin Ovenden.

    There is an uncomfortable truth which some on the Left are seeking to sidestep — with hyperventilated condemnation of the looting in direct proportion to the stubborn facts they try to ignore. The Left and labour movement have failed to provide thus far an answer to the despair that is ripping through society.

  320. OldSkeptic

    Or: http://davidharvey.org/2011/08/feral-capitalism-hits-the-streets/

    “But the problem is that we live in a society where capitalism itself has become rampantly feral. Feral politicians cheat on their expenses, feral bankers plunder the public purse for all its worth, CEOs, hedge fund operators and private equity geniuses loot the world of wealth, telephone and credit card companies load mysterious charges on everyone’s bills, shopkeepers price gouge, and, at the drop of a hat swindlers and scam artists get to practice three-card monte right up into the highest echelons of the corporate and political world.

    A political economy of mass dispossession, of predatory practices to the point of daylight robbery, particularly of the poor and the vulnerable, the unsophisticated and the legally unprotected, has become the order of the day. Does anyone believe it is possible to find an honest capitalist, an honest banker, an honest politician, an honest shopkeeper or an honest police commisioner any more? Yes, they do exist. But only as a minority that everyone else regards as stupid. Get smart. Get Easy Profits. Defraud and steal! The odds of getting caught are low. And in any case there are plenty of ways to shield personal wealth from the costs of corporate malfeasance.

    What I say may sound shocking. Most of us don’t see it because we don’t want to. Certainly no politician dare say it and the press would only print it to heap scorn upon the sayer. But my guess is that every street rioter knows exactly what I mean. They are only doing what everyone else is doing, though in a different way – more blatently and visibly in the streets. Thatcherism unchained the feral instincts of capitalism (the “animal spirits” of the entreprenuer they coyly named it) and nothing has transpired to curb them since. Slash and burn is now openly the motto of the ruling classes pretty much everywhere.”

  321. wizofaus

    skepticlawyer, I have to say, while all those events are unfortunate, I’m not sure they add up to particular compelling evidence of London being a ‘sick society’.
    If it really were *so* sick, one would expect it to show up in crime and economic statistics. But there countries/cities with statistically higher crime rates (Australia, sadly) that I assume you would not call ‘holes’ and certain ones with poorer economic conditions. I’m not denying there is a problem, but I can’t see that its one that massively sets London apart from other comparable cities around the world (especially those with a primarily Anglo cultural background).
    sg’s perspective in particular is surely ‘informed’ by his time living in Japan, where there is obviously a very different culture – which DOES indeed show up in the crime rates and economic figures (allowing for Japan’s slightly unusual economic history).

  322. wizofaus

    Key phrase from that Guardian article about Bill Bratton:

    “Bratton’s initial success in reducing crime in New York relied on big increases in resources”.

    Anyone who thinks you can tackle these sorts of problem by reducing spending is living in cloud cuckoo land. Fixing problems costs money – initially. But as long as it’s done well, it’s almost always an investment worth making.

  323. Katz

    But on the other hand Japanese suicide rates are much higher than. Western suicide rates. And lest this be explained away as being the artefact of different cultural mores, as late as the mid 1990s Japanese rates were comparable with Western rates.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/05/Suicide-deaths-per-100000-trend.jpg

    This rise in Japanese rates since the 1990s are likely to be related to Japan’s economic travails.

    The hypothesis: English people are more likely to externalise their despair. Japanese people are more likely to internalise their despair. But in both cases despairing behaviour is positively correlated with economic dislocation and a pervasive sense of pessimism about the future.

  324. Dr_Tad

    Katz @337

    There are two other theories about Japan and suicidality.

    Wilkinson & Pickett, in The Spirit Level, observe the fact that more equal countries have higher suicide rates despite having lower rates of depression. Their argument is that more equal societies are more cohesive and so suicide is of what Durkheim called the “anomic” type, where people feel disconnected from society.

    The other is in Ethan Watters’ fascinating book Crazy Like Us: The Globalisation of the American Psyche. He charts the rise in suicide since the (unfinished) recession at the end of the 80s, pointing to socio-cultural and economic factors, but more prominent has been a sharp rise in depression and its medicalised treatment.

  325. Katz

    Dr Tad, both of those hypotheses confirm a positive correlation between suicide and economic dislocation. The culturally conditioned pathways by which perception of economic pessimism is translated into actions, either social or hidden, are another interesting question.

  326. Fran Barlow

    Dr_Tad …

    Ovenden may well be worth quoting, but anyone using thus far without scare quotes merits a derisive snort.

  327. tssk

    Leaving the rich and middle class elements out of this (as their involvment will be seen as outliers regardless of proportion) the big problem is of course those on welfare.

    Having been raised on welfare myself (I was the product of a single mother) my advice to decreasing welfare dependency is twofold.

    One, stop with the mass housing. For the most part if discreet scattering the needy amongst the better off as long as it’s discrete in most instances gives those on welfare something to aspire to and more importantly it stops a group of families trying to get by being dragged down by one or two families who have given up and want to drag their peers down to their level.

    Two, restructure welfare so that it’s easier to transition to paid work. Several times when my mother did paid work we were worse off than just sitting on the dole. In my early days I found the same thing. If you reported your earnings honestly (and we always did) we would end up about $15-$30 a week worse off from my hazy recollections. This put us in the stupid situation of actually skipping meals in order to work because it was ‘the right thing to do.’ (And imagine how much of a disincentive it was to do that when one well off family was getting full Ausstudy for their daughter because they’d arranged their finances ‘just so.’ Oddly enough people who looked down on our family for being on the taxpayer teat thought she was awesome because she could afford a new Swatch watch every week.)

    The welfare trap is not the paying of monies to the extent where life is good and you never want to work again. It’s how the system is poorly designed so that if you do the right thing you get punished for it.

    But hey, conservatives have the better answer to the complex stuff above. Ditch public housing and ditch welfare. Easy.

  328. Fran Barlow

    Katz (re Berlusconi)

    Interestingly, the top marginal rate (78%) is called “a solidarity tax”.

  329. Adrien

    Joe – Leftwing, batwing, (perhaps Casey will be-incarnated.) Stop mindlessly stereotyping your opponents.

    ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are antiquated terms but apply because they manifest as real tendencies in worldview not to mention political agency. Using them does not stereotype anyone and the only thing I’ve ever done mindlessly is dance.

    Rebuttal of the argument that poverty (aka context) has no impact on crime.

    That is not English.

    Wizofaus – Adrien, certainly nobody I’m aware of has argued poverty is *sufficient* cause.

    There’s a general and predictable dichotomy between the view that inequality is the cause v lawlessness. That’s what I refer to. It would be better if we took a pause and tried to consider the possibility that our own opinions might be insufficient in explaining this. Personally I think they’re both responsible.

    Sài Gòn – Adrien: insufficiency is not irrelevancy. It is a logical fallacy. Do I need to say any more?

    Yes. SL has given us the example of Scotland where there is more poverty and no rioting. It’s an argument for irrelevancy that you have not addressed. I’ve yet to read a rebuttal of that argument. What I get is evasion.

    If you are wondering as I why there were no riots in Scotland, it seems like they have different system of care.

    Being half-Scots lemme tell ya laddie, it’s cuz respect for the rights of others is instilled in us beginning five seconds after we pop. 🙂

    SG – Adrien, you mentioned that there were no riots in Oxford or Cambridge. /em>

    No, I didn’t. Someone said that in response to something I said in aid of ‘it’s the pverty stupid’.

    a new vision is needed.

    Sure.

    Russell – Are you really suggesting we forget about laws and start settling things by force?

    No. The news might be awash with I got bashed stories. Very seldom does a case where someone chases off a cowardly thug make headlines. Last time I did this was, um, Friday night.

    Greg M – You must be joking or very ignorant about what poverty is and how people who truly know what poverty is deal with it.

    I grew up in the 3rd world mate. Islamabad, Cairo, ooohh London ain’t got nuthin’ on these places for poor. But very little crime. Why? Because they ain’t a pack of selfish shits.

  330. Dr_Tad

    Fran @340

    Que? Does his Oxford education explain anything?

  331. Dr_Tad

    Katz @339

    I think we are in furious agreement. In essence, suicide is mostly a social phenomenon.

    Unfortunately too many people in my profession (psychiatry) think it’s a medical problem. There have been serious papers claiming that the fall in suicide rates in some countries is related to antidepressant prescribing. Including by an Australian psychiatrist who has been on the TV in recent years and who has the government’s ear.

  332. sg

    I’m actually involved in some research on Japan’s suicide rates at the moment, analyzing the trend over time by occupation groups. Suicide rates were declining in all occupations over the 70s and 80s, and showed the typical pattern seen in the west (lower classes had higher rates), but in the 90s after the recession the decline reversed. Suicide rates in all occupational groups increased, but they increased so much more in the professional/managerial groups that the classical inequality reversed (and now the higher classes have higher suicide rates).

    This is ascribed to different work pressures – the 90s recession hit managerial classes (the famous sarariman) worse than the other classes, through lay-offs leading to higher stress and workloads.

    Until the 90s suicide rates were declining. This implies that they were at their highest during Japan’s fastest period of economic growth.

    Explaining Japan’s historically high suicide rates needs to be done cautiously, though. Japan is an outlier in all the inequality charts on this one issue, so contra Wilkinson and Pickett’s work, I don’t think it can be explained by economic issues alone. In fact, suicide in Japan has a long and honourable history, possibly quite unique, and attempts to explain it today by Westerners probably make no more sense than they did a hundred years ago when Mitford, Chamberlain and the other early European writers on Japan were confused by its prevalence and use. FFS, in the late 19th century key western figures in Japan were invited to the execution-by-suicide of a rebel samurai, who had killed foreigners – they were expected to watch the whole grisly show. Mishima did it in protest against pacifism in the 1970s.

    Suicide has a different history and cultural meaning in Japan.

  333. Katz

    I don’t think it can be explained by economic issues alone.

    No one on this thread has contradicted this assertion. However, SL Denied that economic factors were relevant in explaining English lawlessness.

    On this important logical point, Sài Gòn is the model of succinctness:

    Adrien: insufficiency is not irrelevancy. It is a logical fallacy. Do I need to say any more?

    And need I say more?

  334. Dr_Tad

    sg @346

    Watters makes the point that the slow penetration into Japan of the medicalisation of sadness (as “Major Depression”) needing drug treatments was in part a function of suicidality being seen as an honourable exit. It seems that the recession’s pummelling of middle management created some very widely publicised suicides that created space for a more recent cultural transformation — suddenly suicide was due to “depression”, which was an illness that could be treated. Big Pharma moved in and has done reasonably well. A victory of the DSM over social understanding.

    I agree Wilkinson & Pickett’s thesis on suicide is not very well developed, and it is not clear to me whether it holds over time or just cross-sectionally. One of the unfortunate aspects of modern suicidology (or at least its cruder psychiatric variants) is the emptying of meaning from the act, seeing it instead as a symptom of an underlying disorder in the sense that it is without content (i.e. that the form of the symptom is all that matters).

  335. Dr_Tad

    Wow, now that was really off-topic! So let me bring it back by saying that rioting (including looting) is a symptom whose meaning must be understood also. The content of the rioters’ behaviour and not just its form must be grasped. And that rioting is in general also a social phenomenon and must be explained in its economic, political and ideological facets.

    Saved!

  336. GregM

    Thanks, Adrien for picking up on my comments about poverty itself not being the cause of riots by saying:

    I grew up in the 3rd world mate. Islamabad, Cairo, ooohh London ain’t got nuthin’ on these places for poor. But very little crime. Why? Because they ain’t a pack of selfish shits.

    You’ve cut to the chase there.

    Can you take some time to share with us, and with your near namesake and our resident village idiot, your experiences and observations which lead you to make that comment?

  337. Fran Barlow

    Dr_Tad

    Que? Does his Oxford education explain anything?

    I suspect those who taught him his English there will be scandalised at this ugly contrivance. What would have been wrong with a conventionally idiomatic so far? “Thus” is simply putting on airs, though not the kind you’d normally want hanging about.

  338. Lefty E

    ‘The Left and labour movement have failed to provide thus far an answer to the despair that is ripping through society. ‘

    I agree with that. The bastards sons of Thatcherism and the Third Way: with consumerism now the social binding, rioters as ‘deviant consumers’.

    No riots in Scotland – where they still have communities.

  339. Adrien

    Katz – On this important logical point, Sài Gòn is the model of succinctness

    Well, yes, I’ve was a tad verbose yesterday. Today I shall be comply with the three paragraph regulation. Do you know the ‘hood Katz? Public housing, council flats, da projects. The people who live there? Know the scenario? The chemical oblivion, the social horizon that begins and ends with a narrow and every-oscillating circle of aquaintance all of whom take violence for granted? Where everyone rips every one else off?

    I do. Just sayin’.

    And, oh, that’s right. It ain’t just happenin’ in da hood it’s everywhere Daddy-O. Everywhere, everyone. Even us here who kid ourselves we’re trying to make the world better by inquiry, debate and some kind of understanding. Left/right whatever. The same solutions are being advocated, the same dialogue of the deaf persists after two centuries. Why? Because of sheer intellectual egotism.

    We are nowhere, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr7dXN7wJP0

  340. Adrien

    Can you take some time to share with us, and with your near namesake and our resident village idiot, your experiences and observations which lead you to make that comment?

    I made the comment you quoted to appraise Greg of the error of his assumptions by relating my experience. I have never been what I call very poor, altho’ sometimes I’ve lived in a way that Australian suburbanites regard as such.

    Poor is being seven years-old, severely disabled and yet having to spend long hours begging for change in a street that smells heavily of shit and petrol. And that kid’s lucky compared to some. You really wanna see poor? Go out to the places where the rubbish gets dumped. See the people who live on what they find there.

    Only saw it once. Never forget it.

  341. sg

    The lesson for you, though, Dr_Tad, is that these supposedly powerful and universal theories of behaviour (e.g. marxism) are actually meaningless without an understanding of culture. The culture in Britain is broken, as sl and I have been trying to point out.

    In other news, I found the picture of the chavs from Japanese TV and added it to my post about the riots.

  342. Dr_Tad

    sg @355

    Er, since when was any Marxism worth its name lacking an “understanding of culture”? That’s an attack on vulgar economism, not Marxism, perhaps as a distraction from vulgar anti-economism?

  343. Fran Barlow

    Your Four Yorkshiremen redux misses the point Adrien.

    By definition, the vast majority of the planet’s humans can imagine worse circumstances in which to live than those in which they find themselves. That people are worse off than you is not a warrant for anyone to be treated as ill-deserving of the usages that attend human dignity. If such usages truly cannot be maintained, then the only possible ethical warrant for them is that the human community is too poor to offer better — a fact that, in a more ethically robust world, would see even the most privileged denied much more than ascetic and straitened lives.

    In a society such as Britain, this simply does not obtain. Judged by the lifestyles available to the top 10-20% of the population, this is not a poor community. Equally, as has been persistently noted, this wealth has not been aggregated entirely by productive work and thrift, but in part, by financial malfeasance and various kinds of rent-seeking. It is entirely reasonable for those who have been dispossessed and marginalised to look with frustration and disgust towards the elite, even if their actions are ill-suited to effecting a viable remedy.

  344. jules

    Adrien @353, a friend (from Scotland actually) made this comment about the riots:

    Quite a few of the rioters do seem to be total arseholes, the type of people who never would and never will do a good turn for anybody, ever, in their entire lives. The “gangsta” culture that some of them live and die by is ludicrously conservative – strictly heirarchical, rigidly stratified, patriarchal to the max, misogynist, materialist, hateful and racist, with nobody moving either up or down the ladder except via violence, and any good deed done by anyone seen as a mark of weakness (and the weak, the harmless, the good, are as always the most despised of all).
    They’re like fucking Tories, some of them. I suppose they all learned it someplace. Maybe from the society they live in. It’s possible.

    So its Maggies fault afterall.

    The same solutions are being advocated, the same dialogue of the deaf persists after two centuries. Why? Because of sheer intellectual egotism.

    Sometimes it just seems like a debate about how far to extend privilege. Some people want to extend it so far, so people further, some people are sick of the extension of privilege and want to retract it.

  345. Russell

    “The culture in Britain is broken”

    SG – is it broken all over, or just in the large cities, or just in the poorest parts of the large cities?

  346. wizofaus

    I would say Adrien, even if the link between disadvantage/entrenched and extreme inequality/lack of prospects and rioting/criminal behaviour was no more than tenuous, they are problems in their own right* are need addressing anyway. Yes it would great if they sort themselves out without the need for government intervention, but we do have evidence of forms of intervention that can be effective, and not much evidence at all that just leaving things alone (or, worse, withdrawing what insufficient support is currently given) is likely to help.

  347. tssk

    I don’t want to pile on Adrian, I just want to take one of his points as one of the issues. When we were poor and on welfare one of the things I did hear from time to time from people we sought help from at our most desperate was “count yourself lucky you aren’t starving in Africa.”

    And it was always right, starving in Africa would have been worse.

    However, when you’re about to be rendered homeless due to an unfair eviction or paperwork or if you haven’t eaten for three days then it can sting a bit. It was always a line that used to work though, it would shame us into retracting our call for help.

    True we never starved but I’ll never forget the week in 1989 we did without food and the two weeks I was homeless in the early 90’s. (It’s why I always give to the Salvo’s who helped us at our hungriest. Ask them about the poor in Oz.)

    Just because there is no need for anyone in Australia to be homeless or go hungry doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

  348. Katz

    “Your Four Yorkshiremen redux misses the point Adrien.”

    Ouch!

    On the more general point at issue, anyone with a bit of perspective can see direct parallels with the behaviour of loom breakers in the early C19th. Naturally, these loom breaking folks were represented as beasts, terrorists and simple criminals at the time. But with the perspective of hindsight, their behaviour is now seen to be reflective of reactions against unwelcome economic and technological change.

    English people have a long tradition of this form of social protest. Our present-day hysterics and bloviators appear to be ignorant of this longstanding aspect of English popular culture.

    The Luddites and Rick Burners were other examples of social vandalism.

    If English culture is “broken” it has been broken for a long time.

    http://www.grimshaworigin.org/WebPages/LoomRiot.htm

  349. Adrien

    Fran – Your Four Yorkshiremen redux misses the point Adrien.

    Madame are you serious? I was not bragging about my poverty, I was describing something dire that warrants a little more than glib Python references. And I’m not certain that human dignity is a thing utilitarian. Your lecture is not aimed at me. I’ve made no assaults on human dignity.

    Wizofaus – I agree something must be done. There are problems inherent in both state subsidy and the laissez-faire scenarios. Combining them has often proved disastrous as well. What can you do?

    Jules – I suppose they all learned it someplace. Maybe from the society they live in. It’s possible.

    Nah, it’s human nature asserting its ugly self. Gang behaviour is a primate thing. The gangsta pose is something wider with many permeatations. But it all boils down to the hole left when modern life came along and wiped out religion to make way for an entertainment system. It’s also a source of income.

    Sometimes it just seems like a debate about how far to extend privilege.

    There’s only a limited extent I think to which you can. Look at the Soviet Union, they killed the aristos, nationalized the country, promoted the children of the proles and the peasants and by the 1980s you had a bunch of disaffected, rich-kids. It took one generation for a class system to re-emerge.

    And the aristos aren’t the only ones with privileges. Those who live public expense also have a privilege, meagre tho’ it be. Can you fix it? Can you fix this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVSWc9KzqV0

    Does that still happen?

  350. sg

    people in hoodies stealing from shops and setting a carpet factory alight is not the same as weavers trashing the equipment that was putting them out of work and forcing down wages.

    There is no connection between the target of the rioters’ rage and their own social and economic circumstances.

  351. Katz

    The Luddites and Frame Breakers also committed a lot of collateral damage, including murder.

    Here is the testimony of one looter:

    “Right now it looks like there isn’t a future for young people, that’s how I see it, because the government, they’re not helping no one out except for the rich people,” said another looter.

    “This isn’t just like we’re doing it for the fun of it, we’re doing this for money to survive in this world, but until we get that or a little bit of support from the government, it’s not going to stop.”

    Am I asserting that all looters think like this? Of course not. But quite plainly to say that “[t]here is no connection between the target of the rioters’ rage and their own social and economic circumstances” is nonsense.

  352. jules

    The loom breakers, frame breakers and Luddites were militant workers who left fair playing employers alone weren’t they?

  353. Dr_Tad

    sg @364

    I think you’re practicing some of that vulgar anti-economism there. Katz @ 365 is dead right.

    Of course one could argue that this is false consciousness (or malingering) but then the only evidence we’d have of what the rioters think is what’s inside the heads of commentators.

    I’m especially surprised that you can’t see the class content in mass looting and burning down businesses. Even vulgar culturalists can usually pick that one.

  354. wizofaus

    Well Adrien the first step is for a political party to step up to the plate willing to say there’s need to put resources into fixing the problems, with at least some sort of idea what solutions are likely to work, that are not based on pure populism or head-in-the-sand ideology.
    The second is for them to convince the population they’re worth voting for.
    I’d almost say they’re the hardest two steps (and I’d say something similar for Australia). Of course it doesn’t have to be only (or even primarily) at the national level, and in fact because the problems are very localised I’d say there’s a very good argument for them being handled at a sub-national level, especially if different councils are willing to try out different policies and willing to abandom ones that are clearly not working, nothing that there is already a body of literature on what policies have worked well in the past.

  355. Lefty E

    ‘There is no connection between the target of the rioters’ rage and their own social and economic circumstances.’

    Aside from the overtly political motives of the original tottenham rioters; the various others interviewed and cited by Katz and others; and the curious facts of a widely reported country- wide bias toward looting chainstores rather than small business – even among the opportunists – suggests quite a connection- though admittedly in a more consumerist mode than the old Luddites.

    But hey, welcome to the 21st c.

  356. jules

    Sorry ignore that comment @ 366 – there isn’t a fair comparison as sg pointed out. This riot isn’t primarily an industrial dispute caused by technological change.

    Nah, it’s human nature asserting its ugly self. Gang behaviour is a primate thing.
    What primates tho Adrien? Gang behaviour, and the plundering that people associate with Tories is a small subset of primate behaviour. Bonobos don’t necessarily behave that way. I dunno if gang behaviour especially in ghettos or power is simply a reflection of normal primate behaviour.

    It is a source of income tho, and when unemployment is high, and no one wants to employ locals then this feedback loop between being gansta and not wanting to work starts… Well thats not true, cos crime is work, especially if you do it successfully, (and if you do have kids, or even not … well poor and innocent or rich and guilty?). IT takes time effort and energy. You don’t just sit on the couch playing video games while your crimes happen by telekinesis.

    There’s only a limited extent I think to which you can. (extend privilege)

    Yeah but the idea of a modern democracy is to extend privilege to everyone isn’t it? That song lyric about freedom being privilege extended unless its there for everyone springs to my mind.It might not be possible, and it might not be possible to extend equality of resources across society either (Parento dist’n?), but it should be something we aim for (shouldn’t it?) I wouldn’t say public expense is a privilege tho, its a mutual agreement. Unless you consider society a privilege.

    And yes that still happens … want a list? What happened to Mulrunji? John T Williams?

  357. jules

    One thing that I have been wondering about is all those studies on overcrowding small mammals. It seems that certain physiological changes can occur, and those changes can include increased aggro/violence and poorer parenting. London isn’t overcrowded, compared to other places where poverty is greater. But it does seem like its all concrete straight lines, bleakness and solidity.

  358. Adrien

    But it does seem like its all concrete straight lines, bleakness and solidity.

    I’ve wondered to what extent public housing problems might be influenced by brutal architecture. The total absence of nature. Would giving these blocks some Huntertwasser treatment help?

  359. adrian

    I’ve wondered to what extent public housing problems might be influenced by brutal architecture.

    To a large extent, and not just in the UK- this kind of architecture is now prevalent in much of Europe, and it must be soul destroying to live in such places.

  360. Katz

    This riot isn’t primarily an industrial dispute caused by technological change.

    The word “primarily” enables sensible discussion. Congratulations on escaping the mental shackles of vulgar culturism.

  361. tssk

    I’ve lived in a variety of public housing and emergency housing. Te issue isn’t as much the architecture, it’s that when you have so many people together that are disadvantaged you can foster situations where one bad tenant can make the lives of the other tenants hell. It can be difficult for outsiders to help in that situation because no-one wants to be a dobber/grass. The only plus I found when living in concentrated housing was that you didn’t tend to get your place robbed as everyone assumes you have as little as them. But being assualted or hassled on your way home from work/study wasn’t unheard of as you were fair game for ‘putting on airs’.

    Another issue with public housing is like welfare the transtion from public to private housing is difficult. Not only does the system seem to punish those trying to get ahead (your rent goes up proportional to your income) you also have the difficulty in tight rental markets of actually getting a decent place. What decent landlord/agent wants an ex-public tenant in their expensive investment? Public housing tenants generally makes landlords think of rust cars in the front yard, mangy flea ridden dogs and hordes of kids kicking holes in plaster walls.

  362. skepticlawyer

    There is a link between ugly urban environments and civil disorder. I’m sure there’s more recent research, but much of the earlier research is collected (and discussed with great insight) by Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

  363. John D

    This an open letter to David Cameron’s parents documents the hypocrisy coming from on high. This link re David Cameron and the Bullingdon night of the broken window sets the tone.

  364. sg

    I’d challenge you, lefty E or Dr_Tad, to go looting in any British neighbourhood and find anything except a chain store to loot. Once again, not understanding the British cultural context leaves you unable to interpret the political messages. There is nothing on the British high street except chain stores.

  365. jules

    Sg I’m sure I’ve read or heard on video a rioter telling her mates not to trash one shop because it was owned by a local person who made their own clothes, themselves and definitely weren’t part of a chain of anything. The girl who was arguing accused the rioters of taking the piss by attacking her shop, really got stuck into them. That report might even be on one of the LP riot threads, this one or the other one.

    I dunno if there is anything you (or me or anyone) can say about this riot that can’t be contradicted by some other aspect of it. Cept that (as per usual) it was triggered by police abusing their power.

  366. adrian

    sg, that is simply not true, or it wasn’t 3 years ago when I was in the UK and London. Come to think of it most of the neighbourhoods in the Cotswolds were entirely devoid of chain stores. Similarly provincial towns like Tring and Berkhamsted were hardly overun by chain stores.

    I know these aren’t the kind of places where the riots have occurred, but when you say “any British neighbourhood” you are simply wrong, even for London.

  367. tigtog

    Seconding adrian here – I visit the UK every 3 or 4 years, and always stop in London for a while when I do. Every neighbourhood I visit has an assortment of chain stores and purely-local stores – especially the corner groceries, bakeries/cafes, boutiques and other small retailers (electronics probably most ubiquitous, but other goods too).

  368. Katz

    Royston Vasey: “a Local Shop for Local Looters”.

  369. Chris

    tigtog @ 382 – yes though there were lots of reports of corner grocery stores, pubs and other small stores getting trashed rather than looted. Perhaps its the bigger chain stores that generally have the higher value reasonably portable stuff that people thought was worthwhile looting?

    Stories of looters queuing up calmly and orderly to remove security tags are quite interesting. I’m not sure who first coined it, but the term “shopping with violence” does seem more appropriate than just looting.

  370. Lefty E

    Well, it may have changed since I lived in the UK in the mid-90s (and yes, I once lived and worked there, not visiting) but all the places I knew intimately well (Brixton, Camberwell, to Clapham and Tooting) had some chain stores, but had lots more local stores, in all areas of commerce. More so than than Australian cities.

    Perhaps if you live the City, or Chelsea it is not so (though I even doubt the latter).

    I have a different theory: they are looting what is desireable, and big consumer chains has it. They are also more ‘anonymous’ for your local looter.

    Id also add Im going off several UK reports of a bias toward chains – written and published by locals.

  371. akn

    When Thatcher said TINA, she meant it. And we agreed. The only sanctioned form of self realization is shopping. Who then can blame these young people for developing militant shopping as a form of self expression? I’m all for it. Westfields watch out!

  372. Fine

    One article I read suggested there was a bias towards shops selling sports wear; Adidas and the like. This seems more like ‘aspirational looting’; stealing the brands you covet. Perhaps the people involved simply don’t like one-off quirky designer clothes in cool, little shops.

    Jules is right to sat there’s evidence for any theory. Again, it comes down to multi-factorial causes.

  373. sg

    Yes tigtog, every locality has a corner store (run by a migrant, usually) that stocks nothing lootable, and maybe a dodgy pound shop (also usually run by a migrant) and newsagent, again stocking nothing lootable. But basically all the electronics shops, clothing stores and sports goods stores are chains. Looters aren’t smashing up shops for a cadbury’s creme egg, are they?

    And there are plenty of reports (and pictures, and film footage) of smashed up corner stores, people breaking into private homes, and of course the ubiquitous sight of burned-out cars. I posted a report above of some guy claiming he would move on from a car if a resident came out and told him it belonged to them (sure…), and his excuse that if you leave your car parked in the street in a riot “it’s gonna get smashed innit” (because, you know, there’s so much readily available parking in London and it’s so easy to move your car during a riot).

    Perhaps Dr_Tad thinks that the rioters only chose company cars to smash? And perhaps that guy they beat to death for putting out a bin fire was a corporate lawyer? And perhaps the bin-fire he was extinguishing belonged to the local chain store? Perhaps the 3 guys who were run over defending a local garage were employees of shell, and the audi with which they were hit is the new favourite vehicle of the revolutionary working class?

    I don’t think so. There’s nothing revolutionary in the behaviour of these rioters, and the idea that they’re targeting chain stores in some anti-corporate revolut is wishful thinking. They went out to take what they could get, and burnt a whole shitload of ordinary people’s private property while they were at it. The reality of the retail sector in the UK is such that there is no such thing as a locally owned clothing, electronics or sports goods store anywhere except the most upmarket areas, which means that the rioters were perforce required to loot chain stores. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking they were targeting them preferentially.

  374. Lefty E

    “Perhaps the 3 guys who were run over defending a local garage were employees of shell, and the audi with which they were hit is the new favourite vehicle of the revolutionary working class?”

    well, my guess on this one is still a far-right group – or a personal vendetta of some sort (riots are notorious cover for score-settling all over the world). As you say, the average rioter probably wasnt driving an Audi around.

    Again, a horrible and tragic episode: but all sorts of completely irrelevant conclusions will be drawn by trying to interpet the meaning of a riot from one episode, be it this, or the injured boy with bag video (which people have been posting hither ans yon, as if it says somethign about the essential meaning of it all).

    For me the “meaningless violence and criminality” theory is by far the weakest, and by far the most convenient for those whose derelict stewarsdship of the contemporary UK has led it to this precipice.

    Oh – and its also the perspective most likely to lead to further riots – making it a very dangerous one.

  375. adrian

    sg, even if you take everything you say as the gospel truth, it really doesn’t get us very far.
    As you seem to be saying that the cause of the rioting is that the rioters are criminal dickheads, or in some cases just dickheads, who live in a dysfunctional and virulent culture, then so what?

    Your analysis doesn’t begin to explain why these areas of Britain are full of these dickheads, or why the culture in which they live is so damaging.

  376. Dr_Tad

    sg @388 wrote:

    Perhaps Dr_Tad thinks that the rioters only chose company cars to smash? And perhaps that guy they beat to death for putting out a bin fire was a corporate lawyer? And perhaps the bin-fire he was extinguishing belonged to the local chain store? Perhaps the 3 guys who were run over defending a local garage were employees of shell, and the audi with which they were hit is the new favourite vehicle of the revolutionary working class?

    I don’t think so. There’s nothing revolutionary in the behaviour of these rioters, and the idea that they’re targeting chain stores in some anti-corporate revolut is wishful thinking.

    It’s good to know that not only are you bad at deducing the consciousness of the rioters, you’re woeful at deducing mine also. Life must be very comforting when you can just make up straw men to argue with all the time.

  377. Adrien

    As you seem to be saying that the cause of the rioting is that the rioters are criminal dickheads, or in some cases just dickheads, who live in a dysfunctional and virulent culture, then so what?

    I have a friend who is very gentle, devout Buddhist. It’s surprises them who know him that, when younger, he was a gangbanger. I asked him about the London riots: is society to blame or are they just a bunch of criminals.

    He said: criminals. There are just some bad people in the world.

  378. akn

    Fine: aspirational looting is a terrific concept. What we need now is a way of purchasing that is antithetical to credit cards. I suggest the ‘discredit card’.

  379. wizofaus

    Of course there are ‘some bad people’ in the world. But any position that concludes there’s no sort of society we can live in where people’s criminal tendencies are kept to minimum through a combination of sensible policing/sentencing and ensuring they have better things to do with their time than rioting and breaking the law is a pretty nihilistic view. And further, proved wrong by the existence of countries where that sort of behaviour IS far less prevalent.

  380. Adrien

    Dr Tad – It’s good to know that not only are you bad at deducing the consciousness of the rioters, you’re woeful at deducing mine also.

    And exactly what is your ‘consciousness’ (does consciousness get ‘deduced’?). Or rather what is your view? Well I’m understanding the poststructuralist jargon viz the dangers of regarding the rioters as ‘criminal’ or ‘other’ and that to do so is somehow evidence of an undeveloped consciousness.

    You appear to posit an ‘Other’ of your own, you refer to the ‘enemy’ and your commentary appears to imply that bankers and the bourgeois state are all much more criminal but that the normative judgements (imposed by cultural and politico-economic hegemony?) excuse or even laud these white-collar corporate crimes whilst demonizing the rioters. I don’t entirely disagree.

    However, there’s also the assertion of some kind of mass consciousness. Do you believe the rioters to be a revolutionary force, yes or no? Do believe this righteous? I’m no psychatrist but I’m familiar with angry human groups and it’s not exactly us at our finest.

    Life must be very comforting when you can just make up straw men to argue with all the time.

    What strawmen has SG raised? Forgive me, but it’s a little difficult to erect a strawman against your rhetoric. Or rather, considering the elusive and circular style of it, it’s difficult not to. La mode français? La clarté Anglais s’il vous plait?

  381. adrian

    But that doesn’t get us very far either. We all know there are ‘bad people’ in the world, but why are there apparently so many in parts of the UK, and why have they decided at this particular point to be ‘bad people’?

  382. Fine

    akn, a friend living in Hackney thinks narcissism and celebrity culture has a lit to answer for here. She quoted an ad for a sports brand which is all over London. The ad says “Be the weapon, not the victim.” Perhaps people are taking it seriously.

  383. Russell

    But aren’t they exposed to celebrity culture and narcissists in Tunbridge Wells? Were there riots there?

  384. Dr_Tad

    Adrien @395

    I’m not trying to be elliptical. I was having a go at sg for raising a bunch of things he presumes I believe (that the riots are revolutionary, that the actions of the rioters are an uncomplicated expression of working class consciousness, etc), much as he presumes much about what motivates the rioters. I’ve written here and elsewhere what I think about the riots, but he persists in attributing to me positions that are not mine. I call that constructing straw men.

    I’m no poststructuralist, BTW, but a Marxist (which seems to be why sg wants to attribute vulgar class analysis to me).

    See me @169 for my position on the consciousness of the rioters. See my Left Flank and Drum articles for my somewhat less elusive positions on the riots in general. 😀

  385. Adrien

    Thanks for the clarification doctor. And for the ideological clarification. I’ve read a piece by you on the riots named after one of Lennon’s songs. Perhaps SG’s rebuttal oversimplifies what you are saying but as a Marxist, and this bears thru in my reading of that piece, you see this in Manichean class war terms.

    I’m not entirely certain any of these theoretical paradigms work. But Marx’s writing seem to fall short of the attempt for the very simple reason that he was concerned with war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. It seems to me that the class spectrum, if you’ll permit the word, differs more than somewhat from Marx’s forecast. There are, for example, what has been called the lumpenproletariat (somewhat inaccurately borrowed from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon) or the Underclass.

    Point is there’s a range of ‘classes’ ranging from the entirely welfare dependent up to very highly paid workers. Someone from a council estate would be inclined to view a ‘petit-bourgeois’, say a computer game developer or currency trader as the class enemy. Those who occupy positions of power and wealth of enough significance to warrant oligarchical classification would view the whole thing from their helicopter if they wanted to. The raging underclass has no access to them.

    The consciousness of the ragers, if I may extrapolate from my somewhat limited vantage, is an ideological assortment. They hate the ‘rich’ yes. But that means anyone who can afford to buy designer clothes and plane tickets once a year. Their frustrations are attributed to more than just the socio-economically higher up. They blame the White Man, the devil, the Illumanati – it’s all the same. Their collective consciousness is, logically, a pile of mush and ripe for a demagogue’s manipulations.

    And also, you’ve got to easy up on the word vulgar. 🙂

  386. sg

    Dr_Tad, you have several times stated that we can infer the class consciousness of the rioters from the content of their behaviour (your words) and from “what they did.” You stated at 287:

    Note that these are almost all simple property crimes (most from big corporate chain stores) and that the interpersonal violence recorded is exclusively against the police. Now, a sample of those arrested is not necessarily a “representative” sample, but there is a class and anti-state character to the riots that the talk of “mindless criminality” seeks to disguise.

    I’m not arguing against any straw man when I point out how empty of meaning the “chain stores” furphy is, or point out that there was a lot of interpersonal violence against non-state agents and violence against individuals’ property. It’s you who claimed there was an anti-state characer to the riots, but then you accuse me of not understanding your consciousness when I argue that you’re wrong to find revolutionary character in the riots.

    Adrian, I put a comment on the other thread stating what I think the solution to these problems is, but a big part of that solution starts with the British left accepting that there is a problem in their community, and that problem will not be solved by blaming Thatcher, cuts or inequality. People have a choice about how to respond to inequality, and the British left (and organized labour ) are choosing to ignore the particular from that this respondse takes amongst the lumpen proletariat and working classes that they are meant to serve.

    The British welfare state is in many ways much more extensive and supportive than the Aussie version of same – state housing, benefits, and cradle-to-grave free healthcare – but despite that, inequality hasn’t changed over the 10 years of New Labour (or before then), and Labour’s economic model was a reckless betrayal of the class they claim to represent. But British leftists are so nationalist and so thorny about being given advice by non-British, that they can’t see the huge problems that are everywhere in their society.

    I don’t agree with Cameron’s cuts, but the welfare state in the UK has failed to attack inequality, while creating a culture of sink estates and selfishness that is hard to comprehend for people who haven’t lived amongst it. The British left needs to look at its welfare model and come up with a better one, that encourages work, discourages generational welfare, encourages social responsibility, and discourages petty crime.

  387. Fine

    [email protected] 398. As I said, I think it’s multi-factorial. I’m not looking for one explanation and I think it’s pointless to do so.

  388. sg

    As an example of how useless British ideas are, this Guardian report shows that the whole issue has been reduced to a debate about policing. But nowhere in this article has anyone involved mentioned police corruption (which is clearly widespread and crippling the police force). Furthermore, the only person talking about the issue who has a broader perspective than “more police” is an American: he is explicitly barred from replacing the current commissioner (who stepped down over corruption) because he is American, and other senior police officers don’t like the idea of even talking to him.

    Compare with the Australian response in 1996 to extensive police corruption and failings: a complete review of the police force, extensive action to root out corrupt cops, and an American employed as commissioner because no one local was considered safe.

    But even try suggesting an antipodean response to this problem, and watch the British left squirm.

  389. Russell

    SG – I could quibble with “People have a choice about how to respond to inequality” because of course people don’t all have the same resources for making those choices.

    But I agree that the British welfare model seems to be failing. I’ve always thought people should be offered a job at the basic wage rather than unemployment benefit. (Along with free TAFE and university access, so at least those ladders out of basic wagedom are easily available).

  390. Chris

    Fine @ 397 – If people are that easily fooled, time for some anti-rioting/looting advertising then? 🙂

    Russell @ 404 – well I do wonder if people having too much time free and no direction ends up being worse than low paid work in terms of social cohesion…

    btw anyone know if the UK has up front university fees or a HECS like system?

  391. Katz

    This is what Dr Tad said:

    Note that these are almost all simple property crimes (most from big corporate chain stores) and that the interpersonal violence recorded is exclusively against the police. Now, a sample of those arrested is not necessarily a “representative” sample, but there is a class and anti-state character to the riots that the talk of “mindless criminality” seeks to disguise.

    To caricature this as a statement of vulgar Marxism is crass verballing. Dr Tad is merely implying that one strand of a multi-stranded event exhibits elements of the language and gestures of class-consciousness.

    Those addicted to monocausal analysis appear to be prone to projecting their errors on to others.

  392. adrian

    Ok sg, so it’s mainly the fault of the British left, who were last in power maybe in the days of Harold Wilson. Unless you’re having a laugh and counting Tony Blair.

    That and the welfare state, of which there are other more extensive forms in countries that haven’t had any rioting AFAIK.

    So you’re blaming an ideology that hasn’t had any effective power for the past 50 years plus, and welfare system that hasn’t been responsible for rioting in the streets in other countries where it has been implemented.

  393. sg

    No adrian, I’m not blaming it on the British left, I’m saying the British left need to do a better job of analyzing the problem if they want to solve it. Blaming it all on Thatcher and demanding no cuts to a social security system that clearly isn’t working is not enough.

    And I think I’ve pointed out repeatedly that there is a cultural problem in the UK, and that it’s not so simple as blaming either inequality or the welfare state. No one wants to talk about this in the UK. And the answer amongst those who see the problems but don’t know what to do about them is, at the moment, twofold: emigrate, or retreat into a self-centred existence where you try to cut yourself off from all the horrible stuff going on around you. Meanwhile, the right seize this rhetorical battleground because, even though their answers are wrong, they’re at least talking about a significant problem in British culture.

  394. Lefty E

    Yes, aside from one high profile case involving a car, one of the distinguishing features of the riots was the quite extraordinarily low level of assaults on ordinary people.

    Id have thought ‘mindless criminality’ and ‘hooliganism’ would result in more violence, on a random sample, across several large urban riot sites.

    It would be therefore appear to be quite targeted – though one hesitates to impute an explict consciousness, there would appear to have been an imanent logic at play – very strongly in fact.

  395. tssk

    David Penberthy has written a killer article about the whining of those on welfare in the first world that’s made me feel incredibly guilty for being raised on welfare payments as a child.

    http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/first-world-problems-and-the-crisis-in-africa/

    The terrific thing about being on or below the poverty line in countries such as Britain and Australia is that you get to eat. Indeed the government gives you money so that you can buy food. It’s a policy which reflects our community conviction that we don’t want to see people dropping dead on the streets.

    And if you look at the residents of the most put-upon suburbs of Australia, or look at many of the British ratbags we saw on television this week, it’s fair to say that if you are living below the poverty line in these countries, you are more likely to die from obesity than malnutrition, such is the crappy dietary regime of so many members of the underclass.

    Given the fact that starvation is not a likely prospect for those on welfare in countries such as Britain and Australia, the preferred rationalisation of those in the excuse-making business is that the mayhem in London can instead be explained by a sense of alienation.

    QED. Mind you it makes me wonder about the time I was hungry, the few days I found myself homeless and if welfare helps the poor here live in luxery why the hell are the Salvos not closing their doors and moving to Africa?

    Over at Pure Poison they have another take http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2011/08/15/oh-penbo/#more-11469

    Comforted, privileged Australians and English people? It’s nothing you’re doing. The poor should be grateful that they’re not starving in Mogadishu. All this complaining about your policies to cut services to their children so you can maintain your privilege – completely illegitimate. THINK OF THE STARVING PEOPLE IN AFRICA, you can say to anyone calling for a fairer society.

    Incidentally, you can also play the poor off each other in the opposite direction, if someone calls for greater spending on foreign aid, for example. “We’ve got plenty of poor people closer to home”, you can say. “We can’t help these foreigners until we’ve looked after our own countrymen”.

    Then you can do neither.

    So cynical…no-one thinks of the real victims here. Taxpayers that could save loads of money if we just cut off the welfare tap.

  396. Jacques de Molay

    tssk, David Penberthy is a fuckwit.

    Why anyone cares what he thinks about anything is surprising. Mr Kate Ellis gets two weekly columns in The Advertiser solely I assume because he’s worked his way up the greasy pole at Ltd News.

    I’ve read a couple of his columns in the past and he’s so desperate to be a “player” like a Boltonian shock jock that tries to work people into a lather. One only has to go to and look at how much of an arse he made of himself during the NSW election with his attacks on the Greens and inability to understand electoral preferences compiled on Pure Posion.

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/category/david-penberthy/

  397. Dr_Tad

    Adrien @400

    Marx talks about the two main classes not because he believes that other strata will disappear but that the key social antagonism in capitalism (to be found the in the specifically capitalist organisation of production) is between the capitalist class and the working class. His writings are full of considerations of other social layers, and indeed orthodox Marxists like Trotsky and Gramsci dealt specifically with the nature of the middle classes and “underclass” (not a term I use) in their analyses of the rise of fascism and of “Western” societies in general (c.f. the Russian experience).

    sg @401

    First, my post @287 actually starts with this sentence: “One way of understanding the rioters is looking at what they did.” One way. Not the only way.

    Nevertheless, let me repeat my statement on the rioters’ consciousness from @169, which I still think gets it right:

    The riots are political in nature.

    But they are not a conscious political movement.

    Nevertheless, while there is great unevenness in the political consciousness of the participants, many have quite a highly developed level of politics (although not of the safe, official variety).

    Secondly, going and fighting the police and riot police (indeed seeking them out to fight) has been a pattern in most of the riots across the UK. That is against the state, but where did I claim it was revolutionary?

    Thirdly, Katz is right that you are seeing in what I write a monolithic view of the riots that I simply don’t hold. Read my pieces at The Drum and Left Flank, or the piece by Kevin Ovenden that we’ve run at Left Flank (which I think is spot on). But I refuse to join the hypocritical chorus of condemnation and moral panic being run by the elites and the Right. Which seems to be what you want us on the Left to do. I wonder why.

  398. akn

    Fine: that’s right; Be the weapon. So, to take it to it’s logical conclusion – be the perp, not the vic.

  399. Joe Blow

    This nails it.

  400. skepticlawyer

    At the risk of being repetitive, no-one has addressed First Minister Alex Salmond’s point that there were no riots in Scotland, despite the fact that places like Glasgow, Dundee and Fife are much poorer (and, as Katz pointed out, Scotland still has sectarianism).

    Frankly, I think that any sort of Marxist analysis (even more sophisticated versions) is likely to be not merely inappropriate but meaningless, like that ‘Flying Spanghetti Monster’ joke a few years ago about drawing conclusions based on correlations between declining pirate numbers and global warming.

    This isn’t at our blog, but at Lorenzo’s place, and may well be worth a read simply because it’s an analysis that isn’t based on poverty, either relative or absolute:

    http://lorenzo-thinkingoutaloud.blogspot.com/2011/08/cultural-panic-and-economics-of-riots.html

  401. Adrien

    Dr Tad – You are mistaken. Marx did indeed believe that the myriad ‘classes’ of the 19th century would eventually merge dichotomous and render the ‘relations of production’ in stark relief. In this, as in other things, he was mistaken. His chief error is that of all avatars of Rationalism in its economic mode:

    The orthodox economists, as well as Marx, who in this respect agreed with them, were mistaken in supposing that economic self-interest could be taken as the fundamental motive in the social sciences. The desire for commodities, when separated from power and glory, is finite, and can be fully satisfied by a moderate competence. The really expensive desires are not dictated by a love of material comfort. Such commodities as a legislature rendered subservient by corruption, or a private picture gallery of Old Masters selected by experts, are sought for the sake of power or glory, not as affording comfortable places in which to sit. When a moderate degree of comfort is assured, both individuals and communities will pursue power rather than wealth: they may seek wealth in order to secure an increase of power, but in the former case as in the latter their fundamental motive is not economic.

    Bertrand Russell
    “The Impulse To Power”
    1938

  402. Katz

    But if class consciousness means anything it means the ability to analyse one’s interests in class terms. Quite plainly the world has witnessed rioters and looters using the language of class when trying to explain their behaviour. This use of the language of class is simply a matter of fact. To deny it is to be wilfully blind and deaf.

    At another level of analysis a useful debate could develop over whether this language is used sincerely or appropriately (false consciousness).

    But it is the height of presumption for anyone to say without bothering to listen to what these rioters are saying and proclaim, “They don’t really mean what they say.”

    On the other hand such an approach might short-circuit this discussion: “Adrien, SL and sg don’t really mean what they write. Their words mean nothing.”

  403. skepticlawyer

    People were also bragging about ‘getting their taxes back’. By that logic, they must be closet tea-partiers.

    Unless, of course, complaining about paying tax has become an accepted part of Marxist rhetoric. I don’t know, maybe it has…

  404. Adrien

    From the same era that has so much to teach us:

    What is the use of pointing out that a World State is desirable? What matters is not one of the five great military powers would think of submitting to such a thing. All sensible men for decades past have been substantially in agreement with what Mr Wells says; but sensible men have no power and, in too many cases, no disposition to sacrifice themselves. Hitler is a criminal lunatic, and Hitler has an army of millions of men, aeroplanes in thousands, tanks in tens of thousands. For his sake a great nation has been willing to overwork itself for six years and then to fight for two years more, whereas for the common-sense, essentially hedonistic world-view which Mr Wells puts forward, hardly a human creature is willing to shed a pint of blood….

    The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions… which liberal intellectuals write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action….

    Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany. The order, the planning, the State encouragement of science, the steel, the concrete, the aeroplanes, are all there, but all in the service of ideas appropriate to the Stone Age

    George Orwell
    “Wells, Hitler and the World State”
    Horizon Aug 1941

    ….or maybe not.

  405. Adrien

    Quite plainly the world has witnessed rioters and looters using the language of class when trying to explain their behaviour.

    Whatever works. 🙂

    When that runs out try socio-psychology – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq28qCklEHc

  406. su

    Why would you expect there to have been riots in Scotland, when the spark that lit the fuse was the police shooting a black man in Tottenham and most of the rioting occurred in London and a couple of the more notoriously impoverished areas of the North like Salford? Are you seriously arguing that unless all the depressed boroughs across the UK riot in unison then there can be no political context to any of the rioting anywhere? That is a bizarre argument.

  407. Adrien

    Are you seriously arguing that unless all the depressed boroughs across the UK riot in unison then there can be no political context to any of the rioting anywhere?

    Um, no.

  408. Russell

    SL wrote: “may well be worth a read simply because it’s an analysis that isn’t based on poverty”

    but the link says: “Lacking a job or not owning a home obviously gives folk less to lose from rioting while concentrated populations are more likely to achieve the necessary “critical mass” of people who believe they can “get away with it ….. the 2011 English riots are classic ethnic-diversity, unemployment and police failure riots”

    Doesn’t unemployment generally mean relative poverty – particularly in a large city where the poor have plenty of opportunity to see the rich, and where the two are unknown to each other?

    Earlier I suggested powerlessness, as an aspect of poverty, was also a factor, so I agree with the Bertrand Russell quote above.

  409. skepticlawyer

    For one last time, here is what I did write. It, too, has a very lengthy thread, with some literate and thoughtful responses from across the political spectrum.

    And frankly, su, I expected better from you than an intellectually weak and glib cheap shot like that.

    http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2011/08/13/twilight-of-the-institutions/

  410. Katz

    People were also bragging about ‘getting their taxes back’. By that logic, they must be closet tea-partiers.

    Do you have evidence of Tea Party influence in England? If so this is possible. On the other hand, the Tea Party is a recently established organisation with little or no profile in England. On the other hand, Marxist rhetoric is a long-standing feature of British social and political discourse.

    I’m happy to shoot down reductio ad absurdum arguments as often as you mount them. Care to try again?

  411. Russell

    There a post here which recounts the looting that took place in the blitz:

    “Perhaps the most shameful episode of the whole Blitz occurred on the evening of March 8 1941 when the Cafe de Paris in Piccadilly was hit by a German bomb. The cafe was one of the most glamorous night spots in London, the venue for off-duty officers to bring their wives and girlfriends, and within minutes of its destruction the looters moved in.
    “Some of the looters in the Cafe de Paris cut off the people’s fingers to get the rings,” recalled Ballard Berkeley, a policeman during the Blitz”

  412. su

    I didn’t intend to take a shot, cheap or otherwise, I did read your article and the point about social order resting on a collective agreement or a confidence trick is very well made but I am genuinely frustrated that “there were no riots in Glasgow” (mentioned by Adrien upthread) is considered even remotely relevant, let alone an apparently decisive point in an argument (to which I have come very late, I admit). How does this logically indicate that poverty is “meaningless” as one of many possible influences? Explain it to me slowly in words of one syllable if you feel the need, but that seems to me to have been a very glib conclusion in itself.

    By the way the paper Lorenzo mentions and which was linked here @45. by Labouring the Point, seems to cover such macoeconomic factors as GDP and expenditure and debt and their relationship with austerity driven riots but, and I could be missing something, it does not seem to deal with the characteristics of the people who engage in unrest so I am unsure of how he can conclude that there is no correlation with poverty, the authors don’t appear to mention poverty or any measure of the socioeconomic status of rioters.

  413. Dr_Tad

    Adrien @416

    All this proves is that Bertrand Russell totally misunderstood (or maybe didn’t read) what Marx had to say on this.

  414. wbb

    At the risk of being repetitive, no-one has addressed First Minister Alex Salmond’s point that there were no riots in Scotland, despite the fact that places like Glasgow, Dundee and Fife are much poorer

    But there were riots in Cameroon on the same weekend, and Cameroon is even poorer than Glasgow. So this diligent sociologist finds it is the poverty afterall.

  415. Jacques de Molay

    At the risk of being repetitive, no-one has addressed First Minister Alex Salmond’s point that there were no riots in Scotland, despite the fact that places like Glasgow, Dundee and Fife are much poorer (and, as Katz pointed out, Scotland still has sectarianism).

    Must be all that welfare they’re on over in England? e.g. all the riots in Scandinavia.

  416. sg

    On the other hand, Marxist rhetoric is a long-standing feature of British social and political discourse

    You don’t know anything about Britain do you? Not only is Marxism secondary to political discourse in the UK, but the working class have completely forsaken it, and speak entirely in terms of deferential toryism and rightist race politics. Read the Daily Mail, the Sun and the News of the World and get back to me about what moves the British working class. It ain’t Marxism.

  417. wizofaus

    skepticlawyer, if it is true that Scotland’s state-administered support system for the poor is EXACTLY the same as it is in Britain (and I mean *in practice*, not just in legislation), down to the level of what policies are used to actively assist the most disadvantaged families, then sure, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the problem doesn’t primarily lie there (which is not to say there aren’t problems with the system – there are still unacceptable levels of disadvantage in Scotland, even if they’re not rioting). But it seems to me England has a peculiar combination of
    a) cultural malaise (inc. history of rioting + more recent examples as per the Oborne article)
    b) a broken support system for the disadvantaged
    c) problematic/inadequate policing methods
    and
    d) interracial conflict/ingrained racism (e.g. your partner being stopped by police)

    that adds up to an unstable situation. If Scotland is most likely missing any one of those elements (or any of them is sufficiently diminished) then that largely explains why we haven’t seen rioting there.
    It doesn’t mean that any of the individual elements can be completely ruled out as a cause.

  418. wizofaus

    I’d also say, to me the gulf between left and right primarily comes in the suggested solutions to each of these problems, which most people would agree are problems in their right regardless of the degree to which they contributed towards recent events.
    To simplify (obviously grossly):

    a)
    left – business leaders and politicians need to start less selfishly
    right – bring back traditional “protestant” morals, get rid of P.C. etc.
    b)
    left – find more effective ways of providing state support
    right – get rid of state support
    c)
    left – get rid of police behaviours like stop/search that further set police against citizens
    right – zero tolerance policing
    d)
    left – look to parts of the world where multiculturalism has worked better to find solutions
    right – stop immigration

  419. tigtog

    New thread: London Burning III: more sociology of civil disorder.

    This thread is now closed.