« profile & posts archive

This author has written 619 posts for Larvatus Prodeo.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

134 responses to “London Burning III: more sociology of civil disorder”

  1. PinkyOz

    Cameron on responding to a “Broken Society”: –
    England riots: Broken society is top priority – Cameron

    I don’t like the sound of words like “Family Test” and “Moral Collapse”. He’s mentioning the right things (i.e. education, welfare, health, policing) but the emphasis still seems to be on punishing those groups that the Conservatives have always targeted for the biggest slashes in support. This could end up alienating the very groups that need to be supported.

  2. Terry

    A lot of people, including most Guardian columnists and apparently Ed Miliband, are making a basic category error. They are assuming that much of the looting was done by the disenfranchised underclass, rather than by organised crime gangs. It will be the ones who were not covering their faces or who came in last to try and take stuff who will appear before the courts first, which will perpetuate the myth that this is some kind of 21st century version of the Captain Swing riots, because prosecuting organised crime gangs requires longer investigations.

    There is now loads of on-the-ground discussion coming through from London, as distinct from the analyses developed in the philosophy departments of former polytechnics, that indicates that the disenfranchised underclasses who live in these areas know exactly who was behind much of this. The problem is that they are the people that the disenfranchised underclasses in these areas are afraid of, much more than they are afraid of the London Metropolitan Police. And typically with good reason, as they are easy targets for revenge.

  3. wizofaus

    Pinky, as per my last post on the now closed thread, I think that captures in a nutshell one primary difference between Left and Rightwing viewpoints – the Left assumes the best solution is ‘more support’ and Right assumes the best solution is ‘less support/more punishment’.
    While I have sympathy for the notion that there is a class of individuals for whom a combination of obligation-free handouts and a combination of poor parenting and policing has failed to instill a sense of ‘decisions having consequences’, proposed solutions that include making reduced welfare availability and tougher policing for much larger cross-sections of population very much strike me as ‘punishing the many for the sins of a few’, and even if it proved to be an effective solution (which there’s good reason to doubt), I don’t accept the ends would justify the means as long as you can show there are alternative solutions.

  4. wizofaus

    Terry even if that were true, gangs of organised crime don’t “just happen”, and I would say you’re equally making a category error – viz. assuming that “organised crime gangs” and “the disenfranchised/underprivileged” are completely independent.
    Further, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, there is no excuse for a country like England to have such a large number of disenfranchised/underprivileged citizens, regardless of whether it’s them rioting or not (and again, I would say the same for Australia). Even if the rioting is a technically illogical motivation for a drive to address the problem, I don’t particularly care as long as everyone involved is prepared to accept there is a problem and all solutions should be open for discussion, regardless of which side of the political fence they come from. But yes, I’m hopelessly idealistic…

  5. Paul Norton

    Terry @2, some questions which arises from your comment are: what are the demographics of the organised crime gangs, why do the members of the gangs join organised crime gangs rather than making their way honestly through life, and why do some other jurisdictions in northern Europe seem to be having less trouble with this sort of thing than the UK?

  6. Terry

    Paul, if you were in Southern Italy, would you side with the Mafia? The Italian left has a history of supporting affected communities against such gang crime. I’m not sure why the British left feel so inclined to back the perpetrators of crime against its victims.

    And just to make the point again, there was not looting of Chelsea, Knightsbridge and West End. Its Hackney, Tottenham, Wood Green. Places where poor people live, work and – until last week – shop.

  7. Terry

    Also, on the “where” question, it is not the UK where this happened, its England. No sign of it in Scotland, and there are plenty of poor and disenfranchised people in Scottish cities. Also, when it happened in places like Liverpool, it was largely ad hoc and ineffectual – drunks looting bottle shops rather than the mass movement of valuable LCD TVs and mobile phones. The fact is that London has the most organised crime gangs, which is what one would reasonably expect.

  8. sg

    Terry’s point again supports the point I have made in previous threads: police corruption needs to be addressed. Organized crime thrives in cities with corrupt and incompetent police. The UK govt needs to reform the Met, but they’re focusing on controversy over the response to the riots, and refusing to consider a systemic problem.

  9. Terry

    The good news is that so far all of Cameron’s repsonses have been ridiculous. Threatening to “do something” about Twitter pretty much defines missing the point, and he has clearly antagonised servcing police officers, whcih is not a smart thing for a Conservative leader to do.

    That said, I think that the Russell Brands and Nina Powers who want to vicariously relive their rebellious yoof by seeing in the hooded ones of London some kind of immanent revolutionary vanguard are not providing a very good guide either. Let’s not forget that some of their erstwhile comrades were seeing East London Imans as providing the required anti-imperialist leadership five years ago, leading to some fun moments as SWP leaders would ‘explain’ calls for a jihad against Britney Spears.

  10. Terry

    Is George Galloway still a commentator on Iranian state TV?

  11. wizofaus

    Terry as per my post on the other thread, Scotland may vary from England in many subtle ways, so that there isn’t the same equation of factors. Are organised crime gangs one of those factors? Quite possibly, but I’m more inclined to see them as a symptom rather than a cause. I would say organised crime gangs can loot pretty much wherever they like, yet the majority of London (where the other factors, whether it be moral malaise or inadequate/corrupt policing are just as likely to be present) did not experience riots.

  12. sg

    jihad against Britney Spears needs no explanation. It’s a thoroughly reasonable idea that all leftists should get behind.

  13. wizofaus

    BTW I’d actually go further and say not only might the rioting be a technically illogical motivation – it’s morally a questionable movitation too. We should be fixing these problems *because it’s the right thing to do* – not to stop people from rioting.

  14. Katz

    Terry has provided no evidence. Therefore he has made no “point”.

    Here’s some negative evidence.

    What were these alleged “crime gangs” doing before the recent riots? Presumably if this event is the latest manifestation of mass lawlessness, there would be evidence of earlier outbreaks of looting and arson, etc.

    Yet I scan the British media in vain. Were these gangs in fact practising in secret before last weekend?

    Seldom have I read so much solemn nonsense.

  15. wizofaus

    Katz, you’re making the same error as those blaming it all on non-poverty-related factors just because the problem isn’t happening in all poor areas. Any individual factor may turn out to be relatively minor in the scheme of things, but it’s the old ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ scenario – communities can only handle so many problems before it all turns sour.

  16. Paul Norton

    jihad against Britney Spears needs no explanation. It’s a thoroughly reasonable idea that all leftists should get behind.

    I googled “jihad against Britney Spears” and got 4 hits, and got 9 hits for “crusade against Britney Spears”. The Republicans are a step ahead of us.

  17. Terry

    Katz, London crime gangs have their own Wikipedia entry. Its hardly an unknown phenomenon.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangs_in_the_United_Kingdom

  18. Adrien

    Dr Tad – All this proves is that Bertrand Russell totally misunderstood (or maybe didn’t read) what Marx had to say on this.

    It proves nothing of the sort. If you seriously want to assert that Marx did not argue, and consistently, that the economic motive is primary in human relations and, of course, add this to the idea that Marx did not reduce the class spectrum to a simplistic and inaccurate dichotomy than I must relegate you to the majority of self-described Marxists who have no idea what their guru’s arguments actually were.

    Moreover you have, and again, evaded the central argument which is that power is a prime motivator in human relations once a basic level of material comfort has been achieved. This allows you to completely ignore that psychological dynamics of gangs or the motivations among the marginalized that might lead them to wreak havoc on their own neighbourhoods.

    I suspected it. You’ve confirmed it. You understand nothing. It’s simply the knee-jerk pointless intellectual’s indulgence,. Whatever problems exist are secondary, mere fodder for the indulgences of high priests to make sacrifices at the pedestal of their god on the history of ideas.

  19. Adrien

    Paul, if you were in Southern Italy, would you side with the Mafia?

    I was talking to an Italian friend yesterday. He says that there, when the government has reason to introduce some draconian order for some event or other they will direct the police to pull a Reichstag fire. This provokes fear in the population that then turns around and endorses whatever fascism the government has in mind.

    This is well known in Italy, standard practice. Well I guess you’d call it a ‘conspiracy theory’ but London will be hosting the Olympics next year and….

    🙂

  20. Paul Norton

    Adrien @18, I can’t see the comment by Dr Tad that you’re responding to.

  21. sg

    Katz, the London Metropolitan police organized crime unit’s home page is here. They have a special flying squad tasked

    To reactively and proactively investigate every allegation of robbery, whether armed or not, to the prejustice of cash in transit companies, building societies, betting offices, post offices, jewellers, casinos and banks. They also investigate all robberies at commercial premises where a firearm is produced or intimated and all Tiger Kidnaps.

    and they also have an ongoing operation aimed at

    criminal networks linked to crime with a loss value in excess of £10,000 in and around Heathrow Airport, including those networks operating across force boundaries

    Do you get the picture here? London’s organized crimes are heavily involved in armed robbery, burglary and kidnapping, human trafficking and drug trafficking. They were most definitely active before the riots in doing criminal damage and stealing from commercial businesses.

    I suppose in Dr_Tad’s analytical framework that makes them class warriors, since they target commercial premises rather than homes…

    The Serious Organized Crime Agency also reports

    TruckPol estimate that criminals who steal lorry consignments cost the UK economy around £250m per year, and drivers returning from the continent can also be subject to targeting by individuals seeking to enter the UK illegally.

    Sounds like there are major groups in and around London very busily targeting property to me. What better time than a widespread collapse of social order to do some smash and grabs, while the rioters are keeping the police busy?

  22. adrian

    So England has organised crime gangs. Who would have thought it?

    Maybe sg might like to turn his forensic skills to the fact that most countries have organised crime gangs, even Japan, but don’t appear to be subject to rioting.

    So once again these attempts at analysis don’t get very far. If, and it’s a big if, these gangs are responsible, how come it’s manifested itself in this way at this time in this place.

  23. Adrien

    Paul it’s comment and part two of this epic here – http://larvatusprodeo.net/2011/08/10/london-burning-ii-the-sociology-of-civil-disorder/#comment-331904

    Will there be a DVD/Blue Ray deluxe box set issued?

  24. Adrien

    Adrian – The Yakuza are a famously well-ordered and discrete set of crime gangs. The triads on the other hand make riots hard to notice because they’re always carrying on like that.

  25. Paul Burns

    Arson, looting, drunkenness. All characteristcs of almost any reasonable sized English riot. Riots with a political/social motivation eg just price for bread, improved wages and conditions for sailors, parliamentary reform, objections to Catholics being allowed to be officers in the British Army – and I’m not even out of the 18C yet. Its always a factor, however much Cameron might want to deny the impact of his austerity cuts. Hell, there weren’t even enough coppers because of them.
    As for organised crime gangs -well, 18C London was famous for them and my impression is that they had the nous to stay out of this kind of stuff. I would imagine modern day gangs of organised criminals would have exactly the same attitude. After all the key to pulling off a crime is to get away with it, not do it in a way that its an absolute certainty you’ll get your face on CCTV.

  26. Eric Sykes

    what paul says @ 25

  27. Katz

    I don’t doubt that England has crime gangs. My point is that their MO has never involved arson and looting.

    To return to Mark’s interesting question at the top of the first of these threads: why now?

    Short answer: if there had been no civil disorder provoked by police violence there would have been no arson and looting.

    In other words, the mercenary aspects of this episode required a prior political action. Ergo this event was primarily political, even though the most serious damage was not politically motivated.

  28. jules

    “jihad against Britney Spears needs no explanation. It’s a thoroughly reasonable idea that all leftists should get behind.” (sg)

    I was gonna say the same thing – why does a jihad against her need an explanation. Isn’t it obvious?

    BTW London’s crime gangs have actually been involved in political action before and fought the BUF in Cable st.

  29. Russell

    “the mercenary aspects of this episode required a prior political action. Ergo this event was primarily political, even though the most serious damage was not politically motivated”

    Katz – why do I think that you’ve chosen the word ‘primarily’ with some care? I agree that the the events were initiated by a political action – but as they developed the events weren’t mainly or deliberately political – the political riot opened a window of opportunity for looters and others to do their thing.

  30. Sam

    The response to the riots in the media, the blogosphere (including this one) and elsewhere has been a classic case of take two things you don’t like, and say that one is the cause of the other.*

    On the Left, the riots were caused by: budget cuts, capitalism, racism, oppression of the working class, climate change sceptics (OK, I made that one up).

    On the Right, the riots were caused by: breakdown of the traditional family, feminism, immigration, soft policing, breakdown of traditional authority, the BBC, “the liberal intelligentsia” (a direct quote from the utterly appalling Melanie Phillips), Bob Brown (OK, I made that one up too).

    Eveyone’s had a gay old time (in the sense of the Flintstones’ theme song) parading their prejudices, with not one scintilla of evidence to support any of it.

  31. Tim Macknay

    As someone on YouTube once said, with feeling, “leave Britney alone”. Anyway, she’s had her day – surely these days it should be Katy Perry.

  32. jules

    It was more than 5 years ago Tim.

    Sam you forget to mention police incompetence and violence.

  33. wizofaus

    Sam I think that’s too simplistic – as per my last post on the old thread, from my reading of commentary that at least attempts to be somewhat informed, both left and rightwing types have posited similar causes (albeit with different levels of emphasis). The distinction has come in the wording used and the solutions proferred. E.g. they might both agree there’s a problem with police tactics, but those on the right think they’ve been “too soft and we need zero tolerance” where those on the left are likely to suggest they’ve been too confrontational and we need to review procedures like stop & search or increasing minority representation. Which is why I had some time for Bill Stratton – he seemed keen to explore a number of options that didn’t conform to any particular ideology.

  34. Katz

    Russell:

    Katz – why do I think that you’ve chosen the word ‘primarily’ with some care? I agree that the the events were initiated by a political action – but as they developed the events weren’t mainly or deliberately political – the political riot opened a window of opportunity for looters and others to do their thing.

    That’s a very sensible restatement of my thesis.

    I choose my words carefully because accuracy is to be found in nuance, not in droplets of flying spittle.

  35. sg

    That was Terry’s original suggestion, Katz. One you dismissed with your claim that we would be seeing looting every day if organized criminals could be involved:

    Presumably if this event is the latest manifestation of mass lawlessness, there would be evidence of earlier outbreaks of looting and arson, etc.

    When it was pointed out to you that that is, indeed, what we have been seeing (if one scans the SOCA rather than the media), you back-tracked (as is your wont), though you still seem intent on arguing that crime gangs don’t engage in “arson and looting” when, in fact, the SOCA states that one of their primary sources of income is armed robbery. Why do you think organized crime gangs wouldn’t want to get involved in some looting, if they have the cover of a riot, the police are pre-occupied elsewhere, and they already have existing networks for fencing stolen goods?

    I’m amused by your claim at 27 that you don’t deny that London has crime gangs. Given that at 14 you referred to “these alleged ‘crime gangs'” (complete with scare quotes) and suggested they must have been “practising in secret” until last week.

    You also claimed Terry had no evidence, when in fact he referred to a large amount of talk “on the ground” in London (where you are not) to this effect.

    Now we have the Guardian reporting that MI5 have been asked to get involved in the investigation, amid suggestions that some of the criminals were organized by mass texting through encrypted messaging. That’s “organization,” wouldn’t you say? It’s also consistent with the reports on the Blood and Treasure blog about carefully planned tactics to delay the police while looting occurred.

    If you want to maintain that these riots had a political purpose you have to ignore all of that evidence, of course.

  36. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @34 – Katz – you’d redefine your grandmother in order to win an argument.

  37. Tim Macknay

    It was more than 5 years ago Tim.

    jules, I was referring to sg’s call for leftists to support the jihad, rather than the original jihad itself. 🙂

  38. skip

    Here’s something a little more empirical, just out from Bill Mitchell / CofFEE:

    http://e1.newcastle.edu.au/coffee/maps/UK_riots_unemployment_2011.cfm

  39. adrian

    Care to answer my question @ 22, sg?
    Otherwise you are just going around in ever decreasing circles without getting to the substance of the matter.

  40. adrian

    That’s an interesting map, but no doubt we’ll get someone saying if unemployment is a contributing factor, how come there was no rioting in Hull etc etc. There’s no point arguing with such ‘logic’.

  41. Katz

    Too much spittle.

    sg, the secret practising referred to the crime gangs’ alleged looting activities, not their existence.

    If you object to the word alleged, crime reportage must drive you into a foaming frenzy. For your health I recommend you avoid reading crime stories.

    Only an uncritical mind would equate armed robbery with looting and mob-driven arson.

    Talk “on the ground” isn’t evidence. Otherwise we’d be forced to give credence to the “talk on the ground” that Israel was responsible for 9/11. (You don’t, do you?)

  42. sg

    That’s an interesting map, but it has a few flaws. The Guardian database appears to be based on media reports, so is no doubt incomplete and suffers a bias towards the areas which were most heavily covered by press; there seem to be actually a lot of riots in lower-unemployment areas, which doesn’t support the theory so well. But the main flaw is that it will have a serious ecological fallacy. Within any local area in Britain there are pockets of very high unemployment irrespective of the overall unemployment rate of the area, so the only way to judge whether the “underclass” are revolting would be to ask them directly about their employment status.

    My guess would be, too, that the areas with the most shops attracted the most looting, but possibly also have very different unemployment profiles to the areas that the looters came from.

  43. sg

    sorry adrian, I didn’t see it. I didn’t infer Terry’s comment about organized gangs as being an explanation for the cause of the riots, just a description of some of the people involved in looting.

    As to other countries – I’m more than happy to argue that culture plays an important role in determining when and why people riot. I’ve been saying that all along. My argument is that Britain has a criminal sub-culture amongst its working and unemployed class that makes serious crime more prevalent than in Oz and Japan. Furthermore I think Britain has a culture of excusing, downplaying or even valorizing violence and crime by its underclass in a way that other countries don’t.

    Actually, a few weeks back one of my kickboxing buddies told me that he lives in a part of Tokyo where there are regular riots, and he has frequently had riot police lined up in his street to protect property. I don’t remember, sadly, the name of the area but he told me that it’s also heavily populated with rodosha (labourers) and a target for yakuza. it may have been Okubo, but I’m not sure.

    Who knew, eh?

  44. skip

    “there seem to be actually a lot of riots in lower-unemployment areas”

    Um, what?

  45. sg

    skip, there’s a swathe of mid-to-low unemployment areas in London where riots happened, and then some in outlying towns like Oxford.

    But you can be confident that the people rioting in Oxford aren’t Dons; they’re from high-unemployment housing estates in Oxford (there are several).

  46. Darryl Rosin

    Hey, 1999 called and they want their Britney Spears jokes back.

  47. sg

    I think the Daily Mash have nailed the legal response.

  48. Adrien

    My argument is that Britain has a criminal sub-culture amongst its working and unemployed class that makes serious crime more prevalent than in Oz and Japan. Furthermore I think Britain has a culture of excusing, downplaying or even valorizing violence and crime by its underclass in a way that other countries don’t.

    They used to demonize them 200 years ago. And then they packed the lot of ’em off in boats and sent ’em somewhere Godforsaken. Apparently it’s a country now. Forget what it’s called.

    Must be a terrible place. 🙂

  49. Adrien

    It’s England not Britain. I agree with Peter Oborne. The English have lost it. End of.

  50. jules

    One you dismissed with your claim that we would be seeing looting every day if organized criminals could be involved:

    But sg, we do see looting every day by organised criminals. Its called global corporate capitalism.

    My argument is that Britain has a criminal sub-culture amongst its working and unemployed class that makes serious crime more prevalent than in Oz and Japan.

    I think it extends beyond the working and unemployed classes. Whats that Bullingdon Club if not a club for the ruling class to commit crime without consequence. I kind of agree about the glamorisation tho. Stagger Lee was a right bastard, but the Clash went and turned him into some kind of hero. OH fuck I’m starting to sound like everything I hate.

    Darryl @46 Hauntology says no (we need them now.)

  51. wizofaus

    “Britain has a criminal sub-culture amongst its working and unemployed class that makes serious crime more prevalent than in Oz”

    But sg, from the figures I’ve found that simply isn’t true. What’s your evidence that “serious crime” is more prevalent in England than in Australia?

  52. wizofaus

    “Britain has a criminal sub-culture amongst its working and unemployed class that makes serious crime more prevalent than in Oz”

    But sg, from the figures I’ve found that simply isn’t true. What’s your evidence that “serious crime” is more prevalent in England than in Australia?

  53. GregM

    That’s an interesting map, but no doubt we’ll get someone saying if unemployment is a contributing factor, how come there was no rioting in Hull etc etc. There’s no point arguing with such ‘logic’

    Well said adrian, except for the inverted comments about the word logic.

    The map does not particularly show any association with high unemployment. There are areas which the map shows as having high levels of unemployment and high levels of reported rioting. There are areas where the map shows low levels of unemployment but high levels of reported rioting. There are areas where the map shows high levels of unemployment but no reported rioting.

    What the map shows is therefore a matter for consideration and analysis, and as pointed out above, further information, not argument. One thing the map shows is that not only did the civil disturbances not occur in Scotland but nor were they reported to have occurred in places of high unemployment in northern England, or in eastern England: Grimsby, Hull, Hartlepool and Newcastle.

    As to the cause, well I may as well mention the elephant in the room that everyone has been busily avoiding mentioning.

    I know little about England’s social issues but I’ll tell you the explanation that an English friend of mine gave for the rioting (in response to my frivolous comment the day after the riots started “I see that preparations for the Olympics in London in twelve months time are going well. Spontaneous fireworks displays are breaking out all over the city with the celebrations spreading to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and Leeds. When will Newcastle join in the celebrations?”)

    His reply was: “As for the rioting, I knew this day would come – I remember talking about having to use the army in the UK with you. Blacks are the root of the problem – no education, no work and feral. The police cannot handle them. No problems in Newcastle because … you guessed it – no blacks to instigate it.”

    I suspect that to find the reasons for the rioting among them we will also have to look at the issue of race and how the English have managed it.

    That is not to say that Afro-Caribbeans (who the English are referring to, generally, with the terms “blacks”) are the source of the problem but rather it is the failure of the English over decades to properly integrate them and their children, and now grandchildren, and to offer equal opportunity and aspiration, when and since they migrated to England to fill low paid jobs the English declined to carry out over the fifties, sixties and seventies.

  54. Adrien

    I just ran into a friend of mine. He’s black, from London. I asked him about the riots and their cause: he says: just a lot of angry kids man. Different ideas why I guess. All I got left is a poem, what good is it? Nuthin’, but anyway:

    Get the biggest fucking screen you ever saw
    And multiply its feeding times

    Soundproof your world, and always record
    Train dogs to rip the balls off strangers

    Now playing in over 160 countries worldwide:
    The Third World Armageddon Bonaza

    Soon at your local Brutal Architecture

  55. wizofaus

    GregM, nobody’s questioning race is a part of it – the police fatally shot an innocent black man and refused to release any information to his family, which was seen by many as part of a long running strain of mistreatment towards blacks by authorities. If it had just been a one off incident then I’d say most likely we’d have had no riots.
    But likewise the riots differed significantly from, say, the Rodney King riots in LA which had a similar trigger, and were far obviously primarily about race.

    There is no way you can look at that map and dismiss the extraordinary correlation between high unemployment and rioting.

    Even if you could – so what. High unemployment is obviously a bad thing in and of itself, so let’s fix it *because it’s the right thing to do*. As an “added bonus”, if you like, we’ll almost certainly get less riots, as the evidence strongly suggests riots aren’t very likely to happen in areas if low unemployment.

  56. GregM

    I think it extends beyond the working and unemployed classes. Whats that Bullingdon Club if not a club for the ruling class to commit crime without consequence. I kind of agree about the glamorisation tho.

    Well said jules. But its bigger than the Bullingdon Club of which David Cameron was a member.

    It goes back to the riot in the Members Stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground in Marylebone in 1976. When David Cameron was a sprog. Disgraceful scenes.

    I looked upon the television reports of it and said at the time that that is the end of western civilization as we know it.

    If David Cameron wants to go back over decades of declining English, or, as he indulges himself, British, moral standards he should start there, and that was before Thatcher.

  57. Patrickb

    @8
    Err…but Terry’s point is patent nonsense as others have pointed out. He is nonplussed as to ” why the British left feel so inclined to back the perpetrators of crime against its victims”, but they don’t. And that about sums up Terry’s argument, it’s a load of twaddle. So relying on it doesn’t really help you I’m afraid.

  58. Patrickb

    @14
    “Were these gangs in fact practising in secret before last weekend?”
    Actually are think they were completing their “Organised Crime Gang” O levels, yah. So just letting off a bit of steam, you know like rubbing linseed oil into the school cormorant (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000092/), OK?

  59. Patrickb
  60. GregM

    GregM, nobody’s questioning race is a part of it – the police fatally shot an innocent black man

    Wizofaus, I know that you are well-meaning. But what evidence do you have that Mark Duggan was an innocent black man? He was staked out by the police as part of an drug interception operation for which presumably they had at least a prima facie basis to proceed.

    Can we not wait until the necessary legal and judicial inquiries are undertaken and their reports are published before we draw conclusions?

    Cannot you see that your comments are part of the problem and profoundly racist in their very premise?

    There is no way you can look at that map and dismiss the extraordinary correlation between high unemployment and rioting.

    That is simply wrong. There is no way that anyone could look at that map and find any particular correlation at all, still less an extraordinary correlation, of which there is none apparent at all, between high unemployment and rioting. As has sg pointed out, the data on it is incomplete anyway

    I think that the reasons for where the rioting occurred, and where it did not, will not be found in current high unemployment levels, as you think, but will be found in decades of social neglect and of failures of social cohesion, social acceptance and social movement going over those decades, where people were warehoused into poverty by the English social welfare system and the social attitudes that underpinned them.

  61. Patrickb

    @21
    “Do you get the picture here? London’s organized crimes are heavily involved in armed robbery, burglary and kidnapping, human trafficking and drug trafficking”.
    And rioting? The assertion is that these gangs were responsible for “much of the looting “. I presume that this was not opportunistic either, given that they are “organised” crime gangs I expect they set about promoting the riotous behaviour as a cover for their organised looting and rioting? This is patent nonsense. I’ll wager that in the end we’ll find that most of the looting and rioting was undertaken without malice aforethought as is the case with most looting and rioting.

  62. sg

    GregM, I think actually a lot of those rioters were white, and certainly the problems I’ve had and seen in the UK did not stop at black men, and I didn’t think black Brits any more or less degenerate in general than white Brits. I think crime patterns amongst the poorest part of British society follow the pattern of the local racial distribution, because this sort of criminality crosses race lines. It’s more about class, and poverty, than race. The British ruling class is happy to deny infrastructure development to white and black areas equally. And everything in London is so heaped together and mixed up that this has to happen, really.

    And on this topic of blaming thatcher or what happened in 1976.. my Dad lives in Devon and is constantly whingeing about how labour wrecked the country. He also likes to blame “them blacks” and multiculturalism (my grandmother famously said to me two years ago “them blacks ‘ll get what’s comin’ to ’em.”) But my Father is a wizened old man of 90-million or so now, he’s been living (mostly) in the UK and (mostly) voting since about 1811. He voted in Thatcher and chose to leave the country a few times in the 80s; he is a senior member of his local Royal Antediluvian order of Buffaloes; he raised two children, one of whom was taken from him by the state for excessive criminality at the age of 13; he worked most of his life, then became a classic welfare bludger “because he deserves it” (how’s that for a twist on a fashion slogan). He and his mates of the same age from the RAOB built modern England, basically. They were responsible for the workplace culture you see around you; they raised the shithead kids; my Dad, a typesetter, voted in Thatcher after Wapping; his generation abandoned the union movement in droves (or were responsible for managing the union movement that was abandoned in droves); they taught their kids race consciousness over class consciousness.

    Yet now they blame Blair, some vampire blow-in from the last 15 years. This is their society running rampant on the streets of London; it’s their society getting pregnant behind the bikesheds at 13; it’s their society trying to trick the Sun into believing that 10 year old got that 13 year old pregnant; it’s their grandchildren walking the streets with attack dogs that kill guide dogs.

    Yet they want to eschew all responsibility, sit back and blame it on labour or “the yoof” (or, more likely, “them immigrants” and “them blacks.”)

    This is the essence of Englishness: blaming someone else for the stench of your own shit.

  63. Russell

    GregM – race was mentioned in earlier comments – there was something about how much more often black people were ‘stopped and searched’ than white people, and I guess stop and search is used a lot more in those parts of London than in other places.

    “I think that the reasons for where the rioting occurred, and where it did not, will not be found in current high unemployment levels, as you think, but will be found in decades of social neglect and of failures of social cohesion”

    Aren’t high unemployment levels related to ‘failures of social cohesion’? People who turn up to a workplace everyday are surely more likely to feel part of society, then people who stay at home all their lives.

  64. jules

    But what evidence do you have that Mark Duggan was an innocent black man?

    Well he’s never been convicted of a crime, so technically until proven guilty he is innocent.

    In this case I guess that means till an independent inquest finds out whether or not it was reasonable to believe he was a threat (Thats how it works isn’t it?) to anyones life. If not someone will say I assume. But thats about the only way any legal guilt could be applied to him AFAICS.

    The word of a bunch of cops from the Met, about the killing of a black guy isn’t really trustworthy, even if in this specific case it may be, not without it being tested anyway.

  65. FDB

    GregM:

    … what evidence do you have that Mark Duggan was an innocent black man? He was staked out by the police as part of an drug interception operation for which presumably they had at least a prima facie basis to proceed.

    Can we not wait until the necessary legal and judicial inquiries are undertaken and their reports are published before we draw conclusions?

    We can wait for all kinds of things.

    However, he was innocent in the eyes of the Law, wasn’t he Greg? And so far he so remains, right?

  66. Patrickb

    @60
    “But what evidence do you have that Mark Duggan was an innocent black man”
    Oh dear, what an unfortunate comment.

  67. jules

    His reply was: “As for the rioting, I knew this day would come – I remember talking about having to use the army in the UK with you. Blacks are the root of the problem – no education, no work and feral. The police cannot handle them. No problems in Newcastle because … you guessed it – no blacks to instigate it.”

    Your friend is a racist piece of shit GregM. He’s a classic example of the things you said they failed to do, and why they failed to do it.

  68. sg

    according to wikipedia, Newcastle’s population is 1.5% “black,” while Liverpool’s is 1.8% black. So gregM, I suppose your friend needs to come up with some kind of “Photoriotic effect” theory, in which a threshold of 1.6% is required for the anti-photons to start jumpin’, or he’s wrong.

  69. sg

    also according to Wiki, there are areas in wales (e.g. Bluetown) that are above 15% black; areas in London (e.g. Ealing) with no signifcant black population where riots did occur. So, that’s not really going to cut it.

  70. GregM

    However, he was innocent in the eyes of the Law, wasn’t he Greg? And so far he so remains, right?

    Actually no, if you want a serious legal answer, FDB.

    He was under suspicion ( the law requires it to be reasonable) of conducting himself with the purpose of carrying out a criminal act and under the English legal system, and ours is no different, the law authorised the police to apprehend him and seek evidence on the basis of that suspicion.

    If he was entirely, or even reasonably, innocent of that suspicion then the police should not have even been pursuing him.

    I am sure, for no-one could read your comment as meaning anything else, that what you are suggesting is that until a jury in a court of law decides that someone is guilty of a crime then that person’s behaviour is to be seen as completely innocent and so no action should ever be taken about it for that would abhorrently violate the presumption of innocence.

    To give a vivid illustration of how repulsive and ignorant your comment is that recently the Court of Appeal in Victoria had to deal with the case of a man who took his three year old daughter from his wife and over hours threatened to kill her while she desperately pleaded for her child’s life and while the police tried to find her. They did not do so in time and the child died and her body was found on a piece of waste land.

    By your smug comment we can only understand that you believe that the act of that man in killing his daughter when he did, prior to a jury verdict, should have been presumed an innocent act, and therefore, by your disordered logic, the police should have done nothing to prevent it.

    You should look to your values and to your character before you make such a smug and ignorant comment again.

  71. sg

    it was probably an execution-style killing, gregM. The British police are very good at that.

  72. GregM

    Aren’t high unemployment levels related to ‘failures of social cohesion’? People who turn up to a workplace everyday are surely more likely to feel part of society, then people who stay at home all their lives.

    No. They are related to the ups and downs of the economic cycle.

    Social exclusion and the failure of social cohesion is related to being cut out of participating in employment and progression in it over the long term.

    I don’t think that Britain’s, and specifically England’s problems, can be so easily slotted away with current high unemployment in certain areas.

    I think that is a cop-out.

    I think that their problems are much more deep-seated in their uninclusive culture. They will need to look harder for the answers if they want to address the problems they have.

  73. Russell

    GregM – of course unemployment is related to economic cycles; I didn’t mean lack of social cohesion caused unemployment!

    I think all of the many factors suggested in these comments are part of the explanation – unemployment, especially over generations, being just one of them. But one that might be an easier place to start, if you really want to make changes.

    BTW I must say how much I’ve enjoyed SGs comments on this thread – very good stuff.

  74. GregM

    Your friend is a racist piece of shit GregM. He’s a classic example of the things you said they failed to do, and why they failed to do it.

    Well jules I think my friend is a racist, although from the quote you have relied on you have no basis for concluding that. He has pointed out “no education, no work” which leads to his next comment “feral”.

    His word “feral”? That’s what I’d expect of anyone in any society deprived of meaningful opportunity for participation in it through education and opportunity through work to be. Feral means that you are not domesticated and outside society. If you have been forced into that condition what respect could the society that has rejected you expect of you?

    So I don’t think think that my friend is a piece of shit, Jules. Perhaps ignorant, or perhaps with some insight he is not aware of about how a society should treat its members and the inevitable, if long-term, consequences if it does not.

  75. GregM

    it was probably an execution-style killing, gregM. The British police are very good at that.

    You know that is a glib and unfair comment sg, and unworthy of you.

    However I will respond in kind and just as unworthily. The Victoria Police are known for their killings but that doesn’t mean there are riots all that often on the streets of Melbourne.

  76. GregM

    @60
    “But what evidence do you have that Mark Duggan was an innocent black man”
    Oh dear, what an unfortunate comment.

    What an ignorant comment.

    We have a judicial system to avoid this very ignorance, including coronial inquiries which go back to Magna Carta, but rather than rely on them patrickb would rather wallow in his own ignorance.

  77. jules

    Greg he is a racist and that quote proves it.

    Ok I should have said “I think” or “he sure seems like” a piece of shit. And yeah I don’t know him so its just my opinion. But anyone who says “Blacks are the root of the problem – no education, no work and feral.” or “they incite riots” (which appears to be the opposite of what actually happened) without bothering to think about it is racist. Its not a rare thing. Heaps of people are.

    “Not domesticated” … do you mean like livestock?

  78. Patrickb

    @76
    “Actually no, if you want a serious legal answer, FDB”
    What follows that statement is cobbled together rubbish. The police compile evidence, arrest people, charge them with the crime they think they have the best chance of getting a conviction for and then present their evidence to the court in an attempt to prove the accused guilty of that crime. In this case they didn’t make it to the first step. OK, that’s not the way it works in Greg’s world but I’m afraid we’re not here to entertain your fantasies, I think Catalaxitive would give you the jollies your need.

    “go back to Magna Carta” What a tosser!

  79. GregM

    Jules, overall I don’t disagree with your comment @77.

    As I said I think my friend is a racist and I think that his society is racist and non-inclusionist and it has caused its current problems on that basis.

    I think that they need to look deeply into the way they have ordered themselves over the last fifty years to find out the cause of their riots and not blame them on their current unemployment problems, which are at most, along with their current warm summer weather (yes, I know we can laugh about that, as we always do) precipitating factors.

  80. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    “You know that is a glib and unfair comment sg, and unworthy of you.”

    I think you’re taking it a little bit too personally, GregM. What’s wrong with sg’s “execution-style killing” comment? Whatever you can say about the English, they certainly have form in that department.

  81. GregM

    patrickb

    One of the joys of living in our peaceful society is that you can wallow in your ignorance and can think that in doing you can describe accurate statements of law and legal process as “cobbled together tosh”.

    This is what we call freedom and that includes your right to to wallow in your ignorance, which seems to be you are best at indulging in.

    But since you have described my comment as “cobbled together tosh” what part of it do you say is incorrect?

    You must have found some part of it wrong in law or in fact so that can’t be too hard for you to do.

  82. GregM

    What’s wrong with sg’s “execution-style killing” comment?

    What’s wrong with it D and O is that there has been no judicial or coronial process which allows us to say that.

    Which is why I said @60 on that point:

    Can we not wait until the necessary legal and judicial inquiries are undertaken and their reports are published before we draw conclusions?

  83. Dr_Tad

    Wow, proportionally way more reactionaries fulminating at the mouth on this thread c.f. the previous two.

  84. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    What’s wrong with it D and O is that there has been no judicial or coronial process which allows us to say that.

    Why should any “judicial or coronial process” allow us or disallow us to say whatever we like about Duggan’s death? We’re hardly going to pervert the course of justice from the other side of the world. I think you are being a little bit precious about things.

    Can we not wait until the necessary legal and judicial inquiries are undertaken and their reports are published before we draw conclusions?

    No. After all, sometimes inquiries cock things up, and you have to wait 30 more years before a better inquiry comes along. (Check my link in my last comment if you don’t believe me.)

  85. Katz

    Duggan was guilty of being criminally swarthy. In a similar manner, as Saigon mentioned above, dozens of men and women have been found guilty of being criminally Irish.

    British law enforcement agencies have an appalling record of perversion of justice.

    This corruption is longstanding, endemic and impervious to changes in government. Members of minority groups have every reason to suspect that this state of affairs will continue.

    Direct action would appear to be one of a small number of effective courses of action to confront this systematic abuse of power.

  86. wizofaus

    GregM, I’m sorry I do not buy your argument that the man in question was not innocent in the eyes of the law – he had not been proven guilty in a court. However I agree it was unnecessary for me to use the word ‘innocent’ – what matters is if the shooting had some sort of reasonable justification, and whether we can be confident that the same result would have occurred had the man been white. Unfortunately we’ll probably never know.

    And yes the data is incomplete, but did you spend more than 30 seconds looking at the map? The *vast* majority of the rioting happened in high to very-high unemployment areas.

  87. Patrickb

    @81
    More rubbish. You know you are wrong, I’m not wasting time on you.

  88. Lefty E

    I see the Poms are flailing around in the courts, handing out ludicrous sentences eg 4 years for atempting to incite riots on facebook – in places where no riot occurred. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/four-years-in-jail-for-failed-attempts-to-incite-looting-on-facebook-2338860.html

    This does them zero credit, and merely enhances the sense in which they are an increasingly post- democratic state which seeks to use surveillance and force to cover a failing social and economic contract with their own citzenry, and the naked clientelist use of the state and its key agencies by traders, bankers, and the Murdochs.

    Who are the rioters meant to look up to? The bailout state? the Oxbridge riot squad in government? The Murdochs? The police?

    What a joke.

  89. Lefty E

    Honestly, Cameron’s ridiculous “no rights without responsibility bla bla” speech could have been addressed, without amendment, to sharetraders – or James Murdoch.

  90. sg

    hey gregM, I did say “probably.” And the British police do have form on this, so I’m happy to make the prediction.

    Also, if you follow the timeline of the events, the original demonstration was not actually just a demonstration. The family of Duggan had gone to the police station and waited for hours to hear what had happened to their son, and it turns out that the police wouldn’t tell the family what had happened, but were waiting for the IPCC to do it – and the IPCC never do that. So after a few hours the family left the station unsatisfied – the head of the station wouldn’t even meet them – and then the demonstration happened.

    At this point in time, the IPCC was claiming that he had fired on police, and a bullet had been found in a policeman’s radio. It turns out that this was a lie, he had never fired on police and within days the bullet turned out to be a police bullet. Hmm, I wonder how that got there?

    This is the same form as the IPCC and the met had on Menezes (who was wearing a bulky jacket and leapt the turnstiles – until the cctv footage revealed he had no jacket and walked legitimately through the turnstiles) and the newspaper vendor (also from Tottenham, I think) who was “injured in a scuffle” until demonstrators started putting up video footage of him being murdered. And remember on that occasion the police claim they tried to help him but were pelted with missiles – when what actually happened was that protestors cleared a space for him and helped him, and the police stood by and were filmed refusing to do anything.

    The British police need to be reformed. Whether or not rioting is the right response to the kind of thuggery they bring to British streets, they aren’t helping with this kind of murder-and-collusion approach to dealing with poor people and foreigners.

  91. sg

    lefty E, what do you mean “post democratic”? They don’t have an elected upper house or compulsory voting, and their elections are held on a weekday. They were never even democratic.

  92. adrian

    I’m glad that we agree on something sg, and well said LeftyE @ 89.

  93. Katz

    Corrupt and racist policing would be much easier without CCTV.

  94. wizofaus

    Katz, but the extraordinary thing is that we have all this CCTV footage proving that there are serious problems with policing and yet:

    a) it’s still happening
    and
    b) politicians are getting popular support by calling for *tougher* policing, including “zero tolerance” and the like

    Well, I suppose zero tolerance is better than negative tolerance, which is what has clearly been going on for some time now, but I suspect that’s not what people mean.

  95. Debbieanne

    Well said LeftyE @ 89.

  96. Katz

    But clear despite CCTV corrupt and racist policing are still possible.

    Given the persistence of these practices under the gaze of CCTV cameras, the only reasonable conclusion is that the political classes are happy enough to have them persist.

    That being the case, only direct action appears to be suitable.

    The question is what sort of direct action would achieve positive results.

  97. adrian

    Maybe a general strike is called for. They’ve done that before.

  98. Russell

    “That being the case, only direct action appears to be suitable”

    You might be edging towards four years in the slammer, Katz.

  99. su

    Yes, great comments Lefty E. If anyone is in any doubt about the extent of the abuse of the state by the banking sector, have a listen to last night’s Background Briefing on the “big four” auditing firms. John Connolly from Deloitte Touche can be heard calmly describing how they gave the Bank of Scotland group a good audit report because they knew that the government would bail them out, in other words they knew the bank would fail on its own but lied about it. He is completely unrepentent.

  100. adrian

    Thanks for the link su – John Connolly’s testimony is quite amazing.
    It’s a pity that this issue isn’t reported more widely or that this kind of reporting is not more prevalent in the Australian media.

  101. sg

    corrupt policing can be stamped out, but it requires strong political will to engage in an unrelenting battle with the forces of reaction in the police force. And it requires the good sense to understand that the corruption is systemic and can only be fixed by systemic solutions. This was recognized and done in NSW in 1996. From the current reaction to the riots in the UK, it’s clear that the British aren’t up to this level of thinking.

    If I was that US cop I’d be bailing on any plan to become commissioner. It’s a poisoned chalice for any well-meaning outsider until the force is cleansed of its corrupt elements, which necessary has to happen from within.

    In NSW they had a royal commission with almost unlimited powers, a purge of police, a complete change to the working structure of the police force, complete changes to recruiting techniques, and an American commissioner because no local senior cops could be trusted.

    In Britain they appear to have decided that the only cop who can fix the problem is a British one, and that there’s no problem with the force, and the best response to an unprecedented scale of social collapse is to lock people up for 4 years for a drunken facebook post.

    They are truly all at sea…

  102. Katz

    Maybe the Facebook rioters should be sentenced to serving four years on MySpace.

  103. jules

    Sometimes I cynically wonder how many business that were burned were done so to collect insurance money or something equally devious.

    Against that backdrop, Carpetright, Britain’s biggest floor coverings retailer and a bellwether for the UK economy, reported a 70pc fall in full-year profits saying more people were opting not to change their carpets.

    It was joined by chocolate retailer Thorntons, which unveiled a restructuring that will see at least 120 stores closed and up to 750 jobs put at risk.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/8603289/More-retailers-join-Nightmare-on-High-Street.html

    So it turns out Carpetright, owned by the guy who encouraged David Cameron to become Tory leader, was apparently the first shop burnt down in Tottenham. And there is a bit of dodginess about the relationships between Cameron, Harris (the stores owner) and Feldman, both Cameron’s mates who were involved somehow in a cash for access deal. (I wonder why English society is broken when even the PMs mates are dodgy.)

    No wonder Cameron’s losing it over these riots. They hurt his mate who was already losing retail profits.

  104. sg

    Fortunately Jules, the completely non-corrupt British police will be investigating that fire, and will surely draw the right conclusions.

  105. Katz

    So, contrary to an earlier comment, the burning of Carpetright may have been either an insurance job or an act motivated by inside political knowledge.

    The class consciousness thesis receives additional support and the thesis of mindless looting is further undermined.

  106. su

    Here is another map from the Guardian, this time checking the addresses of those who have been in court for riot offenses against indices of poverty. Summary of what it shows by Liverpool University Planning lecturer, Alex Singleton:

    The majority of areas where suspect live are deprived – and 66% of them got poorer between 2007 and 2010, when the last survey was published
    41% of suspects live in the 10% most deprived places in England

  107. sg

    That’s much better! It’s still subject to a risk of ecological bias but the risk is much smaller and less likely to affect the result.

  108. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    It’s a lovely map, su, showing not so lovely results. It looks like whole quadrants of London are brimming with exclusion and disadvantage.

    It’s so different from Australia, if this report on socio-economic deprivation can be taken as read. The poorer areas occupy smaller spaces, except in Sydney, and most of the poor areas aren’t that poor. Inala might have a bad rep, but to the poor buggers in Hackney it would be luxury.

  109. wizofaus

    Cameron’s statement “The riots are not about poverty” sounds to me like an excuse not to do anything about systemic intergenerational disadvantage. That the data fairly clearly shows otherwise only makes it more deplorable. But I have to ask what sort of world do we live in that we need an excuse to do something about a problem that causes unnecessary misery and undermines the ability of so many to make the most of their one shot at life. Who seriously thinks these days that such people are poor because they choose to be, or because fate has ordained that that’s their lot in life?

  110. adrian

    What’s with The Guardian’s obsession with facts presented in an accessible manner?
    They’ve got a lot to learn from the Australian media.

  111. sg

    Down and Out of Saigon, the interesting thing is that the patterns in that map haven’t changed in 100 years. William Booth first mapped the relationship between economic and health inequality in London 100 years ago, and recently the BMJ published a repeat of the exercise. The levels were higher, but the ienquality remained.

    The London Health Observatory’s Tube Map is pretty disturbing too. Every station you go west from greenwich on the Jubilee line you gain a half year of life expectancy.

    To put those differences in context, the life expectancy gap between the richest 20% of Britons and the poorest 20% is about 8 or 9 years. The gap between white and Aboriginal Australia is now about 12 years. Most Australians now accept that life expectancy gap as our national shame, and it afflicts only 2.5% of the population.

    Most Britons don’t even realize this problem exists in their own country. Indeed, when I was working at a major health research organization in London and I pointed this similarity out to them, they were flabbergasted. They had never put the life expectancy gap in their own country into perspective. Truly, Britain has a long way to go to come to terms with its own problems.

  112. wizofaus

    That is an astonishing gap – even in the U.S., which has its own problems with inequality and access to healthcare, the life expectancy difference between the richest 20% and poorest 20% is apparently less than 5% (but note that the US’s life expectancy as a whole is 2% lower than the UK’s).
    It would seem to suggest that the NHS is not really doing its job – surely the primary point of having such a system is that everybody should have access to decent healthcare.

  113. sg

    There’s not much the NHS can do about a lot of it, wizofaus, because it’s caused by upstream problems. If you look at the indicators of inequality in the UK they’re terrible. I did some consulting for The Marmot Review that involved building simple charts of the major indicator data from the Office of National Statistics, and it was truly terrifying how bad the social situation is: school absenteeism, school achievement, anti-social behaviour of all kinds, life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, smoking, healthy eating, exercise – all of these determinants of health outcomes show distinct relationships to the material deprivation of small areas. The NHS is massively underfunded and has many problems but even if it were much better than it is, it would still just be putting band-aids on a huge social problem.

    Poor areas in the UK are literally devastated, by lack of public infrastructure investment and a refusal of private companies to invest in them (or to sell the same products when they do). It’s no coincidence that the tube largely doesn’t go south of the Thames. And these knee-jerk investments (such as LeftyE describes for Brixton) are not going to fix inequality on the scale one sees in the UK. It needs a widespread investment in infrastructure and a huge change in attitudes.

  114. murph the surf.

    ” It’s no coincidence that the tube largely doesn’t go south of the Thames.”
    Something I often wondered about while catching the Northern Line.
    The explanation offered by south London residents was that the tunnelling couldn’t proceed due to the different geographical features south of the river- mainly softer alluvial soils.
    Didn’t realise it was all part of a master plan…

  115. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    sg: your comments have been consistently the most interesting – nay, the most eye-opening in London Burning – Parts I to IV.

    I would say they’d form the nice core of a documentary (working title: “Britain – sort yourself out!”) Rather than compare the UK with US (too large, often worse off) or France (natural enemies since Crecy) or the Scandinavians (too many public pre-conceptions involving Ikea and herring), the doco should compare the state of the nation with ex-colonies – i.e., Canada, Australia and New Zealand – on all the factors you mentioned: “school absenteeism, school achievement, anti-social behaviour of all kinds”, etc.

    Why those countries? Their inhabitants speak the same language, they look mostly the same, and they were even settled by Britain. On the other hand, once they cut the apron strings, they overtook Mother Britain in so many respects. Or would the choice of these countries be rubbing it in too much for the home country?

  116. Helen

    Why those countries? Their inhabitants speak the same language, they look mostly the same, and they were even settled by Britain. On the other hand, once they cut the apron strings, they overtook Mother Britain in so many respects.

    Well, for white communities in urban areas, that’s true. Other parts of our country not so much.

  117. Russell

    “the doco should compare the state of the nation with ex-colonies – i.e., Canada, Australia and New Zealand ” ….. well, particularly Australia, after all this is where they sent all those dreadful criminals.

  118. Russell

    D&O – I agree, SG has worked himself up to a whole new level on this topic. He may even be the next Theodore Dalrymple. A column in The Spectator should be waiting …..

  119. su

    It wasn’t until you spoke of your father’s experience that I could understand your emphasis on cultural factors in proper context, sg, it kind of makes me wonder why you argued so strenuously against class factors on the previous threads, unless it was just to emphasise the lack of class consciousness on the part of the rioters, which I think most people conceded.

    As to the difference between England and the colonies, my great grandparents were itinerant farm workers from Devon, one of the poorest class of people. In the space of less than a generation they became relatively wealthy antipodean landowners (lands expropriated from the aboriginal owners). I sometimes wonder where I would fit on the social ladder had they not made that move. To echo sg’s comments on working class culture, the legacy of extreme physical brutality lasted quite a bit longer than the land-wealth which was dissipated by division and then drought and war, but the fact that my mother’s family were able to send her to school and she could live in conditions not subject to overcrowding or permanent damp still probably put her a couple of generations ahead, in social mobility terms, than would have been the case had the family remained in England. So although I’ve no doubt that the policies of the colonial governments have something to do with it, don’t discount the rapid increase in wealth that very poor people could achieve here, by virtue of the mass dispossession of the aboriginal owners.

  120. wizofaus

    sg, that last comment seems a world away from your previous ones where you have seemed happy to lay the blame largely at the feet of the individuals involved. If you’re accepting that the problem is systemic then exhortations to “get an education and get a job” (or whatever) don’t seem particularly helpful.

  121. sg

    I suppose those comments are flattery of a sort, aren’t they…?

    To tie it together, as best I can, I think that we can’t just hand-wave away peoples’ behavior as unchangeable given their circumstances. There are cultural influences on people’s decisions, and Britain’s poor people aren’t so poor that they can’t control their lives. In fact, if you look at the history of the working poor since Thatcher, they’ve been more than happy to take extremely large loans to invest in extremely risky housing ventures with a not-so-high rate of return, but not very willing to take much smaller loans to invest in the extremely low-risk, high-benefit process of getting a tertiary education. Not to mention their inclination for loans for lifestyle goods. Yet the left would have us believe that increased fees will defer poor people from getting an education? Hand-wringing and looking elsewhere to explain a consumerist and anti-education culture is not such a good idea.

    On top of this, Britain’s poor and working class have a strong tendency to blame foreigners for all their problems. And a lot of finger-pointing at each other and looking the other way and wondering why someone else won’t clean up their problems for them.

    All of these cultural problems are presided over by a left-wing movement in Britain that won’t take lessons from overseas; and a labour movement that had a party in government for the last 10 years. Somewhere along the line these people have to take responsibility for this culture. A strong, class-conscious and self-confident working class does not riot in its own communities and destroy them; it takes on the police or riots in rich areas. The political organs of a strong, class-conscious and self-confident working class does not look at the murder of a man like Menezes or the poor newspaper vendor whose name I always forget and think “nothing to see here, move on.” They certainly don’t continue blaming all these problems on Thatcher. New labour was in a position to fix a lot of these problems and squandered it. New Labour was the product of old Labour and the labour movement, and the left more broadly.

    Unless we want to pretend that the culture in our working class and poor communities is completely beyond the left’s control. In which case wtf are we here for?

  122. su

    I think your comment begs the question. You assume that lack of social mobility is simply a matter of enabling people to filter up into the niches available to them, or, put negatively, a culture which prevents them from taking advantage of such opportunities, whereas I think it is becoming clearer that there is nowhere “above”for many of them to go to. University educated people are filling unskilled, low wage jobs. The middle class, as the tea partiers are so fond of saying, is being hollowed out, but by accumulation by those above, not spending on those below.

  123. wizofaus

    sg, I haven’t disagreed really with any of your broader assessments of likely problems, and from what I’ve seen here, much as Thatcher and her ‘no such such thing as society’ comment has been singled out a few times (not entirely unreasonably, I would think), most other commenters here agree that the Labour government did far too little to actually represent an alternative view. As for the problem of those who are happy to borrow money for housing/consumer goods but not for education, sure – but it’s human nature to prefer shorter term rewards, and realistically it makes sense to subsidize the latter sort of loans the way to do here – I’m not sure what system exists in the UK though. However if education is undervalued relative to most other comparable countries that does seem to be more of a cultural problem, and while governments can’t legislate culture, inspired leadership can be a catalyst in bringing about positive cultural changes. Sadly I don’t see it coming from any of the current crop of political leaders.

  124. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Well, for white communities in urban areas, that’s true. Other parts of our country not so much.

    Tell me about it, Helen. 😉 I’ve been in Vietnamese-majority areas in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, on the hunt for the best ph? with my wife. Things are different again when you hit Arnhem Land or Cape York. And we haven’t even brought up the minorities in New Zealand or Canada, some of who are blanc themselves.

    But for the purpose of a documentary, it would be easier to compare UK to the ex-Dominions that other ex-colonies like Singapore (almost neck-to-neck on HDI, but would you take guidance from Lee Kwan Yew?) or Malaysia. Australia, Canada and NZ, while dominated by “whites” [*], are still multiracial and multicultural. The same holds for the UK. That makes it another factor to compare. How does each country deal with multiplicities of ethnicities? Do you end up like the local high school, where groups of boys and girls peacefully walk home in multiracial groups? Or do you end up with a situation where the BNP is popular in the local community?

    sg: you could use the word “flattery”; I prefer to choose “compliment”. I think of flattery as when some petty Tory/Labour branch chairmen butters up the Alpha male (or in Thatcher’s case, the Alpha female) PM before s/he gives a speech.

    (Yeah, yeah… where “white” includes Greek and Italian and Irish and so. In some cultures, that wouldn’t be so, like pre-Tammany Hall New York.)

  125. Russell

    “inspired leadership can be a catalyst in bringing about positive cultural changes.” Are you referring to “the big society”? In so far as it would be a help if employers, supervisors at work, teachers/lecturers et al. actually cared enough for these young people to help them think about their future and encouraged them to ‘move forward’ with education or whatever.

    I agree with a lot of what SG has said, but when he refers to the ‘working class’ – are these people working? Do the jobs pay enough to allow for a decent life?

    Su pointed out the lack of opportunities, there’s also the psychological barriers to being able to see yourself as moving into a different class, a different way of life to the only one you’ve known. Some young people can do it, but many can’t. If you’re unemployed, from a family/community where so many are unemployed, it’s hard to even imagine how to make change happen. That’s one reason why I think the unemployed should be offered a job rather than benefits: it’s a first step to a more empowering position from where further opportunities may seem graspable.

  126. sg

    su, I think I am assuming that. Or at least, I’m assuming that the labour movement in England, while it was represented in power for 10 years by the Labour Party, could have found a better economic model for the British working class than a housing ponzi scheme; and it could have found a better industry policy than a banking ponzi scheme; and it could have found a better social policy than simply warehousing the poor (as GregM puts it) using the tax proceeds of those ponzi schemes.

    The UK had 10 years of economic growth under Labour. The jobs were there, the education chances were there, the social supports were available for people to better their lives. But they stayed in their sink estates and whinged about the foreigners taking the jobs, and their political leadership didn’t call them on it. In 2008 Gordon Brown was even telling stories about “British jobs for British workers,” and the whole political left was enabling the lies the working class was telling itself about its own situation.

    If you compare the political and social ideology of Labour in the UK with Labour in Australia over the past 30 years, the differences are striking. This is why the culture of the working class in Britain has degenerated into (or remained at?) a state of atomized self-pity and nihilism, while the working class in Australia retained some sense of the value of hard work, education and community spirit.

  127. wizofaus

    “why I think the unemployed should be offered a job rather than benefits”

    Are we talking Keysenian digging-holes-and-filling-them-up-again type jobs?
    FWIW, I do agree in principle that governments could do more to actively create jobs for certain classes of unemployed citizens, but I’m not sure it’s ever had much success in practice.

  128. su

    What we need is a massive, global, labour-intensive, infrastructure project. Now where can we find one of those, it’s not like we are in current need of a profound, roots-up change in energy infrastructure or anything. ; )

  129. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    su: Paul Krugman today suggested an alien invasion. A fake one would be even better than the real thing.

  130. andyc

    su @ 129: ‘it’s not like we are in current need of a profound, roots-up change in energy infrastructure or anything. ; )’

    or public transport infrastructure 🙂

  131. Russell

    Reading an article in yesterday’s NY Times and an explanation (entirely outside of SG’s imagination) is offered:

    “Lapses in self-control have led to the notion of the “undeserving poor” — epitomized by the image of the welfare mom using food stamps to buy junk food — but Spears urges sympathy for someone who makes decisions all day on a tight budget. In one study, he found that when the poor and the rich go shopping, the poor are much more likely to eat during the shopping trip. This might seem like confirmation of their weak character — after all, they could presumably save money and improve their nutrition by eating meals at home instead of buying ready-to-eat snacks like Cinnabons, which contribute to the higher rate of obesity among the poor. But if a trip to the supermarket induces more decision fatigue in the poor than in the rich — because each purchase requires more mental trade-offs — by the time they reach the cash register, they’ll have less willpower left to resist the Mars bars and Skittles …And this isn’t the only reason that sweet snacks are featured prominently at the cash register, just when shoppers are depleted after all their decisions in the aisles. With their willpower reduced, they’re more likely to yield to any kind of temptation, but they’re especially vulnerable to candy and soda”

  132. Katz

    But they stayed in their sink estates and whinged about the foreigners taking the jobs, and their political leadership didn’t call them on it.

    This is true. One of the causes is very poor public policy. Council house rents are highly subsidised. The living is cheap in a council house. But geographic mobility within Britain forces the tenant out into the open market for housing where rents are expensive.

    Therefore, public policy perpetuates geographical immobility, poverty traps, and “warehousing”.

  133. jules

    “there’s also the psychological barriers to being able to see yourself as moving into a different class,”

    Russell @ 126

    Such as why the fuck would you, they are a pack of up themselves wankers and brutally predatory to boot.

    “That’s one reason why I think the unemployed should be offered a job rather than benefits:”

    Totally agree but work has to be meaningful as well otherwise its glorified slavery.