Ten reasons to riot By William Bowles

13 August 2011

According to the BBC there are ten competing reasons behind the riots:

  1. Welfare dependence
  2. Social exclusion
  3. Lack of fathers
  4. Spending cuts
  5. Weak policing
  6. Racism
  7. Gangsta rap and culture
  8. Consumerism
  9. Opportunism
  10. Technology and social networking — BBC News, 11 August 2011

What is fascinating about the ten headings is that taken collectively they spell capitalism, but broken down as they are, they are reduced to fragments of the whole and subsequently dealt with accordingly, as fragments of largely clichéd and predictable knee-jerk reactions, rolled glibly off the tongues of the assembled ‘experts’.

The degree of self-delusion is revealed not only by what the chosen pundits tell us about the alleged cause/s of the riots, but also who the BBC chose to share with us their ‘deep insights’ into the state of affairs. It’s the state’s tired old intellectuals all over again, whinging on about ‘entitlement’, lack of male role models, envy, social networking, the consumer society, hip-hop (of course) and shopping.

Even Spending Cuts get the psycho-social gobbledegook when a certain Prof. Fitzgerald informs us that:

“…it may be that because there’s been so much talk about police spending cuts, the rioters may have internalised the message that they’re less likely to be caught.”

If it wasn’t so tragic it would be laughable. ‘Internalise the message’ indeed. We are led to believe by the good Prof that somehow, all these people, all over the place had ‘absorbed’ knowledge of the police spending cuts, then all exhaled it at the same time, and again all over the place, knowing, in advance that they would not be opposed. Fitzgerald treats the ‘underclass’ as stupid, motivated only by subliminally internalized messages of freedom. People running amok do not stop to think about being caught, either before or after. Life doesn’t work that way. Get the message? Then internalize it.

‘Welfare Dependence’

Moving on we come to the Right’s favourite mantra, ‘Welfare’ with the charge led by that well known expert on Welfare, Sir Max Hastings (former editor of the Daily Mail) who tells us that:

“a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline – tough love – which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live”.

Yes by jove! What the ‘underclass’ needs is a damn good thrashing followed by some tough love (isn’t that the same thing as a damn good thrashing?). Note the reference to ‘personal freedom’, a term that apparently is applicable only to those rich enough to enjoy it. Not good for the ‘underclass’ to be thinking about personal freedom. But wait, isn’t this Thatcher’s ‘there’s no such thing as society’ jabbering, so what does Sir Max object to exactly? That the ‘underclass’ have personal freedom that is by implication, paid for by the state and therefore they are not ‘entitled’ to it? ‘Damn well knuckle down and get out there and get a job, damn you!’

A professor of criminology says:

“It’s not just about a particular class, it permeates all levels of society. When we see politicians claiming for flat-screen TVs and getting jailed for fiddling their expenses, it’s clear that young people of all classes aren’t being given appropriate leadership.”

Who, exactly are ‘they’ going to listen to if the country is run by a corrupt bunch of thieves and mass murderers? A bunch who steal the public’s money to pay off the thieves who stole it in the first place and demand still more so they can lend it back to us at exorbitant interest rates all over again? Those kinds of leaders? Get a life, prof of criminology.

‘Social Exclusion’ is treated as follows:

Studies do suggest that living in areas of social deprivation could be a factor, says Marian FitzGerald, visiting professor of criminology at the University of Kent.

“But the socially excluded are not always the ones who are rioting – in fact they are often the ones who are most vulnerable to riots. We need a better thought-out approach rather than just using social exclusion as an excuse.”

Excuse for what? Social exclusion is an excuse for social deprivation leading inexorably to social exclusion? Is that all we get? But she’s right, more’s the pity that rioters don’t do their rioting in the wealthier sections of town but then they don’t live there do they.

‘Lack of fathers’

Moving rapidly on, this subject is almost as popular as ‘welfare dependency’ as an explanation for criminal/anti-social behaviour amongst the ‘lower orders’ and so predictable I felt like letting readers fill in blank spaces instead of giving the spiel:

According to Cristina Odone of the Daily Telegraph, the riots could be traced back to a lack of male role models: “Like the overwhelming majority of youth offenders behind bars, these gang members have one thing in common: no father at home.”

My how statistics lie. Gang members all have another thing in common, they’re all broke, so what’s it to be, poverty, bad education, stressed out home life, or what? This is what happens when you get half-wits employed as journalists, who pick at whatever irks them and ignore everything else. Most kids of single parent families do quite well but most kids of poor single parent families don’t. It tells us nothing about cause or effect, it’s merely one factor amongst many but if there is a factor that ties it all together it’s poverty, of body and spirit.

‘Spending Cuts’

It’s too soon to say [that this was a cause of the riots] …, Prof FitzGerald says. “The full implementation of the cuts to local authority services that will have the biggest impact on these areas will not be fully felt until next year.

Well at least we know what we’re letting ourselves in for then. But fundamentally, this is not about cuts, though I’m sure even thinking about getting housing benefit or child allowance cut, makes a lot of people break out in a cold sweat. Life is insecure enough as it is. Again, it’s not one thing that has led to these multiple uprisings but an accumulation of things.

‘Weak policing’

It may have made some difference if the rioters had been more immediately engaged with a more robust form of policing, says Prof Wilson.

“Several of the rioters who were interviewed clearly enjoyed the feeling of being powerful. They were encouraged to feel that the cities in which they were misbehaving belonged to them. [my emph. WB]

You mean break a few heads right off the bat so-to-speak?

Typical crowd behaviour, enjoying yourself, that’s why we go to concerts and riots. A feeling of the power of the collective. It will carry you away. But who exactly “encouraged them to feel powerful”? The good prof failed to provide any proof for his hypothesis that God forbid, people should feel the city belongs to them. What an outrageous idea! What will the ‘lower orders’ think of next? It seems all thinking deserts the intelligentsia when faced with real life.

‘Racism’

Christina Patterson of the Independent said the race factor could not be overlooked: “Too many black men have been killed by the police. Too many black men and women have been treated like criminals when they’re not. This is not the cause of these riots, but it’s there in the mix.”

Police shootings are very rare, Prof FitzGerald notes.

Well you’d think that you can’t go wrong with this one but even here Ms. Patterson tells us that “too many black men have been killed by the police”. How many is too many I wonder? But at least she acknowledges that killing black people and beating the crap out of them, might be ‘in the mix”. In an obvious attempt to ‘balance’ this section Prof Fitzgerald fails to note that on average, one person a week dies whilst in police custody, black and white.

‘Gangsta rap and culture’

Paul Routledge of the Daily Mirror blamed “the pernicious culture of hatred around rap music, which glorifies violence and loathing of authority (especially the police but including parents), exalts trashy materialism and raves about drugs”.

This is from the same newspaper that glorifies violence in Afghanistan or Libya and exalts trashy materialism and raves about drugs in order to sell newspapers.

‘Consumerism’

“These are shopping riots, characterised by their consumer choices,” insisted Zoe Williams of the Guardian. She added: “This is what happens when people don’t have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can’t afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it.”

Shopping riots?! Williams must be a shopa-riota-holic. This is boilerplate Sunday magazine stuff that you read whilst in your local Tappas bar or whatever’s currently fashionable. Perhaps it got stuck in here by mistake? Get back to shopping Zoe!

‘Opportunism’

Prof Wilson tells us that, “Opportunism, mixed with a sense of being in a big gang, will have enticed many who wouldn’t necessarily do something like this normally.

“Also significant is the feeling of invulnerability because they are part of something so big. Also linked to this is the feeling of doing something transgressive and feeling powerful in a culture where they don’t have much power.”

Thank you prof for your blinding insights into what happens to people when you take away any control they have over their own lives.

‘Technology and social networking’

“Social media and other methods have been used to organise these levels of greed and criminality,” Steve Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, told reporters.

Well, what can I say? Knacker of the Yard speaking: ‘ere you ‘orrible social networkers you! I’m going to have your balls fer breakfast an’ yer ipod for lunch!’ Greed and criminality? They must rehearse these mantras.

And it’s the reference to “other methods” that’s also sinister. What other methods could Knacker of the Yard get his hands on? Back in the ‘old days’ there was thing called networking. People used to pick up the phone and call people and go out and do things and I don’t remember there being a big clamour for the telephone to be outlawed. But it fits the pattern of criminalizing social unrest instead of dealing with it.

This is a picture of a culture and a country in total denial about the reality of capitalism’s assault on our humanity. That so many highly paid people can spew out the drivel I’ve quoted from above, is surely proof enough of this.

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