There's a problem with modern polemic journalism, and it's all to do with the G-word.
I think the last thing we need today is another under-informed commentator spraying ill-thought opinion around like a muskrat marking it’s territory. I’ll stick to aggregating some of the more interesting output I’ve seen over the past 36 hours,
As a sign that things have turned upside down, the most cogent and thoughtful early analysis came from the Telegraph. Mary Riddell’s piece “The Underclass Lashes Out”, nails the financial meltdown, the failings of the Met and the complacency of the government as equally contributory factors. The always provocative Laurie Penny is even starker:
People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night.
Meanwhile, anger at the riots was coming from the most unexpected of sources. National Treasure Danny Baker’s Twitter account seemed to have been taken over by one of his listeners.
That tweet got his show on Radio London shut down for the day, and he remains unrepentant. I can’t condemn his reaction.
Meanwhile, news that the mobs, taking a cue from student protestors and UK Uncut, were mobilising via Blackberry Messenger led to calls for the system to be opened and searched for clues. RIM, unsurprisingly, are less than keen, and as Boing Boing report, a bunch of hackers calling themselves Team Poison hacked into the company website and left threatening messages.
Squawks of outrage at the use of technology during the unrest were quashed as Twitter and Facebook users united to clean up the streets on Tuesday morning. This picture summed up the attitude, and the intent to keep the streets clean and safe.
That effort, of course, continues. The best one-stop shop for info on how you can help is riotcleanup.co.uk.
Technology is also helping to spot and stop the miscreants, and the Met have set up a Flickr group to help users identify looters. Photoshoppers have also entered the fray, and the Photoshop Looters Tumblr is doing a great job of making the fools look more foolish. My personal favourite:
Homes, families and businesses have all suffered as a result of the unrest. But the riots have been potentially disastrous for small UK independent record labels and DVD distributors. Their stock was mostly held in one central warehouse, the Sony DADC distribution centre in Enfield, which was burnt to the ground on Monday night. Labels like Sub Pop, Matador, and Domino, and DVD labels like Artificial Eye, Dogwoof and Guerrilla, have all lost their entire stock catalogue. This is a horrible situation for small, dedicated businesses trying to bring a little bit of art and independent thought to the music and film scene.
There are ways in which we can help. Brendon Connelly of Bleeding Cool has compiled a comprehensive list of sites where you buy downloads of films from the stricken distributors. Meanwhile Boomkat has an easy-to-navigate list of MP3 or FLAC purchases you can make from the labels of the PIAS catalogue affected by the fire. It’s worth spending a little time and money helping these guys out.
In fact, now more than ever, community is the keyword. Whatever we think of the riots, the rioters, their root causes and their likely after-effects, we are all in this together. It’s a platitude, I know, but I don’t have any easy answers. In fact, I’m not even sure what questions to ask. Like I said at the beginning, all I can reasonably add to the discussion is a bit of context, and a little help. You don’t need my liberal hand-wringing, or my reactionary howls for justice. I’m with David Allen Green, to whom I will give the last word:
…the realization came that people with political opinions tend to find exactly what they want in any civil disturbance.
Radicals and leftists find underlying socio-economic causes for certain riots, and mass vulgar prejudice for others. In turn, conservatives from Burke onwards tend to see any civil disturbance as being a failure of “law and order”.
The actual riots are rarely predicted; but when they happen, people with political opinions tend to immediately know why they happened – what really caused them.
…In fact, civil disturbances are invariably used to validate political opinions which people already hold; no conservative or radical will ever say, “Gosh, that riot changes the way I think about society. Perhaps my principles or my policies are wrong?”.
In this respect, civil disturbances are profoundly reactionary: they tend to reinforce rather than challenge views which already exist.