Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism?


by Guest    
9:05 am - August 11th 2011

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contribution by James Bloodworth

Some on the Left interpreted the riots across London as a sort of awakening. After the student protests and anti-cuts marches, the underclass has entered the arena, bringing to the television screens of Middle England the realities of life in Britain’s inner cities they had up to now forgotten or ignored.

What seems to have passed some by, however, is that disenfranchised youth burning and looting sports gear has far more in common with the “greed is good” mantra than it does with the cooperative control of the means of production.

When the cameras are switched off, it is the lives of the poor which will be blighted by these riots, not the gated communities of Kensington and Chelsea.

It is true of course that if governments refuse to distribute wealth it will be done using force. After all, the rich have been “looting” the country for years in the guise of clever accounting, only to be given knighthoods and lionised by the media in the process.

When disenfranchised youth do the same, the mainstream predictably sound-off like a Telegraph editorial about “violent thugs” and “feral youth,” ignoring the underlying deprivation at the heart of the matter.

What large-scale looting demonstrates is that it is the battle of ideas where the Left is playing catch-up in Britain’s poorest areas.

While middle class universities are hotbeds of youth radicalism, for the poor it is often the language of neo-liberalism that motivates. Aspirational rhetoric sounds different on the council estates of Woolwich or Peckham, but it is widespread and accepted all the same.

Popular hip-hop music promotes not solidarity, but a desire to escape “the ghetto” – often by any means necessary. “Get rich or die tryin” was how American rapper 50 cent put it; and while “Fiddy” is very much out of fashion these days, the narrative of getting rich at all costs is still conspicuous, to say the least.

The difference between this and those who deny funds to services through tax evasion is that when young black men “loot” the BBC will call it “totally unacceptable”; in the case of the former it will be put down to an individual becoming “tax efficient”.

What someone does in a business suit however does not become ok simply because it is repeated by a person wearing a tracksuit. Neither is to be celebrated; and unthinkingly doing so does little to help those living in Enfield and Tottenham who aren’t rioting, such as the elderly, terrified and barricaded inside their homes.

Forgetting such people is one of the luxuries of the academic left, who can at times cling on to trendy terms such as “uprising” and “revolt” in a desire to attach themselves to youth and their attractive and dangerous anger.

In this vein, the riots demonstrate not only the consequences of the rampant free market, but the retreat of the Left from the council estate to the ivory tower.

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Reader comments


Good points, but must you use the Daily Mail sounding “rampant consumerism”? “Rampant” is just a boo word – it doesn’t mean anything much (apart from “spreading” or “rife”). “Rampant consumerism” = working class people wanting to have things.

2. Luis Enrique

in the case of the former it will be put down to an individual becoming “tax efficient”

try googling BBC and tax evasion, and see if you can find any instances of it being put down to an individual becoming “tax efficient”

(or was that one of those statement where truth/falsehood isn’t of interest)

3. Luis Enrique

I liked this on Guardian online front page:

Politicians peer into the smouldering embers – and see what they want to see
Aditya Chakrabortty

The riots reflect a society run on greed and looting
Seumas Milne

4. Torquil Macneil

Yes, it has been pitiful how everyone has tried to ride his or her hobby horse through all this mayhem. Shuggy, makes some interesting points about it all over at his blog asking the obvious and pertinent question: if it’s all about poverty and alienation or moral turpitude, why not Scotland?

Yeah you need to make sure you use ‘Tax Avoidance’ rather than tax evasion, because plumbers working cash in hand could be doing the latter but could never do the former.

6. Luis Enrique

Come off it, not all participants are deprived. The first few arraigned have got jobs (except for the 11 year old bin stealer) and one of them is a millionaire’s daughter. “Rampant consumerism”? Yeah, the guy who stole a huge bag of basmati rice must have seen the same bag on Cribs. The kid who stole the bin must have seen it on Eastenders.

The criminality was an exploitation of a weakness / vulnerability discovered in the system; a couple of hundred people, very casually ‘organised’ via social media / BBM, and striking fairly simultaneously in different areas, can easily overwhelm the thin blue line*. They did it because they could do it, it was fun and initially there was a low risk of being caught.

Some of them might have been more inclined to do it because of their backgrounds, but being poor != looter or arsonist, and not all the looters and arsonists are poor.

David Aaronovitch is good on this in The Times today – people will see what they want to see, it will confirm their own prejudices. And yes, I appreciate that this may also apply to me (as Aaronovitch also says about himself).

8. Horus, The God-Emperor of Mankind's favoured son

LET THE GALAXY NATION BURN!!

Interesting thoughts, but could you provide names, and maybe links, to the ‘academic left’ who have been saying that this was a working-class political uprising? And since when were ‘uprising’ and ‘revolt’ ‘trendy terms’ in academic circles? You’re setting up a straw man and knocking him down – very satisfying, no doubt, but pretty futile.

Arguably, this is a class struggle because within capitalist society people struggle for the things they feel they need but have been denied, whether its a living wage or the latest iPhone. Not very heroic in the latter case, but once you’ve got the living wage (sort of) but exclusion and inequality persist, people are bound to struggle for less heroic aims. After all, as Lenin pointed out, the struggle for material improvement within capitalism takes place on terms dictated by capitalism itself: at one time that was a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work (illusory when your surplus value is being extracted); nowadays it’s the right to consume the things you want. No, you’re right, it isn’t a revolutionary uprising, just business as usual, consumerism by other means, but there is a class struggle element underlying it because the root cause is capitalism’s failure to deliver on its promises – and that applies just the same whether people are starving, or simply unable to afford the trainers they want. The looters have indeed bought into the values of the system (as did 19C trade unionists who wanted a fair wage when capitalism can never deliver any such thing), but in doing so they have responded to capitalism’s inability to deliver on its consumerist promise. Not that it will do anybody any good.

10. Paul Newman

Yet this fashion for violent looting took place in areas where the left run things and most are recipients of endless largesse courtesy of the hard working tax payer. I don`t think that many of us, trying to make a living in the free-market would accept that we are no better than thieves.
This equivalence you draw between people who are criminals and people who are not, although they may be fortunate, is like a child babbling .When by some nursery logic, life is fair, presumably you will accept that people are not entitled to smash up the high street ? Are you six ..seven..at big school yet ?
If there is a growing infantile belief that you are entitled to something for nothing it has nothing to do with capitalism and everything to do with the the fact that the left never stop saying you are .Greed,selfishness and contempt for others are personality traits not philosophies and they flourish in the single parents wasteslands of welfare London where the idea you are responisible for your own life is undermined every day.

“It is true of course that if governments refuse to distribute wealth it will be done using force.”

Oh my word. No wonder people never want the Left in charge for long. “Give us more money that we haven’t earned or we will smash stuff up?” Yes, because the government that panders to that sentiment is one we can all support

12. flyingrodent

Yet this fashion for violent looting took place in areas where the left run things…

What, England? I think not – Tory dominated, in fact.

13. Torquil Macneil

Why no rioting in Newcastle? Why none in Glasgow?

“try googling BBC and tax evasion, and see if you can find any instances of it being put down to an individual becoming “tax efficient””

Indeed,Virgin actually called it “co-ordinat[ing…international growth and brand management”.

“Rampant” is just a boo word – it doesn’t mean anything much.”

In that vein, what’s with the sudden rise in the use of the word ‘feral’?

16. Luis Enrique

sorry, I read the OP to mean you think the BBC will call tax evasion tax efficiency, perhaps that’s not what you meant.

I agree the PR department of corporations that actually do it are unlikely to call it “totally unacceptable”, preferring variations on “efficiency”.

b.t.w. if you have in mind the legal tax dodging things Virgin has done, I think you mean “avoidance” not “evasion”:

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

17. Shatterface

‘Popular hip-hop music promotes not solidarity, but a desire to escape “the ghetto” – often by any means necessary. “Get rich or die tryin” was how American rapper 50 cent put it; and while “Fiddy” is very much out of fashion these days, the narrative of getting rich at all costs is still conspicuous, to say the least.’

Amusing as it is to see the Liberal Left trot out the same stereotypical crap about Hip Hop as the Right the idea that either Hip Hop or the riots are an expression of rampant capitalism is way off the mark.

The riots were neither a popular insurrection nor an outbreak of unbridled consumerism.

Group psychology has its own dynamics that aren’t just ‘relatively autonomous’ to the economic base but reflect a diffusion of responsibility we all feel when part of a group, whether as football fans, attendees at a festival, authentic protestors, the police, the army, or the witnesses to the murder of Kitty Genovese.

The riots are the *very opposite* of an expression of individualism.

I do indeed mean that re Virgin, sorry.

I have indeed heard the BBC refer to tax avoidance and “efficiency savings”. They do so fairly often.

“It is true of course that if governments refuse to distribute wealth it will be done using force. ”

Utter load of bollocks!!!!!!!!!

I was speaking to my mate the other night – he was up all night on ” fire watch ” meaning he was waiting for his flat to be set on fire so he could get out in time, he is 25 years old and from a “poor” family. His brother is a crack head and was out enjoying the FUN – he was working on his projects, his latest business venture.

He has been self employed since 18 years of age and has taught him self many skills, coming from the same environment as his brother and the youth of that area, turning out totally different to them because HE WANTED TO BE MORE.

We already distribute wealth, a skill-less uneducated person with no motivation or drive to better them selves in this country is granted living standards that people in some places on earth right now can only DREAM OF.

“Wealth is relative” I have been told by a local Muppet, ” its all good and well comparing our standard of living to the third world but still these people lack..”

F~ck off ~ when you assess wealth on the basis of flat screen tvs and play-stations 3″s you are insulting humanity..the living standards in this country are amazing and so are the opportunity’s, we live in a global economic network right now that allows kids coming out of uni to become billion airs from websites, the internet providing a population of customers and access to marketing that multinational corporations had to pay hundreds of millions per year just a decade or two ago for the same exposure.

People are not lacking opportunity they are lacking inner drive to be something and they are the only ones responsible for that ” distribute wealth” how about all the people that break there backs working there ass off to create the wealth in the first place just stop???

What would the incompetent fools who cant provide for them selves or add any value to society do then? There a dead weight to society, the kind who would not be around if it weren’t for insanely obvious health and safety rules and seat belts.

20. Torquil Macneil

“I have indeed heard the BBC refer to tax avoidance and “efficiency savings”. They do so fairly often.”

I don’t suppose you can furnish even a single example of it though.

“In this vein, the riots demonstrate not only the consequences of the rampant free market”

These people would have starved to death or been shot sooner with out the free-market providing for them, you work hard to run a business and are taxed heavily to pay for these people to live,when they don’t have enough they smash up and burn down your shop and you your self are clearly the cause,promoting rampant consumerism.

Why is it that the worst Riots in British History happend under David Cameron’s Tory led Coalition ? Because they (Coalition) is built on the foundations of Deceit and lies that has seen the Phone Hacking Scandal with David Cameron’s close friends and associates involved. David Cameron gave his good buddy Andy Culson a Top Job in Downing Street the highest office in this land even though he knew that Andy Culson was involved in crime. There followed a string of resignations from senior Police Officers. This Coalition constantly lied throughout the election campaign by promising to protect the vulnerable and poorest in society but once in office embarked on financially slaughtering them. The list is endless now and it is my personal opinion that this Government is Evil, pure and simple.

David Cameron and others are so embarrassed by the riots that they have begun to point the finger already at Broken Families, unemployed, poorest and basically the weakest in society that do not have a voice. The reality that David Cameron does not want to face is that this Government looks corrupt because it is so dishonest, deceitful and constantly lies to he entire nation. The phone hacking has also shown this Government to be dodgy and willing to employ accused people/friends into the highest office in the land.

It is no surprise that the youth of the United Kingdom have no respect when they see Politicians/MP’s acting and behaving in the above mentioned ways because Politicians should be setting an example to the rest of the nation by being Decent, Honest, fair and hard working. Let us also not forget the expenses scandal where it was common practice for Politicians and MP’s to milk the system.

Is it really that surprising that the worst riots in British History happened whilst David Cameron is Prime-Minister ?

How long has David Cameron been Prime-Minister ? Fifteen Months ! What a Diabolical Mess, the man should resign because he is a disgrace to the nation.

23. Truthtalking Wannabe Tory

What would the incompetent fools who cant provide for them selves or add any value to society do then? There a dead weight to society, the kind who would not be around if it weren’t for insanely obvious health and safety rules and seat belts.

Aye, lets put em out of our misery. If you haven’t got a job after five years you clearly don’t deserve to live. The whole hanging debate came at the right time if you ask me. Time for some social cleansing. Ain’t that right lads?

“Is it really that surprising that the worst riots in British History happened whilst David Cameron is Prime-Minister ?”

The disorder is happening all the time just on a much smaller scale and out side of public view, the amount of stabbings, muggings and attacks on people that take place daily, it has NOTHING to do with who is in office, it has everything to do with how these people think and choose to live.

How many black people have been stabbed/shot in London by another black person in the last ten years? Do we see a national riot taking place at every incident? NO, its an acceptable way of there lives, but when the police take out a criminal its a totally different story which is very soon forgotten when they realize how much of an upper hand they have over law and order, by catching the state off guard and now its time for several days of looting.

@22 The Tories are pretty much politically fucked from the whole affair, they can hand-wave all they like and try and claim that Labour stole their homework, but it was they who were at the helm when it all kicked off, if Brown and labour can be held responsible for the world-wide recession then Cameron and the Conservatives can be held responsible for Britain being in flames.

As our Sally has said in another thread – look at the rip-off by the banks:

Compare and contrast these news reports:

Taxpayers could face a £100m bill for the riots in London and across the UK, with
police authorities facing the prospect of picking up insurance costs for damage to property across the country.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-cost-taxpayer-100-million

The banking industry has abandoned a legal fight over the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

The British Bankers’ Association, which fought the case, said it would appeal after losing a court challenge against new rules on mis-selling.

Barclays said it had set aside £1bn to pay compensation, and HSBC £269m, while RBS added £850m to the £200m it had already paid or provided for.

Last week, Lloyds Banking Group made a £3.2bn provision for possible claims.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13330858

“Aye, lets put em out of our misery. If you haven’t got a job after five years you clearly don’t deserve to live. The whole hanging debate came at the right time if you ask me. Time for some social cleansing. Ain’t that right lads?”

No no no, lets say to these fully functional people that its all ok, hey heres a house have as many children as you like! We will pay for them all! Judging by the structure of your lives and how you handle the responsibilitys in life you will do a fine job at raising them, lets totally ignore the issues and pay for them to do as they please… that”l fix it.

Alright everyone calm down. Geez, the way you lot were carrying on you think its the end of the world. Relax.

29. Charles Wheeler

As the failures of 30 years of ‘no such thing as society’ neoliberalism become ever starker, and the polarization of our plutocracy accelerates, the self-flagellation of ‘the left’ continues apace.

Social democrats have nothing to apologise for. They should be saying ‘I told you so.’

Just how many societies are there in Britain and how can we tell?

I think we should know.

@28 To be fair it is an Internet debate. Just wouldn’t be the same without a bit of hyperbole. Also, I’m pretty sure I just saw War And Famine go galloping past my window…

What about the other two horseman, erm food poisining and Jesus. Did you see those two ride past cause if they did then I am proper scared. Still I am just worried about the right wing who are putting that ‘Look I Care’ face on, cause when the wind changes direction it will stay like that forever. Seriously, it can happen as it happened to me. You have been warned.

“To be fair it is an Internet debate. ”

That is all it ever is, armchair warriors from parliament to every blog on the net trying to apply there own moral values and reasoning to reality’s they don’t have a fucking clue about..” well maybe these young people just need some counselling equal opportunity’s and a future, we must all be as one to provide a future for or young peoples”

If you gave some of these guys 70k dole money a month the only difference in outcome would be that would no longer nick your phone after they’ve broke your jaw.

34. Wibble Wibble

Rather reassuringly it seems that people from nearly all of our communities are being quite clear about where the blame lies. And it doesn’t sit at all well with the idea that it’s down to years of ‘oppression’. Yet many commentators seem to ignoring that blindingly obvious fact and just blithely fitting things into their own preconceived agenda.

Do the math.

The average cost of keeping a person in jail for a year is £40000. So it is irrational for society to permanently lock up anyone who commit crimes that does less damage than that.

Cost of a crime tends to be greater than the benefits to the one who commits it, so halve that figure.

There is a pretty extensive set of people who have little practical chance of earning more than £20,000 any time within the next 5 years. If they acted alone, they might face exemplary punishment, but with coordination they have effective herd immunity. Lions are harder on antelopes than anything the most vicious LA cop has yet been accused of. But still they throng the watering holes of the Serengeti: for every one the lions eat, there are a hundred more.

The same with U boat captains and convoy ships.

So individually, it is probably rational self interest for many people to commit property crime. Now add social media, providing coordination and social reinforcement (turning them from a set of people into a social class). En masse, property crime becomes a no-brainer, a norm that you would be considered eccentric to abstain from. Like that one Greek dentist who actually pays tax, or that guy who annoys you by slowing down the motorway by driving at 70.

And this doesn’t require the traditional leaflet-distributing radical outsiders that are vulnerable to infiltration and arrest.

I think we will be seeing a lot more of this…

@Soru: “The average cost of keeping a person in jail for a year is £40000. So it is irrational for society to permanently lock up anyone who commit crimes that does less damage than that.”

To me, that looks remarkably like Chicago School economics straight from the pen of Nobel laureate Gary Becker:

Crime and Punishment: A economic approach
http://www.ww.uni-magdeburg.de/bizecon/material/becker.1968.pdf

On the cost of keeping someone in prison try the answer to this PQ:

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the average cost of a prison place in (a) England and (b) Wales was in the latest period for which figures are available. [32311]

Mr Blunt: For 2008-09 (latest period available), the overall average cost per place in England was £45,000 and, in Wales was £53,000 (figures to nearest 1,000).
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110111/text/110111w0003.htm

15 years ago, Mark Duggan was a teenager on Broadwater Farm with some choices before him. Still in school. he was coming of age just at a time when Britain and particularly London was set to boom and people from all over the world were flocking there. Tupac Shakur was shot dead in 1996 and I wonder if the schoolboy Duggan was a fan. ”Thug Life” and all that.

Places like Broadwater Farm never really got over the problems of thirty years ago. They were still dumping grounds for the poor and marginalised. People who never fancied going for a job as a postman or hotel worker, even though anyone who had actually tried to get crap jobs could get them. Tens of thousands of African people arrived in London at this time and have made places like Tottenham their home. While the fathers might be working as security guards on industrial estates, I don’t think those kinds of jobs were very appealing to their sons as they left school.

I do blame the hip hop street culture quite a bit – You only have to take a bus around Wood Green and Tottenham when all the (black) school kids get on, to see the problem. As an ‘older’ white guy, I feel somewhat alienated that these youngsters even speak in a different way to me. We also used to be loud on the bus coming home from school in the 1970s, but we spoke in a traditional London accent. The youngsters today speak a street dialect that alienates them from the wider society I think. Particularly the adult world of work.

And in Manchester, it was like the cast of ”Shameless” all got the word that there was free stuff down at the shopping centre. Same kind of underclass as Tottenham, just a bit different because they’re white.

Darcus Howe calls it a ”classic insurrection”. The poor guy has lost his marbles.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFaefsJzB9M

Btw, anyone see this coppers blog? The guy is, or was a policeman, as are half the people commenting on it. Quite interesting.
http://inspectorgadget.wordpress.com/

Here we have it, straight (and simple) from the donkey, as it were:

Police were too slow to react to the riots and were wrong to treat it as a public order issue rather than one of criminality, Prime Minister David Cameron says.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14485592

It’s an interesting point, asking about Scotland. In the rougher parts of Paisley and Glasgow I’ve seen the shops are so barricaded looting would be out of the question. The weather hasn’t been that good either, and I believe it is a factor in these sorts of events.

“Group psychology has its own dynamics that aren’t just ‘relatively autonomous’ to the economic base but reflect a diffusion of responsibility we all feel when part of a group, whether as football fans, attendees at a festival, authentic protestors, the police, the army, or the witnesses to the murder of Kitty Genovese.

The riots are the *very opposite* of an expression of individualism.”

Precisely. The initial start is something (given what *most* were doing) that was about disenfranchisement and social divide…but the way it was handled led people to believe that they could get away with something…and the more people did it, the more other people joined in.

It’s a combination of a very real disconnect in areas of society manifesting itself in a lack of respect (or understanding at the very least), and getting caught up in the moment with the rest of their peers. It’s not capitalism as such, greed perhaps, but it’s also hard to believe that these people have gone out thinking “I’m doing this because I feel I have a moral and ethical right to this stuff I’m stealing” either.

I think both sides are going wide of the mark here with very simplistic generalisations on what motivates people.

“The youngsters today speak a street dialect that alienates them from the wider society I think. Particularly the adult world of work.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same. They WANT to be alienated from wider society, while also being accepted by their social peers. It’s rebellion, and it’s been going on for generations and generations.

@39:” It’s an interesting point, asking about Scotland. In the rougher parts of Paisley and Glasgow I’ve seen the shops are so barricaded looting would be out of the question.”

C’mon.

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has complained about broadcasters headlining coverage of urban unrest as “UK riots”. Salmond said he was not complacent but claimed Scottish society was different from that in England, and that similar riots were much less likely in Scotland.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/10/england-riots-salmond-uk-headlines

The reason why:

“In Scotland, the alcohol-related death rates for males and females were around double the rates for the UK as a whole in 2002-2004, according to new analysis published today by the Office forNational Statistics in Health Statistics Quarterly 33 (Spring 2007).”
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/alrate0207.pdf

Marx was quite wrong about religion being the opium of the masses. In Scotland, it’s alcohol. As the Scottish government reported:

The country drank nearly 50 million litres of pure alcohol in 2007 – equivalent to 11.8 litres per capita for every person aged over 16. This is considerably higher than England and Wales, which had an average consumption figure of 9.9 litres per capita.
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2009/02/20161722

Right-wing tactic to surpress uncomfortable truths and close down debate that presents them with realities they don’t want to accept:

Reality Based Person: There is no excuse for criminality, but we have to understand the factors that have created this situation if we are to combat it. If you you leave whole communities to fester in dysfunctional environments, cut all the programs designed to help them, subject them to rampant police harassment and leave them with no stake in society you are allowing the conditions that create anti-social people who feel they have nothing to lose.

Conservative Magical Thinking Reactionary Fantasist – You’re trying to excuse thuggery and destructive, criminal behaviour! They do it because they’re all born evil! Environment is irrelevant! (so why the fuck do you spend thousands on private schools for your kids you hypocritical lying selfish bastards) “hang em” “flog em” “Lock em all up” “wah wah” *roll about on the floor* *scream* *howl*

Note the conspicuous absence of Asian faces among the rioters.

This tells me that family breakdown must be considered as a factor. Asians are notoriously family and community-orientated. British black and white people are notoriously NOT.

Also, why, if the riots are related solely to poverty, did riots not break out in Newcastle, Sheffield, Barnsley, Middlesborough, Rotherham, Doncaster and Leeds?

Oh, this is consumerism, gone mad. Not one person steals a flat screen TV as a political act. This is the Right’s insistence that greed is good and you are measured by your possessions, not the content of your character. I have it before and I will say it again, these people are merely opportunists who wait for the correct social conditions to go out and gather as much as humanly possible in as short as time possible. This is not Left Wing territory, the Left simply struggle on this scale because the Left can NEVER offer these people the riches that the Right DEMAND they aspire to.

Look at this way. HSBC have announced a profit of seven Billion quid and then announced that ten thousand people are to lose their livelihoods in the process. No-one on the Right talks about the loss of homes and the loss of lively hood of these victims. No one on the Right demand that the victims be allowed to arm themselves or the people responsible be forced to do National Service or any rubbish like that.

How many pensioners will lose their lives or at least a hefty chunk of their income as massively rich and powerful men (and it is mostly men) hike up their fuel bills? Will Nick Clegg tour the Country meeting the victims of that piece of looting?

Sure you will get the ‘that is sad, but’ and, remember, everything before the ‘but’ is bullshit.

The above is driven by the same visceral emotion as the looters; Greed, pure and simple greed and the amoral mentality that drives it. Oh, they use different methods and perhaps less brutal force, but the result is the same. Our political masters have nothing to say about the carnage and the hollowing out of communities and the devastation caused by the corporate looters, but everything to say about the odd greedy bastard who nicks a rolex, but nothing about the ten thousand people who were sacked so that a bonus could be paid to buy the rolex.

@44: “Note the conspicuous absence of Asian faces among the rioters.”

Try this from an Asian, woman journo, which has the ring of truth about it:

These riots were about race. Why ignore the fact?
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/katharinebirbalsingh/100099830/these-riots-were-about-race-why-ignore-the-fact/

48. Spartacusisfree

The new chavs don’t have the money to buy what they want so the Left said to them it’s OK to steal because the rich have been exploiting them.

The problem is that the people being attacked are the middle classes and they have the votes.

So, politicians are breaking cover from the political mono-culture of borrow from the future to buy off the underclass with benefits and hugs.

Very soon we’ll have legislation which means anyone on welfare who commits a criminal offence loses their benefits, including their home, subject to the welfare of children of course.

This will rein in chav culture more effectively than anything else. It also means a lurch to the Right. Marxists may discuss whether it was their fault or that of Research In Motion……

The Asian concept of family is also much wider than our own “Nuclear Family” as well. But then the concept of the Nuclear family is also said to have a successful attempt at atomising and reducing the collective power of the populace.

50. Spartacusisfree

Answer to Bob B. 1.03 pm today.

Birbalsingh got this completely wrong. This is what I wrote on her blog.

‘These riots are about the destruction of the family. Because West Indian culture was already part way down that path, it is the worst.

On some estates in Totttenham, 80% of children have no male living with the mother, as bad as the worst Los Angeles ghettos.

So, NOT race, lack of a father figure and its replacement by the gang.’

” everything to say about the odd greedy bastard who nicks a rolex, but nothing about the ten thousand people who were sacked so that a bonus could be paid to buy the rolex.”

You honestly believe there cutting the force so a few can have a bonus?

52. the a&e charge nurse

Oh, I do urge you all to read the Black Swan´- nobody saw the riots coming, nobody knows why they occured – but a sort of revisionism is applied after the fact, especially the tendency toward tried and trusted rhetoric in order to paper over gaps in our understanding of complex phenomena?

Can I get an advance for writing a book called The White Swan, talking about those things that are completely unsurprising and widely predicted in advance?

For example:

http://crookedtimber.org/2011/08/10/austerity-and-social-protest/
Expenditure cuts carry a significant risk of increasing the frequency of riots, anti-government demonstrations, general strikes, political assassinations, and attempts at revolutionary overthrow of the established order. While these are low- probability events in normal years, they become much more common as austerity measures are implemented.

The whole thing is about as completely predictable as the punchline to a Christmas cracker joke. Crime is an economic activity, create the circumstances under which it is profitable and the invisible hand of the market will deliver it.

@50: “These riots are about the destruction of the family. Because West Indian culture was already part way down that path, it is the worst.”

There is growing evidence of Asians being targeted in the riots and why is West Indian culture so much further down the path of the destruction of the family? Recall that David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, was born and grew up there in a single-parent family and he has an illustrious academic record.

If you dig a little more and talk with West Indians, you’ll soon find out that the rates of violent crime vary widely among the different islands. Jamaica, with its Yardies, has a fearful reputation.

Try this BBC interview with two teen girls from Croydon:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14458424

Evidently, the riots were all a bit of giggle.

OTOH, compare this:

An Old Bailey jury has been shown “shocking” footage of the moment a 16-year-old schoolgirl was fatally shot in a pizza shop. Agnes Sina-Inakoju died 36 hours after being shot as she waited for pizza in Hackney, east London, in April 2010.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-12678632

As a fellow hip-hopper and actor do I really look like a motherfuckin role model. For kids that are looking up to me, I will say that life aint nothin but bitches and money.

56. Shatterface

‘“The youngsters today speak a street dialect that alienates them from the wider society I think. Particularly the adult world of work.”

They don’t speak it exclusively though. Subgroups have always had their rhyming slang, backslang, parlare, polari, verlan or nadsat binding them together while excluding outsiders including the rozzers, Lilly Law, Babylon or the millicents (who have their own slang for scrotes).

“Expenditure cuts carry a significant risk of increasing the frequency of riots, anti-government demonstrations, general strikes, political assassinations, and attempts at revolutionary overthrow of the established order. While these are low- probability events in normal years, they become much more common as austerity measures are implemented.

The whole thing is about as completely predictable as the punchline to a Christmas cracker joke. Crime is an economic activity, create the circumstances under which it is profitable and the invisible hand of the market will deliver it.”

Um crime is profitable under All circumstances – the more wealth a country has the more profit there is to be made doing crime there.

Retard No1: “It’s the Government’s fault. Whoever it is…”
Retard No2: “Conservatives”
Retard No1: “Yeah, whatever. Whoever it is, I dunno. It’s all about showing the police we can do what we want, and now we have.”
Interviewer: “But this is local people. Why are you targetting local people?”
Retard No1: “It’s the rich people. The people with businesses. That’s why all this has happened, because of the rich people. We’re just showing the rich people we can do what we want.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14458424

Even if this were due to cuts which it is not, what’s the solution? Allow the country to be held ransom by unproductive dead weights? Continue with unsustainable spending to keep the afloat or be punished by them?

Crime is an economic activity and so is being a bar tender, the bar tender goes to work and the criminal kicks your door through for reasons that have NOTHING to do with government cuts.

58. gastro george

It’s interesting that what is mainly being traded in the various media is one form or another of the blame game – most of which just serves to reinforce people’s own preconceptions.

But we’re all living in the current situation so, surely it would be more interesting to see what solutions there are to the problem, starting from now.

This is where the Tory rhetoric collapses on itself. What is their line? Blame the perpetrators? Fair enough. What is the solution? Lock them up. As though 13 years of New Labour lock-em-up mentality has got us anywhere. Blame the parents? So what is the solution to that? More support for parenting? You must be joking – the cuts are decimating social programmes. The Tories have no solutions except casting people astray to their own devices. And we can see exactly where that has got us.

You ask “More support for parenting?” How about if you need support as a parent you don’t parent? How about needing to prove you are financially and mentally able to provide for your children and you are in a stable long standing relationship before you have them ( or ten )?

How about there being required standards that need to be reached before people take on the massive massive task and responsibility of raising and shaping a human being?

You cant continue to throw more and more money at dysfunction and expect it to fix its self but the solutions, the enforcing of the correct environment for people to develop in and stopping those who cant provide this environment from raising children, well..thats unthinkable state involvement in our lives and I don’t blame people for being revolted at that idea.. basically there are no solutions:D just a continual balancing act between the productive and the poor which has been on going through out history and falling out of balance now and again..

60. theophrastus

@ 18:

Tax evasion is illegal. Tax avoidance is perfectly legal and is indeed all about efficiency savings.

I’ve not seen or heard of anyone (save some of the youngsters taking part) “celebrating” the looting, unthinkingly or otherwise. And sympathy for innocent victims is surely among the primary emotional responses of anyone witnessing this. Having to begin every discussion on the subject with the caviat that you “don’t condone the looting” is absurd, and an obstacle to legitimate debating around this country-wide phenomenon. To imply that anyone who does not do so is somehow tacitly condoning the riots is a smokescreen argument. Hence it’s the main device of the right.

How is this for a heart-stirring tale of family values in Croydon:

Father and son looters caught in Purley Way, Croydon, with car full of stolen TVs
http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/9188205.Uncle_and_son_looters_caught_with_car_full_of_stolen_TVs/

When a government has a policy that amounts to ‘pathetic on crime, an aggravating factor to the causes of crime’, then disclaims all responsibility, it does make you wonder why anyone would vote for them…

The solution is not particularly difficult or radical: as a baseline, prison works. Other things which potentially work better, are an additional expense, or at best an investment, on top of that. Never a cost cutting measure.

No matter how competently those government basics are done, they will not not enough if the raw economics are such that the unskilled criminal is rewarded vastly more than the bartender. To change those economics, you need things like a higher legal minimum wage, earned income tax credits, educational maintenance allowance, and public sector jobs.

Maybe there is a better plan: that is just what has been proven to work before.

That all costs tax money. Either there will be a collective agreement to pay for such necessities, or there won’t. In the absence of such an agreement, a plan of bewailing the immorality of modern youth is about as unproductive as King Alfred telling the Danish marauders ravaging his coast that they are bad men.

64. gastro george

@59 Welcome to the eugenics zone. I not sure that a policy of mass sterilisation is either realistic or likely to go down well with those you’re wishing to sterilise.

@57

Um crime is profitable under All circumstances – the more wealth a country has the more profit there is to be made doing crime there.

Not really. Crime is only profitable when legitimate avenues of profit are restricted. For example the changeover from criminal enterprise to legitimate business (perhaps with some menace) that many Mafia families in the States underwent, in some cases their cover businesses were making more money than their illegal dealings so the sensible option was to drop the illegal dealings. If you can make MORE money from legitimate enterprise then there is little point in resorting to criminality, course once that no longer becomes true, expect a rise in criminality.

There will always be a hardcore that resorts to criminality however, plus the exclusively criminal and lucrative drugs trade doesn’t help matters much, but of course that’s what prisons are for.

“How about needing to prove you are financially and mentally able to provide for your children and you are in a stable long standing relationship before you have them ( or ten )?”

I always love this viewpoint. “I don’t like how the mother (and/or father) acts, therefore let’s ensure the children themselves have the least possible chance in life and reap the benefits of that in higher chance of criminal behaviour, and lower chance of attainment in education and the job sector”

It’s almost a perfect example of the kind of stupidity that is abound right now as people spew this vindictive and short sighted nonsense out.

“@59 Welcome to the eugenics zone. I not sure that a policy of mass sterilisation is either realistic or likely to go down well with those you’re wishing to sterilise.”

I don’t particularly wish to sterilize any person, I wish the world was full of hard working honest reasonable people but its not and if like the women down the road who has 5 kids all by different fathers, paid for and accommodated by the state, all of which are subjected to something that on appearance could easily be mistaken for an american crack house, if this is allowed the results are clear.

A parenting license is not realistic that does not mean its not a solution, it certainly would not go down well with those who cant shape a life to a good standard but there offspring don’t go down well with society.

“How about needing to prove you are financially and mentally able to provide for your children and you are in a stable long standing relationship before you have them ( or ten )?”

I always love this viewpoint. “I don’t like how the mother (and/or father) acts, therefore let’s ensure the children themselves have the least possible chance in life and reap the benefits of that in higher chance of criminal behaviour, and lower chance of attainment in education and the job sector”

What drivel are you speaking? It has nothing to do with “liking” how the parents act, if you cant afford to raise a child why should you have one? If you have been in and out of prison all of your life why should the children be subjected to that roll model? If you have a drug problem a violence problem why does a life have to suffer through that only to move on to become that its self?

How many parents are deemed unsuitable for even a low risk security job? Parenting is the biggest responsibility there is yet any one can fill the job and we wonder why society has problems? Children being born heroin addicts, being born into drug houses.. yea its about “not liking” how the parents act..clearly…so stupid of me to think standards that most reached naturally would make a difference!

69. Sevillista

@Theophrastus

Yes, tax avoidance is legal (though often the line is quite a blurred one – arguably technically legal but against the law’s spirit).

But surely there is a valid question about why the law allows so much “tax avoidance”? Why, for example, do we allow businesses obviously based in the UK to declare they are Cayman-based to avoid tax, transparency and accountability?

@luisenrique

Google returns 978 results for a search of “tax efficient” on the Beeb’s website and a further 133 for “tax efficiency”. No mentions at all then.

I think we should put them down at birth, be all spartan about it…either that or build some more youth clubs. Either one is good.

Joking aside,seriously is anyone else a bit freaked out by all this kind of weird national socialist views on dealing with the underclass. It seems people are getting a hard on at coming up with the most hideous way of dealing with the poor…and being poor myself, it kind of freaks me out slightly.

No one need die, Confused..its just that if in 10-20 years time by some form of action people automatically did not even consider having children until they were financial stable and mature enough to support those children…society Would change for the better.

I guess not many here have been in a dealers house who at the time was going insane because she could not find her wrap of base, which she left on the table next to the 4 year old child..who it turned out had eaten it, the child lives and grew up to go to prison…

Harsh problems require harsh solutions, just because as a society we haven’t got the guts to fix these problems does not make it valid for you to laugh at the solutions.

@56

They don’t speak it exclusively though. Subgroups have always had their rhyming slang, backslang, parlare, polari, verlan or nadsat binding them together while excluding outsiders including the rozzers, Lilly Law, Babylon or the millicents (who have their own slang for scrotes).

This guy on Newsnight was very funny. What a pillock.
The guy with Ali G accent sitting to the right of the picture.
Listen to him starting at 1 minute 40. :)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9561057.stm

I just read that the woman pictured jumping for her life from a burning building in Croydon is from Poland and works in Poundland.
Would the man shot by the police have taken a job in Poundland?

@71 Yes. It scares me a little too, but then the de-humanising got under way very early on. “They’re feral rats etc”.

75. Shatterface

‘Um crime is profitable under All circumstances – the more wealth a country has the more profit there is to be made doing crime there.’

I thought there was a study that showed the average drug dealer actually ‘earns’ less than he’d get at McDonalds? Despite what you see in the movies it really isn’t a good career move for all but the most ‘productive’.

Mind you, the hours are good.

@70: “I think we should put them down at birth, be all spartan about it…either that or build some more youth clubs. Either one is good.”

Over decades, I’ve witnessed this same loop in places hundreds of miles apart:

Someone in a neighbourhood has a bright idea that what the local teens really need is a youth club to keep them out of mischief or crime.

After lobbying and badgering the local council and MPs, enough public money is produced to build a youth club. It works for a while but then the youth club is found to be too boring so it gets seriously vandalised for kicks and has to close.

After more lobbying and badgering, enough public money is found to put the club back into good order to curb the escalation of vandalism in the neighbourhood. But some still find the club boring so it gets burned down.

There is now no youth club in the neighbourhood. After a while, someone has a bright idea that what the local teens really need is a youth club to keep them out of crime or off the sun beds because of the rise in youthful skin cancers.

Besides which:

British girls ‘biggest teenage binge drinkers in western world’
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/apr/22/british-girls-biggest-binge-drinkers

The British Medical Association (BMA) published a report in September 2009 highlighting concerns about teenage alcohol abuse, following on from a previous report in 2008. ‘Under the Influence’ advised that not only was there a general rise in the proportion of 11 to 15-year-olds who drink alcohol regularly, but also that there is an increase in the amount they are drinking on each occasion. Alcohol Concern suggested that a third more 11 to 15-year-olds are drinking regularly.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/teenage-drinking.shtml

Teenage pregnancy rates rise: Government promises £20m to cut teen pregnancy after first increase in conception rates in five years
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/feb/26/teenage-pregnancy-rise

77. Shatterface

‘@71 Yes. It scares me a little too, but then the de-humanising got under way very early on. “They’re feral rats etc”.’

Like this?

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/08/02/can-this-new-initiative-hold-our-feral-elite-to-account/

@75 a person can make £400 a week by doing as little as sitting in there house and being visited by there social circle for a chat and selling a smoke, the more health an economy has, the more business and private ownership there is to steal from and the more profits there are to be made selling it on was my point.

A family on facing cuts may turn to crime in order to put food on there table I have no doubt about that, but the organized gangs who have been looting for the last few days aren’t underfunded and don’t give a dam about cuts, they were criminals before hand and will be after

79. the a&e charge nurse

Consumerism eh, but why here and why now?

Blaming consumerism has all the advantages of a comfort blanket – makes you feel good in an infantile sort of way, but hardly provides any explanation as to why riots are not a near every day occurance given that western democracies are the most voracious consumers on the planet.

@77 Yes. Except the scare quotes were seemingly misplaced this time, which changes the context a tad.

Disenfranchised youth you say, lets look at who has been charged so far.

A primary school teaching assistant.
A graphic designer
A Social worker
An army recruit

shall I go on?

Families who loot together, stay together:

Father and son looters caught in Purley Way, Croydon, with car full of stolen TVs
http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/9188205.Uncle_and_son_looters_caught_with_car_full_of_stolen_TVs/

@ #35 soru

“Do the math. The average cost of keeping a person in jail for a year is £40000. So it is irrational for society to permanently lock up anyone who commit crimes that does less damage than that.”

How do you put a price on the damage done by assault, intimidation, having your home broken into, rape, or murder, out of interest?

84. Charlieman

@83. Andrew: “How do you put a price on the damage done by assault, intimidation, having your home broken into, rape, or murder, out of interest?”

Soru’s maths at #35 are not very convincing, I agree.

Compensation for criminal injury will apply in some cases. That money will rightly be paid by government, thus increasing the cost of justice.

What you can’t easily calculate is the general impact of loss of business. If an office stationers was burned down, you can’t assume that they’ll set up business again in the same location. The owners may decide that they’ll use the insurance money to establish a branch elsewhere. Jobs move, local businesses find it a bit more difficult to buy a box of paper and there is a hole in the street frontage.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

  2. Richard Try

    RT @libcon Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://t.co/2NjSjNs > As this post says, the latter!

  3. Paul Francis

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

  4. John H

    Riots "not only the consequences of rampant free market, but [of] retreat of Left from council estate to ivory tower." http://t.co/sA6AiKU

  5. Stefano Minguzzi

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/KDVYj6a @minguzzi/politics

  6. Flo Fflach

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

  7. Beatrix Kiddo

    I kind of (dis)agree http://t.co/cvZdb8e

  8. Karlee Gould

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

  9. Stephen Buggy

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

  10. anthony vickers

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

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  12. Watching You

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  13. Lanie Ingram

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

  14. sunny hundal

    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  15. sunny hundal

    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

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    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  17. Roblackenby

    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

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    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  19. Charlie Beckett

    Sensible attempt to redefine the crude terms of the debate on whether riots are consumerism or radicalism> http://t.co/TuWzx46 via @libcon

  20. Conor McBride

    Yes. MT @sunny_hundal: Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or [..] rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  21. Emma Passmore

    Sensible attempt to redefine the crude terms of the debate on whether riots are consumerism or radicalism> http://t.co/TuWzx46 via @libcon

  22. tristam sparks

    MT @CharlieBeckett Sensible attempt to redefine crude terms of debate: [are] riots consumerism or radicalism? http://t.co/TuWzx46 v @libcon

  23. Olly The Octopus

    Or both? RT @libcon: Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl

  24. Zoe Lambert

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/n2Nbaqk via @libcon

  25. Dan

    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  26. R 'Bee' Michael

    Sensible attempt to redefine the crude terms of the debate on whether riots are consumerism or radicalism> http://t.co/TuWzx46 via @libcon

  27. ttramone

    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  28. John McManus

    Sensible attempt to redefine the crude terms of the debate on whether riots are consumerism or radicalism> http://t.co/TuWzx46 via @libcon

  29. Michael Thornton

    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/n2Nbaqk via @libcon

  30. Cordy Freeman

    Riots- working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? LibCon blog: http://t.co/jtp9HCs

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    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

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    @sunny_hundal: the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @ObligedtoOffend)

  35. Andy

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    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

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    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

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    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  39. James Grant

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    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

  41. Vic

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    Were the riots a working class uprising or inspired by rampant consumerism? http://t.co/d46uwrU < excellent blog on @libcon

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  44. Owen Blacker

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  46. Sam Ambreen

    Were the #UKriots a working class uprising or simply inspired by rampant consumerism? http://bit.ly/qE77Hl (asks @obligedtooffend)

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