Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

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The Other Lizard
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Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby The Other Lizard » Tue Aug 9, 23:21 2011

There's a lot of hate going on towards the people rioting in London, and I'm feeling the need to respond to it, because the folks who are rioting don't have a voice in the mainstream media.

Before you tell me that the rioters are ignorant criminal thugs, please step back and ask the question: what motivates someone to riot in the streets?

I know people who have protested, rioted, and looted. I've met homeless people who bussed over 3000 kilometres to join a protest against the G20 (ie the most powerful people in the world). The reality is that protestors protest because they feel they have no other recourse against governments and societies that ignore their needs and treat them unfairly. Election after election, the gap between the rich and the poor grows larger, and supposedly democratic governments fail to improve the lives of those in need. When you feel the system has failed you and no one is paying attention to your plight, and your vote never seems to do anything, you run out of possible actions. So you protest.

And why do riots happen? Because the "peaceful" protests go unnoticed or they are misinterpreted. Let me explain.

I did a research project for a political science class last year where I analyzed the media frenzy around the G20 protests in Toronto. What I found, among other things, is that not a single mainstream newspaper actually asked why someone would loot stores. They also equated "anarchist" with "looter" in almost every case, demonizing anarchism as some sort of violent ideology (which it is not, but that's a conversation for another day). Most importantly, the only protestors who got to comment in the newspapers about why they were protesting were people who stood to benefit financially for being present at the protests. People like Naomi Klein, whose anti-capitalist books are best-sellers, and people who were paid to represent non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International.* Anarchists, homeless people, jobless people, people afraid of being identified by the cops, and everyday people who just joined in (in other words, the vast majority of the tens of thousands of people who protested that weekend) none of them were ever quoted by the news outlets. The outcome is that we never hear about the desperation of many of the people who are protesting.

My point is: we need to question what the media tells us about why people protest and who the protestors are. The media leaves out far, far too much of what goes on at protests. We need to think outside the narrow box that news outlets and governments give us.

So why were these Londoners rioting?

Quite simply, inequality.

This is pretty self-explanatory**:


Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear. (Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough.)

Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.




The area where the protests took place is one of the poorest areas of the UK and a horrible history of police brutality**. So consider how they might be without other outlets to speak out against their government. It is easy for those of us who are articulate and highly educated to blog about how we feel about the government. I myself have close contact with political elites in my country. It is therefore very important to remember how far removed I am from the reality of the people who riot because they are poor in a society that treats the poor as if they choose to be poor.***:

Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. 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. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.


Before we write these people off as crazy, we need to consider how these protest are linked to a greater political problem. Austerity**** measures are making the rich richer and the poor poorer all across the world, and people are reacting.

And before you say that it doesn't affect you, believe me, it does. For instance, if you're an american, your government just last week made a huge policy decision (allowing corporate tax breaks to continue) that lets rich people continue to get richer without giving back to a society that is already in turmoil. You and your children are paying for an enormous war that benefits nobody except the shareholders in these corporations, and has killed thousands, and possibly millions.

We need to stand with the people in London who are under attack by their government, because it isn't going to be very long before the austerity measures in our own countries start to hit us and our children, and then where will we be? We need to support the protestors, because if we don't stand up to our governments now, the economic situation will only continue to get worse.




*Not that there is anything inherently wrong with non-governmental organzations. But the idea that they are more legitimate than people who protest without any affiliation is rampant and undemocratic.

**http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/08/context-london-riots --> y'all should read it, it's a good explanation

***http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2011/08/panic-on-streets-of-london.html?spref

**** Austerity is when governments use an economic downturn as an excuse to implement pro-business policies, at the expense of social services like public education and health care. To define austerity any other way is to play into the hands of the rich and powerful.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby lillerina » Wed Aug 10, 1:39 2011

A lot of the people looting are not rioters, the people who were protesting are not the ones looting. It's a shame that these events have been conflated the way they have, because the peaceful protest and demand for information has been completely overshadowed by the violence, looting and arson that's gone on since. What's going on now is being called riots, but largely it's just destruction, theft and violence. On Saturday, there was a political protest going on. Now, it's young people having a good time. The BBC world service have been interviewing people, and there have been young people talking about how much of a laugh it was, how fun it was, how they'd broken into off licenses to steal wine and got really drunk. Likely there are some for whom this has a political element of protest, but they are being undermined by those who are laughing about it and talking about how they're taking part because it's cool to get free stuff.

I've been disgusted by the stream of hatred that I've seen directed towards these people. It's possible to disagree with what someone's doing without calling them 'scum', 'rubbish', 'chavs', 'forigners' (sic), 'feral youths', all quotes from my facebook feed. There's a lot of classism going on, and a lot of racism. I refuse to string them up, but at the same time, I won't hold them up as some sort of heroic freedom fighters, because all of the information I've seen about the people causing disturbance outside london suggests that it's tiny groups of young people who're going out for a good time to get free stuff.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby The Other Lizard » Wed Aug 10, 6:57 2011

BUt that's just the problem, right there. We can't just simply blame the individual while ignoring the context surrounding it. Do you think it's a coincidence that this started in one of the poorest areas of London?

The fact that people are going around and looting things, even if they are not consciously doing it for a political purpose, they are still doing it for a reason. They have motives, this is NOT random. They are poor and mistreated, and that's why they felt the need to riot.

Consider this:

this [the looting, riots, etc.] 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. Hiller takes up this idea: "Consumer society relies on your ability to participate in it. So what we recognise as a consumer now was born out of shorter hours, higher wages and the availability of credit. If you're dealing with a lot of people who don't have the last two, that contract doesn't work. They seem to be targeting the stores selling goods they would normally consume. So perhaps they're rebelling against the system that denies its bounty to them because they can't afford it."



Source, and an article I highly suggest that you read if you think I'm wrong.

I am not saying that people are not responsible for crimes they commit under these conditions - they are. what I'm saying is that we can't prevent this type of crime without dealing with the underlying economic reality. The vast majority of crime happens at least partly because of the economic reality of the perpetrator. With this, the cause is just a little more direct. We have a collective responsibility as a society to reduce inequality. We need to learn that from these riots, and stop blaming just the the individual. It's easy to blame the individual, but nothing, nothing happens without context. Without the context of this economic inequality and police brutality, I don't belive these riots would have happened.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Tweek » Wed Aug 10, 9:20 2011

These people just want stuff without paying for it; there is no justification for their actions... the problem isn't that they are deprived it is that they are depraved. They can't be too poor if they are organising by Blackberry.

I'm sure that the relatives of the three innocent men killed in Birmingham will be happy to hear the people trying to justify the actions of the thugs. The sooner large numbers of hooligans are given very long prison sentences the better.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby edit the sad parts » Wed Aug 10, 9:52 2011

As someone who lives under the poverty line with a cell phone, I really resent that comment. It's bullshit, actually.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Tweek » Wed Aug 10, 11:24 2011

There is a difference between a cell phone and a Blackberry; those things are expensive.

I bet when we hear the details of the criminals many of them won't be poor; suggesting that poverty is an excuse for people's crimes is an insult to the vast majority of poor people who do not go around rioting and ruining other people's lives.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Tookie » Wed Aug 10, 19:40 2011

I'm just catching up on all the news right now! Crazy shit! I need to read the news more often here! And Lizard, you're the best. Agreed on all points.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby spacefem » Wed Aug 10, 20:16 2011

So I'm gonna feature this topic because it's an interesting viewpoint, but for the record there are some things I am definitely hating about the london rioters. big changes have definitely happened throughout history by people peacefully taking to the streets, civil disobedience is powerful.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Aum » Thu Aug 11, 0:53 2011

^ I would love to hear your viewpoint!
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Verbena » Thu Aug 11, 0:58 2011

Tweek wrote:These people just want stuff without paying for it; there is no justification for their actions... the problem isn't that they are deprived it is that they are depraved. They can't be too poor if they are organising by Blackberry.

I'm sure that the relatives of the three innocent men killed in Birmingham will be happy to hear the people trying to justify the actions of the thugs. The sooner large numbers of hooligans are given very long prison sentences the better.


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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Butterfly North » Thu Aug 11, 6:40 2011

Tweek wrote:There is a difference between a cell phone and a Blackberry; those things are expensive.

I bet when we hear the details of the criminals many of them won't be poor; suggesting that poverty is an excuse for people's crimes is an insult to the vast majority of poor people who do not go around rioting and ruining other people's lives.


I bet they are poor. You can get a blackberry for £15 a month. Lots of people have mobiles but no landlines, £4 weekly expenditure on all your communication isn't exactly decadent.

And anyway, no-one is suggesting that poverty is an excuse for crime, they're suggesting that it plays a causal part. Lilly mentioned rioters who were talking openly about doing it purely for fun and for free stuff, but we can't assume that the reasons given by rioters are the whole reasons. It's like asking someone why they are a violent religious fundamentalist; they're going to tell you it's because they're following God's word, or something, but those are not the reasons at all. The reasons behind that phenomenon are sociological, the reasons run a lot deeper, and so too with this case.

The rioters chose to damage property and endanger life, and so they should be held responsible for it. But what made that course of action attractive? What made the risk of retribution seem less bad? These are the questions Lizard is trying to address, and it is actually bloody obvious that they are to do with poverty and inequality. Study after study after study can tell you that, looking at the correlation between inequality and riots throughout history and across the world can tell you that.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Verbena » Thu Aug 11, 10:30 2011

"Stereotype of the underclass does not apply" http://www.smh.com.au/world/stereotype-of-the-underclass-does-not-apply-20110811-1iowa.html

Butterfly North wrote:
The rioters chose to damage property and endanger life, and so they should be held responsible for it. But what made that course of action attractive? What made the risk of retribution seem less bad? These are the questions Lizard is trying to address, and it is actually bloody obvious that they are to do with poverty and inequality.


I don't believe it is obvious, and its certainly too early to make a diagnosis.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Bork » Thu Aug 11, 11:39 2011

I think there needs to be a distinction made between the people protesting and the people who are using the protests as an excuse to loot and be destructive. I'm very anti-violence, no matter who it's coming from (police, protesters, looters, etc.), so I really hate what's going on right now. It makes me absolutely sick that people are using social frustrations as an excuse to go out and cause mayhem and destruction, and to steal from hard working people. How is that going to change ANYTHING? It's not, it's just going to make everyone look bad.

I get that people are frustrated with the situation they're in, and I understand friction between classes, but violence is still absolutely deplorable, no matter what the reason.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby lizpoona » Thu Aug 11, 12:52 2011

Bork wrote:I think there needs to be a distinction made between the people protesting and the people who are using the protests as an excuse to loot and be destructive. I'm very anti-violence, no matter who it's coming from (police, protesters, looters, etc.), so I really hate what's going on right now. It makes me absolutely sick that people are using social frustrations as an excuse to go out and cause mayhem and destruction, and to steal from hard working people. How is that going to change ANYTHING? It's not, it's just going to make everyone look bad.

I get that people are frustrated with the situation they're in, and I understand friction between classes, but violence is still absolutely deplorable, no matter what the reason.



This, exactly. Protest, be loud, maybe accidentally break a window 'cause you're angry. But when people come in a start smashing all the windows, burning down homes, and stealing from hard-working businesses, someone has gone too far and those people should NOT be allowed to represent your cause, or even have anything to do with it. Everyone forgets Gandhi. Didn't he accomplish some huge changes through peaceful protest? These looters are hijacking peaceful protests and now people are defending the riots as a result of poverty. I know when you're poor you're frustrated. What I don't get is how that justifies burning down homes. It seems like we're stereotyping poor people more by implying poverty turns them(or us) into riotous animals, then to look at them and scold them for heinous actions perpetrated against innocent people.

We all agree poverty is hard. We all agree the government should do better at hearing its people and eliminating poverty and providing opportunities fro young people. But none of this justifies looters and rioters who want to tear up shit just for the hell of it, either thinking they can do what they want, or thinking they're actually doing anything good. It's idiotic to believe burning the streets will turn out well for you, or for anyone. It's also idiotic and depraved to do it just for fun, which some of the rioters are. it'll scare people, yea, but there are better ways to enact change.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby letyourlifesing » Thu Aug 11, 13:23 2011

I'll reply properly to this at some point when I'm not on a train and have a non time limited internet connection. For now I just want to say that I really like what Lizard posted.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby The Other Lizard » Sun Aug 14, 17:25 2011

Those of you who disagree with me seem to be falling on two main points. The first is that the looting was random and hurt average people and not corporations. For this I need to reinforce the idea that we need to question what the mainstream media is telling us about what happened:



This was political. It was not random or pointless.

In fact, from what I've seen, (which admittedly is somewhat limited) the only news sources that said they were random were the big north american ones.

The other argument many of you seem to be making is that rioting is not a good way to show a political message. I think that if you think this, you need to check how privileged you are in saying that. We are talking about people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in a country with the lowest social mobility of all the OECD countries. We are also talking about racialized immigrant communities (according to one alternative source that I saw), reacting to police violence in an area where police violence has clearly not be justly dealt with. these people have no other recourse against their government. Rioting happens when people feel powerless.

I think we can all agree that the mass protests in the middle east earlier this year happened because people were mistreated by their governments and felt powerless to do anything about it. Why are we so unable to believe that people in western countries would do that for the same reason? Inequality leads to people being helpless and resorting to violence. This doesn't just happen in the middle east - it happens in Europe and North America too. The only real difference is that it's far less in the media's interests, and in the governments interest, to report that these people are so desperate and perhaps even legitimate in what they are doing. The rich and powerful want you to believe that these riots were idiotic and random, so that you will take their side.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Storage and Disposal » Sun Aug 14, 18:28 2011

You realize we have members here that had friends beaten in the riots, people died, and... Wow, just wow. To have the balls to tell them to check their privilege if they find this as bad politics is just beyond ironic. To act like you know their situation better than they do shows a lot of balls, too. You have a lot of balls, I'll give you that much.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Verbena » Mon Aug 15, 1:11 2011

The Other Lizard wrote:Those of you who disagree with me seem to be falling on two main points. The first is that the looting was random and hurt average people and not corporations. For this I need to reinforce the idea that we need to question what the mainstream media is telling us about what happened:



This was political. It was not random or pointless.

In fact, from what I've seen, (which admittedly is somewhat limited) the only news sources that said they were random were the big north american ones.

The other argument many of you seem to be making is that rioting is not a good way to show a political message. I think that if you think this, you need to check how privileged you are in saying that. We are talking about people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in a country with the lowest social mobility of all the OECD countries. We are also talking about racialized immigrant communities (according to one alternative source that I saw), reacting to police violence in an area where police violence has clearly not be justly dealt with. these people have no other recourse against their government. Rioting happens when people feel powerless.

I think we can all agree that the mass protests in the middle east earlier this year happened because people were mistreated by their governments and felt powerless to do anything about it. Why are we so unable to believe that people in western countries would do that for the same reason? Inequality leads to people being helpless and resorting to violence. This doesn't just happen in the middle east - it happens in Europe and North America too. The only real difference is that it's far less in the media's interests, and in the governments interest, to report that these people are so desperate and perhaps even legitimate in what they are doing. The rich and powerful want you to believe that these riots were idiotic and random, so that you will take their side.


Raping isn't a good way to express sexual frustration. Rioting is not a good way of showing social frustration. We rightly don't blame the victim in the former, but somehow the inverse is justifiable with the latter.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Sonic# » Mon Aug 15, 8:11 2011

^ That's a horrible analogy, because rape is generally used by autocratic institutions to maintain their power and authority, whereas rioting is an expression of resistance to said authority. Also, in cases of sexual frustration, there are tons of solutions that don't involve rape and the suffering isn't systemically perpetrated by the victim. In cases of rioting, there are perhaps three solutions - remaining silent (and reaffirming the status quo in every silence), organizing for peaceful resistance (most effective with strong leadership and a media that listens), and rioting (a violent expression of class anguish).

The suffering is systemic, laid upon them by the ruling classes that insist on slashing the social safety net for austerity measures without adopting similarly-weighted measures that allow businesses to share the burden. Underrepresented in government, they have a police force that has to try to work well with them, sometimes to greater and sometimes to lesser effect. They have an educational system that caters poorly to their needs, and the blame falls on them for not having aspirations, for not being hardworking, for not setting aside their many inconveniences to join the table. Finally, the main employment opportunities are increasingly international corporations that crowd out more local competition while offering as low wages as they can in industries where worker protection is notoriously absent in practice.

I object to the violence in the riots and to the harm done all around, on both sides. I also don't think it's a good way to express a political message. It's armchair commentary, yes - this all is, even this sentence, and TOL's equivalent ("check your privilege"). However, I also recognize that riots are sometimes necessary, even if I don't hold out much hope that this is the one in many that will systematically change government. I can't blame the rioters for finally responding to their conditions, when there was no other foreseeable way for them to respond. (We often forget how miraculous and disciplined peaceful protest must be.) I also can't blame the rioters in general when some thrill-seeking looters join the movements. I don't think that saying, "They could have done better" is out of line.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby The Other Lizard » Mon Aug 15, 10:17 2011

Sonic# wrote: I don't think that saying, "They could have done better" is out of line.


And I wouldn't disagree with this either - I think it's a fair argument to say that they weren't perfect and I'm open to the argument that they are morally culpable for their actions. What I am not okay with is the idea that they exist without context, without purpose, and without politics. We need to recognize that they had a purpose that was a valid purpose, and that their options were extremely limited.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby monk » Mon Aug 15, 15:19 2011

this is very long, sorry.

If you look closely at the video above,you will notice that almost every shop is protected by a steel roll up door(common for depressed areas), and by most accounts when the action was going down the shop rolled those doors down and locked up. Two of the buildings(the bank was one) the videographer showed with broken windows didn't have those doors, so it's not surprising most of the little locally owned stores there survived since closing the doors was the owners choice. The corporate outlets are likely rubberstamped to look the same everywhere so are not likely to have those roll up doors to protect themselves, making them an easier target for assholes.


what i feel about the effectiveness of rioting vs protest comes more from personal experience than what i've read, but i've read a bunch about the aftermath of riots in poor areas and the results are bad, but usually only for the people who live in the riot areas.


from the guardian news blogs i show an example
Pale, the owner of the looted Texaco garage on mare street, told me: "They just barged in, took everything ... that's 24 years of my life gone. I've never seen anything like that. I didn't try and stop them, my life is worth more than that."



The Other Lizard wrote:The first is that the looting was random and hurt average people and not corporations. For this I need to reinforce the idea that we need to question what the mainstream media is telling us about what happened:
Anybody who uses the mainstream media as their only news source who has an internet connection is very sad indeed.

How are the corporations hurt? They are usually pretty well insured for fire and related damages, if not, they write it off and absorb it into operating costs. It hurts the average people in several ways. First, the loss of jobs to the very average employees of said defunct shop, second (and only time will tell in London) the corporation decides that the cost of doing business in that area is too high and now customers will have to travel somewhere else to shop which affects all the other shops in the area due to decreased foot traffic. To be crude, rioting is shitting where you eat. when you destroy crap in your own neighborhood there's no guarantee they will reopen, so you've taken a slummed and depressed area and made it more slummed and depressed.

This was political. It was not random or pointless.


The initial protest was political,the rioting and looting were the result of people caught up in the frenzy highjacking an issue to act like asshats, and it wasn't just pointless, If I'm right it was actually counterproductive to fixing anything.

The Other Lizard wrote:racialized immigrant communities , reacting to police violence in an area where police violence has clearly not be justly dealt with. these people have no other recourse against their government. Rioting happens when people feel powerless.
If this is true, why did they come here and why do they stay? Is it because despite it's faults and lowest social mobility of all the OECD countries, the UK treats its poor and disenfranchised better than most countries in Europe. They have a huge problem trying to keep their immigrant population in check because so many people want to go there,(much like the U.S. & Mexico/Central America)

As for police brutality being unanswered, it is answered, everyday. Police are generally not proactive in their main job duties, mostly they are reactive. If they are faced with violence and rowdyness on a daily basis in a certain neighborhood, their response to activity in that neighborhood is going to be escalated from the beginning. How can these powerless rioters do something about it? Become involved in their communities, help the police root out crime and public against public violence. Get involved in their new country if they are immigrants, become part of the system instead of rebellious of it. Once that is done, change can happen, and yes protests (even massive demonstrations with police involvement) may be necessary.

As for the powerless aspect of rioting, we've had riots in LA at the end of NBA final basketball games,and many other countries have them at the end of football games so sometimes rioting happens not always when people feel powerless, it happens when they see an opportunity to act like a jackoff with little to no repercussions.

If every person who participated in the riots took 3 hours a week to clean up the neighborhood,the depressed area they live in would be an immaculate paradise, if they took one hour a week to talk to their local police and help them identify the criminal element, crime would all but disappear and so would police violence for the most part since you're unlikely to get beaten by your local cop if they know you and you know them.
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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Sonic# » Mon Aug 15, 18:59 2011

TOL wrote:
And I wouldn't disagree with this either - I think it's a fair argument to say that they weren't perfect and I'm open to the argument that they are morally culpable for their actions. What I am not okay with is the idea that they exist without context, without purpose, and without politics. We need to recognize that they had a purpose that was a valid purpose, and that their options were extremely limited.


Thanks for clarifying! I agree.

monk wrote:If this is true, why did they come here and why do they stay? Is it because despite it's faults and lowest social mobility of all the OECD countries, the UK treats its poor and disenfranchised better than most countries in Europe. They have a huge problem trying to keep their immigrant population in check because so many people want to go there,(much like the U.S. & Mexico/Central America)


A lot can be said about immigration that would complicate this view. For one, immigration of south Asian populations to Britain have been going on since the 17th century, after the East India Company employed Indian sailors. Immigration in other groups has also been fairly common, and for the past century has been largely from the British commonwealth. I'm sure others can speak more on the point, but sentiments directed against immigrants are often directed against second, third, or even earlier generation immigrants, people who are not recent implants and who aren't really immigrants. They most often didn't choose a place as a result of 2011 laws or attitudes. They often go to the place most immediately available, and within the Commonwealth, that's likely Britain. Finally, many countries in Europe have trouble with their immigration policies, so pointing to one and saying, "It's relatively better there!" - I don't buy that as a counterclaim to immigrants feeling powerless or experiencing acute discrimination through anti-anti-racist policies.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Verbena » Tue Aug 16, 11:09 2011

Sonic# wrote:^ That's a horrible analogy, because rape is generally used by autocratic institutions to maintain their power and authority, whereas rioting is an expression of resistance to said authority.


It is a horrible analogy but the logic holds. Rape is perpetrated by individual men on individual women and men. There is no evidence, outside of war, of rape being used explicitly to maintain power and authority to the absolute exclusion of any sexual factor. It is a crime of sex and power, not either/or.

And what authority are these rioters supposed to be resisting in a liberal democracy? There are countless strategies of protest in liberal democracy. I get from what you write that you are a Marxist or a Socialist, so you are bound to disagree. But I'm not and I happen to like the privileges living in a liberal democracy affords (even as one of the working classes) and think that status quo is very much worth defending. As do a lot of people it seems, which is why they have no sympathy for rioters (as opposed to if they were making legitimate protests and not just thieving and destroying peoples property). I'm not sure whose suffering you mean. The victims of the rioters? The families of the men killed defending their livelihoods? Am I actually supposed to feel sympathy for the rioters and not their victims?

I'm not a Marxist, I don't give a fig for any ideology that would put itself before real live living people. I don't think riots are anytime necessary, though as a fact of life I know they will erupt at times, usually as a result of too much concentrated male testosterone however not well laid political plans. In times of civil disorder rape stats actually shoot up too, as they do in war zones and disaster areas. I personally don't believe that losing control of society is ever a humane or viable option or that the ends ever justify the means.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby Sonic# » Tue Aug 16, 12:24 2011

^I will save you some time. I've read some work on historical materialism for my studies, and I've even read some of Marx's drier work. I am not a Marxist or Socialist though, for reasons I would be happy to explain elsewhere.

More to the point, I don't think that any adherence to an ideology is necessary to see the things that The Other Lizard has pointed out - the reasons why rioting was one of only a few viable options for responding to an event which showed the longstanding injustices perpetrated against working-class immigrants. Thus, whether I am a Marxist or not should not be an issue.

I interpreted your analogy differently from what you would have, but your other interpretation (that both riots and rape are primarily the effects of failed individual responsibility) does not hold either. I don't think that anyone here was arguing that individual choices have no effect in rioting. Of course they do. However, the rest of your argument is devoted to denying that any other reason or situation for the riots can exist simultaneously with individual choice, and that's a far stronger argument that you have not made. (So far, your posts have only illustrated that some people weren't acting for the political reasons under discussion here.)

In fact, your rhetorical stance allows for no possibility of political, economic, or social factors causing the riots. I'll go through your post.

First, we have the evasion through appeal to a political ideal.
And what authority are these rioters supposed to be resisting in a liberal democracy? There are countless strategies of protest in liberal democracy.

Can you enumerate some of these strategies? Sure, I can count several, but I wouldn't call it countless. Also, some forms of protest are only available through an official apparatus (filing complaints, attaining permits for assembly) or through exceptional leadership (peaceful sit-ins), and are only effective when the larger media take notice.

Then we have the defense of the status quo.
But I'm not and I happen to like the privileges living in a liberal democracy affords (even as one of the working classes) and think that status quo is very much worth defending.

I find it very hard to believe that you would defend the status quo. There's always room for improvement, right now there's lots of room for improvement, and in my own country liberals, conservatives, and moderates see that. If you mean you're defending the status quo in the larger sense of a political system, I think you misunderstand my claims. I was not making any assumption that the protesters wanted to set up an alternative political system. I think that they want greater voice and more representation in their own liberal democracy. In other words, they want for liberal democracy to live up to its ideal of universal redress, where presently its policies favor upper-class and white men first, and them last. In either case, the status quo is not quo enough.

Then you set up a comparison between legitimate and illegitimate protest which denies any political motive to the protestors - they are just criminals.
As do a lot of people it seems, which is why they have no sympathy for rioters (as opposed to if they were making legitimate protests and not just thieving and destroying peoples property).

Nevermind that many of the things that they're responding to, in any ideal system, would be considered criminal. Some people have used the riots as a cover for vagrancy, I won't deny that. Nor do I condone the thieving or the destruction of property. But I won't turn a blind eye and deny other reasons behind it.

Then you try to make me choose in my sympathies.
I'm not sure whose suffering you mean. The victims of the rioters? The families of the men killed defending their livelihoods? Am I actually supposed to feel sympathy for the rioters and not their victims?

Oh, I feel sympathy for both. I feel sympathy for the man shot in the first place. I feel sympathy for the people who had to feel that there was no other legitimate response. I feel sympathy for those who have lost property and loved ones on both sides. I even feel sympathy for the poor fools who were caught after bragging about looting, though I'm also happy they got caught.

So yes. I think you should feel sympathy for the rioters. It won't be the same sympathy. You needn't set aside your disapproval. However, you should try to understand the situation from a variety of viewpoints.

Then you oppose ideology and "real live living people."
I'm not a Marxist, I don't give a fig for any ideology that would put itself before real live living people.

People often hold to ideologies because they believe that they are the best way to help "real live living people." Marxism is no exception, and though I am not a Marxist, and what I describe here is not primarily a Marxist riot, I will defend it as an alternative, and sometime useful, method for figuring out how to help "real live living people."

Then, once more, you reject any idea that riots can have an effective political purpose, instead going to a sexual stereotype.
I don't think riots are anytime necessary, though as a fact of life I know they will erupt at times, usually as a result of too much concentrated male testosterone however not well laid political plans.

Yes, those inconvenient facts of life. Those same facts of life that we've spent centuries demystifying. To use the language of another era, the summer heat must have dried their bodily fluids, rendering them choleric and prone to rash and inadvisable actions when ordinarily they would simply be sullen and melancholy. Such a description does not deny political factors. It only attempts to give another reason for rioting, one too simplistic to explain the riots by itself.

Finally, you raise the specter of rape in order to claim that any social disorder must be a bad one.
In times of civil disorder rape stats actually shoot up too, as they do in war zones and disaster areas. I personally don't believe that losing control of society is ever a humane or viable option or that the ends ever justify the means.

The ends should never justify the means. However, the means under discussion (violent protest) will often be chosen in intense situations in sites of political and economic dissatisfaction. Those reasons for dissatisfaction are contributing reasons to the protests. Furthermore, many forms of violent protest do not inflict violence randomly, though in any tumult the collateral damage is to be lamented. To point out political and social reasons for the riots is not to condone the crimes. It's to better understand the crimes, to give reasons and closure to them.

So, summarily, I'm not that different from you, Verbena. I don't condone the violence. I feel a lot of sympathy for the victims. I see that many of the excesses of the violence (particularly the middle-class folk who joined in the looting) were caused by a lamentable breakdown in social responsibility. It's just that I see the political, economic, and social injustices that made rioting only one of a couple of viable responses. I hope this gives explanation enough for you to see some of them as well.

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Re: Why I will not hate on the London Rioters

Postby God is an Englishman » Wed Aug 24, 10:15 2011

The Other Lizard wrote:There's a lot of hate going on towards the people rioting in London, and I'm feeling the need to respond to it, because the folks who are rioting don't have a voice in the mainstream media.

Before you tell me that the rioters are ignorant criminal thugs, please step back and ask the question: what motivates someone to riot in the streets?

I know people who have protested, rioted, and looted. I've met homeless people who bussed over 3000 kilometres to join a protest against the G20 (ie the most powerful people in the world). The reality is that protestors protest because they feel they have no other recourse against governments and societies that ignore their needs and treat them unfairly. Election after election, the gap between the rich and the poor grows larger, and supposedly democratic governments fail to improve the lives of those in need. When you feel the system has failed you and no one is paying attention to your plight, and your vote never seems to do anything, you run out of possible actions. So you protest.

And why do riots happen? Because the "peaceful" protests go unnoticed or they are misinterpreted. Let me explain.

I did a research project for a political science class last year where I analyzed the media frenzy around the G20 protests in Toronto. What I found, among other things, is that not a single mainstream newspaper actually asked why someone would loot stores. They also equated "anarchist" with "looter" in almost every case, demonizing anarchism as some sort of violent ideology (which it is not, but that's a conversation for another day). Most importantly, the only protestors who got to comment in the newspapers about why they were protesting were people who stood to benefit financially for being present at the protests. People like Naomi Klein, whose anti-capitalist books are best-sellers, and people who were paid to represent non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International.* Anarchists, homeless people, jobless people, people afraid of being identified by the cops, and everyday people who just joined in (in other words, the vast majority of the tens of thousands of people who protested that weekend) none of them were ever quoted by the news outlets. The outcome is that we never hear about the desperation of many of the people who are protesting.

My point is: we need to question what the media tells us about why people protest and who the protestors are. The media leaves out far, far too much of what goes on at protests. We need to think outside the narrow box that news outlets and governments give us.

So why were these Londoners rioting?

Quite simply, inequality.

This is pretty self-explanatory**:


Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear. (Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough.)

Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.




The area where the protests took place is one of the poorest areas of the UK and a horrible history of police brutality**. So consider how they might be without other outlets to speak out against their government. It is easy for those of us who are articulate and highly educated to blog about how we feel about the government. I myself have close contact with political elites in my country. It is therefore very important to remember how far removed I am from the reality of the people who riot because they are poor in a society that treats the poor as if they choose to be poor.***:

Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. 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. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.


Before we write these people off as crazy, we need to consider how these protest are linked to a greater political problem. Austerity**** measures are making the rich richer and the poor poorer all across the world, and people are reacting.

And before you say that it doesn't affect you, believe me, it does. For instance, if you're an american, your government just last week made a huge policy decision (allowing corporate tax breaks to continue) that lets rich people continue to get richer without giving back to a society that is already in turmoil. You and your children are paying for an enormous war that benefits nobody except the shareholders in these corporations, and has killed thousands, and possibly millions.

We need to stand with the people in London who are under attack by their government, because it isn't going to be very long before the austerity measures in our own countries start to hit us and our children, and then where will we be? We need to support the protestors, because if we don't stand up to our governments now, the economic situation will only continue to get worse.




*Not that there is anything inherently wrong with non-governmental organzations. But the idea that they are more legitimate than people who protest without any affiliation is rampant and undemocratic.

**http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/08/context-london-riots --> y'all should read it, it's a good explanation

***http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2011/08/panic-on-streets-of-london.html?spref

**** Austerity is when governments use an economic downturn as an excuse to implement pro-business policies, at the expense of social services like public education and health care. To define austerity any other way is to play into the hands of the rich and powerful.



You have a bad time, does that excuse ruining other peoples lives just because you struggle? Some of the people out there spent their lives building and holding a pub together. Now what? Nothing. These rioters (who did such a thing) are nothing but scum.
lizpoona wrote:
This, exactly. Protest, be loud, maybe accidentally break a window 'cause you're angry. But when people come in a start smashing all the windows, burning down homes, and stealing from hard-working businesses, someone has gone too far and those people should NOT be allowed to represent your cause, or even have anything to do with it. Everyone forgets Gandhi. Didn't he accomplish some huge changes through peaceful protest? These looters are hijacking peaceful protests and now people are defending the riots as a result of poverty. I know when you're poor you're frustrated. What I don't get is how that justifies burning down homes. It seems like we're stereotyping poor people more by implying poverty turns them(or us) into riotous animals, then to look at them and scold them for heinous actions perpetrated against innocent people.

We all agree poverty is hard. We all agree the government should do better at hearing its people and eliminating poverty and providing opportunities fro young people. But none of this justifies looters and rioters who want to tear up shit just for the hell of it, either thinking they can do what they want, or thinking they're actually doing anything good. It's idiotic to believe burning the streets will turn out well for you, or for anyone. It's also idiotic and depraved to do it just for fun, which some of the rioters are. it'll scare people, yea, but there are better ways to enact change.

SPOT ON!


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