The riots may have been meaningless, but at least they stood for something


Fire Burning Building in Wallorignally by: DRUM TV
published: 15th August 2011

Firstly, and most obviously, the riots are terrible. They involve a lot of violence and destruction. A lot of English people have responded with anger at the riots: they feel their society is being destroyed. Secondly, there appears to be a very high correlation between poverty and rioting. According to Seamus Milne, Tottenham has the highest unemployment rate in London. A map of the riots illustrates this point quite vividly.

That is not to say that poverty causes rioting. It is to suggest that conditions inside the poorest parts of England are such that people living in them think it makes sense to riot. For those who wish to prevent future rioting, it is desirable to learn what those conditions are.

One factor sparking the riot was the police murder of a black man called Mark Duggan. The police said they had killed him in an exchange of fire – that turned out to be a lie.

This must sound familiar. Think of Rodney King, Mulrunji Doomadgee, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo… The Guardian reported on 333 deaths in police custody since 1998 – but no cops have gone to jail for any of the deaths. Blacks in England and Wales are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police.

The riots themselves are destructive. It seems to me beyond argument that they are not constructive. It should, however, be granted that they are a genuine expression of rage. In its own way, this should be considered troubling. There was a time when the Left would have organised angry poor people, at a time of cuts to social spending by the government. The riots should not be considered nihilistic, but they are programmatically empty.

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