Category Archives: Police

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Occupied Europe

Darcus Howe on the riots

Writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe with incisive comments on the riots:

The BBC interviewer tries to plug the party line (so much for the BBC’s ‘neutrality’) and paint him as confused, but Howe’s having none of it.

Nina Power on the Tottenham riots

Nina Power (who blogs at Infinite ThØught) has written a good piece for The Guardian encouraging us to understand the riots in London in their proper context rather than simply to engage in self-righteous and ultimately pointless moralising.

Many of the online comments on the piece talk about ‘left wing apologists’, the ‘pointless’, ‘mindless’ and ’causeless’ nature of the rioting, and the fact that the riots of the ’80s to which many have likened them achieved very little.  But this misses the point!  This rioting is not political protest; it’s largely not politically motivated so far as I know.  This isn’t ‘the revolution’.  The point is that these riots are happening in areas where the economic conditions are dire and where young people have no good reason to expect to be able to lift themselves out of poverty, nor to expect the state to assist them in doing so, nor to trust the disciplinary tools of the state to work in their interests.  You can only expect people to take so much – and then there are consequences.  If you attack the economic and ideological preconditions for social cohesion and community, then don’t be surprised when the bonds that maintain social ‘order’ break.

The riots aren’t a solution to anything, but nor are they the root problem.  They are a symptom of repeated assaults on the fabric of British society by its ‘leaders’.  They are signs pointing us towards the root problems and we’ll ultimately resolve nothing unless we follow them to their source.  To ‘deal with’ the riots at a superficial level will only suppress these root tensions – until we encounter them again further down the line…

There is further commentary on the riots and the press’s coverage of them over at Richard Seymour’s blog, Lenin’s Tomb.

Tory ideology renders modern Britain a mystery

David Cameron must feel like he’s living in a J.G. Ballard novel, violence and chaos irrupting in the streets in an utterly mysterious degeneration of all ‘good sense’ and ‘moral decency’ on the part of a large section (or perhaps just an ‘irresponsible minority’) of the electorate.

In the face of the riots in Tottenham, the government’s reaction is one of denunciation and moral approbation.  The official statement from Downing Street, as reported on The Guardian‘s website:

The rioting in Tottenham last night was utterly unacceptable.

There is no justification for the aggression the police and the public faced, or the damage to property.

There is now a police investigation into the rioting and we should let that process happen.

In the face of this irruption of anger, frustration and civil unrest, the government’s reaction is one of outrage, but also of incomprehension.  While Downing Street is keen to emphasise its inability to see any justification for these actions, its attempt to solve the problem through policing is, as ever, a sign that equally lacking is any sight of an explanation.

And, as ever, the problem – the obstacle to the government’s comprehension of the tensions manifesting among the populace – is a crude individualism, for which a society is nothing but an aggregate of autonomous, freely acting individuals.  From such a perspective, this rioting loses its significance as a symptom.  The social field is rendered devoid of structure and depth.

This lack of understanding of the multi-layered, emergent constitution of the social is accompanied by a widening gulf between the government and the people, where the decisions made by the former are ever more insulated from their effects on the people and from the people’s reaction to these decisions.  Only a governing body that has lost all pretence of the proper fear of those it claims to represent could so readily condemn its own people.  Such condemnation represents an attempt to exercise an entirely inappropriate kind of authority.

As the police are deployed with ever greater force and desperation, the government more and more exhibits its feelings of hostility towards the British people.  This is a hostility born of fear of the unknown – the same hostility which has led David Cameron to denounce ethno-cultural diversity in Britain as a failed experiment – for the tensions irrupting on the streets of north London are foreign to the sheltered, privileged worlds of our Old Etonian plutocrats.

So, all the signs point to this: that Britain is a social world in schism.  Not between declining ‘western values’ and the spectre of ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, as right-wing ideologues would have us believe, but between the people and those tasked with executing its will.  How are we supposed to regard British democracy as anything but a sham if all ‘our’ government deigns to visit upon us are cuts to our services, ‘security’ crackdowns and judgements as to our moral degradation?