What caused those riots anyway?

A demonstration outside the British embassy in Tehran. Protesters held up masks of Mark Duggan. (Photo by REUTERS) A demonstration outside the British embassy in Tehran. Protesters held up masks of Mark Duggan.

Except for the fighting in Syria and Libya the Middle East is relatively quiet and in England.  The English riots themselves may have stopped, but the commentary and analysis is just heating up.  It seems that everyone in the world has an opinion, and oh what a surprise, the opinions fit into the writer’s political world-view.  Unfortunately, that also includes the British authorities who will be looking for ways to eliminate or at least reduce the possibility of something like the riots occurring any time soon. Their critics don’t always agree; some see the whole thing as the result of years of socialism in government.

“The married two-parent family, educational meritocracy, punishment of criminals, national identity, enforcement of the drug laws and many more fundamental conventions were all smashed by a liberal intelligentsia hellbent on a revolutionary transformation of society,” Melanie Philips wrote in the Daily Mail.

The most surprising comment or analysis was non-verbal and came from the New York Police Department – yep the NYPD of legend – the department is forming a new unit, a social media unit, whose purpose will be to patrol cyberspace looking for criminal activity. The Christian Science Monitor also analyzed the role of social media and its accompanying technology in the riots – posing the question that Prime Minister David Cameron posed – do we need to impose controls over the media?

“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organized via social media,” Mr. Cameron on told British lawmakers in an emergency session of parliament. “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them.”

Gangs and gang culture are getting some votes, actually lots of votes, from the prime minister to American law enforcement officials.  Cameron has seriously annoyed British police officials by consulting with American gang experts. The most interesting came from a British historian, David Starkey; Starkey says it is the result of “black gangster” culture and even when the rioters and looters are white they are acting black.  He did not blame the economy, the Cameron government cuts in social services (or the social services themselves) or police tactics – the gangster culture was his prime and only culprit, Mr. Starkey made his comments on BBC television in very strong language.  You can imagine the outcry that language would cause here.  Starkey was not the only person to blame gangs – the British police and government blame them as well.  Starkey’s comments are simply more polarized than those by government officials.

“the problem is that the whites have become black — a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion — and black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together; this language, which is wholly false, which is a Jamaican patois, that’s been intruded in England, and this is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.”

Al-Jazeerah, found another cause – hatred of the police – the youth of London hate the police and have just been waiting for a chance to hurt them.  The reporter lives in London, in Tottenham and therefore had a front row seat to the riots.  She walked around making videos and talking to people on the street – young people.  Coming from the Arab Spring, the Arab press is always looking for a youth movement stepping up to change the world and she found them in London – not quite as educated, articulate and thoughtful as the the Egyptians, but young and dissatisfied never-the-less.

“Police are harassing you all the time, you want to hurt them but you can’t do anything because otherwise it’ll just be worse for you. That’s how it is. If I was living in Hackney right now I would have been there [at the riots]. How would you feel if the police were on you every day, every time they see you, you haven’t done nothing but they just want to stop you anyway?”

They join gangs, hate the police and commit crimes because of peer pressure and the emotional poverty of their lives. And then, in a line that comes straight from West Side Story and the song Office Krupke: ‘My dad’s in jail’, or ‘I don’t have a mum’, I’ve never even met my mum or I was taken away from my mum at such and such an age’.

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It’s just our bringin’ up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!

Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
We never had the love that ev’ry child oughta get.
We ain’t no delinquents,
We’re misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good!

The Chinese People’s Daily finds years of successive British government’s failure to deliver social justice as the cause.  The Jerusalem Post said it was “years of police force cutbacks, continuing economic recession and massive immigration have led to ‘moral collapse’ in society.”

The last word goes to Iran as reported by Al-Arabyia; in a Reuters story from Tehran.  Two hundred people demonstrated outside the British embassy.  The demonstrators – and given the nature of the rhetoric one would have to suspect the government supported the protest – blamed a form of political colonialism, like that of government of the Shah. The government of Iran has formally called for the United Nations to react – what do they say about paybacks?

Some protesters carried anti-British placards. One read: “London 2011, Tehran 1979, throw off your shah!” Iranian politicians have called on the United Nations to condemn Britain. The leader of the Basij militia, which battled anti-Ahmadinejad protesters in 2009, offered to send his forces to London, Liverpool and Birmingham “to act as a peacekeeping force and a buffer between repressive forces of the royal regime and the British people.”

Okay, I lied, just one more comment; not to be outdone by the Shiites in the East, Gaddafi got in his shot too.

Libyan state television said Prime Minister David Cameron was using Irish and Scottish “mercenaries” to tame the riots in English cities.

As I said yesterday, for a person in search of a conspiracy or a trend that justifies their world-view there is always something, some odd bit of news or some major event and another coincidence that person can use to make his case.  Me? I am sticking with Office Krupke, I always loved West Side Story and that song in particular – it was my generation and we were often called juvenile delinquents – we had a pat answer – “but there is nothing to do.”  We never got around to rioting, but certainly other generations in other cities and countries have – tell me, what causes it anyway?



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