It is hard to know what to say about the current riots in the UK.
All of this activity has stemmed (purportedly) from the shooting of Mark Duggan on the 4th of August. What we are watching now is unprecedented mass uprising and theft on a massive scale, as the UKs ASBO population take over the streets. If there was some sort of political point to any of this, is would be one thing, and would ironically provoke a more heavy-handed response from the police. (We are all familiar with 5,000 students doing a sit-down protest over funding cuts, etc, only to be beaten by armoured police with truncheons, etc etc). Not the case if you want to rip off the local Dixons or Boots, and then set fire to the place. The police seem to be doing very little to contain this situation.
A number of noteworthy nuggets are emerging from all of this.
1. This has NOTHING to do with political dissatisfaction or anything like that, messages are circulating mobilizing the gangs, inviting them to “come get free stuff”.
2. Zoe Williams has an excellent article in the Guardian exploring the psychology of the riot / looting, and she notices that:
“In Clapham Junction, the only shop left untouched was Waterstone’s, and the looters of Boots had, unaccountably, stolen a load of Imodium…”
She goes on to explore the types of things being stolen on a mass scale, and it is largely flatscreen TVs, sportswear etc. She points out that even if luxery brands were being targeted, this would indicate a point being made about consumerism. This is not the case.
The strongest explanation for the motivation of the rioting mob is that advertising has been so successful in promoting a fantasy land that is beyond the financial reach of the people involved, that they have just decided to grab it while they can. Pop is indeed eating itself.
3. Iran’s reaction was pretty funny.
Iran called on the British Government to restrain the police and stop the violent treatment of rioters (story here).
They have also kindly offered to dispatch a group of experts to investigate “human rights violations” in the UK. Touché!
4. All of this stuff is being organised across mobile web platforms, with Blackberry smartphones etc, (Blackberry in particular as it allows the sending of encrypted messages). The makers of Blackberry have now been targeted by hackers, as they open up their servers to help police stop the communications of the rioters. If 2 wrongs don’t make a right, try 3.
5. Levis have released an ad today, encouraging young people to celebrate their brief moment of glory by rushing out and doing something significant, like rioting, and this is bound to raise a few heads above the parapit. A lot of knee-jerk reactions already, but also genius. Advertising relies on the subterranean flow of desire and taboo, and this is today’s taboo. Weiden & Kennedy (of ‘Old Spice’ fame) know this. There was bound to be a bit of rioting this year, and it makes sense during the ad break on SKY News (Riot TV) to have ads featuring edgy rioters, protesting their fundamental non-conformity by all being well-attired in the same Levis uniform.
We all know that in real life, scummers were athletic attire for ease of identification and to aid the hurling of blunt objects.
That’s it for now kids, more news at 11, as Public Enemy’s Flava Flave used to say.