The last word on the riots

No, put aside all of the wibble about root causes and listen to me.

Any society, every society of 58 million, contains within it a few tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands who will happily riot given half a chance.

You can call them feral rats if you like, chavs, the lumpenproletariat, whatever, but they\’re always there.

It\’s the \”half a chance\” which changes. As with everything else technology changes and so will those tactics which will succeed or not. The Blackberry messaging service, Twitter, whatever, gave that half a chance to those who would happily riot.

Four days later the police had worked out how to counter that new technology.

Meh, it\’s over now until another technological shift.

John B claims to be saying much the same thing at a more boring length elsewhere.

15 comments on “The last word on the riots

  1. Spot on Tim.

    Exactly what I’ve been saying. There will always be those who use ‘violence’ as entertainment. Always will be.

  2. I’m inclined to agree which is why I said “there is no analysis” in my piece over at Counting Cats.

    Every generation seems to think the lumpenproleteriat are a new phenomenon. Every generation also makes the same false assumption that everyone in the lower orders is one of the lumpen. A recent example of that; the Karen Matthews case. When Shannon went “missing” the locals donated their time, money and effort to helping to search for the “lost” little girl; when Matthews’s villainy was discovered, she was held as representative of her entire class. Perhaps the definition of “social exclusion” is that you’re in a class such that you’re only noticed when you do something bad.

  3. Perhaps the definition of “social exclusion” is that you’re in a class such that you’re only noticed when you do something bad.

    *like* / “+1″

  4. “The Blackberry messaging service, Twitter, whatever, gave that half a chance to those who would happily riot.”

    I don’t see how technology mattered at all, riots in the past don’t seem to have been hampered by having to use word of mouth or the telephone.

  5. Absolutely true Tim, coupled with the Mets inaction at the crucial stage, which meant there was no perceived downside to their actions.

  6. Ross: the difference is “change of plan, we’ve spotted a rozzer, we’re now gonna go to [x]”. Much harder to bust than people all turning up at the place the cops have already realised you’re going to turn up at…

  7. John B – if that was true why were there not a lot more rioters? Unless you espouse an ‘original sin’ idea for the selected burners.

  8. Very silly, Tim.

    The rioters could have communicated via messages tied to snails, and still been able to loot with impunity.

  9. First, UK population is approx. 62 million officially. Second, with the lumpen proles given ever more incentives to increase their numbers (child benefit, free schools and healthcare) and stay out of work (housing benefit, income tax) and the bourgeoisie ever more not to (house prices, school fees, income tax, IHT), things are not as they have always been and are changing rapidly. Perhaps immigration will help, perhaps not.

    Then I’d like to know your evidence that “police had worked out how to counter that new technology.” Though the security of BBM is almost non-existent, I wouldn’t put it past the police to make a pig’s ear of it.

    Having not yet understood why the riots started, I think a little modesty in divining the reasons for their stopping wouldn’t go amiss.

  10. JM – because most people don’t want to riot and loot, and because not everyone is in everyone else’s BBM network. So for every “let’s storm Currys in Camberwell at 9pm” message, most kids didn’t get it in the first place, and most of the ones who did ignored it. But that still left plenty of others.

    kb: the point isn’t that the cops defeated BBM, it’s that they defeated the flashmob tactics that BBM had enabled, and which they’d previously been totally unprepared for.

  11. Perhaps the definition of “social exclusion” is that you’re in a class such that you’re only noticed when you do something bad.

    Does this encompass bankers?

    john b: How exactly without intercepting the messages?

  12. Half of defeating a new strategy is just recognising it exists. Blitzkreig was initially astonishingly successful because nobody had seen that form of warfare before. Then the allied armies adapted to it, and it lost its advantage. The Germans didn’t move any slower, it’s just everyone now knew they were moving faster. The police adapted to the flash mob tactic pretty rapidly. The intial lawless period was when they were reeling around saying, “Through the Ardennes? Are they allowed to do that?”.

    Also, it rained.

  13. If you read some police blogs it sounded as if some were working to rule. And wanting immunity from prosecution.
    Mention of reduced pensions etc occures as a theme.

  14. It turns out the police did manage to “hack” BBM – crude but effective – and without needing to get the Home Secretary out of bed.

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