Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots, Social Networks and the Media Response

 Before I start I would like to point out that I in no way support the actions of those looters and arsonists in London, and the growing list of towns and cities in England. This may have started as a responce to the circumstances surrounding the police shooting of Mark Duggan, however I believe that looters with rooms full of shoe boxes have little to do with the legitimate protest march to Tottenham Police Station to publicise objections to the IPCC conduct in the enquiry into the shooting.
In the wake of plummeting stock markets, austerity cuts, an  wealth gap, record high inflation rates, record low insurance rates and then perhaps the reaction from those facing the worst of this recession is not as incomprehensible as at first glance. The Guardian.

"Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear." Nina Powers, 

Growing materialism and the widening gap between the richest and the poorest of this country has, I believe, as much to do with the reaction of those predominantly young people in London and elsewhere. In our materialist society those who 'have not' seized on the opportunity to level the playing field. Like the riots that escalated from the student protests last year, any legitimate issue with the government or society has been lost.  

Critical focus from the media and the police on the use of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, and through Blackberry Messenger to coordinate the rioting strikes me as hypocritical in light of the very different reaction to Egypt's rioting and the subsequent banning of Twitter by the government there. Nonetheless this change of opinion from UK news reporters is something we have come to expect.

In saying this publicly and openly, perhaps even playing 'citizen journalist', I run the risk of being called an apologist. I am saddened by bother the damage and violence from the rioters, who are no longer protesters and haven't been for some time now. I am just as saddened by the calls I hear from people here, far away from the damage and devastation in London, for stronger police tactics, water cannons, rubber bullets or bringing in the Army against children aged 14-17.

"The time to 'hug a hoodie' is over ... it's time to get tough." BBC News, 14.19, 09/08/11

This should be a wake-up call, but I fear it will be dismissed as mindless mob violence and not the product of far reaching social issues. Criminals should be brought to justice, and another generation of the disadvantaged poorer class will be sentenced to institutionalised criminality while those people truly hurt in these riots, the shop owners and communities, will not receive that justice.

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