Much to the chagrin of the Tehran zealots , the UK riots of August 2011 will not be turning to an Islamic revolution any time soon. For a number of reasons which are not obvious to political fanatics, the unrest in Britain over the last week were not of the type that topples governments. These were calculated forays by hoods beating up on whomever looked unwilling to fight back, looting and torching and boozing merrily in the streets because, like Thomas the Little Engine, they could. It looked ugly for mostly two reasons. One, because the police was obviously unprepared to apply full force of the law to anyone other than the EDL whose civil disorder tactics are different. Two, the aerial tapes of burning blocks of buildings made it look like London was blitzed again. Disgusting as the riots were, they were simply nowhere near the levels of lethal violence recently visited in places like Hama, Benghazi or Bombay….sorry, Mumbai, (ever so sorry), places free of the brutal British cops deplored by the brothers in Cairo and students in Tehran. There were not dozens or hundreds of dead or maimed in Tottenham, Clapham, Brimingham or Manchester. So first, thank God for that !
From my perspective, much of the rioting was played up by the media to aggravate the shock and the sense of unreality, extend them as it were beyond the areas immediately affected by the riots to create a national political crisis of what was essentially a hard-to-grasp breakdown of effective policing. (The hapless BBC, realizing finally the dangers of this upsizing, renamed the “UK riots” to “riots in England” on the third or fourth day) . Again, we are not talking tens or hundreds of thousands of protesters but several hundred at a time operating in half a dozen non-contiguous areas. A swift, energetic action in dispersing the mob on Saturday, effectively televised (!) and documented in the papers, would have surely gone a long way to preventing the rampage from repeating the next few days.
Instead, what: not just incompetent arguments against time-proven, effective and non-lethal methods of crowd control, but totally idiotic tangents claiming the state is in competition for services with a vicious thug sub-culture in the chavs’ neighbourhoods, and failing to deliver on that score. It is beyond belief that a major daily would print crass psychobabble that unwittingly legitimizes (or takes as a given, at any rate) the existence of a criminal underworld in urban Britain. That mind-boggling drivel appears on the dailies’ pages on days when swift, effective restoration of civil order is called for is perhaps the most telling of all the items on the riots.
Unfortunately, it is not just the Leftist idiocies. David Starkey’s comments last Friday on BBC’s Newsnight earned him an instant label of racist and provoked the inevitable avalanche of petitions for his dismissal as a BBC commentator. I am not sure what the historian was up to: there is no doubt a gangsta culture of mostly Caribbean blacks in the working class neighbourhoods in England which dominates and terrorizes the black community and has sway over many young white yobs. This cannot be denied. It cannot be denied that the rioting has been orchestrated by this criminal underclass: it was an opportunity to loot and test the will of the establishment. So what does one do with this - essentially correct but trivial - finding ? Do we become transfixed by silly rhetoric and talking through the hat assuring everyone there is not only one version of ineffectual tattle? There were no rivers of blood or cry for rivers of blood in the riots that justified Starkey pulling out the Enoch Powell’s speech from 1968, especially since evidently had no follow-up line to a messed up metaphor for cultural pollution. He himself indicated that the motivation for the riot was a rather banal joy of looting and lawlessness (btw, common in England in advance of Robert Peel, metro policing and immigration from Jamaica or Trinidad,) and not the sort of racial dominance that Powell had in mind. There is no need to go into racially divisive apocalyptic imagery if one intends to approach the issues with a clear head and resolve to fix what needs to be fixed.
No wonder then that Starkey's half-baked ideas were immediately attacked, and he was lectured to by the two interlocutors, Owen Jones and Dreda Say Mitchell, (among other things on the value of rap in the cultural advancement of Britain). Predictably, Mitchell dressed down Starkey a day later in a column written for The Guardian. With the condescending style so dear to Jesse Jackson’s imitators, she suggested his opinions would have earned him a time-out in a school where she was a teacher. Strange idea coming from someone complaining of cultural exclusion. And surely, this would not have been a school teaching democratic principles of respecting plurality of opinions. But I guess that is part of the problem: there is no respect for the traditional ways and no workable model of something to replace them. In some quarters that dilemma can be actuated by a tweet: Lets loot & see! What gives ?