Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: London's Burning

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    You don’t reckon that’s deliberate?

    I think Ben's (video) game theory has been on the mark -- it's partly directed, partly chaotic, highly mobile.

    This is one of the BBM broadcast messages Paul Lewis got:

    Everyone in edmonton enfield woodgreen everywhere in north link up at enfield town station 4 o clock sharp!!!! Start leaving ur yards n linking up with you niggas. Guck da feds, bring your ballys and your bags trollys, cars vans, hammers the lot!! Keep sending this around to bare man, make sure no snitch boys get dis!!! What ever ends your from put your ballys on link up and cause havic, just rob everything. Police can't stop it. Dead the fires though!! Rebroadcast!!!!!"

    And another:

    Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!!, Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!) fuck the feds we will send them back with OUR riot! >:O
    Dead the ends and colour war for now so
    if you see a brother... SALUT!
    if you see a fed... SHOOT!
    We need more MAN then feds so Everyone run wild, all of london and others are invited! Pure terror and havoc & Free stuff....just smash shop windows and cart out da stuff u want! Oxford Circus!!!!! 9pm, we don't need pussyhole feds to run the streets and put our brothers in jail so tool up,
    its a free world so have fun running wild shopping;)
    Oxford Circus 9pm if u see a fed stopping a brother JUMP IN!!! EVERYONE JUMP IN niggers will be lurking about, all blacked out we strike at 9:15pm-9:30pm, make sure ur there see you there. REMEMBA DA LOCATION!!! OXFORD CIRCUS!!!
    MUST REBROADCAST TO ALL CONTACTS!!!"

    The confidence in numbers here is basically the same thing we discussed in the context of the Arab Spring actions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    opbanner.pdf

    Also, if I may table a file, this is the British Army’s study of the NI conflict. I’ve got a few books that cover it from the PIRA side, as well.

    EDIT: that looks like a total non-sequitur. I just wrote 100+ words on the effects of aggressive escalation / comparisons with Northern Ireland 1968 and it fell into the internet hole.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis, in reply to Islander,

    Got to say Islander that comes across as creepy, maybe you would like to re-write the whole thing
    Twins are people too/two

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Found the Centre for Economic Policy Research's Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009 via the LRB blogs.

    It's a sodding journal article, so I can't get the full paper, but the abstract is extremely interesting:

    Does fiscal consolidation lead to social unrest? From the end of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1930s to anti-government demonstrations in Greece in 2010-11, austerity has tended to go hand in hand with politically motivated violence and social instability. In this paper, we assemble cross-country evidence for the period 1919 to the present, and examine the extent to which societies become unstable after budget cuts. The results show a clear positive correlation between fiscal retrenchment and instability. We test if the relationship simply reflects economic downturns, and conclude that this is not the key factor. We also analyse interactions with various economic and political variables. While autocracies and democracies show a broadly similar responses to budget cuts, countries with more constraints on the executive are less likely to see unrest as a result of austerity measures. Growing media penetration does not lead to a stronger effect of cut-backs on the level of unrest.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    It was good to see that the Riots didn't stop the Beach Vollyball, a sport so very close to the hearts of many who lost their homes to make way for the Olympic Stadia.
    But not to worry, I'm sure This will keep everybody happy.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to BenWilson,

    Will humans have the sense to realize that we have the power to make heaven on earth

    Bit late for that there's just to many of us. But.....you know....... maybe in a few years we could all get a condo in your 3rd choice location, and a job which doesnt require too much time.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to JackElder,

    See this article for a good summary of deindividuation and its effect in crowds (and in anonymous online forums - it's a psychological effect that's very applicable to modern life).

    Thanks Jack, interesting. Just wondering how many that might have indulged in a bit of opportunistic looting & mayhem might have gone on to be part of the clean up.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Trouble is, water cannon make almost no sense.

    It did occur to me that they might have a use in snuffing out newly-set small fires before they turn into the sort of raging conflagrations that gut multi-story buildings.

    Plus which, a bunch of bedraggled and cold teens are possibly more likely to disperse and go home than re-form.

    Admittedly, that article makes clear that neither of those uses is particularly feasible at their current high-pressure setting. And it doesn't address the 'policiing by consent' issue either - their use would certainly be an escalation.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    It’s a sodding journal article, so I can’t get the full paper, but the abstract is extremely interesting

    The good folks at Lenin's tomb have got there already!

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to BenWilson,

    There's probably scientific versions, analyzing crowd psychology. But I expect it's pretty soft science.

    Yeah, I'm interested in the causes. But what I was trying to get across was the feeling of visceral emotional volatility of being in those sort of situations, even on the fringes, and even when, relatively speaking, it's quite minor.

    Individuals, and groups of individuals within the crowd, really do act as if they've suddenly been possessed (violence, fight or flight, crying, screaming, hysterics), and it sweeps randomly across the crowd. And then they'll snap out of it almost as abruptly as they started. The atmosphere is 100% contagious, too - there's no such thing as a bystander unless you've been trained to it or experienced it before and can deal with it.

    It's deeply disturbing to experience - it was nearly 20 years ago for me, but it's still raising goosebumps.

    Anyway, there's a couple of good pieces here and here. The second one from the perspective of a female chaplain who was in the thick of it.

    Oddly, one man put down the golf club he was using to smash shop windows when he saw my collar. He went red and nodded at me. Others put down stolen goods, and still others walked up to proclaim their disgust at what was happening.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The problem with arguing over the best method of repression is the riots are over. The discussion isn't about the best policing method to deal with such guerilla rioting. Short of martial law and shutting down the mobile phone networks nothing could have stopped the rioting in real time. It is about the how a temporarily impotent state expresses it's rage at it's impotency to do much about these riots and about how it extracts the maximum revenge.

    I am sure David Cameron would, if he thought it possible, clone Judge Jeffreys in a trice. After all, he of the bloody assizes had no "fake concerns" about human rights.

    The abject terror engendered in the middle class and the political elites by this rioting by the filthly virmin in their midst explains for us today the conditions that led to transportation for stealing a loaf of bread or hanging for pinching a monogrammed hankerchief.

    Thus have the toffs and the middle class always responded to the violence of the mob.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m with Tom in thinking that we’re in a time of crisis the like of which has not been seen in my own lifetime, nor that of my parents.

    Considering one of my parents spent most of the Dub-Dub 2.0 in active military service (and large parts of Britain were subject to saturation bombing, FWIW), I'll say "m'kay" and move on.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich Lock,

    The atmosphere is 100% contagious, too – there’s no such thing as a bystander unless you’ve been trained to it or experienced it before and can deal with it.

    Sorta. As I said in the original post, I've felt that very powerful excitement standing amid rioting. I didn't leave the scene. But I didn't throw anything, break a window or loot either. So I was a bystander.

    Mentally, especially at Aotea Square, I did justify it by regarding myself as a journalistic observer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    @ Rich and Ben re Dynamics of crowds - fascinating stuff but I am not sure if we can always assign negative/evil/demonic values to this dynamic i.e. not sure if crowd dynamics are inherently evil. Surely it’s the same dynamic at work in revivalist meetings, huge sports events, religious events , political meetings, the military, street clean ups the list goes on. Some of these could be experienced as cathartic and positive by many.
    We generally behave ourselves and serve the “social contract” but when the shit filling our lives gets too much what do we do? Get out or band together. When we do band together what deeper elements of the collective unconscious will emerge?

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Russell - excellent reporting from the field !

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    The abject terror engendered in the middle class and the political elites by this rioting by the filthly virmin in their midst explains for us today the conditions that led to transportation for stealing a loaf of bread or hanging for pinching a monogrammed hankerchief.

    Exactly! They can't export their social problems to Australia, US and New Zealand any more.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    transportation for stealing a loaf of bread or hanging for pinching a monogrammed hankerchief.

    The introduction of the former was partly the result of a guilty conscience about the latter. The establishment were worried they would go to hell for hanging all those people, but it didn't say anywhere in the bible you couldn't transport miscreants to Australia.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    But I didn't throw anything, break a window or loot either. So I was a bystander.

    Well, neither did I, so by that definition, I was a bystander, too. But I bet you weren't exactly 100% cool, calm, collected and dispassionate either. :)

    not sure if crowd dynamics are inherently evil. Surely it’s the same dynamic at work in revivalist meetings, huge sports events, religious events , political meetings, the military, street clean ups the list goes on. Some of these could be experienced as cathartic and positive by many.

    Yes, of course. But we're specifically talking about rioting here, and I was posting about my particular experience. Like I said, I'm struggling to decently articulate it, and that's the closest analogy I can get at the mo'.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Richard Aston,

    They can't export their social problems to Australia, US and New Zealand any more.

    And they can't put them all in the army and make them fight on the North-West frontier, either!

    Oh, wait....

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Well, neither did I. But I bet you weren’t exactly 100% cool, calm collected and dispassionate either. :)

    Certainly not. But I did feel like an up-close observer rather than a participant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Trouble is, water cannon make almost no sense. They’re good for dispersing crowds. But these are crowds that disperse rapidly on their own. That’s how they’re working.

    If anything, water cannons seem to have become a symbol of illiberalism, rather than as a form of crowd control, thanks in large part to their use in the American civil rights protests.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5445 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I'll say "m'kay" and move on.

    That's why I said "my parents", rather than "our parents".

    But I'm serious. It seems to me that Western capitalism is in crisis, because the logical outcome of it is finally coming to fruition, that the means of production have mostly moved out, and it's now mostly uncompetitive and stagnant.

    I see only 2 paths, and they are quite divergent from each other.

    1. Accelerating the decline through austerity, which encourages further capital, and human, flight. In this direction I see poverty and eventually massive scale armed conflict.

    2. Brake the decline with forced investment, and stabilize out at an acceptable, much lower, rate of growth, which in the long run will actually be a higher overall rate of growth, because the physical and human capital will not keep disappearing.

    Call me a socialist for thinking the second is better than the first. I don't believe in revolution, in fact I think revolution is far more likely down the first path, and anything that we can do to avoid that happening again would be good.

    I discount the third path:

    3. More of what we've been doing

    Because that's exactly how we got to where we are now, the path that we've been following for around 40 years now, and I think it can't continue.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    That’s an argument, but could we agree that 1) it’s ultimately not the Metropolitan Police paying the bill but tax-payers and 2) a blaring headline in the Torygraph about poor hard-up multinational corporations claiming their corporate welfare entitlement isn’t a good look?

    Well, yes. Of course it is the tax payer, but (a) not the local tax payer, but the city-wide police and (b) the tax payer can I think handle giving a bit of money to victims of violence. And no, I don't think it's a bad look. I think that the Riot (Damages) Act has been on the books a very long time (since 1886!), and has surely been applied before. If people don't like insurance companies looking out for their interests, and the interests of their customers, then I don't quite think people understand capitalism.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    Got to say Islander that comes across as creepy, maybe you would like to re-write the whole thing
    Twins are people too/two

    No - you & Hebe are misreading my comments. Of course twins are people. And hominins have been fascinated by the twoness since we've been...there are several cultures that have twin-founders (Romulus & Remus) or as creator gods (paticularly in South America.)

    Anyone puzzled by crowd behaviour may find Elias Canetti's "Crowds & Power" enlightening.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to BenWilson,

    But I’m serious. It seems to me that Western capitalism is in crisis, because the logical outcome of it is finally coming to fruition, that the means of production have mostly moved out, and it’s now mostly uncompetitive and stagnant.

    You know something, I’m have a real problem getting invested in an existential crisis at the moment. Sorry if that sounds glib and dismissive, because it’s sincerely not mean to be – but while we’re talking about the madness of crowds, perhaps there’s also some thinking to do about the evasive comforts of reducing ash and rubble and human pain and fear to lofty abstractions – and I don’t care whether they’re coming from the left, right or free-range fuckwits. Lionel Trilling put it rather nicely in an essay on Tacitus:

    "[T]o minds of a certain sensitivity ‘the long view’ is the falsest historical view of all, and indeed the insistence on the length of perspective is intended precisely to overcome sensitivity – seen from sufficient distance, it says, the corpse and the hacked limbs are not so very terrible.”

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

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