UK Riots: the troubled search for meaning

Last night’s guest post has led to a few questions being asked on Twitter and on here as to why I published it.

Well, it was to make a point about the riots that continue to sporadically occur around the UK and our reaction to them. There has been much said on TV and radio, written in newspapers, on blogs and Twitter about why the riots are happening and the kind of person who might be taking part in them. I haven’t managed to form any opinion, because I really don’t know why this is happening (and I don’t wish to speculate).

One argument I hadn’t seen until a friend wrote the guest post last night was that the police were being purposefully ineffective in order to prepare for much stronger policing powers to respond to future protests. It is not a viewpoint I share, but the point is that people will take away from these riots a confirmation of their worldview or will interpret the riots to fit into the narratives that they hold dear.

Those who believe that we live in Broken Britain will see this as just more evidence, those who believe we have a feral youth will use this as proof, those who are racist (see Nick Griffin’s tweets) will blame black people directly or multi-culturalism as being responsible – indeed, several commenters on the Mail website have posted comments that this is the inevitable result of immigration and multi-culturalism.

What the guest post demonstrated is that you can mix convincing points with conspiracy-type theories quite easily which is why it is dangerous to read too much organisation or ideology as being behind these riots. Certainly the guest post makes valid arguments about the outcome of the riots – people do seem to be increasingly calling for tougher law and order, more wide-ranging police powers and the arrival of the army. It doesn’t follow that this was a purposeful tactic of the police or the state, the government might take advantage of it to increase our ‘security’ in the same way that New Labour used the fear of terrorism to curb the right to protest and reduce our civil liberties, but it doesn’t mean they actively let the rioting occur.

It is natural for us to what to make sense of any events, particularly when they are violent and chip away at the thin veneer of civilisation, but it does not follow that we can make any worthwhile conclusions or indeed see past our own established worldviews when analysing the riots. I don’t know the work of Alex Jones, but I see a lot of people have suggested even linking to him in a post has damaged the credibility of this blog because he is an ‘conspiracy theorist’. Which, again, is kind of proving my point. By all means dismiss the blog post because you have valid arguments against the case being put to you, but it isn’t enough just to dismiss it because it links to someone who you might think is a bit nuts.

I’m no fan of the faux-democracy that exists in Western countries, and I’m not a believer in the majority of narratives sold to us by a media that by-and-large has to put profit before truth but neither am I a fan of those who unthinkingly believe in conspiracy theories and have to take big leaps of faith in fitting events into their own system of beliefs.

But the point is: whatever analysis we apply to the riots will be severely tainted by our own worldview, expectations and narratives. It is unlikely, for most of us, that our interpretations or conclusions will be of any value Рwhether you believe the riots were the ultimate destiny of multi-culturalism or the machinations of a fascist state.

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