Friday, August 12, 2011

Why riot?

I did this for ABC Australia:


No-one wants to hear social and economic justifications for rioting, least of all anyone in the UK political class. But justification is not what is at stake. The issue is explanation, as that will determine the response.
Prime Minister Cameron, and London mayor Boris Johnson, have a very simple explanation: it is opportunism, a chance to smash, grab, burn and run.
Their response, therefore, is a simple policing one. Increase the numbers of police forces on the street, and arrest more people. Some go further. Liberal MP Simon Hughes called for the use of the water cannon. Tory MEP Roger Helmer urged that the army be sent in, and looters shot on sight. With towns and cities rioting across the UK, involving at least thousands of youths, this would result in a bloodbath - if a condign one by Helmer's standards.
In fact, the government's response is totally empty: it amounts to saying, people loot because they want to loot, a circular argument that explains nothing. The question remains: why here, why now...?