Tuesday, August 09, 2011

There's really nothing positive at all to say about the riots in England.  Basically, we have a lot of gangs of petty criminals of the type who usually restrict themselves to organised shoplifting crews, bootlegging and small-time drug dealing, now whipping up a lot of excitable kids as cover for mass theft operations.  Large  distractions leave the ringleaders free to attack wherever they like without worrying about police interference - that Sony distribution centre, for example.

This isn't a protest or kids letting off steam - it's organised crime.  Given how astonishingly effective this is, Daniel is right in this Tweet - it's less a question of "Why is this happening?" than it is of "Why doesn't it happen more often?"

The really alarming thing here is that there's not a lot the cops can do to prevent it, beyond mass arrests, and they're not going to be very effective anyway.  There's also only so many people you can shoot with rubber bullets, and it's not like we're short of easily-led kids with time on their hands.

I think a lot of commentators are missing just how bad this could turn out to be.  This could prove to be a more or less unstoppable public disorder problem causing major damage and disruption, at a time when we've got a near-enough infinite supply of excitable kids who were regarded as being practically a sub-species by much of the populace before the riots started.  Soon, we'll have a massive public demand for Something To Be Done.

This means crackdowns, and I don't know if anyone else watched Sky and BBC News most of the day, but the calls for martial law started early and got louder as the day went on.  David Cameron doesn't strike me as the Nixon type, but you'd better believe both major parties are crammed to the hoop with authoritarian dinosaurs whose dreams are filled with clunking coppers in space marine armour and weapons catalogues full of shiny guns.

Maybe I'm being alarmist here - it wouldn't be the first time - but if this continues, the way is clear for some seriously Nixonian behaviour here, and when the state takes the gloves off, it's unlikely to be the ringleaders who are on the receiving end of the bare-knuckle boxing.

We're talking about major wedges being shoved between existing political blocs, pushing those who already have some wacky beliefs out to the far edges of wingnuttery, with the resultant arguments and policies you'd expect... In the middle of an economic disaster and huge unemployment.  That would have lots of effects, none of them good, and few if any of the new and shiny ideas about smashing heads are likely to stop the damn rioting - quite the opposite, in fact.

Jesus.  I hope not, but the potential is on here for a political atmosphere that's going to make the Daily Mail in full flow look like an address on forgiveness by Rowan Williams. 

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