'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dubstep Rebellion: . . . the whites have become black 

UPDATE 2: George Cicariello-Maher, a participant in the protests in response to the killing of Oscar Grant by BART police in Oakland in 2009, examines the complex sociology of riots such as those that convulsed London:

Essential to the imagery of the irrational mob is the insistence that the bulk of the destruction is centered on working-class communities, and here the logic is fundamentally colonial. The poor and the Blacks can’t be trusted: look what they do to their own. Incapable of governing themselves, they must be taught civilization, by blows if necessary. Here again Oakland resonates, as after the riots there a solitary African braid shop, one of many whose windows were smashed, became the media symbol of the irrationality of rioters hell-bent on destruction and nothing more. It is worth noting that the poor rarely own anything at all, even in their own communities.

To break this narrative, we must read the actions of the rebels as well as listening to their words. While working-class communities have indeed suffered damage (we should note that working-class communities always bear the brunt of upheaval), there has been less talk of more overtly political targeting: police stations burned to the ground, criminal courts windows smashed by those who had passed through them, and the tacitly political nature of youth streaming into neighboring areas to target luxury and chain stores. On just the first night, rioters in Tottenham Hale targeted Boots, JD Sports, O2, Currys, Argos, Orange, PC World and Comet, whereas some in nearby Wood Green ransacking the hulking HMV and H&M before bartering leisurely with their newly acquired possessions.

This tendency was seemingly lost on analysts at The Guardian, who were left scratching their heads when the riot locations did not correspond directly to the areas with the highest poverty. And it’s not just the lefty news outlets that let such details slip: Danny Kruger, ex-adviser to David Cameron observed that: The districts that took the brunt of the rioting on Monday night were not sink estates. Enfield, Ealing, Croydon, Clapham... these places have Tory MPs, for goodness’ sake. A mob attacked the Ledbury, the best restaurant in Notting Hill.

While refusing to denounce the rebellions, socialist thinker Alex Callinicos nevertheless suggests that such looting is a form of do-it-yourself consumerism… reflecting the intensive commodification of desires in the neoliberal era. This view misses the far more complex role of the commodity during a riot, which was as evident in Oakland as in Venezuela: not only is the looting of luxury consumer items far more complex than Callinicos suggests, but the argument of looting as consumerism would have a hard time explaining both the destruction of luxuries and appropriation of necessities that often ensues.

Referencing the attention to police misconduct engendered by the riots in Tottenham, Cicariello-Maher observes:

This isn’t the only time riots have worked, either: in 2009 Oakland, it was riots and only riots that led to the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of BART police officer Johannes Mehserle for the death of Oscar Grant.

UPDATE 1: lenin explains Starkey within the context of the racist right in the UK:

But this raises the question of what Starkey was trying to do. Clearly, he earnestly expressed his own views as a High Tory historian with a monarchist, nationalist bent. Yet, he evidently went farther than the political establishment, including the mainstream right, is prepared to go at the moment, and may well have gambled with his future television career. In fact, there would be a strong case for his being arrested and charged with incitement to racial hatred. There are two answers that make sense. The first is that is that the entire aggressively offensive performance was a calculated attempt to injure and smear the targets of its racialised invective. It was malice. And it was intended that racists should enjoy this degradation, uttered with relish as it was. The second is that the presentation, in its deliberately excessive way, invited the disgust and disorientation of the audience, such that, amid a generalised moral panic, he would recalibrate the scales of what is publicly acceptable in a radical way. The pathfinders of the racist right often seek the "chorus of execration", as Powell put it, revelling in the temporary ex-communication, enjoying the ambiguous status of the heretic and the prophetic. This is both because they expect to be vindicated, and because they can enjoy the spectacle of their execrators making use of the space of relative 'respectability' that their provocation has created.


Why did British youth loot their neighborhoods after the killing of Mark Duggan? British historian David Sharkey has the answer. British society has been degraded by blacks and black culture, inducing whites to talk like illiterates and steal whatever strikes their fancy. Contrary to BBC claims to the contrary, the interviewer, Emily Maithis, allowed him to elaborate on his theories of racial contamination without criticism. Other participants in the panel discussion, Dreda Say Mitchell and Owen Jones, did challenge Sharkey, but in remarkably understated fashion. Personally, I think that they should have just walked out.

Such gentle inquiry was in marked contrast to how another BBC interviewer, Fiona Armstrong, treated Darcus Howe when he sought to explain the social conditions associated with the riots, going so far as to assert he had participated in a riot himself:

It was so bad that the BBC was forced to issue an apology. Expect a more and more blatant recourse to racism and xenophobia to mask the sub-proletarianization of Europe as suggested by these BBC interviews.

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