Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Social media, while helping Arab spring, may not be instigating lawlessness in England, elsewhere

While social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, takes some moral credit for helping instigate the “Arab Spring”, with mixed results, now these media are “implicated” in the outbreak of rioting in several areas of London and three other cities in Britain, and even Philadelphia in the US, supposedly a reaction to so-called “police brutality”.  The term used to characterize this activity is "flash mob", although the term is also used for gatherings that do not have destructive intentions (wiki link). 

I could say we saw this attitude in the 60s (Detroit, Newark, and then “medium cool” Chicago in 1968).  And I personally can remember the indignation of a lot of people those days during my own coming of age, mostly from the far Left in those days. At least on the surface, this also calls to mind the Rodney King incident in LA in 1991. 

Is this criminality, or is it something that inevitably results from the gap between rich and poor, and the cutbacks, and hyper-competitiveness?  One could sound like (ultra-Leftist) Noam Chomsky about this one.  The “decadent” public is caught in the middle, but it gets caught on a lot of disputes, like strikes, anyway.

The media have reported some of the teens in the streets as saying "we have the power", etc.   Left-wing site AlterNet has an account "Elites are 'shocked' the poor are rising up against brutal austerity measures; angyr young people with nothing to do and nothing do lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it", story by Penny Red (pun), link here.  Is this what Marxists called "class warfare" during my own generation?  Chairman Mao would turn over in his grave with glee.

The Washington Post, usually "liberal", has a more moderate track on a front page story by Anthony Faiola, "Riot-battered London asks itself why", link here. While describing the lockdown of parts of London and maybe other cities in England, he characterizes the rage as "blind, apolitical and profoundly selfish" and later quotes mention of "bad parenting." The Washington Post editorial this Wednesday morning took a middle of the road tack, talking about how democracies respond to the "rebellion by the dispossessed". And Britain rebuked the Syrian ambassador for its (false) metaphor comparing the lawlessness in Britain with the uprisings in the Middle East.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture below:
Update: Aug. 16

Here's a Washington Times editorial on the problem.  Theodore Dalrymple aka Anthony Daniels, invoking memories of Butterworth's "A Shropshire Lad", razes the sense of entitlement in Britain with a piece in the Wall Street Journal Aug 16, "The Barbarians inside Britain's gates", link here. Other columnists of the WSJ have expressed similar interpretations.

British courts have sentenced a few young adults to up to four years in prison for using Facebook to organize the destructive flash mobs, and many more have been sentenced to a humiliating kind of "community service", cleaning up the mess in riot-torn areas while wearing orange jumpers. 

No comments: