So a week has passed since, to quote the immortal Martin Lawrence, ‘the shit got real’ in various areas of London, Birmingham, Manchester and some other cities I don’t care about enough to look up.
Many more eloquent and learned people than myself have shared their thoughts on what caused this spectacular series of events in the days that followed… and David Starkey too, so I’m not about to offer my theories on the whole affair. Instead, here are a couple of observations on the reactions to the disorder:
Social networking tools are the new Gangsta Rap
AAHHH!! A new thing the establishment doesn’t fully understand.
At first it was down to Facebook. Then we all realised that the people who were using that to organise looting were too thick to implement the security settings on their account and were therefore easy to trace and laugh at.
So blame then moved to Twitter, but those of us that actually use it and don’t get needlessly defensive whenever the site is mentioned soon stepped in to explain that it is just spambots, celebrities, aspiring writers and people who have transcended Facebook status updates that use Twitter and anyways; that shit’s more public than Facebook, just ask Paul Chambers.
Then someone in the news media heard about BBM (that means Blackberry Messenger, Grandpa) and got confused enough to get scared. Ladies and gentleman, our ‘fall-guy’.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s it was Gangsta Rap-influenced young people that friendly middle-class white people were instructed to fear. While young people are still terrifying, it is only occasionally that Hip Hop is considered scary nowadays so we top up our fear with other things that will herald the apocalypse… like video games and hooded sweatshirts.
Extreme behaviour wasn’t restricted to the streets
As I grew up in Croydon, plenty of people on my ‘friend list’ on Facebook are also from the town. Last week, as the BBC News Channel broadcast live pictures of Reeves Corner burning (and I’m sure those images were in no way influential in anyone’s decisions to go robbing, by the way. Absolutely certain they didn’t exacerbate the situation even a little bit.), the statuses started.
From the obligatory ‘Just saw you on the telly’ message from friends in as yet unsmashed towns to people sharing their outrage and disbelief, all emotions and ideological perspectives were soon covered.
However, disturbingly enough, the status that appeared more than anything was ‘they’ll regret burning down the chicken shop when it’s lunchtime tomorrow’ and variants of. In fact, before long, there were so many racist statuses popping up on my newsfeed that Facebook even started lumping all the racists together in a useful bundle for easy avoidance.
Yes, stealing is wrong. Yes, of course attacking people is abhorrent, nobody is saying otherwise. But your persistent casual racism? Just as emblematic of the issues facing twenty-first century Britain as every second of footage recorded last week…