London Riot Reax: The UK Press

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 10 2011 @ 10:45am


Max Hastings, The Daily Mail:

They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong. They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others. Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.

Amol Rajan, The Independent:

Revolutions are not born of hooliganism. These young people are not an organised movement with clear aims. They have no obvious leader, no head office, no command structure and no hierarchy. Far from storming Britain's Bastille, they are thieving trainers and LCD screens to flog on eBay. Nor is this is a direct response to Government austerity measures. Many of those rioting couldn't spell "austerity", let alone distinguish between the spending plans of Government and opposition.

Alex Massie, The Spectator:

Tories should not be surprised by these riots. Human nature being what it is the appeal of the mob – and, of course, for mob rule – remains a constant. True, the institutions that defend society against these kinds of outbreak – family, police, parliament and so on – may be thought weaker than in the past. Nevertheless they remain strong enough that, actually, British society is not, in the main, "broken". Pockets of terrible problems remain of course but when was it ever otherwise?

Zoe Williams, The Guardian:

This is what happens when people don't have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can't afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it. Hiller takes up this idea: "Consumer society relies on your ability to participate in it. So what we recognise as a consumer now was born out of shorter hours, higher wages and the availability of credit. If you're dealing with a lot of people who don't have the last two, that contract doesn't work. They seem to be targeting the stores selling goods they would normally consume. So perhaps they're rebelling against the system that denies its bounty to them because they can't afford it."

Tony Parsons, Daily Mirror:

Those involved – or their ­apologists – can bleat that it is about unemployment, or police violence, or the cuts in public services. But that is all rubbish. The people who are out on our streets robbing, burning, looting, throwing bottles and putting people of the minimum wage out of a job are self-pitying scumbags.

Sarah Sands, The Evening Standard:

It seems to me insulting and naïve to say that the rioters lacked entertainment. If they want something to do, they can start by cleaning up the streets. Youth unemployment is blamed but many of those on the streets were school age. "This country has lost something," said Mr Biber, and he is right. Tony Blair saw that there was a terrible cost to the erosion of institutional deference and put out his sandbags with something called the Respect agenda. Far too late.

Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun:

Don't blame the police on the streets of Hackney, Croydon or Brixton for letting Britain down.

Blame their politically-correct commanders and the handwringing politicians who adopt the cringe position when the "underprivileged" resort to violence. Blame the Macpherson Report which emasculated our police by branding the entire force "institutionally racist". Blame lawmakers like Justice Secretary Ken Clarke or Labour's "equalities" crusader Harriet Harman who believe a slap on the wrist is the answer. And blame hypocrites like Ken Livingstone and the race relations industry who have made a good living out of grievance politics and the victimhood of workshy whingers.

A. McE, The Economist:

The most intriguing explanation for misbehaviour so far was offered to Mark Stone, a Sky News reporter, who recorded looting in Clapham Junction on his phone. "Are you proud of what you're doing?" he asked one young woman who was stealing goods from a smashed-up store. "I’m just getting my taxes back," she replied. As appealing as this may be to Milton Friedman followers (in other circumstances), it is a pretty rubbish excuse for pillaging.

Charles Moore, The Telegraph:

One of the worst effects of the boom culture which even now, after more than three years of financial smash, infects our politics, is that it is considered larky to break the civil peace. During the tuition fee protests, organisations such as UK Uncut tried stunts such as “peacefully” occupying Fortnum & Mason, telling those who objected that they lacked a sense of humour. Nice people are shocked that Charlie Gilmour, Cambridge undergraduate and son of a rock star, was sent to prison for “only” swinging on banners at the Cenotaph.

Yet it is important to recover the sense that such disorder is not cost-free. This aggressive version of alternative comedy is now being imitated lower down the educational and social scale by the hoodies dancing around with stolen booze and phones. Returning to London yesterday, the Mayor, Boris Johnson, made a good point when he attacked the “jocular greed and brutality” of the looters. If you actually try to live your life, bring up your children or run your business in such a culture, it is no joke.

Matina Stevis, The Guardian:

London doesn't want to be Athens in 2008, or Paris in 2005 and 2007. A good place to start after the traumatic events of the last few days is to not shove the more complex problems under the carpet and pretend that the riots happened in a vacuum. If England is to learn from urban violence in other European cities, it ought to address the motivations and grievances of those participating in it. If it doesn't, trouble will return with a vengeance and it will hurt more, as it has in Athens.

Morning Star:

It is meaningless complaining that many teenagers show no respect without appreciating the reality that they too are often treated without respect.

Maurice McLeod, The Spectator:

The police — who, from what I saw, behaved with incredible control — can only do what their numbers allow. They rely on those that want to commit crime fearing being caught and for the rest of us to feel empowered to stand up to them when they get too brave. Sadly, none of that happened last night.

Nigel Morris, The Independent:

The pictures of blazing buildings in Tottenham, Hackney, Croydon and Ealing look likely to become the defining images of David Cameron's early days in Downing Street. Now he faces a massive test of his leadership qualities as the Government and police attempt to bring the lawlessness under control. If the violence continues, Mr Cameron's reputation will suffer a blow from which it could be impossible to recover.

Philip Johnston, The Telegraph:

Yet the riots we are seeing now are fundamentally different from those that have gone before. They might, ostensibly, have been triggered by the police shooting of Mark Duggan, a notorious gangster, in north London; but they are fuelled by pure greed, by a belief that something can be had for nothing. The usual brakes on such behaviour – either an appreciation that it is wrong, or by the prospect that the culprit will be caught and punished – are largely absent.

For this, we have to thank four decades of politically correct policing, and a gradual breakdown of the informal network of authority figures that once provided an additional element of control over the bad behaviour of young people. Adults are now reluctant, or too scared, to step in and stop things getting out of hand, or to impose a wider moral code – and in any case, they are no longer listened to. Deference to age and authority has been eroded by years of genuflection to the twin gods of multiculturalism and community cohesion.

(Photo: A boarded up window of a discount store in Peckham carries notes of peace on August 10, 2011 in London, England. Hundreds of positive messages have appeared on the board in the last 24 hours calling for peace and tolerance. London had a mostly quiet night after 16,000 police were deployed.Trouble erupted in other cities, mosy notably Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham. By Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.)