Monday, 20 August 2012

'The riots in their own words' documentary

There are 2 interesting programs about last year's riots in England available on the BBC iPlayer. One looks at events from the perspectives of The Rioters, and the other looks at The Police views. When doing research on contentious matters that involve conflict between 2 sides, it's always a good idea to look at both sides, to try and get a more balanced view, and so the BBC is to be commended for doing that. Both show  interesting and sometimes powerful accounts from people involved from both sides, and are well worth watching.

There’s too much from me to comment on in detail, but one thing I saw was interesting. In the one that looked at The Rioters, there was an interview with a woman who was involved in the initial rioting in Tottenham on the Saturday after Mark Duggan was killed. She was quite open about how she had no problem about people fighting the Police, but said she and others physically prevented people from looting her local pet shop and Doctor's surgery. To me, this shows how rioters are often selective in the targets they choose to attack, and show the myth of a 'mindless mob out of control'. There were many different crowds involved in the August 2011 riots, with differing motivations, but they roughly fall into three broad areas: a) crowds that wanted to stand their ground and fight the Police, b) crowds that took advantage of the Police being tied down elsewhere to engage in looting of goods they wanted, and c) crowds that came in from outside an area who then attacked commercial properties indiscriminately (as they were not from that community and saw all shops in the vicinity as a legitimate target). Failing to consider these differences (and the wider social context in which the riots occurred), results in an over-simplistic analysis of what happened (or even no analysis at all!), and risks failure in understanding how the riots developed and escalated as they did.

For an in-depth and detailed analysis of what happened in the riots, check out the excellent book  Mad mobs and Englishmen, available on Kindle, and the following article looks at how statistics were often misreported during the riots. Finally, the Press Office at London Metropolitan University put out a Press Release I wrote at the time of the riots, arguing for a more objective & less emotive analysis of what was going on.

No comments:

Post a Comment