The Eye of the Fish

August 15, 2011

Life’s a Riot

Welcome back! Oh no, sorry, it’s us that has been gone. I must say, I’ve been amazed by the riots of last week – how quickly the thin veneer of civilisation can be stripped away, to be replaced with outright thuggery in a single night. It seems that everyone is affected.

At first it just seemed like another weekend bit of bother, the kind of thing that happens sporadically on hot summer nights in Britain, where they live in stuffy little houses or Council estates, and periodically set wheelie bins on fire. But then it boiled over into something much nastier – not just the wholescale burning of police cars, buses (a bus? good grief I thought, that’s a bit extreme), but then houses, a carpet showroom, and then an entire Sony DVD storehouse. What the heck has got into these feral Poms?

Of course if this situation had arisen in the USA, the result would have been very different. Amazingly, as the UK’s police force do not ordinarily carry lethal weapons, no one was shot – apart, of course, from the innocent man at the very beginning, Mark Duigan. But you can imagine what the death toll would have been if the cops or indeed the general population had, or used guns regularly. Much like what these readers from that right wing publication The Telegraph say:

“There is no point in doubling or adding another 10,000 Police to the control of the situation if this simply doubles or trebles the number of Police simply spectating!! If there is a solution that the riff-raff understand it is retaliation!!!
Get stuck in, chase them off the streets spray them with luminous paint for ease of identification later, cancel all public transport after say 6-30pm and let the dogs loose after not having been fed!!!!
Police have the right to carry a stick – the thugs do not – so no contest!!!!! The Police need some guts -not shields – the thugs can not take aim if they are running for their miserable lives!!!!!!”

Riff-Raff. Hmmmm. I don’t think I’ve heard this phrase used seriously since my days as a spotty young fish reading Biggles (apart from screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show of course). You can easily imagine that “Burnside 2” has white hair, stiffly starched collars, drives an Austin Princess kept in immaculate condition (last of the proper British cars, don’t you know)… However, this chap has some more suggestions:

“Suggested action: It should be a criminal offence to cover your face or disguise your facial feature without legitimate cause.
All police vans should be fitted with water cannon and some officers should have powerful water guns to spray indelible dye on anyone apparently engaged in illegal activity. Plastic bullets or Tazers should be used in extreme situations. Could nets, similar to those used to capture wild animals be deployed?”

Yeah, cos that banning of face coverings is working really well in France and Belgium now, isn’t it?

Ezra Limm:
“It astonishes me how such anarchy when police have firearms. Ever wonder why countries with far more inequality dont have such problems? (Think China).
1) Declare an emergency.
2) Give police the right to detain/tazer/pepperspray anyone with a covered face during an emergency.
3) Arm police with video cameras and shotguns.
4) Actively encourage / financially reward police officers for their KILLS during the emergency period. Any violent rioter caught on tape is fair game for a bullet in the head. Kill a rioter about to throw a molotov? $500 bonus for the officer. Town saves heaps more as there’s no fire threat.
5) Finally, make the policeforce COMPLETELY UNDERCOVER. Yes,… that unassuming lady in the corner may have a small flipcam recording the looting and now has the right to open fire on you for a big fat bonus paycheck this month.”

and finally, from chuckwoking:
“Why would the army want them, but as targets for bayonet practice? On the other hand large stretches of the Falkland islands still need mine clearance, perhaps punishment detail would do them the world of good?”

For the outcome of this sort of hard-arsed attitude, we have no further to look than America, where in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating (a black truck driver badly beaten up by LA police officers, and caught on video camera), and subsequent trial of the police officers involved:
“On the seventh day of jury deliberations, which took place on April 29th, 1992, acquitted all four officers of assault, and three of the four of excessive force. The riots began on the night of the verdict and would peak over the next two days or so, and continued for a total of six days. A curfew was set and the National Guard was deployed to take control of the situation at hand. Federal troops from the 7th Infantry Division and the United States Marines from the 1st Marine Division were also sent in to take control. As stated previously, a total of 53 lives were lost, and nearly 2,000 people were injured. The material damage over the six days cost the United States approximately 1 billion dollars. A total of 3,600 fires were set that destroyed 1,100 buildings. The rioters targeted stores owned by White and Black Americans, and Korean Americans. The street gangs also played a big role in the riot, as they took this opportunity to fight other gangs, the military, and the police.”

53 dead, 2000 injured, $1 billion lost? So perhaps, just perhaps, meeting violence with violence was not such a good idea?

For a very different viewpoint from the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the view from Russell Brand, who says that :
“Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, “mindlessly”, motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.” He goes on to say “As we sweep away the mistakes made in the selfish, nocturnal darkness we must ensure that, amidst the broken glass and sadness, we don’t sweep away the youth lost amongst the shards in the shadows cast by the new dawn.”
Oh god, that sounds pretty wet. You’re losing me there Russell. They’re burning down buildings there!

Well, it was the House of Reeves carpet shop in Croyden, not the world’s greatest loss. Mind you, I’ve often said I’d love to set fire to Godfreys vacuum cleaners storeroom because of those irritating adverts they screen on TV – and have little time for Harvey Norman either. They both deserve to be struck by lightning. But really, I’ve got no sympathy for the rioters, and hope that they are locked away and fed cold gruel, although an explanation of sorts is offered by Nat Tapsley, who says, in an open letter to David Cameron: “Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality?” (except that, very cleverly, he is referring to the MPs themselves):
“This is just understandable confusion over the rules of how many houses you are meant to have as an MP. This doesn’t show the naked greed of people stealing plasma tellies. Unless you’re Gerald Kaufman, who broke parliamentary rules to get £8,000 worth of 40-inch, flat screen, Bang and Olufsen TV out of the taxpayer. Or Ed Vaizey, who got £2,000 in antique furniture ‘delivered to the wrong address’. Which is fortunate, because had that been the address they were intended for, that would have been fraud…… Fortunately, we have the Met Police to look after us. We’ll ignore the fact that two of its senior officers have had to resign in the last six weeks amid suspicions of widespread corruption within the force….. There are parts of society that are not just broken, they are sick. Riddled with disease from top to bottom. Just let me be clear about this (It’s a good phrase, Mr and Mrs Cameron, and one I looted from every sentence your son utters, just as he looted it from Tony Blair), I am not justifying or minimising in any way what has been done by the looters over the last few nights. What I am doing, however, is expressing shock and dismay that your son and his friends feel themselves in any way to be guardians of morality in this country.

Can they really, as 650 people who have shown themselves to be venal pygmies, moral dwarves at every opportunity over the last 20 years, bleat at others about ‘criminality’. Those who decided that when they broke the rules (the rules they themselves set) they, on the whole wouldn’t face the consequences of their actions? Are they really surprised that this country’s culture is swamped in greed, in the acquisition of material things, in a lust for consumer goods of the most base kind? Really?”

The real question we need to ask here in good old New Zillun (that nice Mr John Key calls it that, so it must be right), is whether anything like that could ever happen here. Well, duhhh, yes, of course it could. While we would all like to think that our dis-affected youth are nowhere near as badly behaved, or mistreated, the results from the last week of the British disease show that that tiny veneer of civilisation is thinner than we think. It can, and does crack.

16 - 08 - 11

Hard to concentrate on riots when all around is snow. You’re right – you really don’t get people rioting in mid-winter, do you?

It’s a summertime thing….

16 - 08 - 11

>no one was shot – apart, of course, from the innocent man at the very beginning, Mark Duigan

Are you saying that Duggan wasn’t a crack dealer and gang member, it wasn’t his firearm recovered from the scene, and the police didn’t really have any reason to attempt to arrest him?

Oh, and four people died… one beaten to death in Ealing and three run down in Birmingham. They weren’t shot, but I suspect they don’t care about the distinction.

17 - 08 - 11

No, I really do mean that no one was shot – and while not belittling the deaths of the 3 men run down, it is absolutely amazing that no one was shot. If the police had used bullets instead of riot shields, how many would have died? If the rioters had had guns with them on their rampage, how many more innocent people would have died? If the general population owning the shops and houses burnt out, had also had access to guns to protect their property, how many of the rioters would have been killed?

I included the reference to the LA Riots as a comparison – 53 dead but over 2000 injured. That’s a lot of gunfighting going on – and in the end, which result is better? Is LA now free from crime because the bad boys were killed off? I don’t think so.

17 - 08 - 11

>I included the reference to the LA Riots as a comparison – 53 dead but over 2000 injured.

That is only valid if the two situations were the same, with the only difference being the presence or non-presence of guns. If you’re going to compare any two random events and draw conclusions on that basis then I’ll add a third… the Rwandan genocide in 1994 where 800,000 people died in ethnic riots, most deaths didn’t involve guns, but most lives would have been saved if the victims were armed.

I’m still interested in why you’ve decided that Mark Duggan was “innocent”. The only other people making that claim are his family.

Seamonkey Madness
17 - 08 - 11

On a side – but related – note, you must be happy that the Harvey Norman guy has toned his voice down a bit on the TV. They’ve still got those screeching “Go, Harvey Norman. Go!” banshees at the end though.

17 - 08 - 11

Davidp – innocent insomuch as he was shot due to suspicion of having a gun, when it turns out he did not. Those are the only facts I have heard – I dont know him, or anything about his gang affiliations about him.
We have had a similar situation in NZ of a young man being shot dead, on suspicion of having a weapon. That it turned out to be a golf club was a sad thing. So: he was innocent of having a gun, but guilty of smashing windows and threatening police officers, which should not normally be a cause for a death sentence.

I’d say that the 2 events are actually quite close. Rodney King, Mark Duigan, and the golfclub swinging guy from Waitara – not randomly connected events but very similar, of police brutality. Rwanda and Berundi is a whole different kettle of fish. Blatant fascist racism on an endemic scale. Closer to a two sided Hitler vs the Jews genocide.

17 - 08 - 11

>he was shot due to suspicion of having a gun, when it turns out he did not

A gun was recovered at the scene. Duggan was a known gun carrier. One report has it that the gun was in a sock, which apparently is a gang practice to collect cartridges and other forensic evidence. The controversy seems to have been about whether he shot first. Initial reports say he did, but it seems that the police officer who collected a bullet was the victim of a misfire or a ricochet. That leaves three possibilities:

1. Police brutality, as you allege.
2. He presented the gun and was shot. Contrary to some opinions, you don’t get one free shot at the police before they’re allowed to shoot at you.
3. One of the arresting officers misfired his weapon, and in the confusion others shot Duggan. Which is tough, but a risk you take when you’re the armed member of a Yardie-connected crack selling gang.

The gang connections are well documented and all over the web. He is part of a violent family. His uncle may have been responsible for 27 murders before a Yardie stabbed him to death a few years ago. And his cousin was killed with a broken bottle recently.

17 - 08 - 11

davidp – I’ll happily bow to your obviously far more thorough appraisal of the facts re Duggan’s death. Yes, he sounds bad, and is connected with some thoroughly unpleasant dudes responsible for a load of misery. I’ll totally accept your statements that he was part of a very bad family. Certainly this is a very different situation than that of Steven Wallace of Waitara – who was a former architecture student, and unconnected with any gangs. (police report on that here: ).

However – that leaves me in a quandary. Why, if he (Duggan) was so bad, did his death spark off such a riot? Especially by people completely unconnected with gangs, rioting, or police actions (up til then). Witness : “A primary school worker, postman, a young dad, a boy, 11, … all among the first looters fast-tracked through the courts” (all quotes from Daily Mail):
THE GRAMMAR GIRL: Millionaire’s daughter Laura Johnson, 19, was charged with stealing £5,000-worth of electronic goods, including a Toshiba TV, Goodmans TV, microwave and mobile phones.

THE CHARITY WORKER: Barry Naine, 42, who works for a St Mungo’s homeless hostel in Lewisham, appeared in court charged with burglary. He is accused of breaking into Primark in Peckham and was remanded in custody.

THE POSTMAN: Jeffrey Ebanks, 32, and his student nephew Jamal Ebanks, 18, were allegedly caught in a car stuffed with electrical goods near a looted Croydon superstore. The teenager, who admitted burglary, claimed he had been ‘led astray’ by his uncle.

THE SCHOOLBOY: Alexander McQuarrie, 16, from Ibrox, in Glasgow, was remanded in custody over claims he attempted to incite others to riot by setting up a Facebook group entitled ‘Let’s start a riot in Glasgow’.

So it comes back to the central premise of: something sets people off rioting, and we’re no different from the Poms. In most cases, we’re bred from the same ancestors. Either they have gone rabidly feral in the last few years, or it is a result of other factors – perhaps the heat, perhaps the pressures of the Tory government crackdown, perhaps it is their cramped and squalid living conditions, or, just perhaps, although I really don’t buy this, perhaps their sense of entitlement has been enlarged in parallel with the untrammelled greed of their political leaders.

17 - 08 - 11

Which brings me back to the question of – could New Zealand have a riot like that? To me, obviously, the answer is yes. We’ve had them before – Queen St riots (allegedly incited by Dave Dobbyn) where people suddenly went running amok, smashing windows. I think we can put that one down to immaturity, hot conditions, too much alcohol. Then there is the Springbok Tour riots, where deeply held political beliefs and an intransigent government helped cause a clash in the middle of winter. Damage to fences, to rugby pitches, and battles between rioters and police, but no looting. Cold too – in the middle of winter. And of course, way before my time, the riots of the 51 wharfies strike and the Battle of Manners St.

Lastly: the big question – Do we have a feral underclass intent on stealing? Well, if our nationally most-loved drama Outrageous Fortune is anything to go by, we venerate people like that.

Seamonkey Madness
18 - 08 - 11

Maximus, I don’t think we would have a riot of the same proportions (relatively speaking). First thing is that although NZ has a consumer/credit card culture that is right up there, it is nothing compared to England’s. Speaking of venerate, they bow down at the altar of Blackberry/iPhone; worship at the Temples of Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Lacoste, Puma, Lonsdale and K-Swiss et al; and make sacrifices to the High Gods – TK Maxx, Lilywhites, TopShop and Argos.

The old english saying ‘In for a penny; in for a pound’ definitely applies here. Once one person smashed a shop window, then it descended into a – literal – free-for-all. It IS the harvest that the crop of Benefitus Entitlitus has sown. Joe Bloggs in the street has thought that ‘Well, since the bludgers can live off the public tit for nowt, why can’t I get something for nothing too?’. Hence, some of the rioters being from lower-middle class backgrounds (apart from the exception of that millionaire’s STUPID daughter getting involved with the wrong crowd. Read some articles on this – it wasn’t her on her own.)

It took a couple of days for the stiff upper lip to get into action, but once it did the rioters started to disperse (well, that and 16,000 bobbies). In NZ I would (like to) think that people would take that even further, quicker. In essence, there is a greater ratio of sensible citizens who have more moral fibre than the opportunist scumbags out there who would take advantage of a one-off incident. On top of this, the average NZer would have no sympathy for a person killed who was even somewhat related to dubious activities, like our friend Mark Duggan, hence no outrage – faux or otherwise – to incite said riot.


18 - 08 - 11

I blame all those architect designed housing estates :-)

Actually I think population density likely has a role. More people, more opportunity for things to happen. We are a bit more dispersed. Our riots tend to involve wheel spinning subarus in convoy.

Chch earthquake proved we have scumbags in world class.

18 - 08 - 11

insider – you talking about that notorious scumbag who stole 2 light bulbs (allegedly)? :-)

Seamonkey Madness
18 - 08 - 11

Perhaps he is referring to the scumbags who stole diesel generators that were powering phone exchanges?

Or the fake insurance/EQC inspectors?

Or, or, or…

18 - 08 - 11

or perhaps it is the food-price-threshold (to counter the benefitus argument)…

Seamonkey Madness
19 - 08 - 11

Then why (in London) were people stealing flatscreen TVs and trainers but not food?


19 - 08 - 11

very low IQ ? They thought that flatscreen TVs were crispy rice wafers perhaps?