As I discussed in a previous post, scapegoating is nothing new, and despite repeatedly being told that Europeans are more enlightened than foolish Americans (and usually being told this by other foolish Americans), it seems to be a favorite activity over there.
Scapegoating is certainly nothing new in the UK. The sheer amount of petty laws they’ve passed and enforced maybe a couple of times is essentially a symptom of this… a sign of a society’s governing class that feels like it’s losing control over the big things, and thus tries to compensate by displaying as much control as it can over the little things. That’s how you get stuff like little old ladies being up on charges for selling a goldfish to a teenager (yes I’m serious), having to show your ID and be over a certain age to buy a fork, as many closed-circuit TV cameras as there are people, things like that.
And now these massive riots look like they’re only going to spread, and one has to wonder if the authorities haven’t already given up on stopping or containing them to a certain extent and are just hoping they exhaust themselves, because they’re already looking for that next scapegoat:
Police are scrutinising tweets and messages on internet forums and could press charges if they consider they amount to incitement to riot.
Now clearly, if the tweets and whatnot were saying “There’s a bunch of cops at 2nd and Briton! Charles, you come up behind them on 2nd, we’ll jump out from the alley!”, that’s one thing. But the tweets and other social media pieces they’re apparently referring to are things like:
A two-minute film of a police car being trashed by rioters was posted on YouTube to a rap soundtrack. The clip finished with the words: ‘The enemy isn’t your own people, the enemy is the police.’
Offensive? Almost certainly. Insensitive? Definitely. But clearly this is free speech protected by the first amendme-… oh, right. Whoops.
But the thing is, it’s pretty clear that the “incitement to riot” phrase is going to be seeing a looot of workout. No doubt they’ll catch people like the complete idiot at the start of the article who’s posting pictures and bragging about the stuff he stole, but there’s no way they’ll catch all or even the majority of people who started or participated in these riots, or even those who actively tried to coordinate them. (Here’s a hint: if they’re dedicated enough shit-stirrers that they’re actively coordinating riots, they’re probably dedicated enough to cover their tracks a fair bit.) But what’s to be done about a populace who is now more scared than ever, less confident in the government and authorities’ power to protect them than ever, and a country more simmering with tension than ever? Have some nice big public smack-on-the-wrist trials for “incitement to riot” because somebody posted a video with rap music and aggressive text overlaid. Sure, it’ll distract you from tracking down anyone who’s actually responsible… but it’ll also distract the citizenry from the fact that you’re incapable of doing so! So net win all around, eh Bobbies?
Again, it’s pretty clear some people were actually using social networking sites to coordinate crime… and these people need to be found. But at this point it seems like the authorities are aiming just as much focus on anyone who tweeted about the subject. Admittedly, at this point it’s just an assumption that they’ll target people who tweeted “Hell yeah! Fuck the po-lice!” as much as anyone, but it’s an assumption built off of prior behavior.
The fact of the matter is that riots happened long before twitter, simply because mob mentality is a powerful thing. Hell, spreading riots happened before phones. You could as easily blame the TV stations for reporting the story (and I imagine the thought of doing so passed through at least a couple of heads). Now, if people were in fact using twitter as more than a round of cheerleading, fine… but cracking down on the cheerleading? I’ve got news for these guys, if they’re going to try and hold trials for everyone with an anti-authoritarian state of mind and who’s willing to voice it, well, you may as well just start building the internment camps now, because there’s not a lot of other options for controlling a portion of the population of that size.
Is this the result of a dedication to multiculturalism? Possibly. I find it just as likely that it’s a result of a society that has become more and more dependent on a sense of entitlement. As much as the spread of rioting seems to have a definite anti-police slant, the focus of much of it has still been shopping centers and looting. This is the natural extension of people who have been raised in a society that sponsors cradle-to-the-grave care and that they’re owed more than they have… in their minds the things in those stores are rightfully theirs anyway, this is just finally their chance to get their hands on it. Much of the twitter “incitement” that will apparently be evaluated revolves around things like “I’m finally going to have a big-screen TV” and showing off all the video games they stole. It’s as much about “Finally, I’m able to take what should have been given to me in the first place” as anything else, if not more.
Ultimately, these riots are a sign that something is wrong with the UK as a society. Which is not, in itself, an indictment, in truth… there’s something wrong with just about every society. If there’s nothing wrong with your society, well, that’s impossible, because there’s something wrong with scooping out part of peoples’ brains to make them utterly compliant and satisfied, which is what you’d have to do to have a society without problems. But they are an indicator of what’s wrong with the UK as a society, as is the maintainers of that society’s response to it… a thinly-veiled (albeit currently only implied) crackdown on freedom of expression.