Review: The Riots: In Their Own Words, BBC

Last night as I began watching The Riots: In their own words; which focused upon the stories of a few rioters whose personal accounts were re-iterated by actors to protect their anonymity, I expected to gain a deeper insight as to why the riots happened. An hour later and my questions were still left unanswered.      Yes, as I watched the documentary I was grateful that Alecky Blythe and Fatima Salaria, the architects behind this verbatim drama, brought to the forefront a number of underlying issues that at least went some way to explaining why exactly from the 6th – 10th August 2011 several London boroughs and cities across England erupted into violence after the failed protest against the killing of Mark Duggan. An example of these issues being social deprivation, unemployment and resentment towards authority, in particular the Police. However, these factors were soon swept aside as the majority of the rioters featured in this drama admitted that they joined in due to curiosity and/or flagrant opportunism, with one rioter gleefully summing up the riots as ‘easy money, easy money, easy money’.       Moreover, although the rioters came from cross sections of society such as the white middle aged mother who admitted joining the riots out of curiosity and anger towards the police, most featured tended to belong to the criminal underclass with one rioter not only admitting to stealing from looters but also showing off the large quantities of cannabis in his backpack. I was therefore disappointed that Blythe and Salaria only skimmed the surface of why the riots happened, thereby adhering to the grand narrative put forward by...

Riots a year on…

The flames engulfing the furniture shop in Croydon have become an iconic emblem of the riots. More than the combustion of the items within the building, the flames represented the lives of the youngsters who partook in the unrest. Where a hasty act, like the striking of the match, gave rise to a series of events which culminated in a lasting change upon the landscape of their lives. During the initial stages of the riots, assumptions about the causes centred upon the death of Mark Duggan, with many highlighting it as the primary cause; ‘I personally thought that the cause of all this was the death of Mark Duggan who was shot down by police on Thursday night in Tottenham, North London’ – John Teamrat 17, from Lewisham However, as the riots continued, and the flames spread across the country, this rhetoric, soon paved the way for numerous other explanations, many of which acknowledged the fact that although the riots may have started with a specific intention, it spiraled into something different all together, with the looting and latent criminality being far removed from the initial intentions, and unrelated to any socio-economic determinant; ‘I feel that the looting and rioting that have taken place since Duggan’s death have been a series of opportunistic exploitations sprung from an initial socio-political protest’ – Sherée Prospere, 20, from South London This opinion was echoed by David Cameron, “This is criminality, pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated”. Similarly, Ed Milliband stated that there was ‘no excuses for the violence’, once again side stepping any speculation beyond that. Disregarding...

Violence as a disease – have we found a cure?

Gordon Ramsay’s latest television project ‘Gordon Behind Bars’ (available on 4OD) has taught us several things, firstly, that impatient t.v. chefs and heavy security protocols don’t mix, secondly, that leaving ten convicted burglars to decorate fairy cakes can produce hilarious results, but most importantly that prisons that offer rehabilitation and education programmes for their inmates, can make a real difference. At the last count, the re-offending rate for prisoners receiving custodial sentences in England and Wales was 40%. It is clear that, when it comes to using prison as a correctional facility or a deterrent to further crime, we are doing something wrong. For almost a decade now, researchers such as Felton Earls of Harvard Medical School, and experts at the World Health Organisation have been describing violent or criminal behaviour as ‘a socially infectious disease’. Ramsay’s scheme shows that it could be beneficial for society as a whole to use rehabilitation, rather than punishment to tackle crime. A hundred years ago, we might have considered people with diseases such as leprosy as ‘evil’ and placed them together in colonies. Today we understand how to give them the help that they need to recover. So why not do the same for those prone to violence? The evidence from last year’s riots suggests that a key factor that contributes to a person committing petty crime is unemployment. A recent survey by The Guardian describes those convicted after the riots as ‘overwhelmingly young, male and unemployed’. If you get into work, you gain purpose, self-esteem, self-respect and the sense that you are part of building or contributing to your community. In...
Riot Memes

Riot Memes

We asked some of our young journalists for some topical memes, and here’s what they came up with… *All views expressed in this article are the author’s. IARS accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any views expressed in these articles and will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information or any losses or damages arising from its display or...

The power of rumours and social media

Rumours can have an unusually large impact on people, and I don’t mean the usual silly playground rumours we talked about when we were 12. I’m talking about the type of rumour that can spark a riot that causes a 400% spike in emergency calls, 3100 arrests, five deaths, and lots of injured people, stolen goods and burnt buildings. There isn’t a single clear cause, reason or motive of the 2011 August riots, but it did teach us a few things. One of those things is the power of rumours. During the riots quite a few rumours spread over the internet but most had little or no effect on the progression of the chaos (the one about a tiger being let loose probably kept looters and arsonists at bay). Some, however, caused uproar and may have exacerbated the violence of the rioters – in particular the rumour where policemen allegedly attacked a 16 year old girl. But like all rumours, they are nothing without a means for them to spread. And with 900 million active Facebook users, 500 million active tweeters and millions on the blackberry messaging hype, this story went viral. The media couldn’t bring everyone up to speed on the latest updates of the riots quick enough, so people turned to social networking sites for information. Statuses, pictures, events and pages on Facebook, twitter updates etc all without doubt played some role in spreading information – even information that may have been fictitious. This was the case with the story of the attack on the 16 year old which unfortunately wreaked a lot of havoc – but without the...