“… it’s just about possible that you could see your actions refashioned into a noble cause if you were stealing the staples: bread, milk. But it can’t be done while you’re nicking trainers, let alone laptops.” (Here.)
Facebook buzzed yesterday over whether the riots could be called anarchism, and decided a better term was nihilism. I wondered whether an even better term would be anomie, and now Zoe Williams makes just that point.
“I wasn’t convinced by nihilism as a reading: how can you cease to believe in law and order, a moral universe, co-operation, the purpose of existence, and yet still believe in sportswear? How can you despise culture but still want the flatscreen TV from the bookies? Alex Hiller, a marketing and consumer expert at Nottingham Business School, points out that there is no conflict between anomie and consumption…”
There’s no cause, there’s no ideology, there’s no sense in it. Violence in a political cause you can understand, even if not excuse, but this is violence for its own sake. The “riot girls” video which has stayed firmly in the BBC’s top ‘most watched’ lists shows clueless teenagers, drinking stolen wine all night, treating it all as a bit of fun, and witlessly blaming variously “the government” (careless as to what party is even governing) and then “rich people”! but entirely lacking in any perceivable, far less coherent, justification. Obviously there are social and political and moral factors which can be identified by analysts looking on and can contribute to an explanation, but what’s motivating these people is no political project, no social ideology, no moral grievance.
“… these are shopping riots, characterised by their consumer choices: that’s the bit we’ve never seen before. A violent act by the authorities, triggering a howl of protest – that bit is as old as time. But crowds moving from shopping centre to shopping centre? Actively trying to avoid a confrontation with police, trying to get in and out of JD Sports before the “feds” arrive? That bit is new.”
They barely deserve to be dignified by the title riots. It’s empty, casual, self-indulging lawlessness, and simple moral wrong.