Love me I’m a looter

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m from Croydon. Someone has to be.

Croydon is a borough almost 10 miles south of central London. My family arrived in Crystal Palace, a  suburb about 15 minutes away from central Croydon, in 1988. We moved into a small housing association project for first time owners that allows them to buy half their house, and rent the rest. The estate is sandwiched between Edwardian houses on one side and a huge detached house on another that was recently converted into a gated luxury flats complex, and whose owners drive my mum mad with their barbeques.

Crystal Palace consists of a triangle of shops, pubs, restaurants and more restaurants. Remarkably, it has a Blockbusters video that battles on through the digital age. A few chichi shops started appearing shortly after I left and moved to Egypt in 2003 (when the tone of the place improved. Purely by coincidence) and now as I understand it houses there are in some demand by people who commute to central London because they have connected Crystal Palace train station to the underground, and Crystal Palace is leafy and green and has a nice park.

Commuters also seek housing in Croydon, but only because it’s cheap and there are fast trains to central London from East Croydon station. Whenever I bemoan to people the fact that I’m from Croydon their usual response is that it isn’t that bad, and then I ask them whether they’ve been there and they say yes, well, I passed through it on the train on the way to somewhere else. Nowhere looks that bad at 50 miles per hour.

Croydon’s “heart” (or perhaps heart is too generous. Its artificial lung) is the high street and Whitgift shopping centre, a pedestrianised zone of consumerism indistinguishable from any other suburban shopping centre in the UK. Boasts are often made about the Croydon “skyline”, a collection of tall office towers including the Lunar and Apollo Houses, inter-galatically named perhaps because they are owned by the Immigration and Nationality Department and their clients and half the people who work there wish they would disappear into outer space. A couple of years ago an employee threw himself off the top of one of the towers.

I worked there when I was 18 after starting and then abandoning a university course in marketing (!) because I only had one decent A Level having gone a bit off the rails after school. I worked in the post room and my job was to open parcels from people applying for residence permits, list their contents and then send them off for processing on one of the many floors above us.

Two months was enough for the realisation that life is pretty shit without qualifications of some sort to sink in, and I did A Level evening courses. The post room was a sad place. I worked with good people but nobody wants to open envelopes forever and some of the people had sent thousands of parcels upstairs but had no hope of escape themselves.

As soon as I was old enough I stopped hanging around in Croydon and went on adventures in central London which is prettier, has more interesting shops and most importantly catered to my music needs in a way Croydon never could. I would occasionally however be dragged to Croydon on shopping expeditions with my parents and still am today on visits back home.

On my last visit in March of this year I noticed that Croydon had become noticeably shabbier in the 6 months that I had been away. I went in a HMV on Friday and when I went back on Monday it had closed down. Numerous shops have met the same fate in the last 2 or 3 years and are either left boarded up or replaced with pound shops, or shops filled with a random assortment of crap. I also noticed on my last visit that the number of homeless people had increased, or at least they were more visible. I saw one huge man with a dilapidated airport trolley on which his belongings were stacked who stopped to eat out of bins in front of a Marks & Spencer. West Croydon station is opposite two pubs and a pawn shop and has become something of a meeting point for people out of their minds on drugs or alcohol.

I am constantly amazed in Egypt when people leave items in their cars or casually leave handbags on the backs of their chairs in restaurants. Being able to walk down the street alone at night in Cairo is a luxury that doesn’t exist in London, or at least my part of it. I’ve only been robbed twice in Croydon (and in one of these incidents it was my friend and not me who was punched in the face and his bike nicked) and I largely feel safe during daylight hours. But there is that constant threat of random low level violence.

Yesterday afternoon I jokingly asked people on Facebook to tell me if they hear of rioting and destruction in Croydon so that I could book a ticket to the UK asap and live out a fantasy. Five hours later I was watching the place go up in flames on TV. I hate Croydon for its mediocrity and its ugliness, its suburban gloom. Or perhaps I just hate it because I spent ten years there without a choice.

A friend tweeted to me, “things look really bad in Croydon, hope everyone’s ok” to which I replied, “oh don’t worry Croydon always looks bad” and was only half joking. If Croydon could somehow magically be razed to the ground without anyone getting hurt economically or physically or any other way I would be the first to sign up to that initiative. I harbour the same feelings towards Nasr City in Cairo.

Rioters in Croydon apparently feel the same way, but choose odd targets, ignoring police stations, government buildings and Apollo and Lunar Houses and instead selecting a furniture store, amongst other targets.

I was initially overjoyed when I heard about the march on Tottenham police station and dismissed the tut-tuting when the looting started as the usual Daily Mail moral outrage. But I’m less certain now. Part of this uncertainty is because of the media’s inexcusably poor coverage conducted almost uniquely from helicopters and behind police lines. I don’t know who the looters are and what they’re thinking because nobody is talking to them so am left with no alternative other than to read into their actions, and their actions are breaking into shops (chain stores and independent), nicking stuff, setting cars alight, bricking people’s windows, torching buildings apparently at random and robbing individuals unable to protect themselves.

Virtually all of the rioters/looters are young people in the hoods and trainers uniform favoured by London’s youth. Videos show them bopping around and facing off against the police with the youthful bravado I recognise from the encounters I have had with them (them being young people from London who wear hoods and move about in loud gangs). I’ve been trapped on buses with these kids and they are annoying little shits in the way that most teenagers are.

In short the media coverage makes them look like cunts. And perhaps many of them are. But even cunts can have legitimate grievances. Maybe they’re destroying stuff because they have no other channel to express their sense of hopelessness and rage at their situation. Or maybe they and their friends just like the thrill of a ruckus with the added bonus of free gear.

As a dual British-Egyptian citizen 2011 has been an interesting year to say the least. The inevitable comparisons are being drawn between the revolution and the riots. There has been annoying smugness from some Egyptian commentators about how civilised the Egyptian revolution was compared to the barbarians in London, and how well Egyptians responded to the security situation compared with Londoners.

Firstly, the majority of protesters who took to the streets in January were motivated by a cause and outnumbered opportunist looters. Secondly, who relies on the police in Egypt anyway? They’re a bunch of useless murderers. In London the police are more trusted despite also killing people with alarming regularity. People have little experience of defending themselves (interestingly, and perhaps supporting this theory, Turkish-Kurdish shop owners in north London fought off looters. I know very little about community-policing relations in Kurdish areas of Turkey but I suspect that the police aren’t on speed dial).

In summary I’m confused, and I wish I was in London so I could ask the kids what the fuck they’re doing and why. The media is showing us hour after hour of Outraged Upstanding Citizen all saying the same thing because Upstanding Citizens tend to hit journalists less. There is an echoing void when it comes to the other side of the story, a void that is being filled with image after horrible image and calls for looters to be flogged in public squares and theorising about the legitimate social political grievances that drove them to commit inexcusable acts. Both camps are as bad as each other.

Martin Luther King said that a riot is the language of the unheard, but Ralph Waldo Emmerson said what you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying. The media is not even trying to listen.

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199 Responses to Love me I’m a looter

  1. Nassaah says:

    Lovely piece, as usual. I can back you up that Croydon is indeed a shithole, and as for your statement about the constant menace of low-level violence? I felt it, and it’s not pretty. I also disagree that everywhere looks good at 50 miles an hour from a train: please see Scunthorpe, parts of West Ham and the boil-that-must-be-lanced that is all of Liverpool.

    I also think you should acknowledge, more directly, the psychological catharsis you that swept over you from the mere suggestion that Croydon might actually be razed to the ground. I harbor the same feelings about Masr il Gideeda, fueled by pretty much the same motivations. This is why this scene from the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was simultaneously repellent and exhilarating:

    • Sarah Carr says:

      :-) You know actually the scenes in London reminded me of a computer game.

    • Dan says:

      the boil that must be lanced – Liverpool? Now is not the time for snobbery which is so acceptable in this country these days that it is also one of the root causes of the alienation young people feel in these areas.

      I don’t think your comment reflects the mood of this article at all. Would people be acting in such opportunistic ways if they felt they had anything to lose? I hope this is a precursor to some politically informed and focused protests (or riots if necessary) in the coming months or years under this perilous Tory govt.

      Your answer is to lance, what you would call, a boil.. why not invest in these areas and refrain from giving these already poor councils some of the biggest cuts in the UK while the rich get richer and the poor get more hopeless. Stick to Sky News and your red tops if you want to suppress the less fortunate even more calling their communities “shit-holes” and everything else. I’m disgusted but you’re just one of many ignorant people who condemn to such a level that it becomes “narcissistic vigilantism”as the Guardian’s Dave Hill put it.

    • fairbrit says:

      Same old rhetoric and you, like the rioters, are not owning their thuggish behaviour. I grew up in Tottenham in a working-class family in the 1950s and 1960s. We had very little money, education, career paths – yet we all lived harmoniously with our Afro-Caribbean neighbours and never experienced the desecration of our own community at the hands of the people that live in that community. There is no legitimate grievance that can ever account for mindless violence.

    • Tim Bartlett says:

      ” I’ve been trapped on buses with these kids and they are annoying little shits in the way that most teenagers are. ”
      Here is the key to these riots; the general attitude and way we treat the people we don’t really know or understand,yet annoy us.

  2. ayman says:

    The smugness among the “#tahrir twitterati”, as one pissed off friend in London described them, has irked me too. It’s true that here instead of bricking people’s windows and endangering their livelihoods, protesters took their fight to the police and NDP but the grievances in Britain are more to do with alienation and being demonised as the rotten poor. Add to that little prospects and ugly inner or outer city surroundings and it’s not hard to see the point in just turning it all over.

    The media have been fucking useless and I imagine they’ll be just as implicit when the attention moves on and all the questions that the riots raise will be left waiting in the wind, the same way Mark Duggan’s family were left on the steps of Tottenham police station at the end of their peaceful march there on Saturday.

    • Sarah Carr says:

      I have no doubt about that.

    • J Hayes says:

      From The Guardian today:

      Criticising the media coverage is easy if you’re sitting in an armchair

      “Our colleagues Lisa O’Carroll and Caroline Davies have been looking at the dangers facing journalists and photographers who are trying to cover the riots.

      One war reporter, who has just returned from the frontline in Libya, was mugged by three hooded looters outside Curry’s in Brixton on Sunday night with £2,500 worth of video equipment stolen.

      Another photographer was kicked to the ground and beaten by four youths on the Pembury Estate in Hackney yesterday while in Birmingham two photographers being mugged, one suffering a vicious attack by an angry mob of more than a dozen.

      A video journalist in Tottenham needed 10 stitches after an angry mob broke into his home and started bashing him with bottles left in his hallway for recycling.

      A Mail on Sunday photographer had £8,000 worth of equipment robbed by a gang during what was described as a “lawless” scene near Bruce Grove in Tottenham.

      Guardian reporter Paul Lewis who has been covering riots late into the night says photographers and journalists are being set upon despite their best efforts not to stand out.

      Anyone even taking pictures with mobile phones was liable to be confronted and asked if they were “feds”, said Lewis.”

      • mundens says:

        As the UK Police and other security services have regularly pretended to be journalists so they can film good pictures of protesters to arrest later under bogus terrorism laws, it’s not surprising that this behaviour is occurring. Any pictures are a bad thing. Anyone with a camera is a ‘fed’.

  3. Pingback: Egyptian Bloggers Parse London Riots in Real Time -

  4. Pauline says:

    Why is pointing out the fact that there are long-standing structural reasons behind the present events as bad as pretending there’s nothing wrong with British society and calling for the army to take care of these dirty Chavs? Cos that’s what I’ve been arguing against all night and day…which is not the same as justifying inexcusable acts of violence.

    • Sarah Carr says:

      My point is that neither side seem to be talking to the looters/rioters themselves. It’s all theorising/moralising.

      • Chris says:

        Here are the rioters. Bloody fucking idiots.

        Where are the parents? Why are they allowed to be out at 3 in the morning?

        • Martin says:

          Chris the parents no longer have any control, since The pc crowd removed their powers to discipline their kids.

          I suspect that any parent of a looter telling their son or daughter to stay home will be told to f**k off.

      • Pauline says:

        Agreed on the poor performance of the media, or even complete absence thereof. I was referring to “mediated” private conversations with Londoners. Should have also said: great piece, always a pleasure to read you, whether I agree or not.

  5. Ed Webb says:

    I lived at the top of Crystal Palace park for a year and a half when I moved back to London from Cairo at the end of the 1990s. Couldn’t afford to live closer in, so commuted from there to work in the centre. Commuting was one of the reasons I quit my (safe, government) job 18 months later and moved to the US. Croydon was soul-destroying then, but not as grungy and run-down as you describe it here.

    On my last few visits to Austerity Britain(TM) I have been struck by both increasingly visible poverty and increasing electronic surveillance, particularly in urban areas. Public spaces are tense, fearful, surveilled. You can’t pull out a camera at a station. But their cameras are watching you from several angles. It’s not healthy at all. Orwellian, alienated.

    Some on Twitter etc have been evoking the start of the Thatcher era. It strikes me that what Thatcher started, her successors have been working to complete. She proclaimed that ‘there is no such thing as society’ and then did all she could to make that true. Community, solidarity, egalitarianism – all dying or dead, for the most part. I suspect if you could ask the rioters what they’re doing, they would give some variation on a nihilist theme. Why destroy? Because they can. We have trained our young people to be acquisitive, atomized, unempathetic.

    The smugness of Egyptian commentators may be unattractive or misplaced. The Egyptian state and its security agents are far, far worse than anything Britain has ever come up with. But I think Thatcher would have been laughed at for proclaiming that there is no such thing as society in Egypt. #jan25 was in part Egyptian society asserting itself against a predatory state. What we see in the UK at the moment is large-scale predation within society itself. I just hope that the clean-up crews, Turkish ‘popular committees,’ and other assertions of positive social solidarity prevail and signal the start of a different kind of rebalancing in the UK – the rebirth of real society (not Cameron’s goofy Big Society malarkey).

  6. Sarah Carr says:

    You should publish this comment somewhere.

  7. Adam says:

    There were reports of at least 4 journalists bring attacked by rioters yesterday, one quite severely. If you’ve seen the video footage of the men helping up an injured boy then emptying his ruck sack, I wonder what kind of reasons any journalist could find. These riots are full of opportunistic and disillusioned kids, but also hardened criminals. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying here but let’s not pretend we’re dealing with some misunderstood cry for help.

    • Martin says:

      “but let’s not pretend we’re dealing with some misunderstood cry for help.”

      Agree 100%. No-one has spoken to the looters, because they’re not looking to establish a line of communication. They’re just looking to get something for nothing, that’s it.

      • Michael says:

        No, exactly, let’s ignore the reports of journalists getting mugged and beaten up for their equipment, and instead let’s engage in vapid theorising about deprivation and Thatcher. This post is a self-regarding piece of crap.

  8. Dan says:

    I was watching Sky News last night and the correspondent tried to get something from one of the looters and was chased down the street. They do not want to be heard, they want to steal. There has been one protest and three nights of looting that started and ended as a riot. That speaks loudly enough for me.

    • Will says:

      Argreed. Simply inexcusable. There are videos floating around of what some of the rioters have to say, you just aren’t looking hard enough. Everything coming from their mouths is mind boggling; paraphrasing: they’re rich so we take from them, show us respect and we’ll show you respect. One cameraman even asks if they are proud to be doing what they were doing with replies of fuck you, and ya we are. The ones terrorizing the streets, looting and burning shops are simply criminals. They don’t want to be heard, they just want a free ticket to life. Sure, examine the root causes, listen to those with real, honest grievances but lets not pull the wool over our eyes and falsely villify the media for twisting what is happening on the ground.

  9. Helen says:

    I think at the moment it is proving hard to _get_ any sort of answers out of the people doing this. The two links below may illustrate:

    Girls queried on their looting, “we’re showing them we can do what we want”:
    Photographers and journalists targeted and beaten:

  10. Graham says:

    Great post.

    Instead of rushing to condemn (sorry for the pun), how about we listen to both sides, and also accept that there might be very many more that 2 sides.

    BTW, I was born in Croydon in the early 70’s and moved out 20 years later. I had no idea concrete could burn. If only I knew then what I knew now …

  11. dave says:

    utter toss

    both camps as bad as each other!


    • Chris says:

      Completely agree – it is ridiculous to call normal journalists as bad as violent psychopaths rampaging through city streets assaulting innocent bystanders and looting local businesses.

      I have heard many interviews with the looters (such as, and on the whole they have NO REASON for this idiocy other than having a laugh destroying property and stealing.

      • Eric says:

        I have to agree with Chris, I’ve heard several interviews with the looters by non-mainstream journos and its pretty much the same. It’s about “showing the rich people we can do what we want” etc. Youtube has plenty.

        Last night I watched about 40 young peeps in hoodies and face masks ride up my little street just smashing stuff. They weren’t angry, they were sort of getting off on it, like they were playing a game of “the grownups can’t stop us”. It really felt like the Lord of The Flies. I’m sure that poverty and ignorance sit in the mix and I’m fully aware that life is not fair and I’m lucky to be a have in a world with too many have nots, but the stuff I’ve seen so far has been mindless destruction of property of more or less the less fortunate. Believe me Citibank and HSBC and Sky etc have not suffered in these “riots” but rather local shop owners who have their lives tied up in their businesses. This isn’t protest, its mindless insensitivity.

  12. Alex says:

    Sky News seems to have camera-prepped outraged citizens lined up round the corner for interviews, with nothing new being said by any of them. And now we’ve moved on to the heart-warming Twitter stories of volunteers sweeping up broken glass in badly hit areas. That’s all very good, but we all know it’s going to kick off again tonight and the media putting its head in the sand and plugging the safe ‘getting back to normal’ ‘good news’ stories is lazy journalism. They’re completely out of touch.

    Also, Blockbusters seems to have been the only shop looted on Clapham High St last night, maybe they’re experiencing a renaissance?

  13. marni says:

    the kids that do speak up have nothing intelligent to say!

    • James says:

      I was about to post a link to this video, glad somebody beat me to it. Clearly the “media” *have* been asking the kids what they’re doing, and getting this sort of bollocks for their trouble.

      It really doesn’t seem like the rioters (I’m not sure we should call them protesters) form an ideologically coherent group. They’re just out to smash shit up for the sake of it.

      So with that in mind, when asking the question “Why?” we have to be more specific. “Why are these specific people trashing this specific street?” seems to return the answer “Because they can.” “What has created an environment in which people think it’s reasonable to behave in this way?” has a series of longer, more interesting answers which may help people to put the current unrest into a context they can understand. If you ask me, that’s why it’s the question the media seem to be preoccupied with.

      Let’s not forget: similar stuff is happening in other cities too. Here’s a tear-jerking clip from an old former-rioter in Bristol: where the City Council are calling the violence “copycat”. Which seems like a fair label to me.

  14. Sim says:

    There have been several interviews with the looters. Here’s a precis:
    “We ar stickin’ it to tha Man”
    “We is takin’ back our taxis (sic)”
    “These businesses is rich”
    “We is showin’ the Police we can do what we like”

    Be under no misapprehension,….these are ‘ghetto fabulous’ children, on school holidays, being led astray by organised black criminals.

    • Anonymous says:

      i know its hard to see with all the hoodies, but their actually multicultural criminals

      • Sim says:

        Let’s not be naive about this.

        • Andy says:

          No, it’s quite clear from the footage that there are plenty of white faces in the gangs of looters. The areas where there’s been trouble are fairly mixed in ethnic terms, but that actually removes justification for anyone to pin blame on one ethnic group. The reasons are deeper and more complex and crucially, less re-assuring for the racially paranoid than Nigel Farage’s despicable code words ‘multi-culturalism has failed’.

          • Sim says:

            The organised criminals that are leading these riots are the black gangs of the type which Duggan was a member. They have called a temporary truce from killing each other to go on the rampage.

          • Cherise says:

            Right you are, Sim.

            Same black gang mentality here in the States has been the catalyst for similar riots in many cities. They pick up hanger-ons when the fringe feels safe enough to join the gangs.

            At least here the National Guard is called out to stop the thugs rather than watching them go helter skelter.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I agree with most of what you say but not when you say “In London the police are more trusted despite also killing people with alarming regularity” Alarming regularity? Can you back this up with any stats?

    • Sarah Carr says:

      There was a Guardian article about this. Searching for link.

      • Anonymous says:

        How about:

        ‎333 deaths in police custody since 1998.
        Not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them​entisfree/2011/aug/08/context-​london-riots

        Statistical enough for you?

        • Anonymous says:

          If somebody has yet to be arrested, they can’t have been accused of anything.

          They may have been suspected of committing an offence, but even this doesn’t amount to an accusation until they been arrested/charged or bailed.

          Do you see the differences?

          I know that you aren’t suggesting the police should employ a shoot to kill policy based upon their own suspicions. Not even you would do that.
          So I am puzzled by your pendantry over the status of members of the public being fired upon by police….?

        • vimothy says:

          Er, yes, herro Mr Statistics–no one is suggesting that the 333 people died at the hands of the police. Rather, since the police arrest people, and people die, statistically (your area of expertise, I believe), people in police custody will die. Gosh how shocking!

          And no resurrections either. Is that not evidence enough that they should be replaced by Jesus Christ, or at least his earthly representatives, at the first opportunity?

          The majority were from natural causes, with nearly three-quarters relating to drug or alcohol abuse.

          • vimothy says:

            But wait, there’s more.

            Not only do we see a statistically impossible lack of resurrections from death in police custody, but is not 333 exactly half of 666: the number of the Beast, the very Devil himself?

            Its terrible meaning is clear.

  16. Cathy says:

    What a load of drivel. If you wish you were in London so you could ‘ask the kids what the fuck they are doing and why’ why not come back and ask them? As others have pointed out, journalists and civilians have been beaten, attacked and hurt by ‘the kids’ which is why you aren’t seeing the intelligent justifications you no doubt are hoping for (last time I checked nobody torched a Carpetright for socio-political reasons but obviously you know better). I’m sure someone such as yourself would have infinitely more success than the UK’s entire journalistic resources.

    Or how about don’t write such utter hand-wringing bollocks about something that by your own admission you are hundreds of miles away from and haven’t got a fucking clue about.

    If you were in London and could see the heart-warming, tear-inducing efforts of Outraged Upstanding Citizens to restore order, cleanliness and civilisation to their communities you would hang your head in shame for your loathesome comment ‘both camps are as bad as each other’.

    • Sarah Carr says:

      That’s the job of journalists to take risks to get both sides of the story. Some have succeeded, so clearly not all the looters are out to get them.

      And I stand by my statement, take a deep breath and calm down and perhaps you’ll understand that neither side are talking to those involved and the media isn’t helping.

      Or actually maybe you’re just an unpleasant troll.

      • Cathy says:

        I am a journalist. Thanks for your expert views on my occupation. I advise you to stick to what you know, dear.

      • Cathy says:

        I am a journalist. Thanks for your expert views on my occupation. I advise you to stick to what you know, dear. Whatever that may be.

        • Nassaah says:

          If you were a journo, I’d expect you have a more than passing relationship with trying to get two sides of the story, regardless of your somewhat obvious daily-mail fed prejudices. Stick to what you know, dear: not doing your fucking job.

          • Safiya Outlines says:

            Are you the same Nassaah that called Liverpool ‘a boil that must be lanced’ just up the page? If so, I suggest you might wish to check your own tabloid derived prejudices before accusing others.

            Sarah – I don’t what else to say to this post. You’ve been told differently by numerous people, but you’re still clinging to the disenfranchised youth angle and appropriating the history of the US civil rights movement to do so.

            The riots have spread to my city now. It is rampant greed and vandalism and the last thing anyone needs right now. The anger across the community is immense. There is nothing that the looters could say that would magically make it ok or understandable.

            To insist that there is, and then kvetch about the journalists not being good enough, while being so far removed from events, shows a self absorption more commonly found in the tabloid journalists you mock.

        • zoss says:

          If you’d only clicked through some of the posts on this blog…

          • Sarah Carr says:

            Safaya Outlines:

            1. Where do I state categorically that these are disenfranchised kids? Please copy paste the section you mean.

            2. Where have I appropriated the history of the US civil rights movement ( if you mean the MLK quote, then please don’t bother to reply to this point)

            3. I still want to hear them. I have heard your views and the views of others nonstop and I’ve got your message. It’s not up to you or anyone else to decide who should be heard.

            4. I wasn’t aware that being out the country means I can’t comment.

  17. GC says:

    What are they thinking? Reporters I heard tried to ask and got no reply other than f off or were attacked. One man, speaking on his mobile on Al-Jazeera tried to ask two girls carrying stolen goods what they were doing and they just grunted and moved away (the host had to ask him to be careful and not put himself in danger).

  18. Genius says:

    “Or maybe they and their friends just like the thrill of a ruckus with the added bonus of free gear.”

    You think?

    Just possibly?

  19. qunfuz says:

    excellent piece, Sarah. I was staying with a friend in Hackney when all this got going. Conversations with him and his guests gave me a sense of nthe context. There’s been rising tension in the current economic climate, a sense that some police in tottenham at least learnt nothing from the 1980s, anger since smiley culture’s supposed suicide during a police raid, etc. But the looters are not politicised in the obvious sense. They are, clearly, opportunists. This is a sign of a society which incites want and fails to supply, a society whose values are consumerist. The looters are thinking ‘I want that. I’m going to take it.’ I saw a girl on TV saying ‘we’re getting our taxes back.’ The answer is not water cannons and plastic bullets but some money-backed socialism in inner city areas and then a larger reflection on what a consumerist society can offer in terms of value to those too poor to consume except through crime.

    • Liam says:

      We’ve had money-backed socialism in inner cities for the last 10 years. It’s ended up nearly bankrupting the country, and in my opinion bred a generation of kids that feel that the state owes them a living.

      • Cherise says:

        Exactly! It’s government created entitlement expectation that results in violent tantrums when it’s perceived not to have been met.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Here’s an interview with 2 Croydon girls: London rioters: ‘Showing the rich we do what we want’

    Hard to say whether they’re typical.

    My family in Norbury are taking lessons from Cairo and starting to organise with their neighbours. Windows smashed at car showroom and Tescos last night and attempts to boot in front door. Give me the ligan anyday.

  21. Craig says:

    This is the issue: they are not protesting. They are stealing. Simple as that. Therefore there is nothing worth listening to andnothing for the media to extract from them. If they have a reason to demonstrate and cause havoc, where are their banners and placards to say what their gripe is? They have no gripe. It is an opportunity for a free tv, a new pair of Reebok classics and the gratification of smashing a window. Scum.

    The media coverage is perfect. One protestor was asked why they were doing it and they replied “I’m getting my taxes back init bruv”. The idiot doesn’t know what a tax is and probably has never paid any. They don’t deserve a voice and the media should not give them an opportunity to share their dilusional views.

    It’s sad to say this, but I’m glad my grandparents and my mother are not here to see their hometowns torn up by these vile rats.

  22. raph says:

    Here’s an interview with 2 Croydon girls: London rioters: ‘Showing the rich we do what we want’

    Hard to say whether they’re typical.

    My family in Norbury are taking lessons from Cairo and starting to organise with their neighbours. Windows smashed at car showroom and Tescos last night and attempts to boot in front door. Give me the ligan anyday.

  23. mark says:

    some of the media have been trying to talk to the rioters.
    sadly they all seem to have been robbed and beaten up.
    how does this fit in with your points? better still pop over and try yourself.

  24. Chris says:

    To anonymous at 18:08. How about this? 388 people have died in police custody in London since 1998. Not one police officer has been found guilty of any neglect.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ok, I stand corrected!

    • dontpokeagrizzly says:

      I’m sure they were all upstanding individuals in your community, falsely accused and/or convicted, just waiting to get out of prison and become productive members of society.

      When you care more about animals who commit crimes than victims, you know you are a loser and the product of a loser society.

      That is why you are unemployed. That is why you loot. That is why you can’t speak the language of men.

      • Chris says:

        Are you suggesting that it’s alright for those in police custody- who may or may not be rightly or wrongly in custody- to die?

        When you use the word “you”, are you referring to me personally, or are you speaking generally?

        • dontpokeagrizzly says:

          My message is clear. You obsess about the worthless animals. I concern myself with those who choose to act like civilized adults and respect the lives of others.

          That is why you are a loser who will have no positive impact on the world. That is why your community is worthless.

          I’m sorry it is the truth, but if you accept it and change, you might have a future. But I doubt you will…you love wallowing in your own filth.

          • Chris says:

            Troll. What are you doing to better the world?

          • Chris says:

            Nothing. I thought so.

          • Jens says:

            You are so far away from being a civilized adult with your fascist hate speaking of “worthless animals”. Go back to the EDL, those scumbacks will love your brainfarts as “thoughts”

      • Anonymous says:


        You moronic fool. ‘In custody’ is this case also refers to members of the public undergoing apprehension. Not necessarily even convicted criminals.
        So this statistic would include the likes of Mark Duggan and Jean Charles De Menzes.


        • dontpokeagrizzly says:

          “accused and/or convicted”

          I know it’s a lot to expect you to be literate, but it is right there. Reading is fundamental.

          • Anonymous says:

            If somebody has yet to be arrested, they can’t have been accused of anything.

            They may have been suspected of committing an offence, but even this doesn’t amount to an accusation until they been arrested/charged or bailed.

            Do you see the differences?

            I know that you aren’t suggesting the police should employ a shoot to kill policy based upon their own suspicions. Not even you would do that.
            So I am puzzled by your pendantry over the status of members of the public being fired upon by police….?

  25. Pingback: Krawallen in London « Leela – The Game of life

  26. Chris says:

    That’s roughly one a fortnight. Suspicious, much?

    • Sim says:

      One a fortnight for the entire UK..?. Given the state of a lot of people that get arrested on a Saturday/Friday night that doesn’t seem particularly suspicious to me. Presumably those figures also include suicides..?.

  27. Anonymous says:

    “I wish I was in London so I could ask the kids what the fuck they’re doing and why.”

    I hope your wish can come true. The only reports I get are from reporters that are attacked while trying to engage with them. Because of your background and history, would love to know if it would be different with you.

  28. Bunny says:

    “I wish I was in London so I could ask the kids what the fuck they’re doing and why. ”

    someone did

  29. Henryokah says:

    Utter utter shite. As many have said before me pop back and ask the kids you are so clearly down with what the fuck they are doing. Being in Cairo and presumably witness to the civil protest there makes you an expert in nothing- just another guff merchant miles away. Great your mates in the Uk think you can offer insights though. And your statements about both sides being as bad as each other??? Oh dear. Inane in word and deed it seems.

  30. dontpokeagrizzly says:

    No offense (because I genuinely believe you are ignorant), but you are a pseudointellectual dumbass.

    First, the premise of your post–which is 75% unnecessary drivel and self-stroking–is wrong. There is plenty of feedback from the animals: read the coverage, the BBM messages, the interviews with the looters, etc. If you can’t do basic research, you have no business weighing in on the topic.

    Second, the motivation of the criminals is clear: They say they want free things, they say it’s a “colour war,” and they say they do it to show that they refuse to follow laws and act live civilized human beings (“we do whatever we want”).

    I suspect this simple reality may be too difficult a concept for your enlightened mind to comprehend, so feel free to follow up with questions if you are confused. Instead, I suspect you will try to find a reason why truth is not and why the idiotic policies that produced these less-than-useless pieces of trash should be continued or…gasp…enhanced.


  31. Ida says:

    I have to say (in hopefully a much nicer way than some of the plainly rude comments posted here) that as a Londoner I disagree with your sentiment that the looting thugs may have legitimate grievances. They have the world’s eyes on them now, they have our attention. They could say anything they want and have their voices heard with utmost clarity, but what they choose to do is destroy small independent businesses and therefore their own community’s livelihood. If they had a problem with “rich people” they would attack wealthy conglomerates like Starbucks. Instead they target local businesses along with anywhere else they can get a pair of sneakers from. They attack the journalists who could act as their mouthpiece and steal the cameras that would document their ‘plight’.
    I take my hat off to the “Upstanding Citizens” who have taken to the streets to put London back together after mindless thieves tore it apart. They’re working hard to make it a better place. All the “kids” of London are doing is taking what isn’t theirs and destroying the things they couldn’t have had the imagination to create.

  32. isobel says:

    the bbc interview with Darcus Howe today sadly gives proof to your claim that there are some observations that they are not even attempting to listen to:

    • Liam Blizard says:

      Decent enough video until he starts comparing these feckless wasters on the streets of London with those standing up for political freedom in Syria.

  33. asdf says:

    it’s hard to engage people who beat journalists as they try and record what is going on

    now four days into this madness, i don’t even want to engage these people

    they are looting and destroying property that people work very hard to earn and build. these are criminals and their motivations can wait to be discussed when they’re being prosecuted in a fair manner – as our free socieities allow.

    as an American that has lived in the UK and traveled their often as a student and an adult: to the point raised by Ed about the Orwellian nature of the British state – it could not be clearer that Britain is not a police state, China (clearly a police state) would never have let this happen. that we live in free societies that have problems is why something like this can happen. the police cannot fire at will. the government cannot escape accountability. we live now in times with terrible problems that must be faced – yet, we live in societies that allow us to change things by talking to one another openly and freely. we don’t need to burn down the capital – we don’t need to engage in violence as politics. these folks aren’t interested in change – they are criminals.

    Also, Dr. King was speaking about the unheard in mid-20th century in America – brave people that lived through terrible oppression and rose up not knowing how else to engage their oppressors. Those oppressed people did riot – then they marched and peacefully protested because they believed in something and were willing to suffer violence to make sure they were heard. Dr. King was not speaking about coward, criminal thugs that steal and destroy property wearing masks and gloves.

  34. Catherine Charlton says:

    So you didn’t see the man who actually asked them what they were doing – “getting my taxs back”. No one wanting to talk when they could steal what they felt like.
    I find your attitude ridiculous. Are you prepared to go up to them with camera and say “I say, what are you feeling at this moment that makes you want to set fire to property, beat people over the head and steal what you can get your hands on”

    You sound just as out of touch as the people you criticise. Living somewhere as an adult or visitor does not necessarily give the full view of the situation. I grew up on an estate in the north where people who wanted to work and earn their living were laughed at. Why bother when you can take what you want? My family and a few others were constantly derided by these people and this was in the fifties. So don’t just assume it is because of the present economic situations. Unfortunately there are people who choose, in the time of difficulty, to take the easy route of taking from others. Always have been. Always will be. There will always be those from whatever ;evel of society who will think of themselves first and walk over their neighbour to get what they want.

  35. Hackney Man says:

    If Croydon could somehow magically be razed to the ground without anyone getting hurt economically or physically or any other way I would be the first to sign up to that initiative. [...] Rioters in Croydon apparently feel the same way, but choose odd targets, ignoring police stations, government buildings and Apollo and Lunar Houses and instead selecting a furniture store, amongst other targets.

    Hmm, that suggest to me that they don’t feel the same way. You are using them as a blank screen onto which you can project your own opinions.

  36. Andy JS says:

    Thanks for the article. I’m a bit disappointed that you so easily dismiss certain points of view as being typical Daily Mail complaints because like it or not the paper does represent the views of millions of people. I don’t read it myself because I do find it a bit patronising.

    • Sarah Carr says:

      I was referring to certain comments that call human beings “animals”.

      • dontpokeagrizzly says:

        Human beings differ from animals by acting like civilized human beings: restraining themselves to respect the rights of others.

        Putting your fingers in your arrogant little ears and ignoring truth will only make matters worse.

        Act like an animal, and you are an animal. Act like a human, and you are a human.

        Is the reality too grim for you to accept? It’s on video, in print, in their own words, and still you ask why? You can’t be that stupid…can you?

  37. Sarah Carr says:

    Thank you for all your comments, even yours, self-righteous rude bastards.

    The irony is that I wasn’t defending the looters, in fact if you read carefully you will see me suggesting that perhaps they are cunts. The point of this bloody blog post is that the job of the media is to talk to cunts, particularly so when they’re ripping neighbourhoods apart.

    • dontpokeagrizzly says:

      They already have. You were wrong, as all the comments have pointed out. Get over yourself.

      • Sarah Carr says:

        Not on BBC World, CNN and Al Jazeera they haven’t.

        • qwerty says:

          maybe you should ammend your blog post as such – there are journos that have been trying to talk to the looters

        • dontpokeagrizzly says:

          Oh, it seems you’ve changed your claim in the 100th(or so?) comment on your blog.

          Why you losers will always be losers: you loathe accountability and can never admit you are wrong.

          You can say it; you were wrong. When you do, it will feel much better.

        • Michael says:

          Oh, please let’s just cut the bullshit. There have been plenty of links posted right here to interviews with rioters, and plenty of reports of journalists getting mugged or attacked. Your blog post was factually wrong and completely out of place given the circumstances.

    • Sim says:

      The early media coverage gave airtime to ‘community leaders’ in Tottenham. And some of those interviews were nothing short of inflammatory. That ‘Reverend’ should be ashamed of himself….as the day progressed he was back-pedalling like a fecker.

  38. Pingback: About the London riots — War in Context

  39. shayma says:

    thank you for this insightful article. i was very confused about london riots . and i so agree with you that some eg commenters were smug and unfair.

    • Liam says:

      Well i’m glad someone blogging from 2000 miles away without access to primary sources of information was able to clear up any confusion for you.

      Meanwhile in my locality i’m pretty much trapped in my own home, whilst some mindless thugs go on a rampage destroying the communities in which they live, setting fire to businesses, houses and fire engines, all in the name of getting some free shit. If any of them had anything sensible to say you would have heard it.

  40. Amr says:

    Not like late January, closer to early January. You and I were trapped between a band of angry Egyptians with grievances related to them being Christians, and we’ve seen some limited looting as well (I was looking around and high above, expecting a rock to fall on your head. You were taking photos).

    These London riots are not a revolution, but they certainly tell you things can develop in that direction. Comrade Karl wrote long time ago, ‘There is a spectre haunting Europe’. We will see what he foresaw.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Shut the fuck up you bleeding-heart cunt. You have no idea what’s going on here. These verminous shits have nothing to say to anyone. Most beat up any journalist who tries and the rest spout egotistical bullshit. They don’t understand or care about socio-economic issues. They are uneducated and ignorant, many of them by choice.

    I’m sick of middle-class twats playing devil’s advocate. Why not worry about the real problems – lost businesses and homes, a devastated community? People too afraid to leave their houses at night? I for one have no idea if the shop I work in will still be standing tomorrow.

    • Nassaah says:

      So why are you on here, wasting your time? It’s a blog, not a mandatory attendance class on middle-class delusion and liberal cluelessness.

      The answer’s pretty easy: you’re an anonymous, trolling cunt who feels important when events and commentary appear to vindicate his pathetically limited world view, and can’t resist the opportunity to tell anyone who can raise an eyebrow what he “thinks”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Come here to where the violence is before you decide to have an opinion on it, cunt.

        • Anonymous says:

          To anonymous at 20:39
          There’s violence elsewhere in the world too you arrogant, self pitying, 3 dollar trick

          • Anonymous says:

            Fuck off you cunt. I’m aware there’s violence elsewhere in the world. We’re talking about the violence in England, which the cunt above you apparently knows so much about. ‘Three dollar trick’ would suggest you’re American and also have no fucking clue what you’re talking about. Stop trying to be an expert and see things how they really are for once.

            But you did remind me of one of my other points; there are countries in the world where poor people live in horrific conditions, where police torture, murder, take bribes and make cover-ups. The rioters here have never experienced any of that. They don’t know they’re born. Compared to other countries they’ve got fuck all to complain about. They should count their blessing.

            But even though you allowed me to express one of my other points, you are still most definitely a middle-class cunt. Go back to your little university and twiddle your thumbs.

  42. FH says:

    You obviously haven’t seen the footage of reporters and people filming the rioting and asking looters on film why they are doing it (featured on Sky News yesterday and BBC today). They were met with silence or completely ignored. They have been interviewing non-rioting young people from affected communities in an attempt to understand the motivations of their peers. In addition there are plenty of film crews around that rioters could speak to if they so desired and I’m sure the media would leap on an explanation straight from the horses mouth.

    SO if they’ve got so much to say and such a big statement to make, where is it? Face the facts, the silence and avoidance of camera crews is down to the fact that on the whole they do not have anything to say (or at least are not interested in saying it) and do not want to be brought to justice for the thefts they have committed – their primary reason for being there.

    • Nassaah says:

      Not clear where the assumption Sarah is a looter-sympathiser came from. She’s from the area, she has a complicated relationship with it, and she wants the journalistic due diligence of ensuring both sides are at least adequately represented isn’t shuffled under the carpet.

      The facts do seem to be leaning toward the mindlessness of the looting and violence. As long as they are facts. I mean, it’s not like the media has ever shirked its responsibilities or the Tory government would ever have an interest in not drawing a link between anger in the streets and their policies, is there?

      • asdf says:

        yes, we get it – you don’t trust the Tory government. you don’t trust journalists…

        alas, playing devil’s advocate is clearly working for your ego. how’s your conscience doing today?

        lives and livelihoods are being disrupted here – are you worried about that at all? if you could, explain to me how smug, self-righteous rhethoric helps at all at a time like this

        • Nassaah says:

          You want help? This is a blog, not a helpline.

          But tell me what kind of help you need, and if I can, I will. I’m being totally sincere.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, just keep dodging reasonable questions with childish allusions to the commenter having mental health problems.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? The attitude seems to be: “Never mind all the livelihoods gone up in smoke, or the people too scared to leave their houses! Someone called the rioters ‘chavs’! Serious business! Let’s call them middle-class right-wingers even though we ourselves are middle class (albeit ashamed and therefore spout socialist nonsense wherever possible,) and clearly have no fucking clue what we’re talking about!”

      • Michael says:

        Not clear? Let me explain: it came from the fact that, against the background of violence and thuggery, she’s moaning that no-one’s talking to the “kids”.

  43. FH says:

    Oh sorry – let me correct that – on watching Mark’s video I can see that they DO have something to say – they’re ”getting their taxes back”. I didn’t realise taxes were a loan and we were owed a rebate, but good to know. I’m sure she’s calculated her tax contributions and offset these against the NHS/local council/education services she’s used over her lifetime, and came to the conclusion that the goverment probably still owed her some. Just a bit confused as to why retailers should be compensating her for the government’s IOU’s?

    Please wake up and see that these events are increasingly crime oriented and not a protest or statement about the rough deal kids are getting. Those charged in court today included a graphic designer, university graduate and youth worker. Not dispossessed, but greedy.

  44. andre gerard says:

    Great post Sarah, and excellent discussion. I can’t help but feel that all the participants–even the self righteous rude bastards–are learning a lot from each other. I’ve been following London events through Guardian live coverage (which is how I found your site), and even though we don’t yet have Croydons in Vancouver there are striking parallels between the two events. Testosterone, video game acculturation, disengagement from society or, in some cases, outright alienation, consumerism, confusion, resentment, powerlessness, tribalism, hysterical teen-age thrill seeking, voyeurism–all play a part. As individuals many of the looters may be cunts–although in Vancouver, at least, many also were “normal” kids with moral codes too weak to resist mob fever–but collectively they are a manifestation of serious societal problems. Below, if you allow the post, are further thoughts from a blog I wrote yesterday. Baldwin may have been writing about race and the bitter poisons of hopelessness and bitterness in urban America of the Nineteen–Fourties, yet a lot of what he says applies to what is happening now.

    James Baldwin and the London riots.

    London is burning. The tragedy of the riots scarring London hijacks today’s blog. It is hard not to connect the massive mob vandalism errupting there with the ugliness of our own brief Vancouver riot. There is the same perverse delight in exercising destructive power, the same feral excitement at the breakdown in social order.

    Like Vancouver, this is violence watched over by voyeurs, a live video game in which the onlookers seem to revel. This is a carnival of destruction in which the participants—passive or active—are intoxicated by the raw power of mindless smashing, looting, and violence.

    This is spectacle on a Roman scale, spectacle which television and newspaper reporters, for all their professed revulsion, exacerbate by the lurid details and the excited grimness of their reporting. Facebook, Twitter, and Blackberry Messenger spread the fever more directly. Already there are signs that the infection is spreading to other cities, to Leeds, to Birmingham and beyond. It isn’t hard, even, to see this particular Walpurgisnacht leaping or flying over the Atlantic to North America.

    Eventually the riots will die down. Eventually there will be an outpouring of public grief. Eventually there will be post mortems, recriminations and soul searching. Authorities and citizens will play complicated blame games. Rightly, they will also talk about a breakdown of law and order. They will lament about a lack of social constraint. They will pontificate about adrenalin-fuelled euphoria and young people with nothing to lose.

    They will do all of that and more, and in the end, perhaps, they will connect the mindless looting with mindless consumerism. In the end, perhaps, our societies will take a small step towards constructing a world in which the satisfactions of sharing and caring are valued higher than those of consumption and self-indulgence. Perhaps.

    But “perhaps” is too pat, too cynical. Ignore the perhaps. Instead, read Baldwin’s “Notes of A Native Son.” Reflect on “the unbelievable streets” and the “wilderness of smashed plate glass.” Think about the unbearable choice between gangrene and amputation. Finally, most importantly, think about accepting life as it is, and men as they are, and think about fighting injustice and building civility.

  45. Nassaah says:

    Since when did anger have to be articulate in order for it to have some kind of legitimacy? I admit, all signs point (thusfar) to the looting and violence being nothing more than sheer opportunism, but that’s hardly the point it. It happened, and journalists, politicians, society should ask why. Proper ask, not “you know and I know”.

    • dart says:

      There’s a reason behind it. There always is.
      People made the exact same comments about Lyon and Redfern and heck, even Cronulla (the latter two I never saw up close, but they did make the news). There were reasons. The rioters didn’t articulate them, but they were there.
      Not that it makes the rioter’s actions okay or right or anything. Just that there is usually a reason behind this sort of thing.

      (The reason I cited Redfern and Lyon is that the situations were almost identical to London. Someone is killed by police, people protest, riot ensues – a bit of over-simplification but it’s roughly how events proceeded. Surprised that nobody saw it coming. It’s not like the signs weren’t obvious. But hindsight is 20/20.
      Cronulla was significantly different in terms of what happened and why, but again, had reasons behind it – not articulated by the rioters themselves, but there were reasons.)

  46. Molly says:

    My guess is that most of you assholes are middle-income, white, Upstanding Citizens who can’t believe that there are people out there that don’t have your same privileges in life and what the fuck-all they need to complain about.

    Yes, these looters are cunts who are out to steal everything they can put their hands on, and wreak all kind of havoc and destruction, possibly because this may be the first time in their pathetic lives that they have felt like they have had the upper hand.

    If you have this much poor and disenfranchised youth running around, then there is obviously something wrong with your country and it needs to be addressed.

    And its certainly not going to be addressed by you pasty, soft, privileged and outraged Upstanding Citizens.

    When is the last time you tried to do something to help out the under-privileged?

    • Molly says:

      And that, you trolls, is what I believe Sarah’s post is about.

    • Anonymous says:

      You obviously don’t come from around here. I am not in any way privileged or middle class, and I know for a fact that the rioters are nothing but bored scum looking for a few freebies and a chance to run amok. I live less than two miles from Croydon – I work a simple, low wage shop job, and come from generations of poor working class. I was not out rioting last night. Stop giving these fuckers credit by trying to go deep about it.

    • Safiya Outlines says:

      If you watched/read some decent news sources, or like most commenting here, were actually there, rather then just reading your friend’s blog, you would know that the anger against the looting and vandalism is actually strongest in the areas it has occurred in (e.g not white, not middle income).

      Hence to call those decrying the damage “middle-income, white, Upstanding Citizens” is utterly wrong, but let that not get in the way of a bit of finger pointing all the way from the USA.

      • Anonymous says:

        Here, here. It is a very mistaken generalisation claiming that the outrage is from white middle class. The people of Croydon are angry, they’re not wringing their hearts out for the poor little mites who’ve been led astray because of socio-economic divisions(!).

  47. Jay says:

    I am not sure that it is constructive to be so critical of a town you left years ago. Croydon is not picturesque because it was targeted in the WWII. It is full of hard working honest people who are trying to make the best of their community.
    What is this blog adding to the conversation? You sound like a stroppy teenager with nothing original to say.

  48. topthetop says:

    It was good to have found Sarah Carr’s text. I was feeling increasingly alone, everyone around me, the media, politicians, police, people on the streets, friends, all who are educated and eloquent, seem to look at the UK riots in one way. I understand the shop owner, the woman who had her flat burnt, i understand their anger, but how have people lost touch with the reality of others? we are different afteral.

    Can we stop and think that these ‘thugs’, ‘criminals’ (quoting words said by police, prime minister, politicians) are only 15 year olds? Maybe younger, or in their 20’s. Can we stop and think most of them are from poor backgrounds, many times joining in gangs because there is nothing else left for them. Can we stop and think how group pressure works specially in gang situations? One can not leave the ‘family’, the younger ones look up to the older ones.

    Talking about family, it hurts when i hear the police and politicians asking on television for the youths’ parents to take charge of their children, when THERE IS NO PARENTING! Have we forgot how it is, the vicious cycle of no parenting and its relationship to criminality? Children after children born from the same 18 year old drug addict mother, or/and alcoholic father. These children, born already addicted to cocaine or alcohol, have no parents, they live on the streets or in foster care homes which is sometimes worst.

    How come the educated and eloquent people in the UK including journalists, seem to be so out of touch with the other side of the riots’ story? I heard a woman journalist from LBC radio say she wished the youths feared the police more, as a way to make them comply with order. I was very sad to hear this, a fan of LBC, i thought our society would advocate respect for the police, admiration, trust, rather than fear. In the long run, fear only generates more violence and disrespect by creating a big divide and no communication because there is no need for communication when fear is the tool used to get others to do what you want them to do.

    Let’s call the riots activities criminal but please stop labelling these 15 year olds; there is something very wrong with how our leaders, the media and people are dismissing the fact these youths are only young.

    We need the two versions of the riots’ story. The educated and eloquent people have also the responsibility to try and understand those who can’t speak for themselves, as hard as it is to put oneself in these youths’ shoes when they loot, destroy and scare the communities. Can we do it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Shut the fuck up and try living in the real world for once. I guess it makes you feel more intelligent playing devil’s advocate, but it just makes you look like a twatty student fresh out of their first debate class. Trying to enforce your own reasons as to why the rioting is happening is naive at best, pretentious at worst. Do you live in Croydon? I do. And it’s pretty obvious why this all went down. Clue: it’s not socio-economic reasons.

    • Ellie says:

      They, (the media, the wealthy, the elites) have given up pretending to ask. do you think those journalist compete for invitations to parties in Moss Side, or Easterhous? What about the Murdochs’ summer cocktail parties? Who do you think is more interesting, more likely to ensure you have a story and a job? The elites or the poor, the ordinary people struggling through their lives?

      We’ve had tabloids in this country demonising the working classes for years. Why talk to them? Why ask them what is going on? Aren’t they just worthless after all? Best just to ignore them! Until they commit another crime that is. Because they will. They always do.

      We live in a disposable society, we have throw-away cups. And we have throw-away people too. We have people with PhDs in science and social sciences who can’t find work, we have people with few or no qualifications who can’t find work. And every one of them was told, for years and years, it is your fault, you aren’t trying hard enough, there is something wrong with you. We are throwing away our people. Again. Only this time, there is no, new lands, no New World for those subjected to the new Clearances. What have the young people got to look forward to? Destitution, prison, throw-away fashions. Whatever they are looking forward to, it isn’t to be like their parents generation, because their parents were the generation Thatcher threw away.

      We’ve thrown away the power of the unions, the churches and almost every civic society instution you can think of. When Thatcher said there is no such thing as society, she made sure it would be so in many many ways.

      Have you read Alienation, the Rectorial Address given by Reid in 1972. Maybe you will find some understanding in that speech that speaks of today just as much as it spoke of the 70s.

      The UK is alienated, everywhere.

      We are all alienated from each other. Class. Sex. Race. So many spheres, yet only a small group are serious people. Britain has for years been sweeping all the problems under the carpet and left them there, forgotten. Until now. Watch as the UK, with millionaires in the cabinet, does whatever it takes to sweep them back under that old fusty rug.

  49. Pingback: London Riots: Anarchy, poverty, politics? Check all and then some. | Butterflies and Hurricanes

  50. Lucy says:

    Can we stop and think that these ‘thugs’, ‘criminals’ (quoting words said by police, prime minister, politicians) are only 15 year olds? Maybe younger, or in their 20′s. Can we stop and think most of them are from poor backgrounds, many times joining in gangs because there is nothing else left for them. Can we stop and think how group pressure works specially in gang situations? One can not leave the ‘family’, the younger ones look up to the older ones.

    I am sick to death of people dragging out this bullshit argument. I’m from a poor background. I grew up in a deprived area of London with very little prospect of ever getting out of the poverty trap. Neither of these facts gives me (or anyone) the right to go around acting like a complete cretin.

    The things I saw on my streets today were not the acts of disaffected youth, they were the acts of greedy, selfish individuals who wanted to help themselves to things they are too damn lazy to get off their arses and earn, unlike the honest, hard-working communities they have trashed. (Mine among them.)

    So stop telling me that I should feel sorry for the ‘poor little dears’, I am too busy trying to help my friends and neighbours clean up the mess these hooligans have made of our streets to have even the slightest sympathy for them, and what’s more, none of them deserve it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here here. Some common sense at last. It’s loonie libbies who have a guilt complex from being middle class that are spouting the most bullshit. They think they ‘get’ poor people, and they pity them and talk about them as though they’re all animals with no minds of their own who can’t help being violent because they’re too ignorant to handle their problems like a normal person. It’s a smack to the face of the majority of poor who work hard and contribute positively to society.

      • topthetop says:

        I think it is inappropriate for the media and the government to be calling these youths, thugs and criminals without taking into account their age, they are very young. Also people are different, not everybody has the will power to change their life around. I just wish journalist would write about both sides of the riot story and for the politicians to address and take into account the age of the rioters.

        • Anonymous says:

          So you think they’ll be acting any differently when they’re older? That this is an impressionable stage they’ll grow out of? Don’t kid yourself that they’re a bunch of innocents that have been led astray. Perhaps they DO come from a bad background, but everyone has a hard luck story. If they’re old enough to do it, they’re old enough to feel the consequences. I feel more for the children who cowered in their homes last night as their town was ransacked and set ablaze.

        • M says:

          To think that the actions of these looters don’t speak volumes of the kind of system and circumstances they are a part of is demonizing and narrow-looking. Whether or not they chose to articulate it in a staged protest, or through irresponsible and self-serving behavior, does not change from the aspect that they are the way they are for a reason that partially has to do with their circumstances.

          But here’s my problem with the way this debate is going. Does it really matter whether they’re “unintentionally expressing the economic disparity of their community,” or “just 15 year old criminals?” One can say they’re both two sides of the same coin anyway. When admitting that society did fuck them over, does it in any way justify their actions? There’s no direct causality between being poor, oppressed and frustrated, and committing such ill-directed crimes. The simple proof of that are the many lower-class citizens that suffer for similar socio-economic problems but spoke out against their actions.

          Someone here said, “well people are different” and they respond to situations differently. Yet somehow that’s not the person’s fault? Where does self-responsibility begin? We need to stop acting like these looters are brainless reflections of their society and are incapable of rational thought. To try and contextualize their actions is one thing, but to excuse it as “it’s not their fault” allows for a complete breakdown of law and order because all criminals act within a context.

          So my point is, “delving into the political, sociological and economic reasons” can be a valid attempt at understanding whatever bigger picture we want to theorize, but bottom line, they did it because they freely chose to do it.

          • topthetop says:

            I believe that people discussing the background story of the rioters are not excusing or justifying what the youths did. I believe we are just trying to bring up the possibility that the rioters are not the only ones responsible for what is happening across the country.

            If we could just stop a bit to investigate the context and raise questions regarding the background of the rioters, the government cuts, the police targeting black minority youths on the streets, and possibly other ongoing problems we are not aware of, we mind find that all of these have contributed to the level of pressure we are seeing unfold. I know many people haven’t and would never chose to loot and rob as a solution, that’s the right thing. But we all make mistakes, sometimes serious mistakes and have rightly to take responsibility for it. However, it is also our responsibility to investigate the reasons why part of our society is behaving the way they are so we can build a better society in the future. In the long run, it is better for everyone. Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together.

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  52. dan says:

    I had a long online discussion today about the overt and covert causes of these riots and looting delving into the political, sociological and economic reasons and its was pretty interesting. As a Uni academic in this area I still learnt something. The fact that this one has descended into such inanity (no pun intended) or overt bullshit might say a lot.

    • Anonymous says:

      Instead of having pointless conversations about issues that don’t exist, you could have instead just applied the principle of Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is the one most likely to be true. They are bored youths looking for some fun and free stuff. Perhaps the root of the boredom ought to be addressed, but now isn’t the right time and it’s certainly not a justified reason for what they’re doing. But never mind, I’m glad you learnt something from your self-important conversation. That’s the main thing.

  53. Anonymous says:

    I’ve lived in Croydon for 12 years and I don’t think it is a shithole, though I do live on the leafy side. I think there is a good sense of community, a good social and racial mix and I am happy to be bringing up my two kids here. The man who was shot dead was shot dead on the road which my son’s primary school is on. The building which was burned was a few minutes walk away. It is a fantastic school, outstanding in it’s OFSTED report and does a brilliant job of valuing all of the children who are from a whole range of different backgrounds. These rioters are stupid fuckwits, destroying their own community and targeting the most vulnerable parts of it.

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  55. strangetown says:

    Ace. :)

  56. opeiratis says:

    Someone with a sharper mind than me said: This is what happens when you raise a generation to believe they are defined by what they buy, but then take away their means for getting what they have been told they ‘need’..

    • Anonymous says:

      Wtf are you on about? No one has ‘taken’ anything away from them. Being poor doesn’t affect your ability to get an education and apply for a job. The only ones doing the taking are the looters.

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  58. Alan says:

    Interesting take on the situation. I like your writing style….

    Not sure what’s going on myself. Having watched the riots in Toxteth (literally – from my mum’s window) back in the 80’s when in my opinion there were a number of valid reasons behind what happened. I look at this one and find it very hard to identify the cause, but I can see the mounting set of circumstances that have created the situation.

    If the media is to be believed it looks more and more like Clockwork Orange by the minute. If only it were that simple.

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  61. Frank P says:

    In response to some of the comments made earlier; if the looters do have genuine sociatal grievances it’s not surprising to me that they have no interest in communicating with anyone perceived to be part of a more privileged social layer, *even if they had* a fully formed manifesto they could verbalise. and just because they can’t verbalise such a manifesto doesn’t mean they don’t have genuine grievances or reasons for their actions. This is by no means a defense, there is none imho, but there’s a difference between defending actions and understanding them and I have read that societies with a more even distribution of wealth suffer these types of events less so perhaps we all have to shoulder some responsibilty to temper our outrage.

    • Anonymous says:

      So every time evidence is presented that shows the rioters clearly have no other purpose than to loot and create anarchy, you bleeding-hearts come up with a new excuse. “Uh, it’s because they don’t want to talk to those evil privileged people! Yeah, that’s it! We must blame anyone but the rioters, because that would make us no better than Nazis!” Fuck off, mate. You haven’t got a clue.

      • Frank P says:

        It’s not a question blaming “anyone but the rioters”, rioters should of course be held accountable, the issue is whether the root causes will also be examined. Marginalising entire swathes of society and then expecting them to engage with us on our terms is unrealistic.

      • Cherise says:

        It’s positively astounding that none of these thug excuse makers have expressed the same amount and degree of sentiment towards the VICTIMS. Says quite a bit about the mindset that helps support these thugs.

        • Frank P says:

          As far as I can tell you’re comment misunderstands the basic premise of this article and most of the discussions in the comments so I’m not sure how to respond. Thanks for taking the time to comment though.

  62. andre gerard says:

    Even if she doesn’t always seem to be aware of their full implications, Zoe Williams (writing in The Guardian) raises all kinds of interesting questions. Possibly, she is aware and just didn’t have time and space to develop her thoughts and ideas as fully as she would have liked. One implicit question is how do we turn ourselves from social voyeurs into social auteurs? How do we go from being watchers to being constructive acters? Being a voyeur is so much easier, more immediate, and, in the short term, more defined than being an auteur. Watching or commenting takes minutes; rebuilding or changing takes years. Watching and commenting seems safe and full of relative certainties, even when we don’t know completely know what we are seeing or what we are saying. Rebuilding and changing often seems uncertain and dangerous, a blind person’s forward fumbling into a dangerous dark.

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  65. Moussa says:

    “In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

    “Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

    “Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

    Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’

    There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now.”

  66. Lisa Goldman says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Brilliant, incisive post – as usual. Thank you.

    I thought you – and your naysaying commenters – might be interested in a blog post by a Tory-voting schoolteacher who seems pretty much to agree with your analysis.

  67. Laura says:

    Look, we already know who these looters claim to be, they claim to be the have-nots of Britain. So, they took things they would never in their starry-eyed dreams have the chance to have? No, that’s not the case. This was organised using smart phones, and facebook (hardly the handwritten flyers of the revolution) They live in homes provided for them, took transport they have for free. These kids are a far cry from poverty; I’m from South Africa and I will show you what the “have-nots” look like. Every side has a story? Sure, that’s about right, but it’s so typically British to shift the blame, and that’s the problem. It’s my fault if I fall over a bucket, not the councils. It’s my fault if I was obese, not the NHS. This country needs to Man (the fuck) Up!

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  69. topthetop says:

    I read the posts in this blog, everyone is angry and desperate to prove their own point by attacking one another rather than having a serious debate. It mimics what’s happening on the streets with the riots, people are not talking and listening to each other. If we could try and listen to the different points of view without offending one another, then the conversation can really go somewhere.

    • Ellie says:

      Exellent post!

      Brits, in general, don’t listen. Brits, in general, don’t think, they insist they are right, as if by magic. They aren’t refusing to think because they are upset, they are refusing to think because that is what I have known people in my country do for way over 15 years.

      By refusing to think, Brits, rich and poor alike, are excluding themselves, alienating themselves.

      We’ve ignored the refusal to think for as long as we’ve hidden the poverty and exclusion.

      • ronaldo says:

        Quite. Brits, in general, are also judgemental, opinionated, and classist. Born in London of Italian descent and now living in South Africa, the racism I was subjected to by Brits in the 60’s for being Italian and in the 80’s for being “South African” was terrifying. So polite in queues, but behind the protection of an Anonymous blog, you will say “fuck off you cunt” for the same reason the looter loots: because there is nobody around to respond. It’s so typical of you to classify all the looters as “mindless thugs”. Yes, they may seem inarticulate when confronted by a journo’s mike or camera lens, but is it a surprise, since nobody has ever taken the time to listen to them? They are a product of your society. The finger is pointing straight back at you, but you just don’t want to see it.

        • Sarah Carr says:


        • Anonymous says:

          What a shock! Those arrested and appearing in court today include a law student, a chef trying to start his own business, and a trainee social worker. Certainly not disenfranchised/oppressed Tiny-Tims. So that’s a big middle finger up to all of you socialist PC thugs who tried to suggest otherwise.

          • topthetop says:

            hello there, trying to keep calm in a turbulent sea. So. It is interesting that the looters include a chef, a law student, a trainee social worker, designer,etc. because it just shows that you can’t give the same reason for the looting to everyone. gotta look at the individual’s background.

            I can understand how good people can get carried away in a situation, and do things they probably never thought they could. I’m not trying to justify, but in this material world, we are tempted quite often, we need to have good self-control. that goes for everyday things like skipping paying the tube ticket, trying to push in in a cue, or nicking a pizza cause no one is looking. It’s too easy to say you’re bad or you’re good, people, life are more complex that that. we need to really look at the individual situation.

          • Brad says:

            They were probably randomly arrested, as is often the case during riots. Since when did law students, cooks and social worker trainees become the priviledged?

  70. topthetop says:

    Maybe it’s just human nature to act impulsively, but I think we need to get passed our first reaction to the problems. We are literally fighting each other in this blog. So let’s try work together. I hope it’s possible.

  71. andre gerard says:

    Hi Sarah. Here is another blog flagged by the Guardian. I think it complements yours quite nicely. Both are powerful pieces which–although very much in the moment–point the way towards constructive change.

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  73. Brad says:

    These are Thatcher’s children, coming home to roost. “There is no such thing as society” Just me, and my individual greed. Raised by totalitarian capitalism to be isolated, atomistic, self absorbed, alienated: the generational offspring midwifed by an ideology based on acquisitiveness and lack of empathy. They would all make ideal corporate CEOs, if they actually had the opportunity to climb that ladder.

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  75. Constant reader says:

    Lunar and Apollo Houses (houses???)….hmmmmm….completed in 1970, one year after the US lunar landing, Apollo Mission, etc etc….I like your version of their possible naming history better. And now Crystal Palace……related to THE Victorian Crystal Palace?

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