Andrew Sullivan remains well-intentioned and wrong.


Please click through the above photo or link, and read Andrew’s blog post on the London riots. And then come back here for a rebuttal:

Criminal opportunism? That’s called capitalism, dear. You can’t inculcate a whole (global) culture with the religion of the market, and then expect the poorest members to wait patiently outside the carnival, observing the spectacle of wealth without any prospect of partaking themselves.

Mr. Sullivan sounds confused – why would you need to draw a distinction between a race riot and a ‘social inequity’ riot? Racism is a form of social inequity, and social inequity is often a form of racism. And besides, just because Tottenham itself is relatively integrated does not mean that the pernicious effects of past and extant racism are somehow magically dissolved. That suggestion is laughable.

And if Andrew’d done three minutes of historical research (or listened to a bit of punk rock or hip hop as a youth) he would have discovered that many, many “looting” riots occur within the neighborhoods where the rioters themselves live. This isn’t because of “soft” police response, it’s because the police (or, more to the point, their bosses) are very calculating in their policies of ‘containment.’ Riots are allowed to rage on, and to burn poor neighborhoods, as long as they do not encroach too much on richer neighborhoods. Blaming the violence on unredeemable “criminals” and “sheer thugs” from “elsewhere” is a way of ignoring the fundamental problems that create BOTH ‘legitimate’ riots AND ‘sheer thugs,’ as well as the overbearing police state that strategically manipulates the threat of underclass violence.

Believe: Unless the ‘harder’ police response Andrew romanticizes would be swift and sure investigation, trial, and PUNISHMENT of cops who wrongly shoot civilians, his prescription will not help the malady. More cops with more guns and more water cannons and more rights to harrass more civilians and break up more demonstrations will not mystically mean more security, just less freedom. The Sikhs have had the right idea during the riots: if you want to protect your home and family, depend on yourself and your community, not the state.

Until and unless the police actually start behaving as trustworthy guardians of the public good, people will keep having reasons to form their own clans, gangs, neighborhood patrols, superhero squads, civil liberties unions, block watches, revolutionary cells, and other forms of what the legal profession likes to call “self help.”

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