Monday, 8 August 2011

Media circus

I'm middle class, middle aged, read the Guardian (online) and watch C4 News.  My views are thus influenced.

I think the riots that have been taking place over the last few days have nothing, or very little, to do with the shooting of Mark Duggan.

Initially, in Tottenham, there was a peaceful protest.  Word spread, and people who weren't happy with police stop and search policy joined the protest but stepped it up a notch with violence and thuggery aimed predominantly at the police.

What happened next was that word spread further.  Something was happening and it was probably more exciting than Saturday night telly.  So people headed out onto the streets and the police represented authority.  Authority, the Government, was what had reduced benefits and screwed up the economy so that getting a job was nigh on impossible.  Making a big fuss about that seemed attractive.

Whilst the violent protests were happening the disaffected realised that they had power and could get away with pretty much anything.  The police were under-resourced, because of the Government cuts, and were outnumbered.  So the looting started.  If you don't have a job and your benefits have been cut then the opportunity to steal the stuff you can't afford to buy might have been tempting.

The media were all over this rioting and the social networking sites were awash with images and video.  Everyone was looking at Tottenham and, let's be honest, people normally don't care about Tottenham at all.  I'm not anti-Tottenham; I could equally say that people don't care about Newton Abbot.  The point was that nobody cared until people were misbehaving.

It's a bit like children being naughty to get attention.  The child that's being naughty (Tottenham) gets all of the attention and the previously good child (Hackney) is jealous.  The good child then resorts to bad behaviour because it knows that being bad results in attention.

So we now have Tottenham, Hackney, Lewisham, Stratford, Catford, Croydon, Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Enfield, Birmingham and so on, all competing to be on Sky News, BBC News, C4 News, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

And now Cameron is coming back to sort out the naughty children; but every parent knows that this sort of behaviour should have consequences without attention.  We need a metaphorical naughty step.

I'm not retweeting pictures of rioting because this behaviour should not be promoted and given air time.  I honestly believe that media, including social media, is making this situation worse.  But it's the people behind the cameras and the people retweeting the images that are helping to promote the riots.  So stop it.  Please.

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