A riot of their own…

I haven’t commented yet – much – on the four year sentences meted out to the two guys who were convicted of trying to incite a riot on Facebook. I’m a bit more ambivalent about this than some of the other sentences issues, where I think it’s clear that the courts were too harsh, as is being proved by the appeals currently being allowed (e.g. five months for handling stolen shorts reduced to 75 hours community service). There was an interesting report in the Guardian yesterday about alleged police plans for a “prisoner processing strategy” for all those arrested on riot-related charges to be held in custody and remanded there after being charged. As the paper says, this could be open to legal challenge; indeed, lawyers have already started a judicial review.

As for the so-called Facebook rioters… I think a lot depends on the seriousness of their intent, whether they thought they were actually going to incite rioting and looting, and, I suppose to an extent the actual likelihood of it happening in the relatively sleepy parts of England where they lived. (Well, perhaps Warrington isn’t that sleepy. Northwich I only know as home to the Charlatans who, despite their misfortunes over the years, always struck me as very nice boys).

Four years is a long time for acting like idiots, but not so long for unleashing mayhem, violence and looting on the streets. Which was unlikely to happen, but if they really thought it could, and were really trying to make it happen… As someone said in an argument on Twitter, if they’d been inciting a rape, would it matter whether or not the rape happened? I’m genuinely not sure what the legal view is in such cases – is “will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?” treated more seriously if it’s likely someone will act upon it? Or is it enough that you really want someone to rid you of him, and you’re entirely serious about calling for help? (Perhaps not the best example to use, as a) someone did rid him of that turbulent priest and b) he wasn’t happy about it… but you know what I mean).

There was an interesting piece in the Telegraph about this: four years in jail for the Facebook riots inciters: this looks too harsh, even for me. Interesting not so much for the author’s verdict on the sentence, but for the insight into how right-wingers think. Depressing in its certainty, and in its wrongness. Here’s an example:

“These were the riots caused by the cultural revolution and the state-worshippers’ war against the social institutions they loathe, the looters products of long-term welfare dependency, state-sponsored fatherlessness and mass immigration. Most of all they have undermined the all-powerful Pelagian fantasy promoted by the welfare-political complex that people behave badly because society oppresses them. In fact, as people not indoctrinated by Marxist utopianism will tell you, some people are just bad.”

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  • Quietzaple  On August 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Many of the DT bloggers must fear that their incitements to violence may be censored or punished.

    The DT’s insurers will have been wise to have been in touch with the management and Communities Editor.

  • Dave  On August 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    “state-sponsored fatherlessness”

    Surely you can’t disagree with that line?

    Are you suggesting that most of the rioters had regular contact with their fathers Kerry?

    It’s well known that gang members come from single parent households and the absence of fathers is of course especially high in the black community.

    If you can’t even recognise and accept one of the main causes of the riots then no one with any sense is going to vote for you.

    We have been warning of the consequences of fatherlessness for at least a decade now. The predictions come true yet the Labour feminist bigots still insist on burying their heads in the sand.

    BTW I love it how you managed to squeeze in an entirely irrelevant reference to rape.

    • Lee  On August 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      I do wish our party would recognise something that the first reply mentions. People who have been robbed, mugged, had their shop burgled or burned, are not, at least in the first instance, interested in “why” the criminal did what he did. They want some retribution. We all do, or at least most of us do.
      The very idea that poverty, unemployment, cuts, loss of EMA or “fatherlessness” were behind this mass criminality is complete garbage. As already said, some people are bad.
      Being penniless is normal for me, I am forever walking through the revolving door of the Jobcentre. But I don’t steal. My mother and my father (who were divorced) did a good job of teaching me to dig deep and discover my own natural morality.
      And the one mentioning “state sponsored fatherlessness” and “feminist bigotry” has a fair point. Equality means just that. And right now a lot of men feel they are not equal as parents. They are quite correct, legally they are not equal to mothers.

  • Michael Bater  On August 27, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    To gain access to that cuckoo land you live in Dave, is it compulsory to read the Mail & the Express?

  • Quietzaple  On August 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    The rioters varied enormously, except most were unemployed.

    You might try the Guardian which has tried to assemble possibly relevant Facts rather than knee jerk prejudices on them.

    I wonder if the Inquiry Ed Mili insisted on which Cameron decided to Sponsor to report “to all three party leaders” will bother investigating as social scientists should.

  • Jeff Waters  On August 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Quietzaple –

    There is plenty of evidence that the breakdown of the traditional family unit is a factor in causing crime (see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1326420/Children-parents-split-NINE-times-likely-commit-crime.html for example). There are plenty of single parents who do a great job and whose sons don’t break the law. But on aggregate, common sense and the stats show it’s not good for society.

    BTW, here are some interesting stats about the ethnicity of the rioters: http://humstats.blogspot.com/2011/08/uk-riots-ethnicity-statistics.html. Perhaps what these stats suggest is that immigrants are less likely to feel a sense of local pride, and are therefore more likely to damage that community (even though the vast majority of immigrants are decent, law abiding people).


    • nilsinela boray (@northernheckler)  On August 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      Jeff – the Mail article makes the usual mistake of confusing correlation and causation – which always makes things difficult to interpret. It’s also from the outset prejudicial in terms of its language – referring to “broken” homes – without saying what this means – but it’s clear that the writer presumably thinks a “broken” home is not a good thing. You may or may not agree, but it’s an indication that this is clearly not an objective analysis – and without access to the data on which the article (or Ian Duncan Smith’s comments) is based it’s hard to agree or disagree with the piece. Past experience leads me to suspect that the interpretation given by the mail is unreliable – have a read at http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.com/ to understand why I feel like that.

      So many of the points in the article, arising from the words of Ian Duncan Smith, are dubious and misleading. For instance the statement : ‘Lone-parent families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than two-parent families.’ may or may not be true (no source is given) – but is in any case a no-brainer – there is (at best) only half the earning potential, in a family with only one adult. It’s what you might expect. You could also wonder as to the extent to which a couple splitting up causes their child to break the law, and the extent to which the parents of a law breaking child are driven to split up by their child’s behaviour. It happens.

      There’s no analysis either of the role played by those people who’ve been in the care of local authorities. I do not have statistics to hand, but I know through professional involvement, that life prospects for young people leaving care are very significantly poorer than those for all other statistical groups in almost every area. It really is frightening stuff.

      The other article you link to is a pretence at objectivity, and is deeply flawed. Quite how you can tell someone’s ethnicity from looking at grainy photographs from CCTV is beyond me, and how you can perform any kind of statistical interpretation of such so-called “data” is also incomprehensible. This is twaddle.

      • HumStats (@HumStats)  On August 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

        Your complain does not seem legitimate. The photos in the report are only grainy on the thumbnails. As mentioned there many, many times, larger versions are available on police websites and on the links – in addition to the mid-sized thumbnails with ethnicity marks. Is it hard to tell the ethnicity on photographs like this? http://www.flickr.com/photos/metropolitanpolice/

      • nilsinela boray (@northernheckler)  On August 29, 2011 at 8:50 am

        HumStats – I didn’t make a “complain”

        The photographs you link to are NOT CCTV images

        Is it hard to tell the ethnicity on photographs like this ? Well yes it is – although for most of them on this site it is relatively easy to tell whether they are black or white, this in no way gives proper information regarding ethnicity, Some of them are clearly black – Black British ? Black Caribbean ? Black African ? Black Indian ? Black Jewish ? It’s facile to say that you can judge ethnicity on this basis.

        On a picture on another part of the police Flickr stream there’s this pic http://tinyurl.com/3nhds87 Can you tell whether he’s black or white ? I can’t.

        There’s a man on the first page of the site you link to. He’s white, but what’s his ethnicity. He actually bears a striking resemblance to a man I know who’s a Kosovan Serb – but it’s not him – he’s called Bezzina – so you think, maybe Italian, but the only person I’ve known called Bezzina, was a full on Geordie, who made a big show of his Maltese ancestry. The photo tells me nothing of note, and the name is a red herring. This is not reliable data

        You also have no information (or certainly have not referenced any) which details which pictures are shown or not. CCTV pictures may not actually show offences being committed (they are innocent until proven guilty), and the pictures you’re now linking to are of people already sentenced – they reflected people who are arrested and convicted, rather than people who may have carried out the crimes – and it’s clear that those arrested and convicted are but a fraction of the total (but we don’t know what fraction). Given that racism by police is often cited as a reason for mistrust of the police force by people in some areas, it would be unwise to rely on data, which could in itself arise out of an institutional racism. I’m not saying that this institutional racism exists – personally I think it is overstated, and rarely the case – but your sampling method does not take account of the potential for this bias, and so both its validity and reliability are in question.

        You’ve presented your data as if it is a were a properly researched study – but it isn’t – there are a great many holes in this, and it’s very misleading. I’ll comment on this in response to Jeff Waters below

  • Quietzaple  On August 27, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Most of those who rioted after the peaceful demo at Tottenham was ignored for 5 hrs or so were black.

    In other places they were mostly White. There were no hard and fast rules, apart from the usual determination of racists to blame non EDL types, but notable that Muslims seem to have been under-represented to their considerable chagrin.

    For shame!

  • Jeff Waters  On August 27, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Nilsilena –

    I agree re. causation and correlation. However, common sense would suggest that some boys (and girls) will suffer as a result of not growing up with two parents. Some of them may engage in destructive patterns of behaviour as a coping mechanism, and may befriend a bad crowd in order to obtain the validation that regular contact with a father might have provided.

    As regards the ethnicity piece, I respectfully suggest that you are dismissing it without having made a serious effort to engage with it. You can often tell clearly someone’s race from a CCTV photo.

    I’m not saying I agree with the piece’s conclusions. To assess its claims would require a great deal of research. I included it as it provides an interesting perspective that’s been absent from mainstream media coverage of the riots (and the hysteria surrounding David Starkey’s comments shows why).

    Overall, people of some ethnic groups do commit proportionally more crime than people of other ethnic groups (even though the vast majority of people of all ethnic groups are law abiding). As a society, we can either ignore that fact and label as racist anyone who voices a non-PC view on the subject, or we can have a mature discussion about why those differences exist and how they can be addressed…


    • Jeff Waters  On August 27, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      PS Nilsinela – I just realised I spelled your name wrong! My apologies. 🙂


      • nilsinela boray (@northernheckler)  On August 29, 2011 at 9:51 am

        Jeff – I personally feel that a monogamous relationship is usually the ideal situation in which children can thrive – I am married with two children, as are my own parents. Both my wife and father though had divorced parents, they both feel that they suffered discrimination as a result of their parents’ divorces – in my dad’s case he felt he was passed over for 11+ in favour of less able but more “respectable” children, in my wife’s she felt that she was “pigeon-holed” at her catholic secondary school, and made to feel second class throughout her schooling. Both however feel that the departure of their fathers was a positive influence on their lives, and improved things tremendously for them.

        Although a traditional nuclear family may be right for me, I’ve no wish to impose to it on others who may have a different experience. Nor would I wish to condemn families to live in misery for the sake of trying conform to a societal norm which does not suit them. I feel that the state and society should embrace diversity, and not penalise those that can not, or choose not, to conform to traditional models of family life.

        The statistics which IDS & the mail report on, start with the premise that “broken” families are wrong. They set out to use the stats to prove a point. It would be far more useful, to obtain and interpret statistics in more objective ways, in order to challenge the difficulties that different sections of society face so that we can help each other to overcome those difficulties rather than lay blame at the feet of any particular section of our society.

        With respect to the website with the “statistics” re. ethnicity – Yes I am dismissive of it – it is posing as a piece of academic writing but is nothing of the sort. – All of the sections are questionable, and not just the issues regarding the use of photographs to ascertain ethnicity.

        In the first instance – he doesn’t have access to the data he claims – he does not have a list of addresses of all the rioters – only those that have been published in the press – so he has neither a total population, nor a randomly selected sample – it’s a sample that may well be selected to present a particular picture – of course it may not have – but he has no way of knowing. It’s not reliable data, it’s not valid data.

        Secondly the ethnicity things is absolutely absurd. He does not have access to all the CCTV, he has no information regarding how the sample of CCTV that he does have access to was selected, it is also not feasible to ascertain ethnicity via CCTV pictures – other than very broad characteristics – and often not reliably. This is not valid data, it is not reliable data.

        Have a good think about this – it really is crass. For instance “photographs show that most (~50%) rioters were black” – OK – let’s take that as read (I don’t, but for the sake of argument …) and then goes on “There is a vast overrepresentation of Black British” – Oh really ? and how did he tell from a photograph that those black people were “Black British” – stamped on their forehead was it ? I think not.

        Thirdly his maps are very confusing, but certainly don’t show what he claims. The very first one for instance clearly shows areas of rioting and areas of arrested rioters, existing in areas of very low Black population – which doesn’t appear to be discussed. It seems a very strange way to analyse the data – which remains not valid, and not reliable, and is now misleadingly analysed. Anyone with knowledge of Central and Greater London as well, would acknowledge that one of the things that makes analysis of societal trends difficult is that so many different sections of society co-exist in a very plural society. There are a few areas where there are proportionally more of a particular ethnic group – but in general ALL areas of London, have a very multicultural profile. At the school I led in North London we had over 19 nationalities, and over 26 languages. Talking about Black and White areas is just ridiculous – they’re all both. There’s also tremendous diversity in poverty as well within a very small area. Often social housing is concentrated very close to very high cost housing.

        Overall I’d say that post is not really worthy of serious consideration. Sorry Humstats but that’s what I think.

        Not sure where you’re going with the “Non PC” stuff – it’s not something you’d ever hear me coming up with. “Oh are you saying I’m not PC ?” usually seems to crop up in conversations very close to “I’m not racist but …” line.

  • Jeff Waters  On August 29, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Nilsilena –

    I don’t condemn single parent families. And I wouldn’t wish to see people trapped in relationships that are broken beyond the point of repair, and the cause of misery for all concerned. But whatever the causes of relationship breakdown, something is clearly going wrong somewhere.

    Re: the ethnicity piece – With respect, I have to wonder if you’d be so dismissive of it if it came to a conclusion that you agreed with and didn’t clearly find offensive. 🙂 Can you honestly say that you’ve made a concerted effort to cast your preconceptions and political beliefs aside, and look at it rigorously?

    As for where I’m going with the non-PC stuff, we’re getting close to ad hominem territory there. In my last paragraph, I called for a mature discussion; in yours, you suggested I might be racist, despite knowing nothing about me! That’s a classic tactic by proponents of political correctness. Let’s focus instead on the issues, and let arguments stand or fall on their merits…


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