On the one year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the killing of Heather Heyer I thought I would mark the occasion with this repost originally published on my Blogversity blog seven years ago, to the day.
I have been tracking the recent London riots with some interest. Having spent the first half of my life in London, keeping up with the comings and goings there seems like the right thing to do.
Particularly under circumstances such as these, when old haunts are seen being blitzed again, I take leisurely strolls down memory lane preferring my own sentimental journey to the path of degradation which has led to the present day blighting of Blighty.
But more than that, I have been following the trend where social media plays a role in bricks-and-mortar "social revolutions," trying to learn something about the doppelganger space that both separates and unifies crowds and mobs alike.
On the one hand, social media like Twitter and Facebook are lauded as technological allies in the "struggle for democracy," as in the Arab Spring for example, while others ask, as in the case of the UK riots, if Draconian measures are required to curb the use of Blackberry-enabled mayhem.
It is clear that one’s answer to such questions is affected by who is being threatened on and by the streets, be the protest legitimate, immoral, understandable and/or wholly indefensible.
Of course, these are complicated issues. I have to remind myself that the BBC–my primary source for UK news– is, for all intents and purposes, an establishment organization. Their portrayal of the rioters as an underclass of mindless yobos hell-bent on reversing their disenfranchisement from consumerist entitlements may be in contrast to alternative media outlets–with biases of their own, no doubt–but hard to refute when there is little to suggest that the rioters have any sense of decency, higher purpose or legitimate indignation.
When it comes to the institutionalization of opinions and analysis, the Beeb has few runners-up in giving the appearance of an unbiased agency. They do, however, have a history–at least as I recall–of serving up controversy in the guise of being independent. I was reminded of that when I watched a clip from Newsnight which featured British historian and chauvinist David Starkey. What triggered that thought was Starkey’s reference to Enoch Powell and his infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech. I remember seeing it as a boy on the BBC’s weekly program, Panorama. In essence, Starkey is proposing that Powell was right about his bigoted vision of England being ruined by multiculturalism, black people and culture.
If you have time, this BBC documentary is well worth watching for context:
…and here is the clip from Newsnight:
Responding to each point that Starkey makes would require more time than it’s worth. Besides, there is no shortage of commentary online that articulates various points of view, better than an uncontested rant of mine I think. Rather, I’ll just share a catchy tune that popped into my head–a favorite from my own rioting days–and a suitable score to accompany Starkey dancing around the issues, asserting for example, that Jamaican patois is "a wholly false language." As we say down on memory lane, and in a vernacular Mr. Starkey will be very familiar with I’m sure: "What a load of bollocks!"