Stone the crows

Well, the riots. And whilst Harry Hutton, as usual, talks a great deal of sense, the sense of surprise remains. The beak makes some good early points; initial reports were very vague; but it now looks like only the police fired. Which really doesn't help. Part of the recent phone hacking stuff has been yet more erosion of trust in the police. Mind you, according to wiki, the family were implausibly pretending that Duggan was unarmed, which didn't help either. And also, contrary to early impressions I'd got, I can see no evidence that the police ever claimed he shot at them.


Time will tell what the actual problem was, that lead to so many people being prepared to go out rioting and looting - in effect, to break the social compact that says we don't live in a police state, peace is largely self-enforced, and you're better off not breaking the law. My own pet theory, which I'm sure others have put forward but I can't for the moment find it, is that we've failed to buy off the underclass. Or, put another way, that we've also broken the social contract, the bit that says that as society as a whole gets richer, so does everyone. And this despite the fabled cuts to reduce the deficit having not really yet started to bite.

In the unlikely event of actual facts arriving, I might update this post.

Note: to avoid potential confusion: "stone the crows" is a conventualised English expression of surprise. It is not an injunction or instruction, which indeed would make no sense since "crow" is not a nickname for the police (or for a rioter).


* Guardian music blog
* Government Austerity and Political Instability

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I'm not sure about buying the underclass off: it may be a subtle but deliberate refusal to allow the darker among our bretheren even the slimest of chances to participate.

[You are more optimistic than me: asserting that these folk, whoever they may be, are only down because Da Man is holding them down. And you didn't even pull me up for calling them the underclass -W]

By John McManus (not verified) on 11 Aug 2011 #permalink

"Stone the Crows" is usually said to be an Australian expression, although its long fallen out of spoken use. Still popular with headline writers.

This story on CNN indicates that the rioters had a different demographic than you would expect. Perhaps you should buy off a different group? :-)…

But it isn't clear if this is just cherry picking.

[The Grauniad has a different view, and claims to have looked at real data: "People facing court charged with riot-related offences are overwhelmingly young, male and unemployed. Those who are found guilty are receiving prison sentences - or being passed onto higher courts for sentencing. Out of the 1.7m cases heard in magistrates courts last year, only 3.5% were remanded to jail. These figures from this week show a rate of 62%." -W]

By Nicolas Nierenberg (not verified) on 11 Aug 2011 #permalink

further to the vague reports - it seems the IPCC were responsible for clouding things, which is appalling given they are meant to be neutral investigators:

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which has been called in to investigate, said it understood the dead male had been shot by police, adding that the officer had been shot and wounded.

An IPCC spokesman said: ''We understand the officer was shot first before the male was shot.''…

IPCC clouding things? I get it.

But the story about the radio blocking a bullet sounds implausible. Maybe because we had an incident over here where a sheriff supposedly had a bullet stopped by his badge. Turned out he was making it up.

More just in from the guardian at 2:52

In response to an inquiry by our correspondent Paul Lewis, the IPCC has sent this statement to the Guardian:

Analysis of media coverage and queries raised on Twitter have alerted to us to the possibility that we may have inadvertently given misleading information to journalists when responding to very early media queries following the shooting of Mark Duggan by MPS officers on the evening of 4th August.

The IPCC's first statement, issued at 22:49 on 4th August, makes no reference to shots fired at police and our subsequent statements have set out the sequence of events based on the emerging evidence. However, having reviewed the information the IPCC received and gave out during the very early hours of the unfolding incident, before any documentation had been received, it seems possible that we may have verbally led journalists to believe that shots were exchanged as this was consistent with early information we received that an officer had been shot and taken to hospital.

Any reference to an exchange of shots was not correct and did not feature in any of our formal statements, although an officer was taken to hospital after the incident.

This is significant, as much of the early media coverage referred to an "exchange of shots", with some media outlets clearly implying that police had been shot at first. This issue is one of the key grievances of the Duggan family.

Having wandered inadvertently into the Brixton riots 30 years ago (visiting the Brixton Ritzy) when living in Clapham North as a young'un there's no question that there is a visceral appeal to being part of a crowd running amok. That's not to say I joined in, but my feeling at the time was that the situation wasn't particularly threatening and lots of young guys were seriously letting off steam - I was subsequently surprised to find that this would be considered a defining moment in modern British history.

This kind of stuff happens in the summer usually when people are milling about in the streets. The fact that unemployment levels are high and many of these guys may not have much prospect of meaningful work means that constraints on self-discipline are considerably weakened - a lot of people have justifiable grievances and it's easy to spark a riot under those conditions (the sad Mark Duggan event) and the rest seems to have been copy-cat stuff.

And there's no question that there's a pretty strong disconnect between the bottom and top of our societies; the antics of many elements of the wealthy (bankers, MPs) are blatantly repellent and they are quite happy to assert that they really don't give a damn. We do have to be careful in the UK, but I suspect we won't be. There's a well-characterised relationship between wealth/income disparities and adverse outcomes (of which "civil disobedience" aka theiving, mindless violence and rioting are examples), and the last and the current governments seem hell-bent on easing the continual slopping up of dosh by the already wealthy and easing corporate access to previously collective enterprises.

So there really isn't any political party that the young and less well off might consider has some interest in them, and that's a big problem. Here in the UK we do seem permanently stuck between a US- and Euro-style vision of how society might be and I personally think we make the mistake of considering that we have some sort of affinity with the US, when I think we should aiming (goodness knows how) towards a society with the characteristics of social cohesiveness and collective effort characterised by for example the Scandinavian and Iberian nations and (yes) France....and Scotland for that matter; has anyone noticed that we Scots tend not to riot other than on football-related issues?

Having been 'in the job' so to speak, I cannot recall anybody *ever* instructing me that Sect 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 necessitated that I had to wait until I was fired upon before I was allowed to use such force as I considered reasonable in order to prevent a crime that I suspected was about to be committed. Just saying

Hasis: Then why did the police and the IPCC have to lie about it? Just saying.

-- frank

[As I said, I can see no evidence that the police ever misrepresented (or lied) about this incident. If you have any such, please prsent a link. Otherwise, you have no excuse for jumping to conclusions. As for the IPCC, as has already been said, they look to have been the source of the misinfo - but it isn't at all clear that was deliberate -W]

Two worthwhile reads, the first addressing the issue of why the Police's apparent standoff tactics were probably a good thing, and the second is based on experience of rioting.

* Mind Hacks on riot psychology.
* Liverpool riots: I remember the buzz of mob mayhem from 1981

@ Frank -- "Then why did the police and the IPCC have to lie about it? "

Frank, the police didn't. The IPCC's admitted they may have misled the press.

[Apologies for the delay. I'm back now -W]

Damn, three links and in moderation.

"... Feel as though nobody cares if I live or die, thought I might as well begin to put some action in my life.


You don't know what it's like, you don't have a clue. If you did you'd find yourself doing the same thing too ..."

I would have thought that stone the crows was orginally a command to do just that; preserve the crop for people.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 12 Aug 2011 #permalink


Given the point I made, I have absolutely no idea. However, given kfr's cite in 7 above...was it a lie, or was it a misstatement made *very inappropriately* by an individual looking straight into an uncomfortably bright media spotlight, followed by a piling on by the media when they heard something that sounded contentious?
If it was found to be a lie then I am 'once again' mightily disheartened by the Met's idea of what constitutes public accountability, if the other then ... the IPCC really needs pick spokespeople who are a bit more media savvy.
In his Grauniad interview today Brian Paddick makes some pretty scathing comments about the Met's 'boss' tier and how there are still some who think it appropriate to withhold or bend truthes. Paddick's point being that these individuals still haven't learned that when these stories are found out the fallout is always [at least] twice as bad as it would otherwise have been.

Another piece worth reading:

UK riots: 'We don't want no trouble. We just want a job'

In one of the first barometers of attitudes from the generation who have found themselves entering the job market during the economic downturn, the survey overseen by academics at Teesside University, found that 57% said that employers were discriminating against them because of their youth. It also found that almost one in four were depressed about their future.

Teesside youth and communities expert Professor Tony Chapman said the results were "very worrying" especially if it meant that young people would now give up on their future. And at the heart of this depression lay a lack of security. Only 49% believed they would have a secure job in five years' time.

"All the academic research seems to demonstrate that [young people] want a secure living environment, they want to have a good relationship, and if they want to have children, they want the best possible opportunities for their kids and they want secure jobs."
Does she think society owes her a living? "I don't think they owe me nothing actually. I think that I just want a decent job to pay my rent and not have to worry about claiming benefits. I don't want to be on fucking benefits."

And I'm a bit uncomfortable with finding a decent article in the Telegraph. Must go and lie down.

So help me decipher the presence of old "Matamoros", (St. James or Santiago for the un-baptised). Crows, rioter, looters, Moors: there must be a link there somewhere :-).

[Ah, well done, you win the prize. Holiday snaps to follow, possibly on the other blog, but with a link from here -W]

[I liked the start - "I did not predict a riot. Nor did the police. Nor the politicians. Nor did those retrospectively muttering darkly that they knew it was coming. Did they really predict that Ballardian scenario, the polite queue of looters in the ghostly retail park?" which reflects my interests. But the rest didn't really go anywhere -W]

By deconvoluter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2011 #permalink

RE: #3 W's Guardian link.
Its a cross between an investigation and a news report.

It may be standard practice in reporting court proceedings, but the publication of names is unnecessary for an investigation. It will make it even harder for these people to find employment. OK it may be part of the positive feedback which goes with criminal behaviour, but a minority of them have pleaded not guilty and may eventually be acquitted. Will the Guardian give any prominence to such cases or will they forever carry this stigma?

By deconvoluter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2011 #permalink

Well, my aunt is doing alright so far and she is in her 80's. I'd expect this sort of civic unrest to continue and to spread. We'll certainly see this, or worse, in the US after Obama is thrown out of office, but at least our police are more equipped and less politically hamstringed when it comes to dealing with rioters.

By TheGoodLocust (not verified) on 17 Aug 2011 #permalink