UK Riots: Dalrymple weighs in

Throughout the recent riots in the UK, I have been waiting for Theodore Dalrymple to comment.

It was his superb book “Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass” 1 that alerted me to the culture of the underclass, the engine that is producing the hoodlums and scum we have seen parading violently this week.

Today my feeds picked up this comment in the superb City Journal:

The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.At the same time, his expensive education will have equipped him for nothing. His labor, even supposing that he were inclined to work, would not be worth its cost to any employer—partly because of the social charges necessary to keep others such as he in a state of permanent idleness, and partly because of his own characteristics. And so unskilled labor is performed in England by foreigners, while an indigenous class of permanently unemployed is subsidized.

The culture of the person in this situation is not such as to elevate his behavior. One in which the late Amy Winehouse—the vulgar, semicriminal drug addict and alcoholic singer of songs whose lyrics effectively celebrated the most degenerate kind of life imaginable—could be raised to the status of heroine is not one that is likely to protect against bad behavior.

Finally, long experience of impunity has taught the rioters that they have nothing to fear from the law, which in England has become almost comically lax—except, that is, for the victims of crime. For the rioters, crime has become the default setting of their behavior; the surprising thing about the riots is not that they have occurred, but that they did not occur sooner and did not become chronic.

From http://www.city-journal.org/2011/eon0810td.html

Some of the writings he mentions are:

Austerity in the U.K. Britain discovers that shrinking government is a lot harder than expanding it. Summer 2011
http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_3_otbie-uk-govt-spending.html

Riots Present and Future The recent unrest in Tunisia and Algeria could well come to Western European nations. 11 January 2011
http://www.city-journal.org/2011/eon0111td.html

Still Open In Britain, an ethnic group’s social mobility depends on its own culture, not government largesse. 29 January 2010
http://www.city-journal.org/2010/eon0129td.html

The Quivering Upper Lip The British character: from self-restraint to self-indulgence. Autumn 2008
http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_4_otbie-british_character.html

Childhood’s End Britain, land of bleak houses and low expectations – Summer 2008
http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_3_otbie-british_children.html

No Contrition, No Penalty Britain barely punishes even the most psychopathic behavior. 8 April 2008
http://www.city-journal.org/2008/eon0408td.html

No Security Britain is failing in its most basic duty to its citizens. 20 November 2007
http://www.city-journal.org/html/eon2007-11-20td.html

See also: The Dark Figure of British Crime Despite government reassurances, Britons feel under siege-with good reason. Spring 2009
http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_2_british-crime.html

See also:

Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youngsters – Max Hatings

Riots Stoke British Ethnic Tensions – WSJ

Why rioters beat the police

The media and members of the public keep expressing shock and frustration that the police were unable to protect them, unable to stop the looting, did not even show up until it was too late.

What people may not realise is that the police are no longer able to maintain public order under the circumstances we have in the UK today.

They are massively outnumbered by hooligans. Citizens are timid and leave all law enforcement to the authorities. The police are politically hamstrung by racial politics, poor leadership, human rights legislation, a soft judiciary, full prisons and increasing number of lawsuits and prosecutions against them. The upshot is that their already difficult job is almost impossible.

What tips matters from almost impossible to losing control of the streets, are the asymmetries between the police and rioters in public order situations that favour the rioters.

  • The rioters can coordinate better, and securely thanks to encrypted one-to-one and one-to-many mobile communications devices like Blackberry Messenger.
  • The rioters are highly mobile, and fluidly flowing around police positions. They  composed of small autonomous units that outflank and outrun the police. We saw the cops literally chasing rioters around Birmingham last night. The police earned their nickname, plods, as they cou8ld not move fast enough to track and contain the hooligans. Maybe they need Korean style lightly armed highly mobile running police to tackle the hooligans and coral them until backup arrives.
  • The police have an infinite number of things to defend, with the mere act of trying to prioritize defences sapping resources and energy, leaving them too thinly spread out. This allows the rioters to exploit their strength in number to overwhelm the police. In Woolwich 8 pubic order police were facing 100 rioters who nearly overran them.
  • The rioters use emergent tactics, adapted to the situation, exploiting known police tactics and weaknesses. The rioters are cynical, they know the police are instructed to defend certain territories (leaving others unguarded). They know the cops have been ordered to contain rather than stop looting. They knew the police would be non-confrontational, seeking to avoid escalation or more justifications for violence. In short the cops were static targets for rocks, whilst shops were fair game for thieving.
  • The police tactics were timid and static. Until last night were contain to contain the trouble (there was trouble in 10 out of the 30 odd boroughs) , then arrest the identified rioters the following day. Justice is served, but its too late. The damage has been done, and hooligans are now convinced that of they simply achieve critical mass, the streets are theirs.