Riot – some thoughts

When the Tories won the election I predicted riots.

I didn’t want riots. Who does? They are ugly and messy and the wrong people get hurt badly but you could see them coming a mile off.

The chickens came home to roost a lot faster than the so called leaders- like the prime minister and the mayor of London who tried to sit it out on their holidays.

We live in an uptight and violent country and meltdown is inevitable.

There are so many factors all mixed together that it’s hopeless to give a direct reason for the riots.

It’s certainly not directly political, there are no protest songs, this is not in a placard carrying demonstration kind of way. Not in a demand for rights, a demand for work, a demand for social rights.

It’s about the nihilistic buzz of rioting, the buzz of looting. The buzz of empowerment of briefly owning the streets. Not that different from the antics of the Bullingdon boys in the eighties…

Bored youth get a buzz from trashing stuff. It’s the law of the jungle. It always has been. It’s the tension of the inner city spilling out onto the streets- the London streets where the gentrification and wealth sits right next to the poverty. The right wing press will turn it into a race issue but they will be wrong and trying to create an agenda.

You could say it is political because of the cuts and hopelessness of these meltdown times. It’s political as the rich get richer and the bankers take the piss with their bonuses which are another type of looting but in expensive suits and on a far bigger scale. It’s political that you have a culture were you are encouraged to have designer clothes, aspire to celebrity, have the latest trainers but you can’t afford them, will never afford them, then you will get a breakdown and this is a breakdown. It’s political in a country were violence is part of the culture.

But for the Blackberry carrying youth on nicked bikes on the rampage there is no thought of ”Ëœreasons’ or ”Ëœmotives’, it’s pure ”Ëœfuck you’. It’s like an en masse mugging of mainstream Britain. A mass version of the sort of muggings that go on every day in real time UK that are endlessly ignored.

Bored youth see the Arab Spring riots on TV and learn how to have a riot, you want a piece of the action, it looks like a top buzz. You don’t even have to fight for freedom or for rights or any of that ”Ëœboring’ stuff.

The smashing of the glass and the trashing of scared family’s flats is the sound of capitalism melting down on the frontline. The UK is tense and uptight and the meltdown is inevitable.

There is no fear of the police and if there was it wouldn’t make any difference as the cops lost control- far better at kettling students than taking on the real wild youth. I suppose by the time the rioters get to Primrose Hill it might be a different story…

For the rioters there is nothing to lose, there is no agenda- just nihilism and random destruction. This dark undertow has been growing for years, you can feel it. It’s part of British culture. Has been for years. Only now it’s about grabbing TVs and trainers

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. This is probably John’s best article yet. Now the fire has spread to Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool; but only in city centres or poor areas. No rioting in Kensington or Mayfair. Why don’t rich white kids go on the rampage? This will be another stick for the wealthy elite to beat urban communities and the north with, and the first thing that will go will be the right to make lawful protest. Prepare for the Clampdown.

  2. […] best explanation of the riots I’ve read so far, is over at John Robb’s Louder than War site. Read Robb’s excellent blog here. And stay safe […]

  3. […] August riots in London have nothing to do with ‘anarchy’, they are the fruits of capitalism and the […]

  4. John, as usual a well formulated & eloquent peice.

    My question is if those of us in the general populace have seen the growth of this Nihilistic culture & been able to see its natural conclusion then why not the elected representatives ? Simple; I think ‘ivory towers stuck in & more concerned with nest-feathering’ are the words. The gap between ordinary people – and these rioters ARE ordinary people – and those who are our supposed leaders is widening daily.

    But there is still NO EXCUSE for this wanton destruction & violence.

  5. Mob riots have been part of English (specifically) culture for centuries. The new peasants are revolting and now it is turning in to the biggest shop lifting spree we have seen for many years. This isn’t protest it’s the ‘I want it now’ generation levelling the playing field. Why put any effort in when you can just go out and nick it or ruin it for someone else? Martial law is around the corner if this carries on and then we really will be in the shit

  6. […] Read thoughts on the riot with this blog […]

  7. […] end-game for extreme capitalism? By johnrobb on Aug 11, 2011 in Blogs, Featured Is looting the inevitable end-game for extreme capitalism? Is looting the inevitable end-game for extreme […]

  8. Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…”

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