In the midst of the UK riots last year, The Punch was one of many Australian media outlets which offered a series of thoughtful pieces as to why the riots occurred. No one was big-headed or stupid enough to offer a single definitive cause, for the very good reason that there wasn’t one. But we added what analysis we could into the great public melting pot of opinion.
At the time, our efforts attracted scorn from the ABC’s self-appointed media guardian Jonathan Holmes. “It’s all so clear from the other side of the world,” he harrumphed on Media Watch.
Not to gloat or anything, but it turns out the media was right and Holmes was wrong. A report handed down by an independent government-appointed panel overnight in Britain entitled The Verdict on the UK Riots, shows that many of the causes posited by Australian journalists and commenters were spot on.
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Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late US senator, ambassador and statesman, caused widespread consternation when he released a report in 1965 about the disintegration of the negro family in America.
Sub-titled ‘The case for national action’, Moynihan’s report argued that without jobs, negro men would become alienated as husbands and fathers, leading to family dysfunction and breakdown, increasing out-of-wedlock births and sole parenthood, declining education outcomes and entrenched poverty.
“From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history; a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationships to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos.
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The Left blame welfare cuts and the moral failure of society’s leaders. The Right blame the bludger mentality and soft policing. As usual, the truth is more like c) neither of the above.
Some have portrayed the riots through the social frame of family decline and fatherlessness, while others viewed it through the racial lens, before hastily backtracking when they saw white faces beneath the hoods.
While many of these viewpoints point to a general sense of unease and frustration among a section of Britain’s youth, none of them explain why half of England ended up looking like a Boxing Day sale where someone forgot to open the store doors, with shoppers forced to smash their way in.
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Watching the chaos over the past few days, it has become clear that what is happening in London boils down to the have-nots pillaging the haves.
The riots are no longer just about the shooting of London resident Mark Duggan by police officers.
The partner of Duggan has denounced the riots, saying they are now far divorced from the protest that started it all:
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“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” the English lit great Samuel Johnson famously once said.
A whole bunch of people seem to be tired of London life lately. Or at least intent on mindlessly smashing the great city to pieces.
The past 72 hours haven’t been pretty. The Guardian is calling it the Battle of London. We’ve seen pictures of double-decker buses overturned and engulfed in flames. Looters smashing their way into stores. Rioters hurling planks of wood at bobbies. Buildings that survived two world wars destroyed by rioters.
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