10 February 2012
The internet is all a-twitter with news and views on the
rioting and looting in London. The spark that lit the fuse for the
appalling scenes was, we are told, the
fatal shooting on Thursday of Mark Duggan, a 29 year old father
Not surprisingly, the majority of people voicing an opinion have
declaimed the rioters as opportunistic thieves and vandals. But
before too long there was a new kind of outlook joining the
conversation… who - or what - is to blame.
Bored teenagers with nothing to do? A repressed community's
outpouring of frustration? A backlash against the new age of
austerity we are currently living in?
No. Not so much. The real culprit, according to at least one
report, is BBM, BlackBerry's instant messenger service.
So, can it really be true that BlackBerry is to blame for the
Of course, BlackBerry is clearly the true villain of the weekend.
This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. I know,
that's a very bold statement, but I actually think it is. Following
my rant on Twitter about it, @freestyleint made a very good point
the following example. This is, in essence, like blaming a car
manufacturer because its car was used as a getaway vehicle in a
You see? Senseless. Whichever way these people chose to
communicate is irrelevant. If it hadn't been via BBM, it would have
been via another communications channel, and being in 2011, there
are quite a few out there. Whether it's using WhatsApp, standard
SMS, or guess what... a phone call, these people will still have
found a way to talk to each other.
This is nothing but a poor distraction from what is actually
So, would I be justified in saying that considering that
potentially 92% of all the people involved in the riots are on
Facebook, it means that Facebook is the home of 'looters' and that
we now have to stereotype the people that use the social networking
platform? No. I wouldn't be. But instead of focusing on the actual
issue, and perhaps trying to reach out to these people via the
media to prevent these riots from spreading, everyone would rather
look for someone to blame. I guess that's the easy option for
journalists. And there we have it, breaking news. It's BlackBerry's
The police are in way over their heads on this one, for various
reasons. Some would argue that certain areas of London, such as
Tottenham, have always received a raw deal from the police. With an
institution like the Metropolitan Police who have on two occasions
in the past decade proclaimed that they are "institutionally
racist", you might be forgiven for thinking that maybe, just
maybe, this was inevitable. There is, of course, a clear line which
has been crossed and what these riots have turned into is nothing
more than youths vandalising and destroying businesses and homes
just for the sake of it. Joining in because they can. What started
off as a peaceful protest, escalated into something terrible.
Something that society will pay for, for a long time.
The clean-up will be a lengthy, expensive but contained operation.
The repairs to homes and businesses will take longer, but will
Dealing with the root cause of the violent outbursts though is an
altogether trickier undertaking. One made all the more difficult by
conveniently sweeping the issues under the carpet and pointing the
finger of blame at something like the internet or mobile phones.
Perhaps it is human nature to look for the bogeyman, some external
force we can blame in order to absolve ourselves of responsibility.
But whether it is something simple like your day-to-day chores or
something as complex as the fall-out from days of looting and
destruction, this tempting short-cut thinking will not lead to a
Riots, London Riots, BlackBerry, social networking | Leave comment
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