Much merriment was to be had earlier this week reading the Guardian’s report of its four-month investigation into the causes of the August riots. Apparently, the police were the main culprits, in spite of the fact that they were conspicuous by their absence. This feat of logic was summed up in the Daily Mash parody of the Guardian’s report: ‘Riots caused by police when they finally turned up.’
Little alteration was necessary to transform the material into parody. Many of the rioters complained about being stopped and searched — ‘They cut my bredrin’s hand open with a cuff’ — and offered that up as an excuse for their criminal behaviour. The Guardian’s researchers supported this explanation, pointing out that the rioters were eight times more likely than the average Londoner to be stopped by the police.
Yet the Ministry of Justice discovered that 10- to 17-year-old males brought before the courts for participating in the riots were 22 times more likely to have a previous conviction than the average 10- to 17-year-old. In other words, if the rioters interviewed by the Guardian were only eight times more likely to be stopped and searched, the police were being unusually lenient. (Hat tip Neil O’Brien, Director of Policy Exchange.)
Running a close second to police harassment as a ‘cause’ of the riots was consumerism. The theory here is that the reason so much looting took place during the riots is because the manufacturers of consumer goods, along with their handmaidens in the advertising industry, have successfully hoodwinked the urban poor into thinking their status depends upon owning a vast array of designer bric-à-brac. By way of ‘proof’, numerous rioters were quoted saying the reason they’d stolen some expensive trinket or other is because they desperately wanted one but couldn’t afford it.