Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring

Without the legitimacy, purpose or desirability of the Arab Spring, our Summer of Strife – with its much deeper roots - will be even harder to put down.

THE cod psychologists and moral arbiters of Fleet Street are in full session this morning, raining down fire and brimstone on the looters and rioters running amok in our major cities.

Never short of a tabloid cliché, The Mirror’s Tony Parsons calls them“self-pitying scumbags” exposing “the very limits of society’s attempts to be understanding, to be soft, to be compassionate.”

Over in the Daily Mail Max Hastings rolls out his grandest patrician sneer to call them “essentially wild beasts”. He continued his dehumanising analogy:

“They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.

“Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.”

So far, so knee-jerk.

 Meanwhile left-wing politicians – Ken Livingstone aside – observe a self-denying ordinance in linking the disturbances with wider social and economic problems in our inner-cities, terrified of confronting a public mood which they read to be one notch short of a lynch mob.

Amid the bromides and hyperbole, head of the Respublica think tank, Philip Blond made sense this morning when he tweeted that the events we are witnessing are “multi-factoral” ascribing a combination of “social libertarianism on the left and the neo-liberalism of the right” for the disturbances.

So yes, poverty, unemployment and a lack of hope and legitimate ambition drives this phenomenon; but also a breakdown in family life, discipline, social and community ties and respect for others and their property. Both right and left have questions to answer.

They may be rebels without a cause (except, it seems, the conspicuous consumption of pricey electrical goods and designer jeans) but these young looters are a distorted mirror image of those gallant young people gathering en masse for the purpose of shaking off the yoke of tyranny across the Middle East.

The yobs of Birmingham, or Croydon, or Manchester are hardly in the same category as the heroes of Egypt’s Tahrir Square and those protesting and dying in Syria, but the phenomena we are witnessing has parallels with the “Arab Spring” – with seemingly leaderless uprisings driven by social media.

A dispossessed urban youth with complex social problems emboldened by their very outsider status is using technology as an agency to recruit and organise, leaving the authorities flat-footed and unable to deploy resources effectively to counter them.

While our well-paid columnists (whose lives and backgrounds could not be further from those they castigate) churn out the thundering leaders and vent their spleens, the more considered question for policy-makers is how these amoral, unskilled, ruthless, socially alienated, reckless, yet technology-literate young people can be brought into mainstream society.

As our MPs break their summer holidays to gather tomorrow – no doubt to bewail the nihilistic madness of the looting in our cities – they should ally their grandstanding with a practical commitment to addressing the root causes of this phenomena.

 This offspring of Margaret Thatcher and Frank Gallagher deserve the opprobrium currently being heaped upon them for their appalling and reckless actions; but if we are serious about avoiding this behaviour becoming a regular part of our urban life then our politicians are going to have to get serious about shattering the glass wall between our mainstream society and the utterly parallel world that a generation of dispossessed young people in Britain now inhabits.

Policy-makers – of left and right – have, in their own ways, created that world and only they can now fix it. It is a world of broken families, drug and alcohol misuse, low educational attainment, violence, parental failure and endemic worklessness – fuelled by welfare dependency and a black economy.

As the autocrats of the Middle East are finding out, it is difficult, once released, to put the phenomena of mass mobilising young people back in its bottle.

Without the legitimacy, purpose or desirability of the Arab Spring, our Summer of Strife – with its much deeper roots – will be even harder to put down.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

39 Responses to “Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring”

  1. Fiona McAdoo

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  2. Lucy Ashton

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  3. 45apl

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  4. Martin Madden

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  5. Rob E

    Some of the language being used is becoming more and more frightening. Cameron is now talking about ‘phoney human rights’, water cannon and baton rounds. For those who don’t know, a baton round is a solid rubber cylinder about the size of a small coke can that’s fired from a grenade launcher and causes horrific bruising at the least. They often break bones, rupture organs and can easily kill. According to the government and media these people are ‘sick’ (Cameron) and ‘feral rats’ (BBC). I can’t think of anything more likely to exacerbate anger and exclusion.

  6. Robert

    Cameron could be Miliband they both sound the same, both look like each other and have basically the same to say.

    Ken has lots of nice words but nothing much which we could say would help the people.

    Cameron we have broken and sick people.

    God help us

  7. Anon E Mouse

    Kevin Meagher – Since you refuse point blank to describe the IRA as a terrorist organisation, calling them “Guerilla Fighters”, we can fairly conclude that your grasp of the truth and how real people live is not strong but this is really a new low.

    Are you seriously asking us to believe that the nine year old arrested as he stole two pairs of training shoes from a sports shop was part of some “movement” – like the Arab spring?

    It will only be time before Labour start trying to link cuts with riots, despite the fact there have been no police cuts yet – Ken Livingston effectively ruled himself out of election as London Mayor the night before last. The Countess Toff, Harriet Harman almost did the same last night on BBC 2.

    The only members of the Labour Party so far to speak as if they understand these mindless thugs have been Ed Miliband, Diane Abbott and David Lammy.

    This article serves to show that the less intelligent Labour activists, such as this author, are already starting to equate bad behaviour with government cuts despite the fact these feral idiots were raised under a Labour administration.

    Watch the commons tomorrow because if the Labour Idiot Brigade show such lack of understanding as this article then the chances of winning a general election in the future will be a long long way off.

    Unintelligent stupid posting – Left Foot Forward should know better than publishing it….

  8. Kevin

    Mr Mouse – Thank you for your characteristically generous and well-informed remarks.

    Full moon tonight?

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Kevin Meagher – Full moon? I wouldn’t know I’m on days this week…

    (There was a time Labour activists would have known what that remark meant…)

  10. Zeppo Hack

    RT @leftfootfwd: Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : Kevin Meagher #riots

  11. Ed's Talking Balls

    An offensive comparison, in my view.

    This underclass that has been festering for years, supported by money confiscated from the hardworking, and has precisely nothing in common with the suppressed revolutionaries in totalitarian states. The latter are not rebels without a cause and I am certain they wouldn’t appreciate being tarred with the same brush.

    These scumbags have abused the kindnesses so foolishly extended to them for a long time. This is merely the latest and most flagrant example.

    Stupid, bien pensant views have led us here and we need radical change in our approach. More police, prisons and water cannon would be a good start (and the money can come from the social security budget which funds the fast food and Xboxes these oafs live off).

    Max Hastings was completely correct in his assessment, which was much more extensive than merely labelling these despicable individuals as bestial (incidentally, that part too was bang on the money: we shoot polar bears for doing things they don’t know to be wrong, yet strangely no bullets find their way towards savages who knew perfectly well what they were doing). Certainly his comments are infinitely more perceptive and useful than what Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell have had to say.

  12. Kevin

    Ed – you wanna try reading what I actually wrote. Some impressive rhetoric, but like all right-wingers mouthing off about “scumbags” your public policy prescriptions come up short. Have you even costed your shoot-to-kill policy?!?

  13. Leon Wolfson

    The Labour leadership have of course done something appropriate in your view mouse – they’ve made themselves unelectable, when the Tories do the same rhetoric, only better. Of course you can’t admit WHY you’re happy.

    Talking Balls – “Confiscated”, right. Well, perhaps we should tax the lazy rich’s unearned capital equally with income? How about abolishing, oh, higher rate pension relief? No? Well, there we go then.

    Crush, clamp down, punish the poor for BEING poor. All that’s being said, all that’ll be done. And then they’ll wonder why it won’t stop happening. Sigh. Kill, Murder, Death – the mantra of the right. As ever: You first.

  14. Ed's Talking Balls


    I won’t be robbing the innocent nor assaulting passers-by any time soon, so I doubt it’ll be me first.

    And yes, tax is confiscation of individuals’ money. Uncontroversial. It is a necessity of course, and any right-minded person knows that. But equally any right-minded person should want their money used well, not squandered. Perhaps employing a few more policemen and building a few more prisons would garner public support, particularly among the working victims rather than the feckless perpetrators.

    Nope, crush, clamp down and punish criminals for carrying out crimes. No-one is advocating hurting the poor for being poor. I make no apology for calling for severe punishments for lawbreakers. I believe it sends out the right message: civilised society will not tolerate this disgraceful behaviour.


    So you don’t like the term ‘scumbag’. You don’t like ‘wild beasts’ either. It leads me to wonder which description you would prefer. Perhaps ‘revolutionaries’, ‘freedom fighters’, ‘oppressed victims’ or ‘visionaries’ would be more appropriate in your eyes. I’ll stick with my description, though, and in polite conversation the word ‘feral’ will rightly continue to feature, despite your protestations.

    Incidentally, I did read your drivel, painful though it was. I know you weren’t saying that these assorted cretins are like those in the Arab world. The only similarity is their use of mobile phones to organise themselves. Wow, perceptive stuff.

    Your decision to focus on one quotation of Hastings with which you disagreed, rather than address the overall argument which he coherently sets out, marks you out as a poor journalist (rather an exalted term in your case…) His argument wasn’t knee-jerk. The points he raised have been made, by him and others, for years.

    What public policy prescriptions did I make? You have criticised them while omitting to mention that I made none. I merely remarked that it was curious that no harm came to those who consciously carried out violent acts while a polar bear, knowing no better, was killed for following its instincts. I wasn’t advocating wholesale shooting but I certainly am advocating rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon, together with very long prison sentences.

    However, were I to have recommended shooting the scum, I would imagine that it’d be a good deal cheaper than housing them in London, paying them benefits or feeding and watering them in HMP Wherever…

  15. Kevin

    ‘Ed’s Talking Balls’. You certainly are pal, you certainly are.

  16. Senorviva

    ” This offspring of Margaret Thatcher and Frank Gallagher”

    How are 16 – 20 yr olds the offspring of Thatcher? Yes, she can be said to be responsible for their parents but they’ve grown up with the benefits of a powerful Labour government

  17. Kevin

    Senorviva – the piece makes clear that left and right are both culpable for the underclass tht’s now organised and trashing our cities. The left’s moral relativism is part of this but let’s be in no doubt the social inequalities spawned by Thatcherism form the bedrock of the problem.

  18. Ed's Talking Balls

    Ah, my mistake. Not only are you a poor journalist (again, the term is used advisedly) but you’re also not very clever. No reason to engage with you further.

  19. Anon E Mouse

    Ed’s Talking Balls – I don’t mind that Kevin Meagher isn’t very clever:- besides being blindingly obvious that’s hardly a criteria for any author on this blog. But I don’t like the fact that he’s an apologist for the IRA who will not condemn the actions that resulted in two young children being blown up in Warrington.

    Combine that with the fact he claims to have been a SPAD for the Labour Northern Ireland Secretary I think that in the future these types of postings he makes will be being catalogued by people to be revisited at the appropriate time.

    (I also speak to various Labour activists under a different guise and can confirm that he is considered a bit of a joke and under the influence of alcohol he is a “nasty drunk” (direct quote) and one to be avoided…)

  20. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – If the truth jumped up and bit you I still don’t think you’d recognise it.

    I do hope you’re staying clear of these riots – I can’t believe you won’t condemn them considering you claim in the past you’ve been shot at, bombed and ambushed by marauding BNP gangs for being white (twice).

    Frankly Leon Wolfson I think you need help for your delusional bulls*^t you keep posting here…


  21. Kevin

    The screws in the collander you wear on your head aren’t just loose, they’ve fallen out altogether my friend.

    Amuse yourself in the comments.

  22. DrKMJ

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  23. Mr. Sensible

    Whatever the causes, this kind of behaviour is a disgrace and must be stopped.

  24. Keira

    Behind this is just like an animal who breed in slums.

  25. paul barker

    The deep roots of the “Riots” lie in traditional working class culture with its distrust of authority & education & its distorted view of masculinity (real men). Thats been made worse by the sense of entitlement promoted by Labour & The Unions over the last Century.

  26. Ed's Talking Balls

    I think the first part of what you say is unfair but I agree wholeheartedly with the last part.

    Working people, that is those who actually do work, are appalled by this disgusting thuggery, from what I gather. The perpetrators don’t deserve to be called “working class”: they don’t work and class isn’t a word I would associate with these louts. For goodness’ sake, some of them were raiding JD Sports! No, they should instead be more accurately labelled as scum or whatever pejorative term takes your fancy.

    But you’re bang on the money with regard to your comment about entitlement. Some of these cretins were even ranting about reclaiming their taxes through theft and vandalism. I mean, really, how stupid can you get? These rioters seem to believe that they deserve luxury goods and rapstar lifestyles. Well, f*****g well work for it then. Some talent wouldn’t go amiss too, but that might pose a problem.

    And the unions’ bleating about the culling of diversity officers en masse and propaganda about ConDem destruction of life as we know it, a la Germany in the 1930s, plays a role. Those giving TV interviews under cover of hoody seem to be repeating the same union slogans in semiliterate fashion without any understanding of the issues. If people moan about Daily Mail headlines, perhaps they could also devote their attention to union banners?

  27. AltGovUK

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  28. John Green

    You describe the rioters as “a dispossed urban youth with complex social problems”. Where is your evidence? A significant proportion of the thugs now being processed by the courts are in employment, including at least one teacher. By their actions I prefer to call them “scum”.

    All societies have a layer of scum floating on the surface. The role of the police and the courts is now to skim this scum from the surface of our society and bang them up.

    There are many theories as to why our society is so broken and why we have so much scum. There are the usual bleeding hearts presenting these people as victims. We have had a widely distributed interview from that appalling man Livingstone finding numerous excuses for their actions.

    We have had a layer of scum in our society for as long as anyone can remember. The reason we have so much of it slushing around these days, I am sure, is a product of the following:
    a) a very large number of useless parents
    b) an obsession with rights brought about by many years of misguided liberal policies
    c) an absence of any sense of duty and obligation
    d) an obsession with, and an overwhelming sense of envy for, fame, celebrity, bling and personal possessions
    e) a belief in a lifestyle built around dropping out of school at an early age and claiming benefits for life, supplimented by crime and often drug-dealing

    My solution to this societal problem is a mixture of the following:
    A) demonstrate this lifestyle choice is not a good one by impossing prison sentences on the scum we collect
    B) the benefit of a prison sentence is that life will become much less comfortable for each piece of scum, involving loss of employment
    C) for each successive conviction, scum will permanently lose a significant proportion of their benefit which can be restored only by significant and hard work in the community
    D) parents are made to share the responsibility and punishment that follows misbehaviour of their spawn

    We have spent far too long throwing money in the wrong direction and excusing scum behaviour as an inevitable result of poverty, lack of ambition and local community resources. However, in each of the London boroughs affected by the recent riots, local community leaders have come forward to lament that years spent developing support programmes for local young people and for the unemployed have proved to be so unsuccessful.

    Enough. It is time the scum faced a harsh reality.

  29. Knut Cayce

    RT @leftfootfwd: Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring http://t.co/TyoVYA0

  30. Extradition Game

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  31. Hens4Freedom

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  32. Trakgalvis

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  33. Suchindranath Aiyer

    "…cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring": http://t.co/sM30zbt CAMERON-CLEGG WERE WRONG TO CONTINUE A BLAIRING LEGACY @leftfootfwd

  34. Rider Latham

    Finally someone @leftfootfwd talking some sense about the #londonriots http://t.co/oMHOpwH

  35. Selohesra

    One solution might be compulsory sterilisation for all those caught rioting – it make take a while to work through the system but eventually in a Darwinisn survival of the fittest those people with no respect for the society they are lucky enough to live in would be bread out of existence. It would be cheaper than prison and create jobs for local vets – it is also more practical than imposing fines that will not be collected.

  36. Leon Wolfson

    @8 – Really? You’re advocating murder, and it’s not a long step from there.

    Perhaps not following clearly-failed policies, when we already have high rates of locking people up, would perhaps work? Rather than “try the same failed policies again, harder”.

    YOU are advocating hurting the poor for being poor, by saying “work for it”. The jobs are not there, in good part due to Tory policy which is blocking proper recovery.

    The left haven’t been in power since ’79, New Labour was centralist with right-wing tenancies in many areas. Stop blaming them for right-wing flaws.

    @14 – No, I don’t need the truth to bite me before I cans see it no. And yes, Mouse, thanks for highlighting your support for the riots and violence in general. Can’t be enough smashing faces and arson for your kind can there?

    I laughed when the EDL’s march came to grief.

    @16 – Want to stop it THIS time, or stop it FOR GOOD? The second requires some social changes.
    @19 – You “advocate” creating a class where crime is the only way to feed themselves. GG. Oh, and massively increasing the number of children in care, when that system is already overwhelmed.

    And yes, it’s time the bankers were charged, the Nordic System was put into place wholesale here and we got the country going again. Not what you mean? Well, you’re supporting capitalist looting, and are by your own definition scum.

    @20 – Ah, the Nazi German eugenics answer.

  37. Paul Meagher

    Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring: http://bit.ly/mYqs1S : writes Kevin Meagher #riots

  38. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – The fact you are a suck arse New Labour lickspittle is obvious from the majority of your comments on this fine blog – very few have any basis in fact but do you not think that just for once you can read a page here and NOT comment?

    We’ll take it as a given that irrespective of the truth you’ll be rude, abusive and dishonest to other people’s postings.

    Instead of offering your theories, which will inevitably conclude with some “racist” or “nazi” slur, can’t we go back to you making things up like being shot at, bombed twice and attacked by a marauding gang of the BNP because you’re white (twice). Oh and your Incredible Hulk story and the NHS being free.

    Things were much better then and we want the old bulls*^ting Wolfy back…


  39. The creeping militarisation of our police must be resisted | Left Foot Forward

    […] Our summer of strife is a degenerated, cracked-mirror image of the Arab Spring – Kevin Meagher, August 10th […]

Leave a Reply