Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are the riots of London the new sack of Rome?

On August 24, 410 AD, Rome -- no longer the capital of the Roman Empire but still its most important city -- was sacked by a Gothic army under King Alaric I.  Alaric and his army were ostensibly operating under Roman command but he revolted for monetary reasons.  The Western Roman Emperor Honorius did absolutely nothing to stop Alaric. Honorius was safe in a castle in Ravenna, surrounded by marshes and, it seems, could not have cared less about Rome.  Indeed, according to legend, when Honorius was told about the sack of Rome, his first thoughts were of his pet chicken.

The Byzantine Emperor Honorius, by Jean Paul Laurens (1880).  Honorius (who was not actually Byzantine but was Western Roman Emperor), safely ensconced in his castle in Ravenna, would not lift a finger to save Rome from sacking by Alaric's Goths on August 24, 410 AD, instead, according to legend, more concerned about his pet chickens.  Is Honorius the model for our current political class?

The sacking of Rome, while more symbolic than strategic, completely dispirited the Roman people, who were helpless in the face of Alaric's barbarians, and played no small part on the dissolution of the Western empire.

I can't help but think of the Sack of Rome when watching the riots in London.  London, an imperial capital all its own, is at the mercy of barbarians, while its leadership does nothing to stop the riots, instead congratulating itself on its understanding and restraint while working in secure compounds, living in gated communities and traveling with bodyguards.  Otherwise known as "Ravenna."

A similar plague is afflicting the United States. With our own political class safe in "Ravenna."

And, like the Romans of 410, the British people and the American people are dispirited at the ineffectiveness and indifference of their very expensive governments and their own feeling of helplessness.  Or are they?

I'm probably overreacting, but I'm wondering if the riots in London and other British cities coming at the same time as the flash mobs hitting various cities in the US, are a tipping point in how we deal with crime.

In London, the Metropolitan Police Department (what we call "Scotland Yard," who are separate from the City of London Police Department) appear to be completely impotent to end the riots that began, supposedly, as protests of the death of 29-year old Mark Duggan at the hands of police.  As cars, shops and homes are looted and burned -- not necessarily in that order -- the Metropolitan Police are telling residents to stay home and not go out while law enforcement contemplates the "drastic" step of using rubber bullets.  This is after Britain's long-standing pattern of disarming their law-abiding populace and stripping them of the right to defend themselves and their property.

London is the most recent and possibly biggest example of how you cannot have civilization without security.  The government's policy of "gentle justice" or "soft power" against criminals is on exhibit here, and is found completely ineffective in protecting the law-abiding citizens.  Yet the government seems incapable of accepting this fact:

There is one more important part to this story: the reaction of the cops. Their inability to handle the riots effectively reveals the extent to which the British police are far better adapted to consensual policing than conflictual policing. It also demonstrates how far they have been paralysed in our era of the politics of victimhood, where virtually no police activity fails to get followed up by a complaint or a legal case. Their kid-glove approach to the rioters of course only fuels the riots, because as one observer put it, when the rioters ‘see that the police cannot control the situation, [that] leads to a sort of adrenalin-fuelled euphoria’. So this street violence was largely ignited by the excesses of the welfare state and was then intensified by the discombobulation of the police state. In this sense, it reveals something very telling, and quite depressing, about modern Britain.
As to the complete ineffectiveness of Metropolitan Police:
[...] a ubiquitous critique in stories about the riots after three days of window-smashing. There are a lot of reasons for that. The police have in fact held back, only now considering water cannons and plastic bullets after millions in damage. The prime minister and the mayor of London were both on vacation when the riots began and Scotland Yard’s leadership recently resigned over the phone-hacking scandal, so for several days there’s been no one in charge. The Home Secretary, who was also on vacation, is prone to saying moronic things like, “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon, the way we police in Britain is through consent of communities,” even as young degenerates ransack local communities without their consent. And of course it’s comforting in a moment of chaos to focus on the failings of the police, who are, unlike the rioters (oops, I mean “protesters”), accountable to the public. Build a better force and in theory you ensure this can’t happen again. In theory:
Business owners accused police of adopting a softly-softly approach which left their shops and businesses vulnerable to attack by baying mobs.
While police were criticised in some quarters for being far too slow to get to riot scenes, officers were accused by shopkeepers in Hackney of standing just yards away from looters as windows were smashed and armfuls of goods were scooped up…
Firearms units trained to use the rubber bullets are braced in case they are needed. It would be the first time ever the baton rounds have been used in British disturbances.
Mr Kavanagh said Scotland Yard was ‘not going to throw 180 years of policing with the community away’ as the prospect of using the ammunition for the first time at a British disturbance was raised.
Imagine how bad things could get if they did that. There might be riots.
They can't accept that law enforcement is by definition non-consensual.  People breaking the law generally do not consent to the police arresting them or stopping them.  That's where force -- sometimes deadly force, sometimes ruthless force -- becomes necessary.  British government officials seem mystified by this concept.  They look far worse than a deer in the headlights.  They look like Wade Phillips on a sideline, LeBron James in a 4th quarter, or, to borrow from P.J. O'Rourke, a starving African given a piece of wax fruit.

So, think about this a sec.  Police are telling the people they are supposed to protect to stay home, bringing life activity and commerce to a complete halt, because they are afraid they will hurt the barbarians who are burning London.  Innocent people are hurting but police are more worried about hurting the thugs.

Talk about misplaced priorities.  You can't have this set of priorities in a civilized society.

Yet the political class just puts out the normal platitudes of how these barbarians are poor and angry because of little career prospects and, of course, racism: 

[A] few hard-left politicians, along with “community leaders,” social workers, and representatives of assorted charities and pressure groups, view the disturbances as manifestations of “social problems” which “must be addressed,” and the rioters themselves as “victims” seeking redress for assorted “grievances.”

The liberal line was neatly summed up for American readers by Ravi Somaiya in this New York Times account of the riots:

Frustration in the impoverished area, as in many others in Britain, has mounted as the government’s austerity budget has forced deep cuts in social services. At the same time, a widely held disdain for law enforcement here, where a large Afro-Caribbean population has felt singled out by the police for abuse, has only intensified through the drumbeat of scandal that has racked Scotland Yard in recent weeks and led to the resignation of the force’s two top commanders.
That last part is a bit of a stretch — as if the upheaval in the upper echelons of London’s police force was the final straw that caused feral teenagers to smash their way into Foot Locker and make off with ten pairs of running shoes — but otherwise it’s an almost perfect distillation of the left’s simplistic mantra for explaining and excusing social unrest.

It is, in fact, pretty much the liberal boilerplate for explaining everything from Palestinian suicide bombers to illegal immigrants in the U.S.. It’s the time-honored cultural marxism narrative of oppressors and victims: an evil, invariably “right-wing” government and their brutal shock troops victimizing a decent but downtrodden minority.

Typical of the excuse-makers are the succession of “community leaders” who have been touring the TV studios, and who invariably begin an interview with words to the effect of “nothing can excuse the scenes we witnessed last night…” before proceeding to rattle of their list of excuses: “tensions” in the community, “heavy-handed” policing, lack of jobs, young people are “angry,” there’s nothing for them to do, and so on.

No reporter or presenter ever seems to think it might be pertinent to ask these so-called leaders whether they feel they bear any responsibility for leading their communities into their current predicament. With leaders like these, one might think, who needs enemies?
This in spite of the statements and actions of the thugs themselves:

The fact is that many of those doing the looting aren’t poor: “we’re not broke, but who says no to free stuff” read one of the text messages advertising the looting of a particular store, and many of them are apparently able to afford a BlackBerry. And most of those rioters who don’t have a job wouldn’t want one if they were offered it — why bother to work when you can spend your days high on drink and on drugs, and make a comfortable living by topping up your state benefits with the proceeds of crime?

As for the “anger,” while there was certainly a mood of anger towards the police on Saturday night, that seems to have abated — the laughing, strutting yobs ransacking clothing and electrical stores in full view of the TV cameras appear to be having a whale of a time. Ditto for “boredom.”

You only have to look at the sheer savagery and cruelty of the rioters (see, for example, this video of a teenage boy who’d already been beaten up being helped to his feet by a group of youths who then rifle through his rucksack) to know that, contrary to the claims of their liberal apologists, they have no political or social agenda. If they had, surely they would have wanted to talk to journalists covering the riots, rather than attacking them and smashing or stealing their cameras.
Other stories have the rioters saying, “We’re just showing the rich people that we can do what we want” and telling the BBC about the “mad fun” they’re having.

The response on both sides of the Atlantic suggest that the people -- not the political class, but the people --have figured out that "soft power" does not work in criminal justice and are completely fed up with this policy of punishing the innocent and protecting the guilty:

Shopkeepers joined an increasing chorus of voices today demanding to know what the police were doing as swathes of London descended into chaos last night.

Business owners accused police of adopting a softly-softly approach which left their shops and businesses vulnerable to attack by baying mobs.
While police were criticised in some quarters for being far too slow to get to riot scenes, officers were accused by shopkeepers in Hackney of standing just yards away from looters as windows were smashed and armfuls of goods were scooped up.
Cypran Asota, who has run the Boots opticians for 25 years, told the London Evening Standard how he watched as the shop was destroyed.

He said police stood by yards away, adding: 'White boys ripped off the shutters, then a group of around eight or nine children went in and stole the day’s takings.

'I ran back over the road to plead with them, this is my livelihood and I have to protect it, but they kept coming back in. They must have got away with £15,000 worth of frames. My insurance doesn’t cover acts of terrorism.
'All the time the police were about 15 yards away, just watching. They didn’t do anything to stop it. They looked more scared of those kids than I was.'
Shopkeeper Shiva Kadih, 39, told the Standard he had 'nothing left' as witnesses said they prevented an attempt to burn down the shop as police watched nearby.

The tales of despair came as police pledged a more 'robust' response to any further disturbance.
Metropolitan Police chiefs today said they had not ruled out the use of baton rounds to quell violence on London's streets tonight as thousands more officers are deployed to keep the peace.
Speaking up is just the first step, but it is a big and dangerous step in this era of political correctness.  Some, like Katharine Birbalsingh, are going even farther and questioning the narrative here:

What colour is Mark Duggan? Mark Duggan is the man who was shot dead by the police on Thursday in Tottenham. The Tottenham riots last night were sparked when people protested his death. This morning, I first heard of the riots on the radio, then on the television. I read articles on the internet. But oddly, no one would say what colour Mark Duggan was. No one would say the unsayable, that the rioters were, I suspect on the whole, black. Then, finally, Toby Young’s Telegraph blog post on the riots was published. Is Toby Young the only  journalist out there who will dare say that these riots are about race?
Still, one paper did carry a photo of Mr Duggan. When I saw the photo, it confirmed what I knew instinctively: black youths once again have set London alight.
Some of the black kids I used to teach will tell you that the riots are absolutely justified. A number of adults would agree with them. Everywhere I read that the protest was understandable because “people are very angry”.
I’d like to know what they’re angry about. Mark Duggan is dead. He was shot by the police in a shootout. Duggan was in a minicab and shots were fired from both the cab and the police elsewhere. A police officer was hurt in the incident and a bullet was found lodged in a police radio. Either Duggan was shooting at the police or the driver of the minicab was. Either Duggan was in the wrong place at the wrong time and his death is a terrible tragedy – he was caught in the crossfire – or he shot at the police and the police defended themselves. Whatever the explanation, the police did not kill this man in cold blood.
Yet, a friend of Duggan who gave her name as Niki, 53, said marchers had wanted “justice for the family” and “something had to be done”. She said some of them lay in the road to make their point. “They’re making their presence known because people are not happy. This guy was not violent. Yes, he was involved in things but he was not an aggressive person. He had never hurt anyone.”
I wonder what “involved in things” means? I also wonder whether the police officer who was hurt at the scene believes Mark Duggan never hurt anyone. “Something had to be done”? She makes it sound as if the police are killing black people every other weekend and finally someone decided to take a stand.
This, too, is a big step.  A major step.  Remember the Rodney King riots?  Very few in the media or the political class examined King's responsibility for the whole affair.  This is a breakthrough.

And read the comments to Birbalsingh,'s column.  The sheer number of comments is the first thing that grabs you.  But more importantly is the rage, at both the rioters and the government and its policies that seem to coddle and perhaps even encourage them.  Punishing the innocent and protecting the guilty.

What point is there in having a government if it can't prevent this? Stop this? Instead concerning itself with, again, punishing the innocent and protecting the guilty?

And note that the anger in the comments comes from both sides of the Atlantic, as the US is having a similar problem, albeit on a smaller scale, with violent flash mobs:

By now, almost everyone has seen one of the semi-amusing videos of black teen mobs rampaging through a store. Maybe we've even seen the non-amusing pictures of the victims, or heard their stories. Most Americans have heard of recent violent "flash mobs," which are the bands of black teens that attack mostly white victims and white businesses, as even the New York Times once noted.

But the flash mobs, which are more accurately called "race riots" or "racial mob violence," are not the only interesting topic to cover in our national conversation about race. There is also the "knockout game," which is stunning in its brutal simplicity and stark racial significance.

The knockout game involves "unprovoked attacks on innocent bystanders," according to police who have had to deal with it. A retired officer explained, "Normally it was a group of black males, one of which would strike him as hard as he could in the face, attempting to knock him out with one punch," says retired Sgt. Don Pizzo. The victims are typically not robbed, but simply punched with no provocation. Such attacks have been reported in Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Jersey.

The knockout game has claimed at least one life so far. In St. Louis this year, 72-year old Hoang Nguyen was walking with his wife, Yen, when four "young people" attacked. The attacker pushed the old man's face to the side to make a "clear target for his fist," recalled his wife. Nguyen was punched so hard that he fell to the ground and struck his head. Then the attacker turned on Nguyen's 59-year-old wife, punching her so hard that she suffered a broken eye socket. She could only watch as her husband was then kicked repeatedly. Hoang succumbed to his injuries later that day. A young black male, 18-year-old Elex Murphy, is charged with first-degree murder.

In addition, a mob of young black males can be seen playing the game here. The video shows the group attacking a young white man named Adam Taylor, who was left with internal bleeding, bruising of the brain, severe whiplash, and scratches on his face when he was beaten in Columbia, MO in 2009.

Sgt. Pizzo noted that the attacks fit a pattern: "black attackers on a white victim -- and the victim was often an older person walking alone." In a thorough and sensible piece on the subject in a local arts and entertainment magazine, eight of the victims interviewed were white, one was black, and one was Latino. All of the attackers, or "players," were black. Some witnesses claim that they have white relatives who play the game and that therefore the game is not a racial issue. But anyone who reviews the reporting -- when race is revealed, at least -- will see that the attackers are predominantly if not exclusively black.

As one player of the game says, "[w]e used to walk to where a lot of people be at and hit 'em. If one of the homeboys didn't knock him out, then the other would come. Whoever knock him out would be king."

Local media outlets have failed to report on the racial aspect of the attacks. At best, the media will allow the race of attackers to be revealed by mugshots, or quotations from police or victims. This follows a conscious policy of self-censorship that has been openly admitted by major newspapers.
The newspapers were actively covering up the racial element of the mobs.  But perhaps that has ended.  From the Christian Science Monitor:

State police are roaming the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee, looking for teenage troublemakers. Philadelphia is stepping up enforcement of a curfew for teens in the Center City business district. Chicago police have beefed up patrols along the city's "Miracle Mile" district in response to recent teenage "flash robs," some which police say were orchestrated via social media.


Philadelphia "is taking the flash mobs seriously, particularly the troubling racial dynamic that makes whites most vulnerable to the attacks," writes Eugene Kane, a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who was visiting Philadelphia when the Wisconsin State Fair attack happened

On Friday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) ordered extra state troopers to the fair in Milwaukee after a group of witnesses reported that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of black teenagers began fighting with one another Thursday night on the midway, then began punching and kicking white people outside the fairgrounds, including pulling them out of cars and off motorcycles. Teenagers at the fair, which closes Aug. 14, now must be accompanied by adults at night.
One police officer characterized the Thursday incident as a "mob beating" in which several police officers were also hurt, but Milwaukee detectives continue to investigate the attacks and have not released a motive. Several Milwaukee news outlets, however, painted a more troubling picture: "Witness accounts claim everything from dozens to hundreds of young black people beating white people as they left the state fair Thursday night," noted WTMJ-4, the local NBC News affiliate. “It looked like they were just going after white guys, white people,” festival-goer Norb Roffers told Newsradio 620.


If not an outright trend, organized mobs of mostly black teens who target whites are catching notice of police – and are raising uncomfortable issues in cities like Milwaukee, one of the most racially segregated in the nation.
(Warning: I'm hopping around the article a bit because I believe as written the CSM article is poorly-organized.  But if you're concerned about the context check out the full article.)
We get the usual excuses:

What connects the three city crackdowns are teen-perpetrated crimes that are part opportunistic, part thrill-seeking, and, some residents fear, part racially motivated: dozens of black teenagers collectively targeting, and attacking, white people they don't even know. Resentment fueled by dogged segregation, poor unemployment opportunities for young black men, and historic inequalities may all be playing into an atmosphere of racial discontent, sociologists say.


"The black kids at the fair started by beating up each other, police said, and at closing time they turned that rage on whites outside the gates," writes Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl. "This newspaper normally avoids mentioning the race of people involved in crime, unless it's part of a description to help apprehend someone at large. But this incident, along with the looting and racially motivated beatings in Riverwest last month, has forced the issue."

In Milwaukee, stark racial segregation and a growing income gap between blacks and whites, exacerbated by the poor economy, may have contributed to the tension at the state fair on Thursday, suggests Stephen Richards, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, in Oshkosh.
"We have such a high unemployment rate for teenagers in Milwaukee, so you've got kids that have enough money to get into the state fair, but maybe they ran out of money to entertain themselves," says Professor Richards. "So you might have teenagers standing around and feeling dejected … and maybe seeing other young people that do have money. I think there is resentment, and this has happened historically in America: hot summers, high unemployment, poverty lead to problems."
Typical excuses, indeed. But even prominent black leaders and civil rights organizations are calling out these barbarians:

On Monday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he would add street patrols and start enforcing a 9 p.m. weekend curfew for 13- to 18-year-olds for the Center City arts and shopping area. He took the step after a series of incidents over the past two years, including two in the past two weeks, in which black teens beat up on their victims, who were primarily white.

In a message Monday to the mob suspects, Mayor Nutter, Philadelphia's third black mayor, said, "You have damaged your own race."

"These are majority African-American youths and they need to be called on it," the head of Philadelphia's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, J. Whyatt Mondesire, told the Washington Times.


Some black city leaders said that hate crime prosecutions for the perpetrators should be on the table. "Hate crime enforcement must take place: Attacking anyone based on their ethnicity or color means a racial hate crime should be an additional" charge, said Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines, who is black, on Saturday.
Not sure about the "hate crimes" thing, since I don't agree with hate crimes laws in general, but as much as I criticize these organizations for what I believe is aiding and abetting crime in the name of some sort of misplaced racial solidarity, I gotta hand it to them here for actively trying to fight it.  Kudos.

Yet it doesn't matter what the barbarians grievances, real or imagined, are.  Or if there is any justification at all, however slight, in their crime.

You cannot allow, you cannot tolerate this behavior and have a functioning civilization.  London, right now, is proof.  It has come to a standstill.  Because the government can't or won't stop the riots.

Yes, as I know all too well, leftists don't like deadly force being used against criminal mobs.  (Yes, I have seen more than a few people suggest that "live ammunition" be used against these barbarians.  Ooh, will that make the Marxists mad!)  Yet against a criminal mob that does not fear law enforcement or care about consequences, leftists have offered nothing -- nothing -- in the way of effective alternatives.  Everything they have proposed has been tried.  And failed. Miserably.  London is the result.  Milwaukee.  Philadelphia.  Heck, Oslo, for that matter.

So we have a few indications that the London riots and the flash mobs may have pushed us to a tipping point, where the realization that "soft power" or "gentle justice" does not work, that fear of force is essential to law enforcement and that you cannot have fear of force if there is no danger of that force being used.

You cannot have civilization without security.

You cannot have security without force.

Therefore you cannot have civilization without force.

The people have accepted that.

Will our government leaders?

Or will they continue to do nothing so long as they stay safe in Ravenna?

UPDATE: link and a few typos fixed

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