The Good Delusion 143


Comments on my last post revealed many of the regular commenters here to be victims of what I might call “The Good Delusion” – a belief that anyone at odds with the political and economic establishment must be good, as the establishment is unjust and corrupt. But the sad truth is that vicious materialism and sociopathic behaviour is neither confined solely to the upper classes nor in all cases instigated by them.

I should for example be grateful for an explanation by some of the commenters on my last post as to why the following is an act of revolutionary vanguardism, constitutes a protest against government spending cuts or is a product of police stop and search powers:

The answer is that such claims are ludicrous. The idea that all thuggery is the fault of the bad example of the Bullingdon Club or of higher university tuition fees is an absolute nonsense. And I speak as somebody who is utterly opposed to any tuition fees paid by students, absolutely deplores the privilege that the Bullingdon Club represents, and is completely against stop and search.

The idea that no personal blame can be attached to the looters because of their background or of government policies, is one with which I have no sympathy. Strangely those who hold that the looters are blameless victims of oppression tend to be the same people who have no sympathy for the policemen who get injured, whatever their motives or circumstances that led them to join the police. Apparently all looters are innocent and all police are villains. What nonsense!

In direct answer to another critical commenter, you are quite wrong in stating that all my information came from the media. It did not. As far as I know, the store security guards badly beaten up in Newham have not been reported yet in the MSM, for example. How were the attacks on those people justified, who were just trying to earn a living? What about those leaping for their lives to escape fires, or who had their flats attacked with firebombs? What of the bus driver pulled from his bus and beaten up so the bus could be wrecked? The cabbie who had his arm broken trying to defend his takings?

There is a key fact here. The vast majority of those arrested have existing criminal records – many of them very long indeed. This is not a spontaneous uprising of a repressed class. This is a large number of existing criminals seeing an apparent opportunity to rob and mug with little chance of being caught as they temporarily overwhelmed the police. Anyone who believes these were frustrated would-be university students is so warped by ideology as to have descended into gibbering idiocy.

Frankly the idea that these were oppressed representatives of a suffering class is an insult to the very many decent people in low paid work and without work who struggle to get by and never burn down anyone’s home, mug anyone or loot electronic bling from shops.

Some commenters also have chosen to allude to my own middle class background. There are a very few people who frequent this site who have known me since childhood. I can guarantee you that I grew up in much greater material deprivation than almost any of the criminals out looting. It is a simple matter of fact that I owned no clothes which were not secondhand, other than underwear, until after I went to university. I never had a watch. But did that entitle me to go and loot a shop and burn out the people living above it?

I was brought up, with my siblings, by my mother and grandfather. He was a coalman from the genuine British working class tradition, a lifelong socialist, entirely-self taught. He used to read to me from Burns, Hazlitt and Tressell. When in doubt on any moral question, I always consider what old Henry would have done. If anywhere near, he would have been out there with his coal shovel defending people against the vicious looters trying to attack them, ruin their livelihoods and burn them out. Any of you who cannot see that that is the authentic tradition of the British people, are suffering a case of the good delusion which is beyond repair.


143 thoughts on “The Good Delusion

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  • John Goss

    Clark, I’m reposting this, because I think it holds a clue to what happened. The fact that there was a peaceful protest outside the police-station before a child was molested by the police does not condone the rioting but goes some way towards explaining why it came about.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iCeQd_Orp8

    I remember when I drove the van for Birmingham University anti-bloodsports’ group, one of the fox-hunters, an ugly male, brought a riding crop down across the face of a young female protester. The police did nothing. They were not there to protect young students opposed to cruelty. It sickened me. So I can believe the above account.

  • Clark

    Danj, yes, I am arguing. But I do not want to argue. I am only arguing reasonably because you are arguing, and you are doing so unreasonably. Craig has said far far more useful things than you have.
    .
    No, creating a context is not a crime, but a context consists of elements which may be criminal, or which could and maybe should be legislated against.
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    The police who have executed people, infiltrated and subverted protest groups, have colluded with the press and have attacked and confined legitimate protesters, have gone unpunished for years, and most will probably continue to escape punishment. The press who continue to deceive and manipulate the public stand little chance of punishment under the current regime, though suitable laws exist. Blair and his crony war criminals are unlikely to be sent to the Hague. The corrupt bankers could be punished by letting them go bust; what chance?
    .
    You haven’t directly suggested totalitarianism, but your one-sided arguments suggest that you have no relevant criticism of the current political situation which is already verging upon effective totalitarianism. Yes, we have parties that we can vote for, but they are effectively “a single movement dedicated the the pursuance of [a] transcendent ideal”, that ideal being unrestricted acquisition of wealth and power by a tiny minority at the expense of most of the British population and the populations of various other countries.
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    The relevance of whether you live in the UK is whether you will be suffering the consequences of how these riots are dealt with. That of course is obvious, which is one of the reasons why I think that you’re arguing unreasonably. There are two strands:
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    (1) If the context is not corrected, tension will continue to rise. That would degrade the social environment for everyone, and could lead to further rioting in the future.
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    (2) If the only response is more policing and harsher punishments, all of us will have to live under that, not just the small proportion of rioters.

  • Clark

    John Goss, I am in a cleft stick; I can neither condone nor condemn the rioting. If voting or peaceful protesting could bring about change, I could condemn the rioting, but all reasonable approaches for inducing change have been discredited by their ineffectiveness. The responsibility for THAT lies squarely with the politicians.

  • angrysoba

    As the woman on the corner in Hackney observed, the looters are just thieves and their actions make absolutely no sense as a political protest. The victims are the real working class, the proletariat, at the hands of what Marx called the lumpenproletariat, those without any sense of social solidarity who were quite happy to loot small struggling businesses, rob people on the streets, and beat up real working class people who desperately tried to protect their livelihoods.
    .
    For simpering apologists who project their own politics on to these lootings, it can hardly have anything to do with anger about taxes. Many of them, if they’ve even actually paid any taxes at all, will still be a net drain on taxes with their long string of convictions and methodone reliance.

    [/Blimp Mode]

  • Clark

    As the woman on the corner in Hackney observed, the looters are just thieves and their actions make absolutely no sense as a political protest.
    .
    How many times have I heard the mainstream media sadly lament that “high street sales show little sign of improvement”? Well, they’ve shifted a load of goods just recently. Oh? Would the media have been more honest to say that “high street shops still aren’t taking enough money”? These looters have certainly hit them where it hurts.
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    The victims are the real working class, the proletariat,
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    Predominantly true, I agree – even when the looters hit Tesco, Tesco will just pass on the costs to the customers, though not all the customers are working class. And there was that carpet shop.
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    at the hands of what Marx called the lumpenproletariat, those without any sense of social solidarity who were quite happy to loot small struggling businesses, rob people on the streets, and beat up real working class people who desperately tried to protect their livelihoods.
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    Sadly true. I hope that, in your role as an educator, you’ll be teaching Marx via Blackberry.
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    For simpering apologists who project their own politics on to these lootings, it can hardly have anything to do with anger about taxes.
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    – though there’s clearly anger about something.
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    Many of them, if they’ve even actually paid any taxes at all, will still be a net drain on taxes with their long string of convictions and methodone reliance.
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    Oh, I expect they’ve paid a fair bit of tax on tobacco, alcohol, prescriptions, VAT, TV and vehicle licence, petrol tax, etc. (unlike the mobile ‘phone companies etc). Even their benefits go straight back into the economic “system”, and their housing benefit goes to their landlords. Still, it would be preferable if they were elevated to PAYE or Schedule D status, but there isn’t much chance of that whether they’re the utter lowlife you describe or not.

  • Clark

    I think it’s daft to generalise so much about the thousands of people who have been rioting. I can’t condemn the rioting, but I can condemn rioters. The white man in the cap in the video can be condemned for robbing an injured student, and whoever injured the student can be condemned more strongly. Arsonists can be condemned for arson. But there were thousands of people involved, with masses of incidents and a multitude of motivations.
    .
    The motivations behind the creation of the context are much easier to assess.

  • Clark

    It’s not just the executions by police and the subsequent cover-ups. The police have been acting like they ARE the law. Here are some stories. Unless otherwise indicated, they were related to me directly by friends I trust.
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    A friend’s son, he was 12 or 13, I think, was arrested and charged with criminal damage for throwing a snowball which hit a car.
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    Local paper – two police dogs died because their handler left them in a closed car in blazing sunshine on a hot day.
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    Local paper – a child drowned although two officers were in attendance. They claimed that they couldn’t to enter the water on health and safety grounds.
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    A friend was working alone in an off-licence. A chav snatched money from the till. The chav was identified by CCTV, but the police refused to visit the home address because “it was a danger to the officers”.
    .
    Anger generally has a source.

  • Jaded.

    I just want to know when we will get all the wonderful solutons imposed upon the nation. And it won’t be the people doing the imposing! Yes, the front men of the U.K. power base – Cameron and Clegg – will soon be reading out their rehearsed bullshit like Starmer after a rough night with the robed marauders. Talk is cheap and, though I know real change is damn hard to achieve, we should all come to the realisation that drastic changes are needed. We aren’t going to get this by talking about what needs to be done after we get real change. All the talk should be about how we are going to get real change. While some might think it is a futile situation, it has to be more futile talking about smaller obstacles further down the road when you have a massive wall right in front of you. Real, peaceful change happening in our ‘democracy’? Sounds pretty radical and who knows!

  • OldMark

    ‘The victims are the real working class, the proletariat, at the hands of what Marx called the lumpenproletariat, those without any sense of social solidarity who were quite happy to loot small struggling businesses, rob people on the streets, and beat up real working class people who desperately tried to protect their livelihoods.’

    Good point Angry.The sad fact of the last 40 years is that the traditional working class has, thanks to de-industrialisation, contracted in size, while the lumpen elements have expanded exponentially. Anyone here who sees ‘revolutionary potential’ in these lumpen elements is simply extruding Dave Spartish bollocks.

  • OldMark

    ‘Here’s a question for OldTrot and the likes of Laurie Penny, as reflected by OldTrot’s comment just above – it goes with the territory that you believe that the U.S. (i) is more racist than the U.K. and (ii) has a less vigorous safety net than the U.K. So … why aren’t they rioting in Chicago and Boston right now? Why not last month? Why not last year?’

    Don’t try & kid us, Larry/Yugo, that your country is a haven of social harmony when compared to the UK.

    Read this, for starters-

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/08/07/american-tinderbox/

  • angrysoba

    Clark: I think it’s daft to generalise so much about the thousands of people who have been rioting.
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    I’m talking about looters. There were people genuinely demonstrating about a police killing which became violent due to police thuggery on a 16-year-old girl. That much is true and for the most part political and well-motivated.
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    The looting was by opportunistic thieves. I think it is daft not to generalize and daft and frankly insulting not to see the distinction between the two groups.
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    Clark: Anger generally has a source.
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    Yes, it does. But the looters weren’t angry. They were gleeful! Have a look at the pictures of the looters. Do they look angry?
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    Again, I think you’re projecting your own politics and your own anger about irrelevant things onto people who you wouldn’t behave like in order to get them off the hook. But if you could be convinced that they aren’t out looting because a stupid copper killed his dog by locking it in his car or arrested your friend’s child for throwing a snowball or because rich corporations pollute the Earth would you still justify their actions?
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    Herbie’s at it too by blaming the looting on the “banksters” and on “sanctions” (sanctions!?!) because they are political things that make him personally angry.

  • mary

    Craig’s bête noire Zoe Williams of the Guardian was on Newsnight last night versus Danny Kruger, former speechwriter for Cameron. Ge wrote the Hug a Hoodie speech apparently.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mk25 50 mins in.
    .
    It followed a little segment of film of the looting and a page of mugshots with some West Indian music in the background thus planting in the viewers’ minds that all the perpetrators are black.
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    She also writes {http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-psychology-of-looting}
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    For good measure the BBC have Fiona Armstrong back on this morning co-presenting on the News Channel.

  • John Goss

    Clark, I am rigidly opposed to vandalism as a means of getting your voice heard. Vandalism is the bully of reason, it is the angry voice that prevents others being heard. I was raised in a mining town, where the pit or steelworks were about the only two work options. It was in Yorkshire in the days when it was most unusual for women to work. Due to my father’s factory closing we moved to Lancashire and bought living-accommodation with shop-premises below. My mother opened a small grocer’s shop while my father worked in a factory. Over many years the business grew into a slightly larger shop. Today it is not much bigger than when we first opened it, and my brother is just able to eke out a living. When I’ve seen shops on fire over the last few nights, I’ve also seen my mother, poring over the accounts long after shop hours were finished. I’ve seen her ordering replacement stock, bringing in the orders, stacking the shelves. And yes, we all helped. It is not about the size of a business, it is much more about the unpaid labour that all shop-keepers and family-businesses put into their enterprises, to bring goods and services to the general public. Setting fire to shop-premises with people living above is an act of mindless sabotage. There is nothing to be gained from it, just distress for families who have made efforts to serve the public. They are not the people the disaffected in society should be targeting.

  • craig Post author

    John Goss,

    I am not completely opposed to vandalism, selectively used. I did a fair bit at the occupation of Torness nuclear power station in its early construction phase over thirty years ago. I feel neutral rather than outraged about the students who broke in to Tory Party HQ. What I am not at all neutral about is looting and theft, and vandalism which is not very specifically directed at a political target – which I think is probably what you mean.

  • mary

    Jane Hill of the BBC outside the HoC to Will Straw, son of the execrable Jack, about today’s forthcoming emergency debate on the riots and the collapsing economy –
    .
    ‘What line should David Cameron take today’.
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    Couldn’t make it up.

  • John Goss

    You’re right Craig, I have to concede there may be times when trespass, and even vandalism is not out of place. And I applaud your targeting of Torness, or any other installation likely to endanger lives. I applaud too the brave pensioners, who try to cause damage to nuclear-weapons facilities. Norman Nicholson’s poem “Windscale” has had an enduring and indelible effect on those of us opposed to the nuclear industry. Like you, I’ve been on lots of rallies and protest marches, in the past, and direct action can occasionally get your voice heard. I think reasoned blogs, like this are another way, because contributors sometimes make you re-think what you thought was right. Thanks.

  • Clark

    John Goss, oh, I agree with you, about arson and looting rather than vandalism in general. It’s just that my patience is fraying, as a minority element here persist in seeing all explanation of the problem as justification for violence, and dishonestly misrepresent views expressed in order to make arguments look weaker, while offering no solution, and no course of action except draconian enforcement. I’m tempted to file a name change from “Clark” to “Dark”, put on the dark glasses and hoist the Black Flag. The forces of disorder have won at the top for years, and now they seem to be winning at the bottom, too. Who wants to be on the losing team their whole life?

  • Mike

    Deprivation, poverty, unemployment, lack of job opportunities, and racial discrimination are being invoked as the cause of the riots. There is no doubt that these are causal factors. But we need to ask why it is that not all areas of Britain where there is deprivation etc have been wracked by severe violence. Bradford, Luton, Burnley, Aylesbury, Blackburn – none of these seem to have sent in reports of looting and arson. Is that something to do with the presence of large Muslim communities? Traditionally, Muslim communities have a strong sense of respect for authority, for law, for property, for education, and a strong work ethic, and and a respect for other human beings. Family values are strong (some might say too strong – arranged marriages etc) The elders and parents and community leaders would be strong influences preventing the younger ones going on ther rampage. Other ethnic groups likewise have stong sense of community values and obligations – the Indians, perhaps the Chinese, the Jews, maybe the Cypriots – all these have strong well defined cultural traditions – and these cultural traditions give the young a sense of worth and self respect. The current mayhem arises from certain groups in particular – the young working – perhaps I should write “working” class in view of the actual lack of work opportunities – whites and blacks who spend their lives caged up in dismal inner city tower blocks or wasted suburban sink estates. The problem for both these ethnic groups – the whites and the blacks – is that there is no sense of community, respect for authority, work ethic etc in their cultures. Perhaps they have been decultured. Nothing in their family life, their environment, gives them any sense of self worth. Consequently, they have no respect for other people because they have no respect for themselves. Other ethnic groups – the Muslims and Indians etc – have self respect and give respect to others. Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn from thjis is that the two groups – whites and blacks – need to be given a stronger sense of their cultures so as to gain greater self worth. Multiculturalism, far from being the culprit-cause of the rioting , as some might claim, could actually possibly be the solution to the conditions causing the mayhem.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    People with no previous record are being given six month sentences for stealing £3.84 worth of bottled water or three months for stealing a single bottle of wine priced at £3.99.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/11/uk-riots-courtrooms-country
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1378765/It-supposed-justice–day-courtroom-tweets-police-exposes-creaking-justice-system.html

    It’s far too long a sentence for such a minor crime – it’s petty theft, not more than shoplifting. A lot of people found guilty of violent crimes get off with less than 6 months due to over-crowded prisons and this kind of sentencing is the reason why.

    There were violent attacks against people, threats of violence against shop owners, there was setting buildings and cars on fire and throwing bricks at police, which could have killed people. There was the man beaten to death by looters and the three men run over and killed. The people responsible for those crimes are the ones who should be getting the long sentences.

    The ones who damaged property in other ways or committed major thefts should be getting community service cleaning up and repairing and carrying building materials to repair and rebuild the properties they damaged or destroyed.

    Jailing people for 6 months for petty theft is counter-productive.

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