NCAG members were out and about today joining pickets and marching with trade unionists across the county.
One particular group of striking public sector workers stand out for their commitment to Norfolk communities and they are the striking paramedics who answered red calls hour after hour for no pay at all.
Are these the actions of selfish taking the piss trade unionists or dedicated, professional and essential public servants?
While the right wing media and Tory propaganda machine work on overdrive it has been more than clear today that there is more than just hesitant support for public sector workers in their struggle. There would be even more if the TUC leaders were to get off their behinds and embrace private sector workers and working class communities also.
There is much to play for, the destruction of the whole welfare state is at stake. But while Tories and their apologists appear on our screens day after day spouting nonsense about trade unionists and blaming the previous equally useless government for the mess we’re in, most people are able to see through the nonsense and remain committed to both the welfare state and those workers who form it’s backbone, and they’re not yet ready to sell them out to the corporations.
Long may that remain.
Antifascist Sean Cregan will be having his birthday in prison this year on the 6th December…how about sending him a card…won’t take you 5 minutes…
Don’t forget to put your name and address on the back of the envelope or he won’t get it.
Details of how Sean and 6 others found themselves with heavy sentences can be found here http://antifascistprisonersupportuk.wordpress.com/about-2/
A list of the other prisoners and their contact details can be found here http://antifascistprisonersupportuk.wordpress.com/addresses/
Please write to them. Advice on writing to prisoners can be found here http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/writing.html
They’re inside for us…we’re outside for them!
By Kenan Malik from his Pandaemonium blog.
Here is my introduction to the discussion on ‘immigration and citizenship’ at last week’s Trudeau Foundation conference on ‘The Making of Citizenship’, about which I have already written. I was part of a double act with Ruben Zaiotti, whose job it was to talk about the Canadian experience. Mine was just to be provocative.
The debate about immigration and citizenship in Europe is often presented as a debate between multiculturalism and assimilation. Not only does this oversimplify the debate, but the similarities between the two sides are often more important than the differences. Both sides have broadly bought into a series of common myths about immigration and citizenship:
1. The starting point for both multiculturalists and assimilationists is the need to manage the pluralism created by immigration. But Europe is today perhaps less plural than ever before.
Both multiculturalists and assimilationists begin with the presumption that European nations used to be homogenous but have become diverse, though clearly they advocate different policies in response to this diversity. Both sides, however, are suffering from a collective memory loss. The homogeneity of Europe in the era before mass immigration is a myth.
Take, for instance, Britain in the nineteenth century. Here’s a view of the urban poor in the Saturday Review, a well-read liberal magazine of the mid-Victorian era:
The Bethnal Green poor… are a caste apart, a race of whom we know nothing, whose lives are of quite different complexion from ours, persons with whom we have no point of contact… The slaves are separated from the whites by more glaring… marks of distinction; but still distinctions and separations, like those of English classes which always endure, which last from the cradle to the grave, which prevent anything like association or companionship, produce a general effect on the life of the extreme poor, and subject them to isolation, which offer a very fair parallel to the separation of the slaves from the whites.
The working class and the rural poor are not simply culturally distinct, they are the racial other. As the historian of empire David Canadine has shown in his book Ornamentalism, the English ruling class viewed East End costermongers as alien as they did Jamaican peasants but saw Indian princes and West African tribal chiefs as ‘one of us’.
Similarly in France. Here is Christian Buchez, a Christian socialist, addressing the Medico-Psychological Society of Paris in 1857, about social differentiation in France:
Our task now… is to find out how it can happen that within a population such as ours, races may form – not merely one but several races – so miserable, inferior and bastardised that they may be classes below the most inferior savage races, for their inferiority is sometimes beyond cure.
We are so used to seeing difference, particularly racial difference, as between Europe and the Other, that we forget that for the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, the Other lived inside the borders.
It was not simply a question of perception. The social and cultural differences between a Victorian factory owner and a machinist were probably greater than those between a native white Briton and a second generation British Asian or Afro-Caribbean today. Unlike the factory owner and the machinist, a 16-yr old white boy born in Bradford and 16-yr of from Bradford of Pakistani origin probably wear the same kinds of clothes, listen to the same kind of music, support the same football teams.
The current narrative about immigration and citizenship has been created by erasing the history of difference with European societies, including the history of past immigration. In the 1930s, for instance, nearly a third of the French population were immigrants, mostly from Southern Europe. Today we think of Italian or Portuguese migrants as culturally similar to their French hosts. Seventy years ago they were viewed as alien as Muslims are today, given to crime and violence, and unlikely to assimilate into French society. ‘The notion of the easy assimilation of past European immigrants’, the historian Max Silverman has written, ‘is a myth’.
What all this suggests is that there is nothing new in plural societies. What is different today is the perception that we are living in a particularly plural society, and the perception of such pluralism in largely cultural terms. For both multiculturalists and assimilationists, certain differences (culture, ethnicity, faith) have come to be regarded as particularly significant and others (such as class, say, or generational) as less relevant. The combination of historical amnesia and a one-eyed view of what constitutes ‘difference’ has come to shape the arguments of both multiculturalists and assimilationists.
2. The real debate is not between multiculturalism and assimilationism. It is between two distinct conceptions of multiculturalism and two distinct conceptions of assimilation.
Part of the problem in discussing multiculturalism is a confusion between two different meanings of the term. The first is the lived experience of diversity, the experience of societies enriched by mass immigration. The second is the set of political policies, the aim of which is to manage diversity by putting people into ethnic boxes, defining needs and rights by virtue of the boxes into which people are put, and using those boxes to shape public policy. Or, to put it another way, multiculturalism has come to define both a society made diverse by immigration, and the policies necessary to manage such a society. It has come to embody, in other words, both a description of society and aprescription for managing it.
There are similarly two notions of assimilation. On the one hand, assimilationism has come to mean the resolve to treat everyone as citizens, not as bearers of specific racial or cultural histories. On the other it has come to mean an insistence that equality requires a certain degree of cultural homogeneity, and hence requires immigrants to give up some of their differences, because too great a degree of cultural diversity would undermine social cohesion and national unity. This was one of the arguments underlying the various bans on the burqa. ‘The wearing of the burqa’, French immigration minister, Eric Besson, claimed in 2009 should ‘be systematically considered as proof of insufficient integration into French society, creating an obstacle to gaining nationality.” A year earlier Mme M, a Moroccan immigrant married to a French citizen with whom she had had four French-born children, was refused French citizenship on the grounds that because she wore a burqa, her practice of her religion was incompatible with the essential values of the French nation. Assimilationism is this sense is a means not of enforcing equality but of pointing up differences, of tolerating, indeed institutionalising racism.
If I were to construct an ideal immigration/citizenship policy, it would be to marry multiculturalism, in the sense of enhancing the lived experience of diversity, with assimilationism, in the sense of the resolve to treat everyone as citizens, rather than as bearers of specific racial or cultural histories. In practice what European nations have done is the very opposite. Different countries have institutionalised either multiculturalism, in the sense of policies to place minorities in boxes, or assimilationism, in the sense of equality as meaning the giving up of cultural or religious differences. Both, in other words, have rejected the best aspects of their outlook, and institutionalized the most wretched parts.
3. Both sides in the debate confuse the idea of peoples with that of values
‘Can Europe be the same with different people in it?’ asks the writer Christopher Caldwell in his controversial book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. His answer is a clear ‘No’. Caldwell is a columnist for the Financial Times and an editor of the conservative American magazine the Weekly Standard. Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is the latest in a succession of books by authors such as Mark Steyn, Oriana Fallaci, Bruce Bawer and Melanie Phillips warning of how immigration, and in particular Muslim immigration, is threatening the very foundations of European civilization. All immigrants, they argue, but most especially Muslim ones, bring with them a different set of values, incompatible with those of Western nations. The only solution is to stop immigration.
It is not difficult to see the problems with Caldwell’s line of reasoning. Not only does he erase the history of the ‘Other’ in Europe in which, as I’ve suggested, Europeans themselves were viewed as Muslims are today, but he confusespeoples and values. Being born to European parents is no passport to Enlightenment beliefs. So why should we imagine that having Bangladeshi or Moroccan ancestry makes one automatically believe in sharia?
What is striking is that both multiculturalists and assimilationists, in their different ways, express the same confusion. Multiculturalists argue that the presence in a society of diversity of peoples erodes the possibility of common values. Assimilationists suggest that such values are possible only within a more culturally, and indeed ethnically, homogenous society.
Multiculturalists insist that different groups have their own given values and lifestyles which should be respected. ‘Justice between groups’, as the Canadian political philosopher Will Kymlicka has put it, ‘requires that members of different groups are accorded different rights’. The British sciologist Tariq Madood takes this line of argument to make a distinction between what he calls the ‘equality of individualism’ and ‘equality encompassing public ethnicity: equality as not having to hide or apologise for one’s origins, family or community, but requiring others to show respect for them, and adapt public attitudes and arrangements so that the heritage they represent is encouraged rather than contemptuously expect them to wither away.’ So society must protect and nurture cultures, ensure their flourishing and indeed their survival.
For assimilationists diversity is the very problem. Europe, Christopher Caldwell bemoans, has been turned into a ‘bazaar of world cultures’. Muslim immigration must be stopped because Muslims are ‘not enhancing or validating European culture’ but ‘supplanting it.’ The melodramatic title of Caldwell’s book is a nod to Irish philosopher Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, his polemic against the 1789 Revolution, and reflects Caldwell’s belief that the impact on European of postwar immigration has been as dramatic as the fall of the ancien regime in 1789. There is, he suggests, no ‘fundamental difference between colonization and labor migration’, when such migration involves people who are not like us.
The result of both multiculturalism and assimilationism are policies supposedly designed foster integration but whose consequences are to define minority communities as being distinct from the rest of society and, in so doing, fostering division and disengagement: Consider, for instance, some of the consequences of multicultural policies:
- The tendency to treat individuals from minority communities more as members of a group than as individual citizens, and to shape public policy according to group membership rather than to individual needs. As, Joy Warmington, director of the equalities organization Birmingham Race Action Partnership has put it, ‘Rather than thinking of meeting people’s needs or about distributing resources more equitably,, organizations are forced to think about the distribution of ethnicity.’
- The tendency of politicians to subcontract out their responsibility to so-called community leaders, who effectively become the voice of those communities and the mediation between the state and those communities.
- The granting of legitimacy to some of the most conservative, often religious, voices within those communities. Such voices are often not only the loudest, but have often come to be seen as the most authentic voice of those communities, precisely because they are so conservative. So, for instance, in Britain, the Muslim Council of Britain,made up almost entirely of Islamist organizations, has come to be seen by politicians and the media as the representative voice of the Muslim communities, despite the fact that poll after poll shows that less than 10 per cent of British Muslims think that the MCB represents them.
- The failure to acknowledge the diversity of minority communities and conflicts within them. One of the ironies is that multiculturalists appear to believe that nations are diverse, but that such diversity stops at the edge of minority communities. Differences and conflicts of class, gender, nationality and generation that exist within minority communities often get ignored in multicultural policies.
Similar points can be made with respect to the impact of assimilationist policies, too. So long as both sides confuse the diversity of peoples and the diversity of values, so there can be no rational discussion of immigration and citizenship.
4. Immigration does not create a problem of citizenship. The fraying of citizenship creates the perception that immigration is the problem.
The starting point of virtually all discussions about immigration and citizenship is the belief that immigration creates a problem of integration and of citizenship. Indeed, without such a belief there would probably be no debate about immigration and citizenship. The problem is usually seen as a failure of immigrants to integrate into civil society, or to identify with the nation, or to act like citizens. And the demand is for policies to address that failure.
The trouble is, the evidence for the failure is at best mixed. There have been polls that have revealed that, for instance, almost 40% of British Asians do not feel British. But others, show that, on both sides of the Atlantic, those of immigrants background, including Muslims, are often more likely to identity with the nation than many sections of so-called indigenous population. The 2010 Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES), the results of which have not been fully published yet, has revealed that Asian communities tend to bemore satisfied with democracy, and more likely to identify with Britain, than the white population. In other words, insofar as there is a problem of integration and of citizenship, it is not simply a problem of immigrants, and those of immigrant background, but also of the indigenous population. And what needs to be addressed is less the specific failure of immigrants to integrate than the broader sense of social disengagement, afflicting many communities, including migrant communities.
One of the key characteristics of our era is that of political disenchantment, a sense of being rendered voiceless, of political institutions as remote and corrupt. There is a crisis of political representation. It is true that many within migrant and minority communities have given vent to that sense of alienation. And, yet, the sense of political detachment has probably been most acute, not within migrant communities, but within the traditional working class, particularly as social democratic parties have sought new constituencies. And because the myths and assumptions about immigration and citizenship have not been challenged, but rather have been reinforced, so such alienation has often taken the form of scapegoating migrants for the fragmentation of society. Hence the success of many populist, reactionary movements across Europe.
Not only does the belief that immigration creates a problem of integration and of citizenship misunderstand the real issue, but in fostering hostility against immigrants, whom many come to believe are incapable of integrating, or unwilling to, such belief also establishes new tensions. In so doing it not only makes life harder, and often more violent and dangerous, for immigrants and minorities, it also constructs new barriers to integration. The very belief that there is a problem of immigration and citizenship helps create the problem of immigration and citizenship.
This has been doing the rounds for a while but is a good’un so we’ll help keep it in circulation…
I’m in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this.. How is it that Sky Television has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a bleeding satellite dish from them back in 1977, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was bloody born and on what date.
For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand? My birth date you have on my pension book, and it is on all the income tax forms I’ve filed for the past 30 years. It is on my National Health card, my driving license, my car insurance, on the last eight damn passports I’ve had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I’ve had to fill out before being allowed off the plane over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms.
Would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother’s name is Mary Anne, my father’s name is Robert and I’d be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and when I die!!!!!!
I apologise, I’m really pissed off this morning. Between you and me, I’ve had enough of this bullshit! You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my bloody address!!!!
What is going on? Do you have a gang of neanderthal arseholes workin’ there? Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don’t want to dig up Yasser Arafat, for gods sake. I just want to go and park my arse on some sandy beach somewhere. And would someone please tell me, why would you give a shit whether I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days? If I ever got the urge to do something weird to a chicken or a goat, believe you me, you’d be the last bloody people I’d want to tell !!
Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to the other end of the poxy city to get yet another copy of my birth certificate, to the tune of £30. Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day?? Nooooooooooooo, that’d be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You’d rather have us running all over the bloody place like chickens with our heads cut off, then have to find some arsehole to confirm that it’s really me on the damn picture – you know, the one where we’re not allowed to smile?! (bureaucratic morons) Hey, do you know why we couldn’t smile if we wanted to? Because we’re totally pissed off!
An Irate Subject
P.S. Remember what I said above about the picture and getting someone to confirm that it’s me? Well, my family has been in this country since 1776 ………… I have served in the military for something over 30 years and have had full security clearances over 25 of those years enabling me to undertake highly secretive missions all over the world. ……… However, I have to get someone ‘important’ to verify who I am – you know, someone like my doctor – WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN SODDING PAKISTAN !
Always enjoyable to read that the County Council are ‘reassuring’ the public! And if you don’t feel ‘reassured’ you can always get in touch with the Councillors named at the bottom of this piece, not for further ‘reassurance’ you understand…but for their individual ‘political comment’….
As you were…
Norfolk County Council is reassuring the public that plans are in place to minimise any potential disruption during next Wednesday’s one-day national strike.
It is impossible at this stage to predict what the exact impact will be but the County Council will post any closures or disruption on the home page of its website – http://www.norfolk.gov.uk – as soon as information becomes available. Your local radio station will also have updates during the day.
So far the County Council has been informed of 43 full of partial school closures but as schools are communicating with parents and carers direct we expect this figure to be substantially higher on the day.
People are being urged to help the authority on Wednesday by only calling about emergency or time critical issues and not about routine matters if at all possible.
Cliff Jordan, Cabinet Member for Efficiency, said: “We are doing our utmost to limit the effects of next Wednesday’s action on front-line services and will try to keep essential services running, wherever possible. Departments are currently working to understand the impact at a local level, and directing resources to support the most vulnerable service users in line with our well established business continuity plans.
“We anticipate a large number of Norfolk’s schools will be closed on Wednesday and parents and carers should expect to be kept informed by the head teacher concerned. We have asked schools to inform families as soon as possible about their plans. I would urge people to contact their school direct if they need further clarification.
“Outside of schools we expect most County Council services, such as care services, park and ride, recycling centres and libraries, to be open for business but we will try to let people know of any disruption as soon as possible.”
County Hall will be open as will the County Council’s Customer Service Centre, which will prioritise emergency social care and highways calls.
Norse Care, which runs 26 care homes and provides care at 13 housing with care schemes in Norfolk, is implementing its contingency plans.
Tricia Fuller, Norse Group Human Resources Director, said: “We can assure residents and their families that we are doing everything we can to maintain the smooth running of all Norse Care homes in Norfolk.
“Arrangements are being made to ensure that sufficient care staff are available to cover for any who do not come in on 30 November. Our priority will be our residents’ welfare and we are confident that this can be safeguarded, even if there may be some disruption to their normal day.”
Notes for Editors
There are 414 NCC schools (3 nurseries, 359 primaries, 39 secondaries, one all-through school, 11 special schools and one short stay school (formally PRU), split across four sites).
There are 15 academies and one free school.
In total there are 430 state funded schools in Norfolk.
For political comment
Corporate Affairs and Efficiency:
Cllr Cliff Jordan (Cons) Cabinet Member for Efficiency on 01362 820422 (daytime)
Cllr Diana Clarke (Lib Dem) on 07920 286637
Cllr Jennifer Toms (Green) on 01603 610032
Cllr Colleen Walker (Lab) on 01493 782272
Young People And The 2011 ‘Riots’ In England – Experiences, Explanations And Implications For Youth Work.
Street disturbances such as those which broke out in a number of cities in August are a part of English history – as is the panic that followed. In a well-known book Hooligan: A history of respectable fears, Geoffrey Pearson charts how, over 400 years, there have been repeated panics about criminal behaviour and ‘feral’ or troublesome children and young people. While the scale of events may have taken policymakers and the popular press by surprise, the fact they occurred should not shock us – and certainly didn’t surprise many youthworkers on the ground.
Initial responses to the disturbances were also predictable. On the one hand there were those who wanted to punish rioters severely, on the other those who saw rioters as victims. The language was of moral collapse and broken Britain or of poverty and inequality.
This paper explores some key aspects of what happened, explanations of what may have contributed to the disturbances, and the implications for youth work. As we will see, it is best to avoid notions such ‘broken Britain’ and simplistic linkages to reductions in government expenditure on young people and youth work if we are to find sensible solutions.
The disturbances can be seen as one of the most serious instances of civil unrest in a generation. More than 3,000 people were arrested and five people died. To understand what happened it is necessary to separate out five different but overlapping behaviours in the events of August 6-10th, 2011.
First, there was protest. Born of specific concerns and anger around the shooting by the Metropolitan Police of Mark Duggan close to Tottenham Hale Station on August 4th, a group of around 120 people marched from Broadwater Farm to Tottenham police station – and remained there dissatisfied with the response they received. In particular, there were concerns about the manner of the shooting (and whether ‘race’ played a part); and what was perceived by his family and some local people as a failure by the local police force in keeping them informed of developments. At this early stage fears were expressed by local community leaders that rioting could occur. Protest was present in what then followed, but had various dimensions. The police remained the most significant focus for protest – and this was reflected in some of the chanting etc. directed at them. In particular, experience of police practices such as ‘stop and search’ appears to have been an important motivation for activity.
Second, we find rioting. The first disturbances occurred after the initial protest. However, from the second night on we saw significant numbers of young people taking to the streets in some poorer neighbourhoods in London. While there was some looting, a great deal of the activity was aimed at gaining control of certain areas (often for a short period of time) from the Police and, more generally, ‘sticking two fingers up’ to authority. There was some debate in the midst of things as to whether this activity constituted ‘riot’ – a violent disturbance of the public peace by people assembled for a common purpose. The behaviour was certainly riot in its original sense – dispute and quarrel – and harks back to another possible root of the word, the Latin to roar (rūgīre). One of the new elements was the ability of the ‘rioters’ to organise activities via messaging particularly via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).
Third, and attracting much media attention, was looting. It was a feature of the disturbances from the first night – but grew in intensity. Much of looting appears opportunistic and to have happened because people elsewhere had shown it could be done. In London, much looting took place in or close to the neighbourhoods where those involved lived (the main exception here being Ealing, although even here there was significant local participation). A contrasting picture emerged in Birmingham and Manchester where people appear to have travelled into the city centre from quite distant neighbourhoods to join in the looting and disturbances. A certain proportion of the looting was organised and targeted.
Fourth, significant damage was done to property and to businesses. Such damage was summed by two images – both of fire destroying buildings – Union Point Tottenham and Reeves Corner, Croydon. At least 100 families were made homeless. A report in the Financial Times suggests that around 48,000 local businesses suffered financial losses as a result of the disturbances. It is thought that the cost of of compensation in London alone could be around £300 million.
Last, there were significant numbers of younger people spectating. The unusual nature of what was happening, the spectacle and excitement, drew many to the areas where action was occurring (or about to occur). With rolling news coverage, they were joined by large numbers of people sitting at home. Spectating – looking on – was an important aspect of what happened. Knowledge that there was an audience for disturbance – and one that spread well beyond the immediate situation – may well encouraged further action. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there appears to have been an element of ‘let’s show them’ in some of the events [7a].
One of the problems when trying to make sense of all this is that much of the focus in coverage has been on looting. To some extent it was ‘news’. The scale of the looting compared to the previous rounds of disturbances was worthy of attention – but it does mean that much of the data we have derives from arrests made around this element.
From this data we can say that most of those arrested were young adults, male and from poor neighbourhoods.
- In an initial analysis of those who came to court in the first week, Alex Singleton (2011) found that 41% of suspects living in one of the top 10% of most deprived places in the country. The data also shows that 66% of neighbourhoods where the accused live got poorer between 2007 and 2010. Very few of those appearing in court had jobs or were students (around 9% in total of the first 1000 cases). The Institute of Public Policy Research (2011) found that in an overwhelming majority of the worst-affected areas, youth unemployment and child poverty were significantly higher than the national average while education attainment was significantly lower.
- When the first thousand cases are examined we find 66% of those who have appeared in court are aged under 25. 17% aged between 11 and 17. A very small number were aged over 30. More than 90% are male.
- Ethnicity and ‘race’ form a further feature that must be addressed. Unlike some of the disturbances in the early 1980s the August events did not, on the whole, pit one ethnic community against another, although there were some exceptions, for example in some aspects of events in Birmingham and Ealing, and implicitly, Eltham. However, many of the poorerneighbourhoods affected have large ‘black’ populations. Ministry of Justice and Home Office analysis showed that 46% of defendants were ‘black’, 42% ‘white’ and 7% ‘Asian’. At one level this could be expected given the nature of the initial incident and protest – and the extent to which ‘stop and search’ has been directed against ‘black’ young people.
If we look at those involved in the rioting and immediate spectating there is some anecdotal evidence (from workers etc.) that a different demographic applies. A larger number appear to have been aged between 11 and 17 (although this needs some careful checking).
A great deal of media attention and political comment has focused on the role of gangs. Here it is probably worth defining what is meant here. Simon Hallsworth and Tara Young have defined a gang as follows:
A relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group’s identity.
In London it was said initially that around 25 per cent of those arrested were connected with gangs. This figure has subsequently dropped to 19 per cent (337 suspects from 169 different gangs). Outside London less than 10 per cent were identified as being gang members. Most forces report that gangs did not play a ‘pivotal role’. One of the knock-on effects of this has been an increase in gang activity in prisons. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has reported a significant rise in young people on suicide watch, and that prison service staff ‘were seeing changes in gang activity with some young people joining up despite having no previous involvement. The key motivation appeared to be self-protection as the established prison population turned on newly-arriving inmates’.
The Metropolitan Police have identified just under 200 gangs operating in London – and these are said to be responsible for a fifth of all youth crime. They were found to have around 20 to 30 members. The total youth membership of London gangs is probably no more 2000 according to one report. Around 40 per cent of members are reluctant or occasional affiliates.
Local evidence suggests that gangs were involved in organising some of the targeted robberies of specialist stores e.g. concerned with electronics and sportswear. These robberies have some of the hallmarks of ram-raiding in the 1980s. There is also some anecdotal evidence of members orchestrating disturbances in other locations in order to distract police attention.
One of the significant aspects of the rioting that took place is the way in which groups and gang members from different postcodes and neighbourhoods who are normally antagonistic to each other joined to combat a common foe (the police).
Care needs to be taken around over-emphasising the role of gangs. They are an aspect of the situation – but we need to look well beyond them to appreciate what happened in the August disturbances.
Five main strands have appeared in explanations of why the disturbances happened. It is, however, necessary to issue an initial warning:
- Several things were happening at once – each with different elements – there is no satisfactory single explanation for what occurred.
- Deep-seated economic, social and cultural change combined with flawed policies and approaches concerning young people and marginalised neighbourhoods, and with some initially counter-productive responses, to create an explosive mix.
There are two important aspects to explanations involving policing – one long-term; the other to do with reaction to the events of August 6th-10th.
Long-term policing practices. One of the central elements in what young people involved in the disturbances have said (see below) concerns their long-term experience of policing in the neighbourhoods where they live. Two particular dimensions stand out – what is perceived as the overuse of ‘stop and search’ and ‘stop and account’ (especially with young ‘black’ men), and degree to which young people are criminalised for being together on the street. As an Equality and Human Rights Commission review found, a number of police forces have been using ‘stop and search’ tactics in ways that are disproportionate and possibly discriminatory.
The figures are stark: if you are black, you are at least six times as likely to be stopped and searched by the police in England and Wales as a white person. If you are Asian, you are around twice as likely to be stopped and searched as a white person.
The Commission concluded that the evidence suggests racial stereotyping and discrimination remain significant factors behind the higher rates of stops and searches for black and Asian people than white people.
Alongside ‘stop and search’ there are number of practices and policies that have caused considerable resentment among key groups of young people. For example, dispersal orders (under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003) have been disproportionately used against groups of young people. As one investigation found, dispersal orders can ‘antagonise and alienate young people who frequently feel unfairly stigmatised for being in public places’.
The events of August 6th – 10th provided an opportunity for payback. The failure or inability to mobilize sufficient numbers of police trained to handle street disturbances created the chance to ‘get one over on the police’ (see below).
Reaction to events. A certain amount of criticism has been directed at the way that local police handled the situation surrounding the shooting of Mark Duggan. This included what was seen as a failure to keep the family informed of what was happening, and issuing incorrect information concerning the shooting. Taken together, these may well have inflamed the immediate local situation.
A further area of criticism concerns the failure to scale up and strengthen the police response on the second night of disturbances. In the wake of criticism of the policing of the student demonstrations earlier in the year (especially of kettling [corralling] and the handling of demonstrators and onlookers) care was being taken not to inflame situations. When this was combined with not having enough police on the streets on the second night, the rolling news channel coverage included a lot of material focusing on police retreating or having to stand by while looting and rioting took place. This could have been a factor in generating copy-cat activities the next night. It certainly enraged government ministers who then took the opportunity to present themselves as pushing police services into stronger action and to set out an agenda for reform. Senior police officers and representatives of rank and file police officers reacted angrily – and quite understandably – to this. They argued that operational independence should not be compromised, and that it takes time to scale up and alter the response.
Two things are worth noting here. First, there had been a major and largely unpredicted shift in the direction of the disturbances towards looting – and this required a different tactical response. Second, while messaging was a feature of the earlier student riots and demonstrations, it provided a major tactical headache during the August riots. Messaging facilitated the orchestration of disturbances and criminal activity and the stretching of police responses.
An earlier, stronger police intervention may have reduced the scale of looting – but there has to be some doubt about this. There are lessons to be learnt about the handling of potentially inflammatory incidents; intelligence and the monitoring of messaging etc.; and the range of tactical responses open to officers. Along with this there remains important worries about the use of ‘stop and search, and dispersal orders and similar instruments and practices. This said, there were strong social forces at work which were going to surface as an ‘explosion’ – and will continue to find violent expression unless they are properly addressed.
One of the striking features of recent research is that feelings of happiness (and more concrete indicators of well-being) weaken the wider the differences in rich and poor in a country. In other words, the higher the level of inequality in a society, the more likely its members will be unhappy. This is of special significance for the United Kingdom where the gap between rich and poor is now very similar to Victorian times and is one of the widest in the ‘developed’ world – second only to the US. Children and young people appear to have suffered significantly as a result. Researchers involved in a major UNICEF initiative made a comprehensive assessment of the lives of children and young people in 21 nations of the industrialized world. They issued a ‘Report Card’ to encourage monitoring, to permit comparison, and to stimulate the discussion and development of policies to improve children’s lives. The United Kingdom and the United States find themselves in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed.
With the world banking crisis of 2008, the associated rise in unemployment, and the large-scale cutbacks in public education and welfare from 2010 onwards, economic inequality appears to be growing. Moreover, it is children and young people who have disproportionately borne the burden of this. For example, in 2009 around 2.2 million children lived in absolute poverty. A situation that was further exacerbated by the fact that parenting in the sorts of neighbourhoods we are focusing in here ‘requires more money than it does in less urban areas and low-income parents struggle to meet even basic costs for their children’. Projections produced by the Institute of Fiscal Studies indicate that by 2015 the number of children living in absolute poverty will rise to 3 million.
There are some profound costs to this. As Offer has commented, ‘being low down the scale of absolute income is associated with misery – with shorter lives, bad health, discrimination, poor education, incarceration and other detriments’.
Wrapped up with this is the impact of materialism. As another recent UNICEF research report put it, ‘materialism is thought to be a cause, as well as an effect of negative well-being, and countries that have higher levels of inequality are known to score lower on subjective wellbeing indicators’. Looking at the experience of children in the UK, Sweden and Spain, they concluded:
It seems that children are more likely to thrive where the social context makes it possible for them to have time with family and friends, to get out and about without having to spend money, to feel secure about who they are rather than what they own, and to be empowered to develop resilience to pressures to consume.
At the same time, the possession of ‘status technology’ like particular phones, and the wearing of certain clothing brands play an important part in ‘creating or reinforcing social divisions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’’). Parents in the UK report feeling under tremendous pressure to buy goods for their children (often against their better judgement). Not unexpectedly, this pressure was most strongly felt in low-income homes. It appears that many families in the UK tend to use ‘the purchase of new material objects (particularly new technology) in an attempt to compensate for relationship problems and social insecurity’.
What the events of early August provided was a short-lived opportunity for some young people both to gain status items (‘get free stuff’) and to ‘get out and about without having to spend money’! However, we should not push the focus on status items too far. A number of those looting were looking for more basic items like food.
A third aspect of discussion of the August disturbances concerns moral collapse – signs of a decline in the ability to tell right from wrong, and to act appropriately. This discourse is not confined to describing the activities of rioters. The widespread abuse of the expenses system by MPs; the endemic invasion of privacy by the UK press, most significantly the News of the World; and the failure of bankers and fund managers within certain parts of the financial system to work to proper standards – and the role this had in creating recession – have all been the focus of public debate and comment. In each case there has been an emphasis upon private gain at the expense of the whole and the use of practices that were either illegal or lacked moral responsibility. The result, it can be argued, has been a significant decline in confidence in the abilities of those in these important sectors – and in their readiness to act for the good of society.
The example of MPs, newspapers, and elements of the financial system set a tone it could be argued. Their actions were cited by some of those involved in the August disturbances as a justification for their activities. However, there has also been comment in the media about shifts in value systems and behaviours amongst those living in poorer and more marginalized neighbourhoods. Part of this has centred around the extent to which people expect, and have become dependent upon, state financial support – and to place responsibility for their situation on others. This is often contrasted with the ways in which those that do work or are prudent with their money are penalized.
Whether this represents a moral collapse is doubtful. There have always been those ready to exploit people and situations with little or no care for the harm it does to others or the morality of their actions. However, with secularization, the growth of competitive individualism, and the decline of key mass membership organizations like unions and political parties, many people have less access to social environments where moral questions and collective responsibility are directly addressed.
There have been changes in the experience and nature of households in poorer areas over the last decade or so – but whether this constitutes social breakdown is also a matter for some debate.
First, there has been a significant reduction in household size and a change in the nature of local populations. This has a number of causes as Rogers and Power comment:
… more elderly people are surviving, but they are living separately from their children; later marriage and childbearing; fewer children per family; more broken marriages and more lone parents; more economic independence for women.
The effects are starker in cities because childless households and lone-parent families are concentrated there. Cities attract young people and new immigrants, but tend to lose established working families. They also retain an elderly, ‘left-behind’ population.
Second, the proportion of dependent children in Great Britain living with a lone parent has almost doubled over the last twenty years (from 14 per cent in 1986 to 24 per cent in 2006. This has a number of important implications for the experiences of children and young people. First, the households they are living in are poorer. Second, there tend to be more problems in parent-child relationships – ‘linked probably to the experience of stress, low morale and depressive mood in both mothers and fathers’. As one overview reported, ‘Children brought up in one-parent families are more likely to take drugs, drop out of school and end up in prison’. Other commentators have drawn attention to the impact of absent fathers and lack of appropriate male role models.
This set of arguments needs handling with care. Over the last 15 years or so there has been a growing amount of evidence that once as children grow older their peer group becomes a far more significant influence than their parent or parents. Parents can have some influence over choice of peer group – but this also becomes limited. Certainly, peer pressure has been reported as an important aspect of young people’s involvement in the ‘riots’ of August 2011. A number have talked about the impact of messaging – of being told about what was happening or about to happen – and being ‘expected to be there’ (see below).
The debate over the impact of all this and the extent to which it fuelled the disturbances has tended to focus on the experiences of ‘black’ young people – partly because ‘65% of black Caribbean children in Britain grow up in a single-parent family’. There has also been a focus on educational underachievement by ‘black’ Caribbean young men. However, a high proportion of white working class children and young people in the sort of neighbourhoods in which the disturbances took place also grow up in one-parent households and underachieve to the same degree at school.
We need to be careful about social breakdown arguments. There may well be particular problems in specific neighbourhoods – and these may well have been exacerbated by growing social polarization and inequality. However, when we take a historical view we have to be cautious about whether there has been a step change. As a recent Young Foundation report on civility put it:
…our research shows that generalisations about declining standards of civility are inaccurate and problematic. While there are flashpoints of incivility, these tend to be contained to certain places or certain times. But in general Britain remains a well-mannered and courteous country. We still compare favourably to other developed nations. Most people still feel like they can trust others and that their neighbourhoods are free from anti-social behaviour.
From the above discussion it is apparent that flawed or debatable government policies (some of which are longstanding may have contributed to the situation. Here I want to highlight four:
First, there has been a failure by governments over the last thirty years to properly address social housing. It has been a low priority area in terms of policy. This has aggravated the problems experienced in many poorer neighbourhoods. While there has been investment in existing stock and general improvements in the condition of houses and flats, very little has been done to increase the number of homes available. With the sort of demographic shifts already outlined, and the inability of many people to get on the home-owning ladder, this has had a major impact – both in terms of the cost of housing (forcing people into the private rented sector) and working to undermine the stability of local neighbourhoods.
Second, there has been a growing and long-run issue around young people’s access to public space. The use of dispersal orders and the like combined with the extent to which young people are discouraged from congregating in commercial areas like shopping malls has been problematic.
[For] many young people, meeting peers in local public spaces constitutes a fundamental aspect of developing their own sense of identity, and provides space in which to forge their independent capacity to manage risk and danger. In the absence of suitable alternative venues, public spaces constitute key resources for young people.
Third, there is the whole area of policy following the banking crisis of 2008 and the extent to which the austerity programme is undermining social cohesion. There is a perception that those at the bottom and middle of the household income scales are paying disproportionately for the failures that occurred. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a question of perception. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (op. cit.) states,
…the impact of changes to personal tax and benefit policy announced by this coalition government is to increase relative child poverty by 200,000 in both 2015-16 and 2020-21, and to increase relative poverty for working-age adults by 200,000 in 2015– -16 and 400,000 in 2020-21. The reforms are forecast to increase absolute child poverty by 200,000 in 2015-16 and 300,000 in 2020-21, and to increase absolute working-age poverty by 300,000 in 2015—16 and 700,000 in 2020-21.
Fourth, the speed and the way in which decisions were made with regard to cutbacks in government support for young people has resulted in some poor decisions which may well have contributed to the situation. The most obvious areas concern the message sent by abolition of Educational Maintenance Allowances (which was cited by a number of young people as a motivating factor for involvement – see below), and major cuts to summer programmes and to extended schooling (which often provided holiday schemes). This conclusion has been disputed by government ministers, but there is some evidence that summer programmes have provided ‘diversionary’ activity for young people.
Just how strong any of these elements was in the events of early August is a matter for debate and research. We will have a clearer picture of the motivations and rationalisations of those involved in December – thanks to a major study being undertaken by the London School of Economics and the Guardian (funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Open Society Foundations). However, we have some useful starting points. As one presenter (Richard [Beef] Frankland) to a seminar on the August ‘riots’ reported, four themes were repeated in the conversations of those involved in the weeks after the disturbances:
1. Getting one over on the police. The relative powerlessness of the police in the early stages encouraged a number of people to ‘take back the streets’.
2. Peer pressure. Many felt they had to be seen to take part – some quite reluctantly. Interestingly a few young people who were electronically tagged (as a result of early release from detention) and subject to a home detention curfew expressed relief at not being able to be involved.
3. A bit of history. The riots and disturbances offered young people a chance to be part of something significant. They were making history.
This analysis has been subsequently confirmed in its essentials by a study by Gareth Morrell and colleagues for the Cabinet Office. They mentioned three main motivations:
- Something exciting to do: the riots were seen as an exciting event – a day like no other – described in terms of a wild party or “like a rave”. The party atmosphere, adrenaline and hype were seen as encouraging and explaining young people’s involvement by young people themselves and community stakeholders.
- The opportunity to get free stuff: the excitement of the events was also tied up with the thrill of getting “free stuff” – things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.
- A chance to get back at police: in Tottenham, the rioting was described as a direct response to the police handling of the shooting of Mark Duggan. Here and elsewhere in London, the Mark Duggan case was also described as the origin of the riots and the way it was handled was seen as an example of a lack of respect by the police that was common in the experience of young black people in some parts of London. Outside London, the rioting was not generally attributed to the Mark Duggan case. However, the attitude and behaviour of the police locally was consistently cited as a trigger outside as well as within London. [37a]
The researchers mention peer pressure – but demote it’s significance to a ‘situational factor’ (probably wrongly when one talks to those working at the time with people involved in the ‘riots’).
We have yet to see what response the government will make. The main reaction thus far has been ‘steady as you go’. There has been no significant pulling back from the planned reductions on expenditure on policing and youth services, for example. There are some indications that central government policy with regard to the latter will continue to move towards a more targeted, welfare/social work model with the focus on combatting ‘dangerous behaviours around teenagers’. They will leave other forms of provision to voluntary organisations and the private sector.
There are major issues with this approach – most significantly that it fails to pay attention to the social context and relationships in which these behaviours occur. We know, for example, that looking to wider social networks, neighbourhood life and general family life pays considerable dividends in terms of raising educational achievement, reducing crime and stimulating economic activity. One of the things that agencies and organisations will need to do is to continue to make this case to government and to funders.
One of the key points to bear in mind however, is the extent to which reaction to the ‘riots’ will skew, or be used as an excuse to keep, policy away from some of the fundamentals. In other words, the focus will be on, for example, changes to curfew arrangements and tougher sentences for gang members. In the two months following the ‘riots’ and disturbances there have been a series of research reports highlighting the long-running and fundamental issues discussed here including growing inequality and poverty; and the lack of employment opportunities for young people and the significant rise in the cost of education post-16. This is where major action is needed – but is unlikely to be forthcoming.
In respect of what is likely to be a more limited policy response there are some obvious lines of development. The general shape of these was sketched out byThe Economist:
The things that might work include both nice and nasty measures, as Mr Cameron should have the common sense to see. Broadly speaking, the cuddly ones should be focused on vulnerable children and the tough ones on miscreant adults. Schools should provide more pre- and after-school care to make up for parental absences. The coalition should press on with its plans to revive vocational education for unacademic pupils: that might help more of them feel they have the prospect of a decent and legal income. More resources should be found for youth work in rough neighbourhoods: teenagers spend a small fraction of their time at school, yet teachers are expected to socialise and discipline as well as educate them.
Just whether the last of these is likely to happen on any scale is a matter of debate. Following the ‘riots’ there were a number of influential voices questioning the impact of youth work. For example, Kit Malthouse, the deputy mayor for policing in London, has argued that tens of millions of pounds have been ‘squandered on youth services’ that have done little to curb juvenile offending. Too many London projects had focused on “entertainment” and “diversion”.
Being clearer about what youth work is and offers; to shape their work appropriately; and to tell people about it.
Youth work was born, and remains fundamentally a part, of civil society. It is, at heart, about relationship and association – connecting and being with others – and the good that can flow from this. Youth work involves:
- Facilitating relationships that allow young people to grow and flourish.
- Creating spaces with the chance to reflect, learn and grow.
- Enabling opportunities for people to freely to join together to organize and take part in groups and activities.
A range of evidence shows that local work with young people continues to offer sanctuary (a space away from the pressures of the school, family and neighbourhood); accessible and enjoyable activity; personal and social development; settings where friendships and relationships grow; and access to local knowledge and to credible role models.
Working for extended schooling
Given that 94 per cent of young people regularly attend school (with most of those not attending in any one year being absent due to illness or ‘family holidays’) it becomes obvious that youth work needs to be an element of schooling. Indeed, many local projects are involved in schools work – and offer a bridge out to local civil society.
In a number of schools the contribution of youth workers and informal educators is recognised – but in many others it is not. One of the unremarked, but fundamental, aspects of schooling in deprived areas is the role that specialist educators like youth workers and learning mentors play in providing a daily reference point and support for young people who have trouble with the schooling system or that are experiencing problems in their home life or social situation. This intervention and support is not generally available over holiday periods – and it is likely that its absence contributed to some of the young people getting involved in the disturbances.
Unfortunately, extended schooling is under significant threat and yet it offers an important lifeline for many children and young people. There were major reductions in budgets during the last financial year and this has impacted on the ability to offer out of school activity – including holiday provision. There currently appears to be a major problem around breakfast clubs. A recent survey of teaching staff by Kelloggs (which runs more than 500 breakfast clubs in partnership with charity ContinYou) found that up to half of them could close because of threats to school budgets.
Local youth work agencies need to look at what they offer and to consider what it offers to schooling. They need to make a stronger case for the benefits to schools of the sort of associational and relational activity that youth work offers. In addition, they need to add their voices to those opposing the current cuts to extended schooling.
Developing, and making the case for streetwork
It is important to make contact with those not in schooling and education – and for those who are unemployed. One of the classic means is streetwork. Unfortunately, it is rarely understood or properly appreciated by policymakers and local managers. It is a long-term, community-based activity that involves building relationships with people who are often very distrustful of professionals.
Some of the most interesting work in the areas affected by the August ‘riots’ was streetwork. There were a number of reports (and some later anecdotal evidence) of the impact of those working around the fringes of gangs, with gang members and with young people on the street. For example, youth workers in a number of areas sought out those they were working with and encouraged them away from involvement. Another feature was the number of workers involved in mediating between young people and the police during the disturbances. There does appear to be a need for additional investment in this area – but it does need approaching carefully.
First, there is the need to distinguish between those agencies who are undertaking significant work and those who have the ability to ‘sell’ their activities but whose work has little real substance.
Second, some of the work is successful precisely because it is not government sponsored or funded, nor subject to the sort of outcome criteria many funders require, Perhaps the most interesting example here is the example of street pastors. Their concern with both the behaviour and soul of those involved with gangs etc. and the approach they take would usually fall foul of the requirements of state funders and commissioners. Yet in a number of respects it is this very orientation that contributes to their success.
Building civil society
Beyond the immediate role of youth workers in relation to disturbances, there is a lot to be done when looking at some of the things that young people are saying about their experiences – and policies that still fail to support the generation of social capital (which is by its nature a ‘universal’ form of intervention). There is ‘extraordinary potential’ in supporting and generating small groups and associations – and growing evidence (in contradiction of talk of Broken Britain) of people rediscovering the power of face-to-face group life. Such activity has, historically, lain at the heart of youth work – and it is necessary for us to explore with young people new forms of group and associational life.
 This briefing was prepared for a Rank Foundation (yarn) network seminar on youth work and the riots held in London at the Royal Festival Hall on October 19th, 2011. It was revised to take into account discussion at the event - and subsequently to take account of new research.
 Stephenson, W. (2011). “Tottenham police ‘could have stopped riots’”. London: BBC. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14646187. Retrieved 10 October 2011.]
 A number of young people and youth workers participating in a Rank Foundation (yarn) network seminar on the ‘riots’ (October 19, 2011, London) talked about the significance of the experience of ‘stop and search’ in hardening attitudes to policing.
 A timeline of events can be found on the BBC news website [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10321233. Retrieved 1 October 2011].
 Meikle, J. (2011) ‘Families made homeless by riots will be compensated’,The Guardian August 11. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/11/families-homeless-riots-compensated. Retrieved 1 October 2011].
 Moore, E. (2011). ‘Riots hit retail shares ‘at worst time’’. The Financial Times. 12 August 2011. [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/a60382c6-c1d2-11e0-bc71-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1We4WbJt5. Retrieved 11 September 2011].Estmates for London were reported by Dodd, V. (2011). ‘Counting the cost’, The Guardian October 25, 2011, p. 14.
[7a] A subsequent report by Gareth Morrell, Sara Scott, Di McNeish and Stephen Webster (2011) prepared for the Cabinet Office has a 4 category typology of involvement: watchers, rioters, looters and the non-involved. They wrongly place protest as a subheading under rioting. (The August Riots in England. Understanding the involvement of young people. London: NatCen. [http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/The%20August%20Riots%20in%20England%20(pdf,%201mb).pdf. Retrieved November 3,2011])
 Taylor, M. et. al. (2011). ‘England rioters: young, poor and unemployed’.The Guardian. 18 August 2011. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/18/england-rioters-young-poor-unemployed. Retrieved 18 August 2011]. Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) (2011). Exploring the relationship between riot areas and deprivation – an IPPR analysis. London. [http://www.ippr.org/articles/56/7857/exploring-the-relationship-between-riot-areas-and-deprivation--an-ippr-analysis. Retrieved 30 August 2011].
 Travis, A. (2011). ‘UK riots analysis reveals gangs did not play pivotal role’,The Guardian. October 25, 2011. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/24/riots-analysis-gangs-no-pivotal-role?. Retrieved October 25, 2011].
 The Ministry of Justice/Home Office study dealing with gang membership was reported in Travis, A. (2011). ‘UK riots analysis reveals gangs did not play pivotal role’, The Guardian. October 25, 2011. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/24/riots-analysis-gangs-no-pivotal-role?. Retrieved October 25, 2011]. Material concerning prison life is fromCasciani, D. (2011). ‘New gangs forming in jails after riots, watchdog warns’.BBC News. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14911174. Retrieved 22 September 2011].
 BBC News (2007). ‘Police identify 169 London gangs’. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6383933.stm. Retrieved 20 August 2011].
 Equality and Human Rights Commission (2010). Stop and think – a critical review of the use of stop and search powers in England and Wales. London: Equality and Human Rights Commission. [http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/raceinbritain/ehrc_stop_and_
search_report.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2011].
 Brewer, M. et. al. (2011). Child and Working-Age Poverty from 2010 to 2020. London: Institute of Fiscal Studies. [http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/comm121.pdf. Retrieved 11 October 2011].
 Dunnell, K. (2008). Diversity and different experiences in the UK National Statistician’s Annual Article on Society. London: Office of National Statistics. [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/articles/nojournal/NSA_article.pdf]
 The Economist (2011) ‘The black community wrestles with the causes of the riots’. September 3, 2011. [http://www.economist.com/node/21528285Retrieved 5 September 2011]
 See, for example, Sewell, T. (2010). ‘Black boys are too feminised’, The Guardian March 15. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/15/black-boys-too-feminised-fathers. Retrieved October 20, 2011].
 The Economist (2011) ‘The black community wrestles with the causes of the riots’. September 3, 2011. [http://www.economist.com/node/21528285Retrieved 5 September 2011]
 O’Sullivan, C. (2011). Charm Offensive: Cultivating Civility in 21st Century Britain. London: The Young Foundation. [http://www.youngfoundation.org/files/images/CharmOffensive_FINAL.pdf. Retrieved 11 October 2011].
 Lewis, P. (2011). ‘Understanding the England riots from the perspective of those responsible’. The Guardian 10 October 2011. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/10/learning-england-riots-perspective-responsible. Retrieved 10 October 2011]
 Richard (Beef) Frankland, Prospex Youth Services Manager, Presentation to a Rank Foundation (yarn) Network Seminar on ‘youth work and the riots’. held in London at the Royal Festival Hall on October 19th, 2011.
[37a] Gareth Morrell, Sara Scott, Di McNeish and Stephen Webster (2011). The August Riots in England. Understanding the involvement of young people. London: NatCen. Page 5. [http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/The%20August%20Riots%20in%20England%20(pdf,%201mb).pdf. Retrieved November 3,2011]
 BBC News (2011). England riots: Police could get wider curfew powers. August 16. BBC News. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14538252. Accessed October 20, 2011]. See, also Ian Duncan Smith trailing an upcoming report to tackle gun and gang crime reported in Wintour, P. (2011). ‘Intervention before birth in problem families’, The Guardian October 21, p.21.
 The Economist (2011). ‘The knees jerk. Both poverty and culture contributed to England’s riots. The response must address both’. 20 August 2011. [http://www.economist.com/node/21526361. Retrieved 21 August 2011].
 Bentham, M. (2011). ‘Millions of pounds wasted in bid to curb youth crime’. London Evening Standard. September 21. [http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23989404-millions-of-pounds-wasted-in-bid-to-curb-youth-crime.do. Retrieved October 20, 2011].
 Spence, J. and Smith, M. K with Frost, S. and Hodgson T. (2011) myplace evaluation – final report. London: Department for Education. [https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/myplace%20Evaluation%20-%20Final%20report.pdf].
 Department for Children, Schools and Families (2009). Statistical Release: Pupil Absence in Schools Autumn Term 2008 and Spring Term 2009.SFR 29/2009. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families. [http://www.education.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000882/SFR29_2009withTables.pdf. Accessed: March 10, 2011]
 Mahadevan, J. (2011). ‘Pressure on school budgets threatens future of breakfast clubs’. Children and Young People Now. 11 October 2011. [http://www.cypnow.co.uk/Education/article/1097886/pressure-school-budgets-threatens-future-breakfast-clubs/?DCMP=EMC-CONInPractice. Retrieved 11 October 2011.]
Acknowledgement: The picture Riot in Tottenham is by Surian Soosay and is reproduced under a Creative Commons licence – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ssoosay/6018083181/in/photostream/
How to cite this piece: Smith, M. K. (2011). ‘Young people and the 2011 ‘riots’ in England – experiences, explanations and implications for youth work’. The encycopedia of informal education.[http://www.infed.org/archives/jeffs_and_smith/young_people_youth_work_and_the_
From Kenan Maliks blog Pandaemonium
For someone like me, a European in favour of mass immigration but critical of multiculturalism, the Trudeau Foundation conference on ‘The Making of Citizens’ that took place last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was both intriguing and fascinating. The Foundation was set up in 2001 in memory of former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, a key architect of Canada’s multicultural policy. Its aim is to promote and fund research in the humanities and social sciences and, while not attached to any political party, the Foundation’s work is indelibly stamped with the liberal humanitarianism that many see as Trudeau’s principal political legacy and which, in many ways, has come to shape Canada’s self-definition. Multiculturalism, in this sense, is to Canada as the welfare state is to Britain.
Two themes seemed to run through ‘The Making of Citizens’ conference. The first was the belief that the debate between multiculturalism and its critics maps neatly on to the debate between those who favour immigration and those who are hostile to it; in other words, that those who oppose multiculturalism necessarily oppose immigration and that those who defend immigration can only do so by defending multiculturalism. The second theme was the insistence that Canadian multiculturalism is distinct from the European version, and suffers from none of the defects of the latter.
The first point is unquestionably false. In Germany, for example, multiculturalism developed as a means of denying citizenship to Turkish migrants. Turks had come to Germany originally as temporary ‘guestworkers’ but had subsequently become permanent residents, largely because Germany continued to need their labour. The German government, however, until the law was changed a decade ago, did not wish to grant citizenship, even to those of Turkish origin born in Germany. In place of citizenship and a genuine status in society, immigrants were ‘allowed’ to keep own culture, language and lifestyles. Multiculturalism developed, in other words, not as a means of embracing immigration but as a way of keeping immigrants at arms’ length. In Britain, multiculturalism developed as part of the ‘twin track’ strategy on immigration: on the one hand the imposition of increasingly restrictive immigration controls, initially designed specifically to exclude non-whites, and on the other, the creation of a social framework aimed at facilitating the integration of black and Asian communities into British society.
In Canada, too, the relationship between multiculturalism and immigration is far from straightforward. Historically, the policy developed as a way not of welcoming immigrants but of mitigating the impact of ‘biculturalism’ – the fracture and tensions between French and English speaking Canada. And, for all the insistence that Canada has a liberal immigration policy, Ottawa has in fact worked very hard to keep out the ‘wrong’ kind of immigrant. Canadian policy is largely about cherry picking middle class professionals and making it almost impossible for unskilled workers to cross the border. Little wonder that many European nations are now looking to Canada’s points system as a model for immigration control.
The second theme – about the distinctiveness of Canadian multiculturalism, and about its success in comparison to Europe – is, on the surface at least, more plausible. Community relations in Canada have certainly remained relatively peaceful, and there has been far less of the violence and tensions found in Europe. I remain unconvinced, however, by the argument that all is rosy in Canadian multicultural garden for a number of reasons. Many of the problems in Europe to which Canadians often allude – inner city riots, for instance – are the products, not of multiculturalism, but of racism, though multiculturalism has certainly helped entrench old racial divisions and create new communal antagonisms. Canada is no Utopia free of racial discrimination, nor of the tensions it generates. Moreover, the underlying problems with multicultural policies, problems that I have explored here andhere and here and here and here and here, don’t vanish on crossing the Atlantic. Indeed, many of confrontations that have marked European multicultural tensions – such as over free speech issues or the wearing of the burqa – are present in Canadian society too.
One of my criticisms of multiculturalism, and of the debate around it, has been about the confusion of the lived experience of diversity and the policies enacted to manage that diversity, confusion, in other words, between adescription of a society and a prescription for that society. A number of conference speakers suggested that Canadian multiculturalism amounts largely to a celebration of the lived experience of diversity, rather than the imposition of political policies. This seems to me unlikely for a number of reasons. First, because Canadian policy involves, as all multicultural policies must, a degree of prescription, and hence suffers, to some extent at least, from the problems that inevitably arise from all multicultural prescription – such as, for instance, the subcontracting out of political responsibility to so-called community leaders and the treating of individuals with a minority background as members of a group rather than simply as citizens.
Secondly, Canada, as I have already observed, does not have an open immigration policy but a highly restrictive one. The closed character of Canada’s immigration rules clearly impacts upon immigrants and potential immigrants. It also impacts upon Canada’s economic needs, which are often for the kinds of immigrants Canadian law deems socially unsuitable to be citizens. To get round this, businesses and both provincial and federal authorities are now drawing upon the services of hundreds of thousands of ‘temporary workers’. Temporary migration has, indeed, become the biggest source of new labour in Canada -182,322 temporary workers entered the country in 2010, coming to be fruit pickers, labourers, factory workers, janitors, waiters and chambermaids. They have few rights, no access to the services available to other immigrants, and are excluded from permanent residency or citizenship. Sound familiar?
The irony is that just as European nations are looking to Canada’s points system as a way of restricting immigration, Canada is adopting the European policy of temporary immigration without rights or status to fill its economic needs. This suggests that the same kinds of problems that Europe has faced may well be in store for Canada, too. It also suggests that when it comes to celebrating diversity, Canada has a highly restricted definition of the term. It is the diversity of those who are ‘like us’, not in terms of race or ethnicity, but in terms of class and outlook.
All of which explains why I remain sceptical about the claims for the success of the Canadian model. I will write a proper post about this in due course. I will also, in the next couple of days, post my talk at the conference. In the meantime, my thanks to the Trudeau Foundation for inviting me to speak, for accepting my scepticism with good grace, for a thoroughly enjoyable event and for opening up this much needed debate.
Some News In On The Attacks On Public Housing.
‘Self financing’ reform of Council housing finance is based on systematic underfunding. Already Birmingham, Nottingham and other councils plan to demolish thousands of council homes. Barking and Dagenham Council are discussing whole stock transfer, in face of Government plans to raise Right to Buy discounts, with no receipts available for new council housing.
A national protest at Parliament next week will challenge Government attacks and demand action to build the homes we need. A Housing Emergency protest on 15 November will oppose attacks on tenancies, rents and benefits, and demand new Council housing – see leaflet. AndDCH Briefing on the Localism Bill.
The Localism Bill, which MPs are now voting through, introduces fixed term tenancies, and powers to reduce succession rights, end homeless access to council housing and remove thousands from housing waiting lists.
Come to the meeting 5pm Committee Room 15 House of Commons, with MPs, councillors, trade unions, tenants and others.
Council consultation on Landlord (Tenancy) policies
Lobby Councils to reject permissive powers, stop fixed term tenancies, up to 80% market rents, and cuts in access to council housing. Organise speakers, meetings and lobbies for a joint tenant, union and councillors’ campaign for investment in the council housing we need – see council resolution.
DCH meeting 10 December
National meeting 12-4pm 10 December in Camden Town Hall Judd St London WC1H 9JE see map here
Councils to demolish homes to cut HRA debt
Councils will demolish thousands of homes to slash the amount of debt they take on under the imminent reform of the housing subsidy system.
Some authorities have drawn up plans in a matter of months this year to knock down hundreds of homes for financial gain. Other councils have fast-tracked proposals, an Inside Housing investigation has found.
They have acted because of an in-built ‘demolition deadline’ in plans to scrap the housing revenue account. Under the system the majority of town halls in England will take on a share of the existing £21 billion national housing debt based on the number of properties they own.
But stock set to be demolished before 2017 will not be included in the calculations – providing a sizeable financial incentive to demolish. It is understood the number of homes councils told the Communities and Local Government department they will demolish exceeded its expectations.
Nottingham and Birmingham councils have drawn up some of the most eye-catching plans – proposing to flatten more than 2,000 homes between them. All councils argue the homes picked would be costly to maintain and would not have a long-term future anyway.
Michael Gelling, chair of the Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England, said: ‘You have all this pressure [waiting lists] on the social housing sector and this will make it worse.’
In a paper seen by Nottingham Council’s executive board last month, the council, which currently has 13,000 people on its waiting list, said its arm’s-length management organisation had assessed all 29,000 of its homes as a result of the HRA reforms.
Demolishing 973 homes would reduce its HRA debt by £10.2 million. But the plans could prove controversial in some areas – 50 per cent of residents responded to consultation on one 209-home estate, with 51 per cent of those saying they favoured demolition.
Birmingham plans to flatten up to 1,279 homes. It failed to respond to Inside Housing’sinquiries but reportedly had more than 17,000 people on its waiting list earlier this year.
Council reports said the homes would be ‘costly to maintain’ and that the job to identify homes ‘is now underway as it will save a lot of money in debt repayment costs if tower blocks are identified for demolition by September’.
A paper presented to Eastbourne Council, which is demolishing a number of retirement blocks, added, ‘further demolitions and disposals of retirement courts will be necessary to allow the council to develop a viable HRA business plan’.
Ian Fitzpatrick, senior head of community at Eastbourne Council, said: ‘This process is all about good asset management over the long term.’
A CLG spokesperson said: ‘As landlords, local authorities are best placed to manage their housing stock taking account of local conditions, both of the housing stock itself and demand.’
Shame there’s little left in Norfolk…perhaps it’s just an issue of class! We continue to hope however.
So here’s some inspiration…
Well, you judge for yourselves!
Ms.Smith has been up at Asda on the Norwich ring road today launching her new Warm Up For Winter campaign, which offers advice to people on how best to fight off the cold in the coming months and ‘potentially save lives’.
Obviously she regards the days ‘campaigning’ as a bit of a blinder…
“It was really successful, and a lot of people were extremely interested in the information we had available and I was glad they found it helpful.
It was also positive to work alongside the council and have Age UK provide literature.
No one should face the choice between food and fuel. Too many of the elderly and vulnerable in our community suffer in the cold weather. This winter, it does not have to be that way.
If you have any questions about the help available to the elderly or vulnerable during the winter, please do come and see me at the surgery. I will have information on the financial assistance available as well as lots of practical and simple tips for keeping warm.”
Now we’re sure many of you will want to take her up on her piss-taking offer and get her to explain how exactly Tory cuts will reduce the annual mortality rate of elderly people who die of cold and lack of food during winter. This currently stands at around 25,000 people in the UK so we’re really interested in what this advice she’s offering could possibly be! Fifty push ups in the garden or chucking another family photo album on the hearth perhaps?
Here’s a tip …Jog on Chloe! (Now there’s an idea…)
Her next surgery will be at St George’s Church on Sprowston Road on December 4 at 11.30am.
See you there!
PRESS RELEASE - 08/11/2011 Now Or Never! magazine, in conjunction with digital rights activists The Electric Heretics , have issued a statement (see link below) to the applicants running for the Norwich South New Labour candidacy that their party should be more careful with their personal data.
Last weeks Newham Recorder had an interesting front page concerning a picket of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service office in Stratford.
Alan Craig, a former Councillor for the Newham Christian People’s Alliance was pictured speaking, where his comments apparently included the words:
“BPAS has become a large money spinning business. This centre is commercial opportunism to take advantage of Westfield Stratford City and the Olympics. BPAS have an interest in doing as many abortions as possible”
Mr Craig is an interesting character. Whilst the Christian Party tried and failed to break through in London boroughs with significant numbers of evangelical Christians (such as Lambeth and Hackney) the Newham Christian People’s Alliance managed to gain a couple of Councillors, and Craig earned himself a profile as a critic of Islamist extremism andan opponent of the plan by the Tablighi Jamaat to build a large mosque close to the Olympic site. As such, Alan Craig was a rare beast in contemporary London Christianity – a Christian who was not afraid to be associated with public criticism of strands of British Islam.
It is important to be clear about what BPAS is providing in Stratford, namely a walk in clinic for emergency contraception and safe termination services. That people using such facilities should have to run the gauntlet of protestors is profoundly disturbing. Whilst Alan Craig’s speech vaguely attempts to link BPAS to the gentrification of Stratford ahead of the Olympics, the Newham Recorder’s focus on him is not an entirely accurate summary of events.
The Stratford picket was the work of long term anti-abortion activists the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC, who’s acronym lends itself so easily to the heading SPUC off!) the US group 40 Days For Life and, adding a multi-cultural twist, Dr Majid Katme and the Islamic Medical Association. When it comes to restricting women’s choice the Catholic Church would not want to be left out – Friar Mark Swires, described as a local Catholic priest, also lent a hand to the picket.
Perhaps most disturbing was the report that residents sharing the block where BPAS is located have petitioned the buildings owner, One Housing, stating that granting a lease to BPAS contradicts their reputation for social responsibility. We could just as equally argue that giving in to the likes of SPUC and preventing local people getting advice and contraception is a denial of social responsibility – either way, no one is forcing anyone else to use the service BPAS provides.
The joining together of such ostensibly disperate religious currents on this issue is a reminder of what many of these characters ultimately have in common – a desire to interfere in the private lives of other people, and women in particular. Their morality has to be everyone else’s – be we in San Antonio, Saudi Arabia or Stratford. We would do well to resist them.
On the eve of the mass education/sparks/cabbies proteston 9th November, it is clear the state are trying to intimidate us.
From the news today that the police have written to protesters arrested at previous demonstrations warning them off protesting (see picture), to the “total policing” of the last couple of weeks witnessed at the squatting demoand deaths in custody march (amongst others), the message is clear; attempt to protest and the state will clamp down, act violently, and make arbitrary arrests. And, if you’re unlucky enough to get caught, the courts are making sure long deterrent sentences are passed, regardless of how insignificant the individual action, in attempt to scare us away from future protest.
However, whilst even seasoned activists have admitted to being a little scared at the current state of policing, it’s not all doom and gloom, and we mustn’t be tricked into feeling intimidated. It’s nearly the anniversary of the Met’s attempt to silence Fitwatch for giving common sense advice to the Millbank protesters. This is still recommended reading, as is this Fitwatch call to action.
Above all, we should be applying the lessons we have learnt on the streets over the last year. When we don’t just ‘walk on by’, and act in solidarity with each other, we are stronger; when we act as fast mobile blocs, we are more effective and harder to contain; when we sit down or put our hands in the air, we are fodder for baton strikes and kettling; when we refuse to play the divide and rule game and condemn fellow protesters, we are more threatening.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, when we mask up, and make no comment to police questioning, we are harder to convict and lock up.
See you on the streets!
Occupied With Conspiracies? The Occupy Movement, Populist Anti-Elitism, And The Conspiracy Theorists
All progressive social movements have dark sides, but some are more prone to them than others. Occupy Wall Street and its spin-offs, with their populist, anti-elitist discourse (“We Are the 99%”) and focus on finance capital, have already attracted all kinds of unsavory friends: antisemites, David Duke and White Nationalists, Oath Keepers, Tea Partiers, and followers of David Icke, Lyndon Larouche, and the Zeitgeist movement (see glossary below).
On one hand, there is nothing particularly new about this. The anti-globalization movement was plagued with these problems as well.(1) This was sometimes confusing to radicals who saw that movement as essentially Left-wing and anti-capitalist; when the radicals said “globalization,” they really meant something like the “highest stage of capitalism,” and so from their perspective, by opposing one they were opposing the other. The radicals often saw the progressives in the movement as sharing this same vision, only in an “incomplete way”—and that they only needed a little push (usually by a cop’s baton) to see that capitalism could not be reformed, and instead had to be abolished.
But for numerous others, “globalization” did not mean capitalism. Just as for the radicals, it functioned as a codeword: for some it meant finance capital (as opposed to industrial capital), while for others it meant the regime of a global elite constructing their “New World Order.” And either or both might also have meant the traditional Jewish conspiracy’s supposed global domination and control of the banking system. Whether they realized it or not, the many anti-authoritarians who praised this “movement of movements” as being based solely on organizational structure, with no litmus test for political inclusion, put out a big welcome sign for these dodgy folks. And in that door came all kinds of things, from Pat Buchanan to Troy Southgate.
But still, the anti-globalization movement in the United States was initiated by an anarchist / progressive coalition that in many ways controlled the content and discourse of it, giving it a classic Popular Front feel—the same way the old Communist Parties controlled large progressive coalitions for many decades. In contrast to this, Occupy Wall Street immediately took on a purely populist approach.
There are different ways to understand and oppose capitalism. There is a structural critique, usually associated with Marxism but often shared by anarchism, which seeks to understand the internal dynamics of capital and sees it as a system, beyond the control of any particular person or group. There is also an ethical critique, popular among religious groups and pacifists, which focuses less on the “whys” of capital and instead concentrates on its effects, looking at how it produces vast differences in wealth while creating misery, scarcity, and unemployment for most of the world. Last, there is a populist vision, which can transcend Left and Right. Populists have a narrative in which the “elites” are opposed to the “people.”
On one hand, this can be seem as a vague kind of socialism which counterposes the everyday worker against the truly rich. But it also lacks any kind of specific analysis of class or other social differences—the 99% are treated as one homogenous body. Usually the “people” are seen as the “nation,” and these 1% elites are perceived to be acting against the nation’s interests. From a radical, anti-capitalist viewpoint, this narrative may be wrong and “incomplete,” but by itself is not dangerous. In fact, many progressive and even socialist political movements have been based on it.
But the populist narrative is also an integral part of the political views of conspiracy theorists, far Right activists, and antisemites. For antisemites, the elites are the Jews; for David Icke, the elites are the reptilians; for nationalists, they are members of minority ethnic, racial, or religious groups; for others, they are the “globalists,” the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, the Federal Reserve, etc. All of these various conspiracy theories also tend to blend in and borrow from each other. Additionally, the focus on “Wall Street” also has specific appeal to those who see the elite as represented by finance capital, a particular obsession of the antisemites, Larouchites, followers of David Icke, etc. “The Rothschilds” are the favorite stand-in codeword of choice to refer to the supposed Jewish control of the banking system.
Much has already been said about the Occupy movement’s refusal to elucidate its demands. On one hand, this has been useful in mobilizing a diverse group of people who can project what they want to see in this movement—anarchists, Marxists, liberals, Greens, progressive religious practitioners, etc. On the other hand, this has been useful in mobilizing a diverse group of people who can project what they want to see in this movement—Ron Paulists, libertarians, antisemites, followers of David Icke, Zeitgeist movement folks, Larouchites, Tea Partiers, White Nationalists, and others. The discourse about the “99%” (after all, these Right-wingers and conspiracy mongers are probably a far greater proportion of the actual 99% than are anarchists and Marxists), along with the Occupy movement’s refusal to set itself on a firm political footing and correspondingly to place limitations on involvement by certain political actors, has created a welcoming situation for these noxious political elements to join.
So far, the overwhelmingly progressive nature of many of these Occupations has kept this element at bay. But it is only the weight of the numbers of the progressive participants that has done this. There are neither organizational structures within the Occupy movement, nor are there conceptual approaches that it is based on, that act to ensure this remains the case. So it is not unreasonable to expect that, especially as participation declines, some of the Occupations will be taken over by folks from these far Right and conspiratorial perspectives. All participants might rightly see themselves as part of the 99%. The real divisive question will then be, who do they think the 1% are?
(1) At least one Left group had quit the anti-globalization movement in 1998 because of antisemitism and far Right affiliations; a prominent deep-pocketed funder had close links to a neo-fascist think tank; and neo-Nazi figures both praised the Seattle demonstrations and attempted to glean off the anti-globalization movement after words. Things got so out of hand that a whole new brand of decentralized crypto-fascism crystallized and attempted an entryist maneuver. See my “Re-branding Fascism: National-Anarchism” for more background on this.
Spencer Sunshine is researcher, journalist, and activist who lives in Brooklyn, New York. His writings on the far Right include “Re-branding Fascism: National-Anarchists” . He is currently writing a book about the theoretical implications of the transition from classical to contemporary anarchism.
Buchanan, Pat (US): Paleconservative politician who has run several high-profile campaigns for President. A Christian nationalist, he opposes globalization and relies on racist, antisemitic, and homophobic worldviews.
Duke, David (US): Media-savvy founder of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives as a Republican in 1990 but lost his bid for US Congress. Stresses antisemitic theories about Jewish control of the Federal Reserve and the banking system.
finance capital vs industrial capital: Populism often depends on the producerist narrative, which pits “unproductive capital” against “productive” capital. Unproductive capital refers to industries which are based on the manipulation of abstractions (banking), versus the production of physical objects (factory work). The Nazis relied on this distinction for their “National Socialism.”
Icke, David (UK): A former Green Party-leader-turned-conspiracy theorist who blends numerous different conspiratorial ideas together, including antisemitic ideas. He claims that world leaders are Reptilian aliens who appear to be humans, and feed off negative human energy. He has followers on both the Left and Right.
Larouche, Lyndon (US): A former Trotskyist who founded a Left-wing cult around himself and then quickly transformed it into a far Right political organization with a focus on intelligence gathering. He is an antisemitic nationalist who attacks finance capital and globalization.
Oath Keepers (US): Right-wing organization of current and former military and law enforcement members. Descended from the Militia movement, they pledge to disobey certain federal orders that are perceived to violate the Constitution.
Paul, Ron (US): Republican Congressman from Texas who is currently seeking to be his party’s 2012 presidential candidate. He has libertarian economics and isolationist politics; he opposed the US invasion of Iraq but also wants to withdraw from the UN. Favors drug legalization and dismantling the Federal Reserve. Has support from some White Nationalists as well as some progressives.
Southgate, Troy (UK): Former National Front activist who founded National-Anarchism, a form of decentralized crypto-fascism which attempted to infiltrate the anti-globalization movement.
Tea Party (US): A Right-wing populist movement that has affected the US political landscape. It has no clear focus but a mass base and deep funding from wealthy Rightists. Islamophobes, ‘Birthers’ (who claim that President Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim), and White Nationalists can be found in these circles.
White Nationalists: A catch-all term for various far Right politics whose central concern is the “preservation” of people of European descent (excluding Jews), who are seen as comprising a “nation.” This includes white supremacists, white separatists, and those who work inside parliamentary systems but advocate for “white rights.”
Zeitgeist movement: Technocratic movement which also transcends the traditional Left / Right divide. Founded by Peter Joseph, it originates in a series of movies which blended various conspiracy theories together. Chapters exist around the world.
/ / Student march & demonstration / /
The route will take the march from its starting point on Malet Street, through Trafalgar Square and up the Strand, before passing St Pauls’s and rallying at Moorgate Junction. This follows the decision to march on the City, rather than to Parliament, in the midst of fresh financial crises and Occupy LSX.
/ / Electricians day of action / /
Rank and file construction industry workers called for a day of action against the attack on pay and contracts conditions.
The Pinnacle building site (Bishopsgate Tower)
London EC2N 4BQ
St Thomas Street
London SE1 9SY
Blackfriars station construction site
Queen Victoria St
London EC4V 4DY
/ / Taxi drivers protests / /
London taxi drivers will be holding a day of protest over attacks on the licensed taxi trade, organised by RMT union:
2:00 – 4:00pm
Headquarters of TFL (Transport For London)
42-50 Victoria Street
London SW1 0TL
followed by general cab drivers demonstration at
Background information: http://www.rmt.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=151765
/ / Occupy London permanent protest camp / /
Steps of St Paul’s Cathedral
London EC4M 8AD
Meetings and discussions continue to take place to launch the Norfolk Community Respondents Initiative and some great plans and ideas are being put in place.
Keep and eye on the new blog http://norfolkcommunityrespondentsinitiative.wordpress.com/
Getting on your bike to look for work, once encouraged by Norman Tebbit and now by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has always been a feature of working-class life, yet the perception remains that people living on council estates are both “stuck” in their communities and hostile to incomers. A new book, Moving Histories of Class and Community, debunks these myths while examining the deep attachment to place shown by residents of three Norwich estates.
“The movement to council estates is one of the biggest mass migrations that has taken place,” says Taylor. The poet Paul Farley has compared the building of massive estates on the periphery of British cities, to which millions of former inner-city dwellers moved between the 1920s and 1970s, to the Highland clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries. One way in which people coped with their new surroundings was to form fierce attachments to them, which were broken by further state-assisted migrations into national service or on to work programmes.
Other families were fragmented, in body if not in spirit, by individual members’ emigrations to Australia and Canada; yet even what Taylor terms “micro-migrations” of a few streets, deeply troubled some interviewees. What emerges is a collective sense of tension between the safety and belonging felt by those who have grown up and lived their lives on the three estates and their often precarious circumstances as a result of living there.
Residents are aware that all three estates carry a bad reputation within Norwich, yet on the whole care less about outside perceptions than about maintaining privacy, esteem and respectability as individuals in their local area – qualities Taylor hopes that she and Rogaly have preserved. “One woman we interviewed told us that she really feels [the book] has affirmed what she felt and gave her a voice. To capture something that people knew they felt, but hadn’t put into words before, that is key.”
- Moving Histories of Class and Community: Identity, Place and Belonging in Contemporary England (Identity Studies in the Social Sciences)
- by Ben Rogaly, Becky Taylor
- Buy it from the Guardian bookshop
Background: “Since 1945 Liverpool and its dockland have changed almost beyond recognition. Devastated by war and then transformed by post-war strategies to address some of the appalling social conditions, initiatives to attract industry to the area and the registration of dockers with schemes to decasualize port employment, the economic, social and cultural life of the dockland has been turned upside down. One of the most significant changes however, has come with the attempts to tackle the enormous problem of housing. Slum clearance programmes decanted many thousands of families from dockland Liverpool to purpose built overspill estates on the outskirts of the city. One of the most significant of these outer developments was Kirkby, located at the northwest edge of the city. This was a village of around 3,000 inhabitants in 1939, which by 1961 had grown to become a new town for over 50,000. Ultimately envisaged as a self-sustaining community with its own economic, social and cultural functions, Kirkby’s further expansion was ensured when in 1965 Liverpool Corporation committed itself to the clearance of another 30,000 ‘unfit’ dwellings, mainly from the traditional dockland areas.
The growth of Kirkby was not without its difficulties. It has often been cited as a classic illustration of the failures of planning and mistaken overspill development. The image of a tough community, uprooted and placed by an uncaring local authority in a bleak estate with no facilities or services, suffering high unemployment and racked by vandalism was a caricature, but nevertheless contained elements of truth. Problems with housing in Kirkby, particularly the poor quality of design and construction combined with a long backlog of repairs, were manifest from the earliest days. On the whole women were left with the responsibility of tackling the local authority about these problems in what were predominantly family homes. Furthermore, when in the early 1970s factory closures and growing unemployment further threatened Kirkby, women on the Tower Hill estate formed a discussion and support group to help themselves and their families through the crisis. However, when the 1972 Housing Finance Act resulted in a further £1 rent rise, this brought grievances that had been bubbling under for the previous decade to a head. The women formed an Unfair Rents Action Group and responded by organizing a 14-month long rent strike.
Militant collective organization no longer remained the preserve of male members of the household. In the new setting of the overspill estate, women recognised the value of the militant tradition. Outside of the labour movement or the factory floor, women in Kirkby mobilized to forge their own solidarity and collective organization. This movement sought not only to benefit the household economy through the fight against unfair rents, but for a time would also campaign for the benefit of the whole community. Traditional dockland militancy and community solidarity had clearly evolved to remain of use in its new location.”
Wake up Lefties, start finally dealing with the real issues which are in our communities, the issues haven’t changed and neither have you!
Goods for free – village recycling at its best!
On Saturday 19thNovember at the Mill Centre, Mill Road, Hempnall there is a ‘Give And Take’ event. It is a great opportunity to clear out your no longer needed household and garden items, knowing that they might be just right for someone else. Also, you might find just what you’re looking for and it’s all free.
Drop off the goods you want to pass on
5 – 9 pm Friday 18thNovember or
8 – 9.30am Saturday 19thNovember
Come and help yourself to anything you’d like, for free!
9am – 11.30am Saturday 19thNovember
Goods might include: baby equipment, toys, clothes, small household items, kitchenware, bikes, books, CDs, DVDs, garden items, small pieces of furniture. (N.B. No TV sets please!).
Tea/coffee and cakes will be the only things on sale! If you have any questions, please contact Jackie Jackson (01508) 499061.
Oh dear – you can see from my Occupation post that I am being positive about OCCUPYLSX and have suggested that sometimes it’s best for radicals like me to just get out the way and let a new movement breathe. But dear oh fucking dear. Here we have the usual tired old lefties trying to organise the one thing they love – a useless march. So suddenly the shameless SWP hack weymann bennett and equally shameless Kate Hudson of CND and COR are speakers at a rally organised by Occupy. they have had nothing to do with this movement nor have Lucas or Pilger. they are all struggling to contain it in recognisable forms which they can control. Doubtless the SWP placards are ready and waiting. I can actually fucking visualise Andrew Burgin and John Rees cooking upthis menu of rancid leftovers.YOU WILL NOTICE FROM THE SPEAKERS LIST THAT THE ONLY PEOPLE NOT LISTED ARE ANY OF THE ORDINARY FOLKS WHO MAKE UP THE FUCKING CAMP – INSTEAD WE HAVE THE USUAL SUSPECTS INCLUDING THE OBLIGATORY FUCKING COMEDIAN.
CAMPERS AWAKE – THEY ARE TRYING TO WRITE YOU OUT OF YOUR OWN STORY YOUR OWN HISTORY. FUCK THE SPEAKERS. FOR A MEETING BY THE CAMPERS, FOR THE CAMPERS AND OF THE CAMPERS. DO NOT LET THE FUCKING LEFTIES POUR NEW WINE INTO OLD BOTTLES – THESE FUCKERS WILL BORE YOU TO DEATH AND STRANGLE THE MOVEMENT.
COMRADES – NO TO THE OLD WAYS! COMRADES – IF YOU TOLERATE THIS THEN YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE NEXT – A LIFETIME OF POINTLESS MARCHES AND SPEAKERS
AHA – all becomes clearer now. On Saturday the SWP’s big rival sect – the Socialist Party – is holding a march in London to welcome the marchers from their Jarrow march useless stunt. Speakers will include Bob Crow. Now the SWP/COR are organising a different march at the same time to get one up on the Socialist Party. One lot will be rallying in trafalgar square – the other a few hundred yards away at parliament. Fucking pathetic – really shows the petty nature of the Trots. Not exactly their finest hour……………
Spot on Ian.
Kia ora kotou, thanks everyone for coming. Firstly, a brief run-down of how this workshop will work: first, I’m going to give a brief talk, followed by an open discussion which anyone can contribute to. I also want to make it clear that I’m not here today to debunk or debate any specific conspiracy theory. I’ve got no interest in doing that, I don’t think its particularly productive. What I want to be doing is talking about the title of the workshop is – why our activism must be based in reality. So we’ll be talking about the whole conspiracy world-view, we’ll be talking about what I think is a much better alternative to that, but I’m not going to sit here and argue with you over whether the Government is secretly poisoning us from the skies, or whether shape-shifting reptilian lizards are controlling our lives, or whether or not you can cure cancer with baking soda.
First up, who am I? For those of you who don’t know me my name is Asher, I’m born and bred in Wellington, though I have also spent a few years recently living in Christchurch. I’ve been involved in activism and radical politics for around about 7 years, in a variety of different campaigns and struggles.
If we’re going to talk about conspiracy theories, the first important question is obvious: what is a conspiracy theory?
Now, if you go by a dictionary definition, a conspiracy is just a group of people who get together to plan something, and don’t tell others about it. If I’m organising a surprise birthday party for my friend, then I am conspiring with others. But that’s not a particularly useful definition for the purposes of a discussion like this.
So, for this discussion, the way I’m defining a conspiracy theory is thus: a conspiracy theory is a theory based in supposition, one that flies in the face of evidence or science, often one that claims its correctness can be shown by the paucity of evidence in favour of it, in the sense that ‘this conspiracy goes so far that they’ve even buried all the evidence that proves it!’ Conspiracy theories often encourages an ‘us few enlightened folk versus everyone else’ world view. This creates an atmosphere where conspiracy theorists look down on people, or sheeple as they are often called, and ignores the fact that people, by and large, are actually pretty intelligent. In and of itself this world-view is hugely problematic for as I will discuss later, mass social change requires the participation of the masses and therefore, we have to have faith in the ability of people to decide things for themselves, to come to correct conclusions and ultimately to change the world.
Why am I interested in conspiracy theories, or at least arguing against them? Firstly, because I’m passionate about science and rationality, and I find it fascinating how and when these things are ignored.
Secondly, because I’m Jewish, and many conspiracy theories are antisemitic – whether directly and obviously (eg: Jews run the world, or the media, or the banks). Sometimes its more subtle – people might not talk about Jews explicitly but they may use Zionist as a code word, or talk about the Rothschilds, or an elite cabal of shadowy bankers who all coincidentally have Jewish surnames.
Lastly, I’m interested in conspiracy theories because I want radical social change, and to have radical social change, we need to have an understanding of how society actually works.
We are here at Occupy because we want to see change. What we want differs: some want new regulations on the financial sector, others want to change taxes or the minimum wage, while others still want to destroy capitalism and bring in a new form of production and distribution. Regardless of which of these boxes you fit in, if you fit in any of them at all, we all want change.
We’re also here because we know we can’t simply rely on Government to benevolently grant us the changes we desire. If we believed that, we’d sit at home and wait for the Government to give us these gifts. We’re here because we know that those with power won’t give it up lightly, and that it is only through our collective strength that we can win reforms, or create revolution.
But what do I mean when I say ‘our collective strength’? I think it’s important to clarify who is contained within the word ‘our’. While people involved in the Occupy movements around the globe frequently refer to it as the 99%, I actually think that’s a really imprecise term. So, instead, I refer to the working class. When they hear the term working class, some people think simply of male factory workers, but this is not what I mean. The working class is not limited to blue collar workers in factories, but instead it includes all of us who are forced to sell our labour power to survive. This includes people who are in paid employment, whether in a factory, office, café or retail store. It also includes those who are unable to find paid employment, or have chosen to refuse the drudgery of paid work in order to attempt to live on the meagre benefits supplied by the state, and who provide a vast potential pool of labour that enables the ruling class to further keep wages down. The working class includes stay at home parents, doing vital unpaid work to raise the next generation of human beings. It includes people who are too sick or unable to work for other reasons. In short, if you don´t own a business, if you aren’t part of the Government, if you aren’t independently wealthy (such as from an inheritance), then chances are you are a part of the working class that I’m talking about, this collective ‘our’.
If we agree that we can’t simply rely on Government to benevolently grant us gifts, and that we need to fight for it using our numbers and our power, then it becomes necessary to understand how society is structured and how capitalism actually functions, in order to know where our collective strength comes from, where we have the most power, and where we need to apply the metaphorical blowtorch.
So, why are conspiracy theories not helpful here? Why are conspiracy theories not useful for developing that understanding? There’s a variety of reasons.
Some conspiracy theories, such as those around 9/11, even if they were true, which I don’t believe they are, would only tell us “Governments do bad things”. That’s not actually news to anyone. We know that the British Crown & the New Zealand Government stole vast tracts of land from Maori. We know that the Crown and the Australian Government engaged in genocidal acts against Australian aborigines. We know that Governments the world over have repeatedly sent people overseas to fight, kill and die in wars. There’s so, so much more, but to cut a long story short, everybody knows that sometimes Governments do bad things. So theories that only serve to prove that, even if they were true, aren’t actually particularly useful.
Some conspiracy theories are simply bizarre and the logical conclusions from them, don’t fit with what their believers do. If you actually believed that the majority of people in power around the world was a blood-sucking shape-shifting reptilians from another solar system, then you wouldn’t limit your activity to promoting one guy’s book tours around the globe and chatting with other believers on the internet.
Conspiracy theories often feed on people’s mistrust and their fear. They claim to provide simple answers to complicated questions, but actually when you examine them in detail they’re highly complex themselves. For example, with 9/11, it seems like a simple solution to say ‘it was an inside job by the US Government’. But actually, when you look into what would be required for this to be true, the thousands upon thousands of people who would need to be lying, it becomes incredibly implausible.
Some conspiracy theories, such as many of the shadowy financial cabal conspiracies, only serve to mystify capitalism and falsely suggest a level of control that doesn’t actually exist. Additionally, they remove any sense of our own power, whether real or potential. A theory which suggests such overwhelming power and control over the entire way we live our lives is actually a catalyst for inaction – if a group has such a high level of control over everything, then there’s not really anything we can do about it. On the contrary, capitalism is not a static system, it is dynamic and changing and constantly adapts in response to threats. The threat of working class power has resulted in a number of changes to the functioning of capitalism over time, including the introduction of Keynesian and Neoliberal economics in the late 1930s and 1970s respectively.
Even if conspiracy theories can sometimes seem relatively harmless on the surface, they play a role of absorbing us into a fictional world, somewhat like a dungeons and dragons enthusiast. Once you are in this fictional world, it becomes really easy to get lost in it and to be defensive when challenged, even when challenged on a logical, rational basis.
I’ll quote British political blogger Jack Ray:
The trouble with conspiracy theories is that they’re all rendered pointless by one fundamental, unarguable element of capitalism. That it is, whatever else you have to say about, positive or negative, a system of elites. It has elitism coded into it´s DNA, from the smallest company, to the largest multinational, from the political system to the culture. It’s purpose is to promote elites. It does this legitimately within the logic of the system. It does this publicly, lording super-capitalists like Bill Gates or even for a time, Enron boss Ken Lay. It lays its theories of elitism out for all to see, in policy projects, in university research, through political theorists.It has no interest in secret cabals, or conspiracies. It has no need for them. It is a system openly, and publicly, run by elites. They might go home at night and secretly dine with their illuminati, lizard-jew, Bilderberg Group friends, and laugh about how they’ve taken over the world. It doesn’t matter to me or you whether they do or not. They are the elite, and we can see who they are and how they live their lives. People know that we live in a system of elites, that acts in its own interests, according to the logic of the society they dominate. Everyone who looks around know this. We don’t need internet documentaries to tell us that we’re dominated, we just need to go to work, or walk through a posh neighbourhood or have a run-in with any politicians, big businessman or even a celebrity to know that. What we need are weapons, ways of challenging that domination, so maybe we don’t have to live under it forever.
So what is the alternative to this conspiracist world-view? For that, we need to look at history. The history of how social change comes about is not always easy to find. It suits those in power to downplay the role of mass movements, so the dominant narrative is often one that ignores the long term grassroots organising that has happened, and simply focuses on legislative change enacted by the Government of the day. But a people’s history is out there – often in the form of first hand accounts by those who took part in these movements, such as those for homosexual law reform, of the 1970s strike wave across New Zealand, of the movement against native forest logging and so on.
One thing, from looking at this history, is abundantly clear. Mass action is vital for mass change. If you look through history, time and time again, it is when large groups of people have got together and shown themselves to be a threat to those in power that concessions have been granted. This happens on a small scale as well as a big one – when all 10 employees at a small business go on strike and refuse to work until their boss gives them a pay rise, the boss is forced to listen.
From this example, it becomes obvious that it isn’t simply numbers alone that allow us to exercise power. It is also using those numbers strategically to hit those in power where it hurts. As workers, we create wealth for the bosses each and every day at our jobs. Some of this wealth is returned to us in the form of wages, but much is stolen. This stolen wealth is often called ¨surplus value¨. It is the accumulation of surplus value, stolen by our bosses, that forms the wealth of the ruling class. But because the goods and services that create this surplus value ultimately come from our hands and our brains, through collectively withdrawing our labour, we can force the bosses to give in to our demands.
So taking collective action the workplace is one way we can impose our power on the bosses to help us better meet our needs and desires. And if we extrapolate this to larger numbers of work-sites, to larger numbers of people both employed and unemployed, then we can begin to see how we can make changes to the functioning of society as a whole.
I don’t have all the answers, though I do have plenty more to say than I’ve had time to touch on in this talk. But I want to open things up to discussion soon, because I think that’s one thing that is really important about this Occupy Wellington space, that we can talk through things, together, to come to new ways of thinking and working politically.
To finish things off, I want to emphasise that while it is important to have an open mind, this must be tempered with a commitment to rationality and the examining of evidence. Or, to quote Australian sceptic and comedian Tim Minchin, “If you open your mind too much, your brain will fall out”.
The offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were this morning firebombed, just as it was about to publish its latest edition, a spoof issue ‘guest edited by Muhammed’, in response to the Islamist Ennahda party’s victory in the Tunisian elections. Caustic and vulgar (think of a cross between Private Eye and Viz), Charlie Hebdo prides itself on being an equal opportunities offender, as happy to draw the ire of Christians and Jews (and, indeed communists) as of Muslims. The French press has, so far, been almost unanimously in support of the magazine. But already there have been rumblings elsewhere that Charlie Hebdo went too far, that this was the wrong time and the wrong issue upon whichto be so provocative. I am republishing here my original response to the Danish cartoons controversy. This essay was first published in Prospect almost six years ago. It shows how little the debate has moved on that it is still seems necessary to make elementary points about the right to challenge, to provoke, to be downright offensive.
‘I believe in free speech. But…’ That has become the rallying cry for the liberal left in the wake of the Danish cartoon controversy. The Guardian ‘believes uncompromisingly in freedom of expression, but not in any duty to gratuitously offend’. For Jack Straw freedom of speech is fine but not if it leads to an ‘open season’ on religious taboos. ‘I respect freedom of speech’ UN Secretary general Kofi Annan has said. ‘But of course… it entails responsibility and judgment.’
Free speech is good, runs the argument, but it has to be less free in a plural society. ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict’, the sociologist Tariq Modood points out, ‘they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’. One of the ironies of living in a more plural society seems to be that the preservation of diversity requires us to leave less room for a diversity of views.
I believe the opposite is true. I think that Danish newspapers should be free to publish insulting cartoons about the prophet Mohammed; that Muslim demonstrators should be able to carry placards calling for the beheading of those who insult Islam; and that both the radical cleric Abu Hamza and British National Party leader Nick Griffin should be free to spout racist hatred. And they should all be free to do so because we live in a diverse society not in spite of it.
In a truly homogenous society in which everyone thought in exactly the same way then giving offence would be nothing more than gratuitous. But in the real world where societies are plural, then it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. And we should deal with those clashes rather than suppress them. Important because any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. The right to ‘subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, diverse society. ‘If liberty means anything’, as George Orwell once put it, ‘it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.
Ah, say the would-be censors, the problem is that you poor secularists simply do not understand religious believers’ depth of attachment to their faith, and hence their outrage at any insult to it. As Ian Jack, editor of Granta magazine, has put it, an individual might have the abstract right to depict Mohammed, but the price of free speech is too high when compared to the ‘immeasurable insult’ that the exercise of such right causes – even though ‘we, the faithless, don’t understand the offence’.
This argument might reveal how little attached many liberals are to their own beliefs (one can imagine Jack arguing about Galileo 400 years ago, ‘He has an abstract right to depict the earth orbiting the sun, but imagine the immeasurable insult that the exercise of such a right would cause…’) but there is no reason to treat Muslims (or, indeed, any religious believer) as a special case. Communists were often wedded to their ideas even unto death. Many racists have an almost visceral attachment to their prejudices. Should I indulge them, too, because their beliefs are so deeply held? In any case I would challenge anyone to show me how my humanism is any less intensely felt than the faith of a Muslim or of any other believer. There is something deeply pernicious, almost racist, about the claim that Muslims are somehow so different from everyone else.
Last October, the Egyptian newspaper Al Fagr published the cartoons in full- without a murmur of protest. The violence over the cartoons has less to do with religion than politics. It has emerged from a sense of grievance and victimhood that many Muslims feel about their treatment by Western societies, a sense that has been skillfully exploited by some Muslim organizations for their own ends.
Yet, even within this climate many Muslims remain opposed to censorship. Bünyamin Simsek is a councillor in the Danish city of Aarhus who helped organize a counter-demonstration to the cartoon protests. ‘There is’, he says, ‘a large group of Muslims in this city who want to live in a secular society and adhere to the principle that religion is an issue between them and God and not something that should involve society’. He is not alone. But his is the kind of voice that gets silenced in the rush to censor that which is deemed to cause offence. In the name of pluralism, the censors are helping to strengthen the hand of the most conservative elements within Muslim communities.
It is true that there is nothing particularly laudable about the cartoons themselves. They are at best childish, at worst distasteful. But free speech is nothing if it is not the right to be distasteful, even racist.
The ‘I believe in free speech but…’ argument leads to a pick ‘n’ mix attitude to what is tolerable. When British Muslim leader Iqbal Sacranie’s comments on homosexuality led recently to a police investigation, 22 Muslim leaders wrote to the Times demanding the right to be able to ‘freely express their views in an atmosphere free of intimidation or bullying’. Those same leaders deny such a right to newspapers publishing cartoons about Mohammed. Nick Griffin wants to be free to promote racist hatred, but wants to lock up Islamic clerics who do the same. Many of those happy to see cartoons lampooning Mohammed draw the line at anything mocking the Holocaust. It is fast becoming a case of ‘My speech should be free, but yours is too costly’. What is, in fact, too costly is giving in to the demand not to cause offence. If we really believe in free speech, there can be no buts.