In Philadelphia, a group of 20-40 youths went on a rampage in Center City August 1st, resulting in 59 people being beaten and briefly hospitalized. Last Thursday, a mob ran through the Wisconsin State Fair at closing time, beating up people at random. In London, citizens have been besieged by three straight nights of hellish rioting, even as that rioting has spread to other parts of the nation. The common themes? A racial component, studiously ignored wherever possible; technology that makes mob organization far easier than ever before; and the undeniable relationship between welfare state policies and the expansion of underclass mores.
The racial element of these attacks is becoming impossible to ignore. In Philadelphia, black Mayor Michael A. Nutter, much to his credit, stepped into the breach. After telling black youths, “You have damaged your own race,” he announced an increase in police patrols in some neighborhoods, called on citizens to monitor the streets, and moved up a weekend curfew on minors to 9 p.m. Parents will also be subjected to increasing fines each time one of their children gets caught violating the curfew. “Take those God-darn hoodies down, especially in the summer,” said Nutter. “Pull your pants up and buy a belt ‘cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”
Nutter also challenged parents to take responsibility for their children, with specific admonition aimed at men. “If you’re just hanging out out there, maybe you’re sending them a check or bringing some cash by. That’s not being a father. You’re just a human ATM … And if you’re not providing the guidance and you’re not sending any money, you’re just a sperm donor,” he said. On Monday, he spelled out his intentions to maintain order using gang references. “Let me just share this with you. We’ve got the biggest, baddest gang in town – a committed group of citizens and a committed government – and we’re working together and we’re not going to have this nonsense anymore,” he warned.
In Wisconsin, race was not just an element of the attacks there, but apparently the entire impetus for them. The mayhem at the Wisconsin State Fair was reported as a mob of “dozens to 100 black teenagers,” who tore through the fairgrounds and the parking lot “beating white people at random.” This is the second such incident in Wisconsin in just over a month. On July Fourth weekend, another mob of rampaging “youths” attacked people at Kilbourn Reservoir Park and looted a BP gas station nearby. The following Tuesday, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn noted that crime is “colorblind.” Here is the video of the BP gas station attack. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker responded by sending in the State Police to maintain safety for the remainder of the fair, and organizers of the event instituted their own curfew, barring unaccompanied minors from enter the grounds after 5 p.m. Yet even after witnesses confirmed that the attacks had a racial element to them, West Allis Mayor Dan Devine walked on eggshells. He released a statement saying that ”thuggery” doesn’t belong at the fair, and that he was appalled ”a group of hoodlums” had cast a “negative light” on the traditionally family-friendly event.
In London, there was a racial aspect to the violence as well, where riots were triggered by the killing of a 29-year-old black man named Mark Duggan. Initial reports said Duggan opened fire on police officers who were following him, striking one of the officers in his police radio near the side of the chest. Yet a subsequent story revealed the bullet that lodged in the officer’s radio was “police-issue,” and while Duggan was armed with a “blank-firing weapon which had been converted,” he drew it, but reportedly never fired it.
That incident precipitated riots last Saturday, sparked by “community grievances” in Duggan’s home district of Tottenham, a predominantly “multi-cultural” neighborhood where several gangs predominate. Duggan reportedly belonged to the Stars, who have a reputation for being armed drug dealers intent on making money.
Yet what might have begun as a racial incident mushroomed far beyond that, and far beyond Tottenham. Youths engaged in three nights of virtually unrestrained violence, looting, burning cars and stores, and in one incident, reportedly trying to murder a police officer in North London. Copycat riots have spread to Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, as well as Nottingham and Leeds.
Prime Minister David Cameron, forced to return from vacation to deal with the unrest, which he characterized as ”sickening scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing,” vowed to restore order. The police canceled all leaves and planned to put 16,000 officers on the streets last night, nearly tripling their previous number of 6,000 who were unable to quell the violence. ”This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated,” said Cameron. The use of water cannons and plastic bullets was also being contemplated to subdue the mobs.
Like their counterparts in the United States, the mobs are all too easily organizable courtesy of modern technology. Texting, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and instant messaging, allow for an unprecedented level of timing, coordination and flexibility of flash mob organization, all of which put law enforcement officials at a distinct disadvantage. ”What is making this unique today is the social media aspect,” said Everett Gillison, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for public safety. “They can communicate and congregate at a moment’s notice. That can overwhelm any municipality.”
They can also overwhelm businesses. Countless flash mob robberies have taken place across the nation. The National Retail Federation notes that 10 percent of 106 companies it surveyed reported being targeted. ”Retailers are raising red flags about criminal flash mobs, which are wreaking havoc on their business, causing concerns about the safety of their customers and employees, and directly impacting their bottom line,” they reported.
Are there effective counter-measures? The Cleveland City Council attempted to pass a bill making it illegal to organize a flash mob using social media. It was shot down by a mayoral veto when the ACLU contended it was unconstitutional. LAPD Capt. Jon Peters says police have no choice but to monitor social networking sites for signs of trouble. Deputy Mayor Gillison said Philadelphia police are reaching out to, and in some cases, “friending” community youths in an effort to monitor web traffic capable of generating flash mobs. Retailers have been advised to monitor social media as well, and report any criminal organizing to the police.
What drives the mobs? Two girls in the South London town of Croydon boasted that they were showing the “police” and the “rich people” that “we can do what we want.” Jonathan Taplin, director of the innovation lab at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, echoed the class struggle theme. ”You are essentially having a world where you have 25 million people who are underemployed and 2 percent of the population doing better than they ever have,” he said. “Why wouldn’t that lead to some sort of social unrest? Why wouldn’t people use the latest technologies to effect that?”
Clay Yeager, former director of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in Pennsylvania, theorizes a decline in funds for violence prevention programs is behind the rioting. Temple University psychologist Frank Farley contends flash mobs are motivated by “thrill seeking, rule breaking and simply the fun of an unpredictable large group social experience. The danger lies in that very unpredictability, when large numbers of people congregate with no clear agenda, and bad behavior or extreme behavior is initiated by some, and ’social facilitation’ and ‘emotional contagion’ might help spread the bad behavior in threatening or criminal directions.”
Perhaps just as important is the destruction of the nuclear family. Fully 40 percent of all American children are now born out of wedlock, a figure which rises to approximately 70 percent among black Americans. In the UK, out-of-wedlock births now account for nearly 50% of all births, on track to becoming the majority of births (and in some areas, 75% by 2014). (Mark Duggan himself was the father of four children, one stillborn, with his long-time girlfriend, according to The Guardian.) The societal wreckage this produces has been well-documented and will not be reiterated here, save for the fact that a wholesale breakdown in morality, like the technology that facilitates it, enables greater criminal activity.
The widespread criminal activity in Britain is being excused by some left-wing British politicians. Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, blames “austerity” for the widespread violence. Lee Jasper, former adviser to Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London, calls such austerity “economic violence,” adding that ”economic stagnation and cuts being imposed by the Tory government inevitably create social division.” The overwhelming irony of such statements is the fact that the fiscally unsustainable nature of the welfare state championed by these men and others is exactly what engendered the austerity necessary to prevent the complete collapse of it.
But there is a bigger consequence that arises from the expectations for, and the inevitable failure of, welfare-statism. Whether they realize it or not, many Americans, as well as their British counterparts, are undermining the social integrity of their own societies. Little incentive remains for providing for oneself – or for that matter, one’s offspring – when the grotesqueness of the “social safety net” renders this virtue irrelevant. When society has removed all negative consequences to poor life choices, which keep people and their progeny nestled in the underclass (child abandonment, disdain for eduction, glorification of thug culture, etc.), it effectively rewards them. It is thus absurd to expect these behavioral trends to disappear rather than the reverse.
The situation is all the more exacerbated by a culture that shields the very segments of society that perpetuate these trends from any scrutiny and responsibility – primarily due to cowardice over racial matters. Hence the sweeping media silence on the disturbing trend of minority-perpetrated mob violence, evident in most of the reportage on these incidents. Here again, on even this most rudimentary level, negative consequences for self-destructive behavior are lifted. We cannot even identify the source of such criminality, nor demand change on the part of the offenders.
That inner-city American blacks have been subjected to these forces may explain why most of the flash mob violence has been perpetrated by them. But as England currently demonstrates, the original reason for the riots in Tottenham have morphed from a possible racial incident into one in which showing the larger society “we can do what we want” has become the ultimate rationale. If race was the match that lit the London conflagration, the culture of bitter class resentment and entitlement to unearned wealth, part and parcel of the socialist state, was the gasoline.
It is a rationale ignited by the cradle-to-grave expectations perpetrated by the welfare state. One that ignites anger, resentment and rioting when those expectations are threatened with extinction.