Remember those riots? The demonisation of certain groups of people, as right-wing underclass, depraved, racist and social Darwnistic arguments rose to prominence as politicians and public alike took part in a disturbing attack against those involved. As I discussed in a previous blog post:
[The government] advanced a crack down on gangs and social media – two things that The Guardian and LSE study into the riots, Reading the Riots, have found were rather trivial in terms of the cause of the riots…The Reading the Riots report managed to interview 270 people involved in the riots and talk to them about their reasons, experiences – as their voice has been consistently shut out by mainstream channels. With the use of methodological triangulation (qualitative and quantitative methods), the research offers initial data on understanding, not stigmatising, the rioters. For instance, the conference highlighted that despite David Cameron’s assertions that poverty had nothing to do with the riots, the data showed substantial evidence for a casual, not correlative, relationship.
However, these sociopolitical factors were ignored by a government hell-bent on using whatever they can find to promote their privatise everything, protect the 1% and demonise the rest of society agenda. Sadly, the public fell for the media, political elite divide and rule policy – with petitions calling for the removal of rioters’ benefits.
This brings me onto my main point. There was a notable backlash by the law and order system, with the court dis-proportionally punishing rioters in comparison to sentences non-rioters who commit the same crime receive – apparently, to deter others (again, a complete ignorance towards political economy).
One notable example is the case of two boys who were jailed for four years for apparently inciting disorder through Facebook encouraging people to riot, despite there being no evidence that this caused any rioting in itself:
Jordan Blackshaw, 20, set up an “event” called Smash Down in Northwich Town for the night of 8 August on the social networking site but no one apart from the police, who were monitoring the page, turned up at the pre-arranged meeting point outside a McDonalds restaurant.
Now, let’s look at the judge’s rational for this ludicrous sentencing:
It caused a very real panic.
This week, the government has sparked its own panic encouraging people to stock pile petrol, even arguing that lives are at risk, despite the strike having no confirmed date and the fact that Acas are likely to try to negotiate a deal, not to mention a seven-day warning from Unite if they do go on strike!
The judge who sentenced the boys above also added that their actions had:
Put a very considerable strain on police resources in Warrington.
Now again, compare this to what has happened because of the government’s overblown comments:
As queues snaked out of petrol stations around Britain, prompting police in one county to ask for the temporary closure of forecourts, recriminations started flying after Maude’s warning earlier this week that lives were being placed at risk by the planned strike by fuel tanker drivers, and that motorists should stockpile petrol…Dorset police confirmed that five garages were asked to close for a period, because lines of cars were causing congestion in Bournemouth and Weymouth, and there were reports of forecourt closures and petrol shortages across the UK.
The government have in fact, incited disorder. Who will hold them to account? No, they wont have to spend four years of their life in prison, despite them actually causing real problems and real disorder unlike the two boys above mentioned.
In fact, Maude’s comments about filling jerry cans full of petrol actually potentially breaches health and safety laws. Yes, he encouraged action which could be contra to the law – but again, unlike the two boys who have been jailed for four years for inciting nothing, Maude and this government will get away with prison. The FBU have put their own warning up regarding the comments, expressing:
The union warns it will massively increase fire and explosion risk and the public should be discouraged from doing so.
How is this fair? Just because you don’t have an ‘elite’ position in society and just because you don’t happen to have a million or so in the bank, the system of law is unevenly applied? This is just another example of the endemic unfairness and double standards existent in society. Essentially, the difference in response relates to economics, as always. It is a symptom of a world economy based on petroleum. As someone joked on Twitter yesterday, maybe this panic buy in petrol is the government’s economic growth strategy.