Wolverhampton Wolves

I refer not to that ancient city’s alliteratively nicknamed football club [officially, the Wanderers], but to the flash-mob packs of masked looters and arsonists, who are the subject of my contempt, yet also of my attempt to understand what on earth has got up their noses this week.

That sociological sage [and, allegedly, appalling father] John Phillips, late of The Mamas and the Papas, wrote these lyrics to “Safe In My Garden” (1968), concerning the rioting youth of that era: “Could it be we were hot-wired? Late one night; we’re very tired. They stole our minds and thought we’d never know it. With a bottle in each hand; too late to try to understand. We don’t care where it lands–we just throw it. When you go out in the street, so many hassles with the heat [hippie slang for the police]; no one there can fill your desire. Cops out with the megaphones, telling people stay inside their homes. Man, can’t they see the world’s on fire?”

The riots he was describing ostensibly arose from the twin “root causes” of an unpopular war [Vietnam] and racial injustice in 20th Century America; yet he posits a very 21st Century “spark” that ignited that summer of burning cities: some kind of subliminal, electronically-mediated GroupThink, that robbed young people of their individual will and transformed them into the mobile vulgus [the wandering mob], wreaking seemingly random havoc, but not getting much satisfaction from it. Pretty prescient, for a guy who died in the Spring of 2001, no?

Many of this week’s unrepentant pillagers, when asked by BBC reporters, what got up their noses to provoke such displays of rage, answered, “It’s a Class War, innit? We’ve got nuffink, so we’re takin’ it from the rich, nar’mean?” Mind you, they all seemed to own Blackberries, on which they BBM’d {“hot-wired”?] each other the list of successive targets, most of which were modest “mom & pop” shops owned by Sikhs & Hindus [not by “rich snobs,” as one boy put it]. So, why the disconnect between the looters’ Robin Hood myth of robbing the rich, and the reality of their robbing the barely-making-ends-meet South Asian shopkeepers?

Well, [pace The News of the World] I blame the UK’s gutter press, of which The Daily Mail is the prime surviving example, whose narrative subtext is “Everyone we photograph is richer, luckier, and more powerful than you, Dear Reader. Envy them. Feel humiliated by them. Cut them down to size, if you get the chance.” That’s right. I blame the media for the mayhem that continues to spread throughout England tonight, perpetrated not by “werewolves” [who spend the daylight hours adhering to the social norms] but by packs of wolfish youths [boys and girls] who declared proudly to daytime reporters, “No snobby cop’s going to tell us what to do!”
Yeah, right. But the cynical editors of The Daily Mail and their ilk are profiting from your shenanigans. Their motto is: “Long live the Class War! [Let’s hope there are still some corner shops left tomorrow, to sell our Schadenfreude.]”

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Filed under aggression happens, attribution theory, understanding shenanigans

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