I’ve been having a hard time getting a read on the situation in Britain the last few days, but seeing the quote that follows glide by in my news feeds motivated me to start looking closer. At this point, almost everyone seems to be in the wrong; violent idiots are masking legitimate concerns about bad policy, and being used to justify more bad policy. At a high level, this is looking remarkably like the modern interpretation of the circumstances that created Punk.
“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media, free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.”
– British PM Cameron in an address to Parliament on the recent riots.
I’m with him up to here – This statement is exactly correct, but then he veers off and draws exactly the wrong conclusion:
“And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
[Via the NYT]
Open communication isn’t a “Sometimes” proposition. It isn’t a “When it suits you” proposition. Open communication is a “This is the right thing” proposition, that democratically changes societies in ways that can’t be controlled.
The “Arab Spring” the western world was so excited about was enabled by modern communication technology, and we were all atwitter with how backward Egypt & co. were for trying to cut off the internet. (Let’s just ignore that that whole situation is turning into “Well organized religious groups subvert populist revolutions to take over the middle east” for the time being) Here we are on the flip side with the “Angry, Young and Poor” (hey! these are the people that phrase was invented for) of Britain rioting more effectively with modern communication tech, and the best the British government can come up with is “maybe we should turn it off” – It’s a shame the British kids are organizing for damage instead of organizing for change; they could have been clearly in the right, but are instead being marginalized as criminals so there is just blame everywhere.
Then again, this is from a government that seems to think the solution to “unrest” apparently initiated by legitimate fury with the police is “more police,” which is another pretty good indicator of a clusterfuck in progress.
I’m not saying I’m sympathetic to the people who are just using the situation as an excuse to fuck shit up; I find them especially infuriating because they are marginalizing legitimate protests, but the whole situation is British social policy of the last several years coming home to roost.