Novelist (and Socialist Workers Party member) China Mieville wrote the main essay for the London issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, "'Oh London, You Drama Queen.'" According to him, London is a mess of racism and youth alienation, and only free public housing and celebration of loud music on the tube will save it. He also excused last summer's burning and rioting, motivated by a "deep sense of injustice": "Youths taking TVs, clothes, carpets, food from broken-open shops, sometimes with dizzy exuberance, sometimes with what looked like thoughtful care."
Even the photo captions are replete with leftist smuggery, contrasting an old-fashioned butcher with a bleak-looking dance club: "Smithfield Market, in Central London, is rooted in the past./The scene at Plastic People, a club in Hackney, looks to the future."
Mieville first raised eyebrows talking about last summer's rioting and looting which began after a police incident in the Tottenham neighborhood in London. Was there a reason Mieville skipped the looting of smart phones as opposed to focusing on clothes and food, to make the rioting seem more like something done for essentials as opposed to luxuries? Many of the riots were coordinated via mobile phone.
....Britons saw loop after loop of images of buildings on fire, smashed glass, streets in raucous refusal. Youths taking TVs, clothes, carpets, food from broken-open shops, sometimes with dizzy exuberance, sometimes with what looked like thoughtful care.
The aftermath was one of panicked reaction. Courts became runnels for judicial cruelty, dispensing sentences vastly more severe than anything usual for similar crimes. The government’s watchdog announced that the police might use live ammunition against those setting fires -- some were teenagers -- in future.
In December, in an effort to make sense of the extraordinary events, The Guardian and the London School of Economics released “Reading the Riots,” a joint report on the events. What they discovered, through extensive research and interviews, was that what motivated many of those on the streets was resentment of the police and a deep sense of injustice.
Eyes roll with the duh.
Self-evident or not, this does not convince everyone. Theresa May, the Conservative Home Secretary, blames instead “sheer criminality.” It’s singalong for the Right. They know this tune: It was played after the Brixton riots of 1981 and 1985, Tottenham 1985, after every riot in London, or anywhere, since forever. While May’s denunciation of the obvious continues, her own department quietly gets on with examining the police’s stop-and-search powers, a cause of huge resentment among young Londoners, which -- when do such powers not? -- disproportionately affect minorities.
In Britain between 1998 and 2009, there were at least 333 deaths in police custody, 87 of them after restraint by officers. Not a single officer was convicted. Of all the more and less unsubtle ways young Londoners -- those not from Chelsea, from Bloomsbury; those not rich -- are told that they are not terribly important, none are as overt or as cruel as this.
Mieville next came out in favor of public disturbance.
You want to see how much London hates its young -- some of them; “Let’s be honest,” says the writer Owen Jones, “they’re not talking about Etonians” -- watch them play music on public transport. Everyday silliness, adolescent thoughtlessness are treated like social collapse. Of which there’s a fair bit going around, true, but does it really inhere in this?
Tinny music raises disproportionate ire. Travelers shift and glare as 14-year-olds give themselves soundtracks, as if they’re boxers. Not all, but a fair few of the older passengers look wrathful.
Who cares? You’re getting off in five minutes, he’s 14 and trying it on a bit and boisterous to fill the city with music.
What's next? Supporting vandalism in the form of graffiti, to "fill the city with art"?
Next Mieville whined about the lack of taxpayer-funded housing:
But that stock has been depleted for years. Houses taken from the pool were left unreplaced, at rates accelerating fast under Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme from the 1980s. New Labor did little to reverse this. The shortage is severe. Rents are rocketing, house prices, stagnating gently or not, are utterly prohibitive. Everyone knows this. Now the government is capping housing benefits, which the Chartered Institute of Housing warns is likely to price 800,000 households across the country out of their own communities. Rough sleeping is up.
The question is whether London’s new glass boxes of large size can, over time, submit, surrender, become part of the city. This is something that Canary Wharf, the Docklands financial district begun in the late ’80s, every day a thuggish and hideous middle-finger-flipped glass-and-steel at the poor of the East End, every night a Moloch’s urinal dripping sallow light on the Isle of Dogs, has never done and will never do.
Racism, of course, endures, adapts. According to the exigencies of ideology, it casts around for one, then another first-choice hate. Jews in the 1930s, then black people, then Asians. For the past 10 years, Muslims in particular have worn the bull’s-eye. If they’re women who cover their hair, those few who veil entirely or those who chat into scarf-tucked phones, the hijab hands-free, their choice of headgear is bizarrely troublesome to those whose business it is not. The government’s official counterterror strategy includes asking university lecturers to report depressed Muslim students. Hate crimes against Muslims rise, fueled, researchers at the University of Exeter suggest, by the mainstreaming of Islamophobia among politicians and in the media. You can say shocking, scandalous things about Muslims, and opinion makers do, then push out their chins as if they’ve been brave.
Mieville doesn't quote any of these "shocking, scandalous things," and the evidence seems to point toward a hesitant, politically correct attitude in the British mainstream newspapers and the BBC toward criticizing Muslims.
The London issue got some pushback across the pond, with Mieville's article in particular rankling Londoners, as the European edition of the Times proudly reported.