People keep making Clash references ("London's Burning," "Guns of Brixton," etc.) when they talk about the riots in Britain. But that's not quite right—it gives the rioters too much political credit. Though the unrest began with a protest against police for killing a man during an arrest (and something about the closing of government-sponsored youth centers), the violence has quickly turned into a riot of opportunity—it's about leather and looting and an angry fuck you to the grownups, whose government's moral authority had been crumbling for years and completely collapsed under the weight of the Murdoch scandal.
Because if Scotland Yard and your biggest public officials are proven to be (not just suspected to be) venal, corrupt, lying, squirrelly shits, then who, exactly, is going to tell the kids what they can and can't do?
The parents, apparently. From the BBC:
Shops in Clapham Junction came under sustained attack from looters on Monday night.
Conservative MP for the area, Jane Ellison, said parents should be asking some tough questions of their children.
You know the state has (temporarily) lost its authority when government officials are calling on parents to end a national urban riot. Just box 'em on the ears and send 'em to bed without supper. That'll sort it!
Teenage riot in a public station
Gonna fight and tear it up in a hyper-nation for you
So who's to take the blame for the stormy weather
You're never gonna stop all the teenage leather and booze
And consider this detail from the New York Times:
David Lammy, Britain’s intellectual property minister, also called for a suspension of Blackberry’s encrypted instant message service. Many rioters, exploiting that service, have been able to organize mobs and outrun the police. “It is unfortunate, but for the very short term, London can’t have a night like the last,” Mr. Lammy said in a Twitter post.
The authorities are trying to turn off the technology—that is the best proof that this riot is about youth vs. (doddering, delegitimized) age.
The kids are acting out what the "thankless child" Regan snarls to her father in King Lear:
O, sir, you are old;
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of her confine: you should be rul'd and led
By some discretion, that discerns your state
Better than you yourself.
Order will be restored, of course. But this is not about "The Guns of Brixton." It's about "say it/don't spray it/
spirit desire/spirit desire/spirit desire/we will fall."