Left: Image courtesy of hozinja and released under Creative Commons
Right: Image courtesy of Todd G and released under Creative Commons
Bottom: Image courtesy of George Rexta and released under Creative Commons
In August 2011, between the days of Saturday 6th August (Morrell 2011) and Tuesday 9th August (the guardian, LSE 2011), widespread riots took place across the united kingdom, ranging from London, to Birmingham, to Salford, to Liverpool, in what has been called “the worst bout of civil unrest in a generation (the guardian, LSE 2011).
In this document, I shall be seeking to answer the following question;
“Summer riots. Were they a spectacle or were they in opposition to the spectacle. Devise a discussion presenting the arguments for and against both positions”.
For the purposes of the document document, I shall be devising the discussion in the form of FOR and AGAINST text headings, with explanations of such under each.
I shall began by writing of how the summer riots were a spectacle
SUMMER RIOTS- SPECTACLE
Before I write of how I feel the summer riots were an example of spectacle, I first wish to define what I feel spectacle encompasses. In Guy Debord’s book “The Society of the Spectacle”, Guy denotes that “the spectacle is not a collection of images rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated my images” (Debord 1994: 4). Guy continues by describing how such is “the omnipresent celebration of choice already made in the sphere of production” (Debord 1994: 6). Both denotations signify the same ends, in that it is the mediation of images, be it through newspapers, magazines, television programs and the way such images are presented. It is the visual that seeks to provide the story, such is the definition of image.
Evidence of spectacle within the summer riots can be seen through the national news reports.
Below are 3 videos, denoting coverage from 3 national UK news providers, BBC News, ITV News and Sky News.
(as this clip comes from BBC News at Ten, it does contain small snippets of unrelated news, so apologies for this in advance)
I will first write about BBC News and the evidence of spectacle within it’s news coverage, focussing primarily on a BBC News At Ten news report from the 8th August 2011.
The report includes a wide shot of a wall of police officers, wearing protective clothing and armoury kettling the troublemakers, this is followed by a shot of what appears to be a car bursting into flames followed by a shot of people standing around, watching what is going on around them. These images seek to bring a heightened sense of danger and anarchy to the audience. Additionally, they seek to tell a story or narrative. The shot of a police cordon, with police officers standing behind it and the reporter standing next to it seek to provide authority and a sense of control. The report makes use of shots from the air, primarily of the burning buildings, one such being of a carpet shop in Croydon filmed during the day. This is then followed by a overhead shot of a burning building, which is shot in such a way as to provide a birds eye view of the area. This is done to provide context as to the scope of the fire within the local area. In my opinion, this shot is very effective.
The second report comes from ITV News’ London Tonight and focuses upon a resident and the loss of his home, filmed the morning after the riots. The report shows closeups of the wreckage of what was once his home, including a voiceover speaking how he had live in the house for 10 years. The report itself is a spectacle in terms of its content. Whereas the previous relied upon the anarchy and the troubles, this report relies upon the personal, the visuals flipping back and forth between the burned, destroyed buildings and the man. The final shot of the resident filmed taking a photograph of his former home seeks to bring home the sadness he feels. We often forget the personal within national events, but this report seeks to bring this to us.
The third and final report comes from Sky News, filmed on the final night of the riots. It begins with a overhead shot of a burning building, appearing dramatically at the very beginning of the report . It immediately draws you in and provides an immediate spectacle, that of fire and emergency. The voiceover which accompanies the shot, of how there are no emergency services to put out this fire, seeks to further emphasis the spectacle and indeed the drama. “London’s burning, and no one seems able to bring it under control” is the voiceover which encompasses this shot seeks to further dramatise the action on screen.
In bring together the above news reports, I also sought to outline the relation of discourse and “production”. Foucault speaks of “regimes of truth” and how “each society has it’s regime of truth, it’s general politics of truth”(Hobbs 2008: 10). To apply this relation to the above news reports, the audience only knows what the news provider is telling them. The way the shots are edited create the story and news providers have the ability to change the story, simply by switching, flipping or neglecting a shot or a scene. Foucault further expands on this by speaking of how “the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true, the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned … the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true” (Hobbs 2008: 10). In other words, unless the person reading, watching, or analysing the content in question was actually in the riots themselves, they can only provide a spectators view and this is prone to inaccuracy, due to the way the information was achieved. Each person has a different story.
This is how I feel the London riots were a spectacle.
The summer riots were not a spectacle.
Over the course of the 3 days, many riots occurred across the country, affecting the people whom reside in the areas which were affected. We are not talking of spectacle, we’re talking of people lives.
To emphasise this point, I have embedded a clip from Charlie Brookers 2011 Review, starring Doug Stanhope, which talks about the London Riots and a first hand account. Whilst it’s told in a comedic sense, it does have a serious message behind it as you will see as you watch it;
On 9th August 2013, an article was published in the Daily Mail, titled “Two years on, man who looted a bank during London riots becomes first to be evicted from council flat” (Daily Mail 2013). The article tells the story of a Jonathan Mason, whom joined a mob to burgle a HSBC branch in Battersea and was jailed for 3 years in 2012. “This is the price he must pay for the action that night” (Daily Mail 2013).
The fear that mobsters and the criminality sought to bring about makes this story a happy ending for the people of Croydon, Battersea. What began as a revenge attack against the shooting of Mark Duggan, simply became a free-for-all for the scum. They wanted to change the perceptions of young people. This certainly occurred. But for the worse. And they themselves are only to blame for this.
What hardened opinion had of the young has only been hardened further.
This is my discussion concerning the London riots and Spectacle and I thank you for taking the time to read the post.