David Collin

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When is a "riot" a good riot and when is it a bad riot?

There have been "riots" in many places in the last couple years: Iran, Egypt, Syria, and most recently Britain. So when is a riot a" good" one? What characterizes a "bad" one?

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    Aug 13 2011: British PM Cameron invited ex-LAPD Chief Bratton to consult with them on how to suppress "gangs". Unfortunately Bratton is likely to recommend some things Cameron and Scotland Yard don't want to hear. Bratton is quoted as saying:"...he said that 'the issue of why kids join gangs is pretty universal: They want to belong to something. They feel disenfranchised; many come from broken homes without parents in any sense of the word.'" (http://lat.ms/qZGwS4)

    Uh-oh! You mean the police might have to listen to these kids and maybe support solving some community problems? That doesn't sound like Cameron who just says they're all criminals. Cameron has also declared that multi-culturalism in Britain has failed. That's not a good way to start a conversation. I think Cameron only wants to learn how to put the boot-heel down on the necks of rioters and thinks we know how to do that better in America than they do in Britain.

    In the US we do have 2,000,000 people in prison. That's one way to thin the herd. For minorities its known as cradle-to-jail life.
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    Aug 12 2011: "A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are typically chaotic and exhibit herd behavior, and usually generated by civil unrest."

    I think all RIOTs are bad. What is good is peaceful public assemblies without violence. Violence never accomplishes what we need to make the world move forward. When the authoritiarian stuctures and policeforces inflict the violence on the peacefully assembled- then riots which result are justified if impotent forms of protest.
    • Aug 20 2011: I respectfully disagree. "Peaceful Public assemblies" will only be successful on governments that truly works and cares for their citizens; just like the Swedish, Norwegian, Australian and Canadian governments.

      The rest of the world doesn't work that way. Our earth is turning towards the opposite direction. We, citizens are the ones that work to benefit the governments and corporations. Leaders seem/talk like they care for the people and our rights but the only thing they do is to exploit their citizens in every possible way...You may think it is curable with democracy and voting for the right leader in elections. I am sure that will work in the countries I mentioned above...

      However, in the world that turns towards the opposite direction, political parties give a lot of promise about social rights before the elections but they never keep those promises later...Thus, people show some teeth to their government to get more deserved rights. Rage is the only language the leaders understand. They don't feel threatened by peaceful protests or by rational slogans. That's why today, even if millions of people gather and protest on the streets in a legal, peaceful way, it won't change anything. That kind of protest happen everyday, somewhere in the world, and often ends without any accomplishments...

      and yes, violence have accomplished many things to make the world move forward. Deserved rights such as; 8 hour work-day (see: Hay Market riot), retirement pay, social security system, healthcare, yearly holiday entitlement (see: the reasons behind Adamson act) and many more; were gained by the persuasion and intimidation of violent rioters...
  • Aug 12 2011: I was about to write an answer to your question...then I saw your pic...soorry!! Anyone using other peoples pics as profile pics...WRONG!
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      Aug 12 2011: What, you don't think that's me? Aww...
  • Mika A

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    Aug 14 2011: Based on the dictionary definition of a riot (a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowdof persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group,a government policy, etc., in the streets.) I would say rioting is never good.

    It may be possible that rioting will result in the rioters’ voices been heard but this, as history has proven is unlikely. As the old saying goes “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Creating a problem to resolve an existing one in my opinion, is the height of foolishness.
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    Aug 13 2011: Geesh! Even Scientific American is getting into the commentary about riots. They have a piece on their website today titled: "Rabble with a Cause." (http://bit.ly/owR0oN) It's a rundown of riot and mob behavior studies over the years. Here's a quote: "Even what appears to be a clear case of crowd violence can be misleading. A recent review of crowd behavior theories (pdf) pointed to the old idea of a mob, where "individuals lose all sense of self-responsibility... and primitive behavior results." But in reality, any riot includes both collective action and individual acts of opportunism, and these are hard to tease apart. Some individuals, Reicher explains, will use a crowd as a "cover," to do things they would not normally do. These single-minded actions do not necessarily represent the behavior of the group as a whole, even though it can appear so. "

    Ironically a lot of studies of riots are cases of rioting in Britain. NPR has an article summarizing four riots in Britain in the '80s titled: "Foreign Policy: Deja Vu — UK Riots Nothing New." (http://n.pr/qkgimo)

    Still, the social networking that seems to have spread the rioting is a new twist. If and when there are more riots in the US it'll be interesting to see how it gets tweeted.
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    Aug 12 2011: A 'good' riot is one whose cause is conspicuous, and matches national anger against something imposed against popular will. (This is the kind of riot that happens when peaceful protest and any sense of natural justice has not worked, is ignored, or whose cause is passed off by government as a triviality or a minor inconvenience).

    The Arab spring looks good to us on humanitarian grounds because it has succeeded in removing cruel despots. Look closely though - oil is nearly always implicated somewhere in there. It is interesting that we in the West are only too willing to join in to help with their riots if there is the slightest chance we can get our filthy hands on their oil. Other countries that have desperate humanitarian crises on the other hand (but no oil), are left to sort their own problems out. So, riots in the oil-rich middle east - good or bad? Not sure. Good in many ways, but very bad in others, because the motives behind western involvement are ulterior.

    The riots in the UK had no popular cause whatsoever. It was inspired by pure greed for valuable objects that could be sold on ebay. The anger felt by most ordinary people towards the youthful perpetrators is palpable.But there may yet be some good in this too. The UK riots have brought into sharp focus the inadequacies of our policing. It has illustrated that our youth is disaffected, ignored and very badly parented. When something like this becomes sharply focussed, we can begin to do something about it. So a 'bad riot' such as this can actually have favourable outcomes.
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      Aug 12 2011: You say, "It is interesting that we in the West are only too willing to join in to help with their riots if there is the slightest chance we can get our filthy hands on their oil." Our 'filthy hands'? Are 'we in the West' that bad?
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        Aug 12 2011: Yes we are.

        We are a bit like a drug addict. We will go to any lengths to get our next fix of oil to maintain our accustomed, comfortable lifestyle, even if that means committing war crimes to get it
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          Aug 12 2011: I respectfully disagree with your, what seems to me, extreme assessment. I assume you are looking to leave the West and live else where?
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        Aug 12 2011: I apologise - it is coming across a bit strong.

        I have not yet heard an acceptable explanation as to why we did not send in troops to - say - Zimbabwe, whose humanitarian crisis was as bad as Iraq or Libya. Can you explain?
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          Aug 12 2011: I cannot explain. I do, however, believe the good our country does outweighs our faults. I would suggest that pride in one's country while working on its faults is a democratic principle.

          Thank you for the dialogue, Allan.
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    Aug 12 2011: It depends on who you are rebelling against. If you are rebelling against a muslim state than you are good but if you are rising against a christian state then you are looter.
  • Aug 12 2011: They say "riots start where the justice ends" and "Rights are not given, they are taken". Any riot that causes justice for the rioters or even a riot attempt to gain some deserved rights can be considered good I think.

    Most riots are started by suffering citizens or workers, for a cause, to get more rights. On the other hand, If you look at history, you see that overwhelmed and angry people make some incident an excuse to go against the system and the rest fallows the pack. Looting. burning and even killing... most of the mob don't even know why they do it though. Usually it starts like this, then some deliberative people control the mob and turn the chaos into a riot with a specific goal. French revolution in 1789 or the riots that happened this year in Egypt were like this for example...

    I can't condone the events which happened in the UK but, even it can be considered good for the "anarchists" in the long run.
    The incident that happened at first, in Tottenham, was a reasonable excuse for the first protesters. I think it had the potential to be easily turned directly against the government. It couldn't go beyond the chaos phase because nobody controlled it or tried to change its direction. They got the government scared though, that's why they may gain some rights for "themselves" and that is why it is good for "them". I don't think it is good though...
  • Aug 12 2011: A bad riot is one in which the rioters do not attain their goal. A good riot is one in which they do. Its as simple as that. A good riot would include those that led to the successful American and French revolutions, because the rioters were in a position to call them "good" after the dust settled.

    History is written by the victors. "Terrorism" "mindless violence" are what the losers do. "Freedom fighting" is what the winners do. In fact, they are doing exactly the same thing.
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    Aug 11 2011: Far better that a demonstration swells than a riot develops. Each may attain the same goal, but one does it without violence.
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    Aug 11 2011: So, Tim, there is no redeeming merit in what happened in Britain?
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      Aug 11 2011: maybe when it started, but burning local business helps no one. trash cans and cars and stuff, but not peoples dreams. IT IS a good reminder what 15% unemployment looks like.
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    Aug 11 2011: well obviously in britain it is bad, but if this whole thing happened in china, everyone would be saying "look! there goverment does not work! for the people!"

    to be honest though, looting and setting fire to private business is a bad one, a riot which lost its direction. save the fire for the goverment buildings and polticians houses.