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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: 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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