17 May 2008

Mob Violence

The BBC has quite a lot of good video of the visit to Manchester on Wednesday of a large number of Glaswegians.

The normal question to ask about these scenes is, of course, "how do we prevent it". But maybe there are more important questions. Mostly, how bad actually was it?

OK, so a lot of damage was done, and quite a few people got hurt. But a lot of people had a lot of fun, too, both visiting Scotsmen and the Greater Manchester Police. (Watch this video and tell me the police didn't have fun). I've had a lot of fun watching the video. It's noteworthy that the BBC are showing quite a lot of video that was obviously shot by the rioters.

The entertainment is probably quite good value per pound spent on repairing the damage. Just think how many good riots we could afford for the cost of the far less entertaining 2012 Olympics.

But the entertainment value is incidental too. I think the important point is that the threat of mob violence is an important part of the balance of power. It's the same point as I made earlier today: where do rights come from? This is where they come from.

Now, if I were picking rights worth establishing, the right to have major football matches shown free on working large public screens near the ground wouldn't be high on my list. As a direct political action, this week's riot cannot be counted a great benefit. But we have mostly forgotten about the power of the mob, and I think there's an indirect benefit in having a little reminder, every couple of years, that a few thousand inebriated young men with a grudge, together in one place on a warm evening, constitute a force seriously to be reckoned with. And if nobody gets too seriously hurt, then we get the reminder cheap.

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