Groupthink?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/world/europe/10britain.html

At the moment, every major media outlet is covering the riots in the UK. It seems that the riots are no longer primarily a response to the murder of the man in London but have taken on a life of their own. “Londoners have been stunned not only by the extent of the violence and the speed with which it spread, but also by the spectacle of hooded and masked youths rampaging with seeming impunity … Many have asked how areas of the city could have been transformed so rapidly from bustling shopping areas one day to quasi war zones the next.” London sounds like a nightmare. A scene from a movie.

Some analysts have described the situation as one of “groupthink” (http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/theory/grpthink.html) but I disagree. Although the actions of “the mob” might be group-like in its widespread violent approach and individuals’ choice to rationalize their actions as being part of a collective, I don’t think there is any real unity among the rioters, and that it’s more anarchy than groupthink.

The rioting may have begun as an act of moral outrage against what the rioters saw to be police violence and abuse of power, but the situation as currently described, “…rioters moving quickly and nimbly on foot and by bicycle seemed so emboldened that they began looting in broad daylight … Newspapers on Tuesday showed images of hooded and masked looters swarming over shelves of cigarettes or making off with flat-screen televisions,” seems like the bulk of the rioting is being done by hooligans taking advantage of the anarchy of the situation. Any moral justification the riots may have started with now appears to be tainted or even gone.

Recent updates say that Prime Minister Cameron has significantly increased the police force and convened Parliament for an emergency session. I hope the violence can be quickly brought to an end, but that the discussion does not end with it.  I also hope British government, and the rest of the world, takes a long, hard look at not only what is happening, but how it could have happened. Finally, I wish to never have to wake up and walk through the rubble of my own town like so many in the UK did today.

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About evajge

A friend once told me that all I eat is chocolate and cheese. I was both disturbed and amused to realize that he was right.
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