Home > Uncategorized > Post Three – England Riots – August 2011

Post Three – England Riots – August 2011

On the 6th of August 2011, one of the biggest civil unrest that England has ever seen in generations took place. Disgusting scenes of looting, rioting and violence spread across the UK in the space of one week.  5 people died, 3000 people were arrested and nearly £100 million of damage was caused. Not only was this a shocking event for the country, it has opened up questions about how new media has a power and a hold on us today socially. Social media was the main outlet for communication for rioters and communities, is new media to blame for the riots?

New and Social media heavily dominated the riots; this fuelled the copycat behaviour, mixed with boredom and anger. People subsequently became predominantly influenced by what new media was injecting into them and moral panic began to spread out onto social networking and other media based outlets within communities.  Blackberry Messenger was the worst and most controversial to affect and heavily influence the riots. Because it is a private network, the police were unable to tap into what people were planning, hence why the riots got so out of hand and lasted so long.

Twitter and Facebook were used to coordinate and encourage rioters towards violence and looting. It was said that there was nearly 2.5 million ‘tweets’ relating to the rioting causing heavy amounts of civil unrest within society  . One example ; “Heading to Tottenham to join the riot! who’s with me? #ANARCHY”.  Facebook also heavily dominated the situation with its messenger service, status updates and events made to organise rioters made the problem worse. Two men Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan were the first to be charged with extremely harsh sentences for posting a group on Facebook, for a meeting point to start a riot.

In a positive light, Twitter and Facebook was also used to keep people up to date with riot information from the police in their areas and huge clean up operations were planned on Facebook and Twitter, to allow the community to help drive away the rioters.

New media in a bad situation does become some form of threat. When thrown into a situation of heavy moral panic, the outlet is used negatively, causing people to panic more, and push everything out of proportion. Although it has been proved that aspects of social media did cause the riots to flare up, this doesn’t mean a bad light should be cast upon social media and new media on the whole. ‘Social movements do not need Twitter, Facebook or BlackBerry messaging to succeed — they need any method of communication (like talking to the bloke next to you) and a sense of injustice (or futility or boredom) to motivate action’ – Stewart Mitchell he states here that new media and Social media isn’t a threat; it’s the people who are saturated within it and use it in a negative sense. The problem with new media, compared with Old media, is that it isn’t as established, it’s still developing and advancing every day, people are unsure of how far it goes, and how dangerous it can really be. Proving that New media has become a powerful influence socially on society today, and when in the wrong hands , can cause and encourage  disgusting behaviour, just like the England riots.

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