Sunday, June 5, 2016

Riots - A Stained Image Created by Mass Media


George Ciccariello Maher’s “ Planet of Slum, Age of Riots” acknowledges the negative connotation that has been placed upon the idea of riots which roots from the misunderstandings, the assumptions and the false imagery created by media. He claims that society should listen to the motives of the “rebels” and learn from their actions rather than listening to the deceiving interpretations presented by mass media. He structures his argument in a progressive matter by explaining his own initial misconceptions and concludes by advocating to support the riots.Through the use of logos moves he assesses suppositions that are commonly presumed by outside spectators and presents a sequence of arguments that counteract those views. Most importantly, he gives a voice to the rioters in which they explain their own actions thus clarifying misconceiving popular assumptions.
 Maher initiates his paper by providing a list of cities where riots have taken place and mentions “There are too many to count… We almost can’t keep the names straight.” By saying this, Maher deprives each individual riot mentioned of their value and creates a tone of normality indicating that riots are common in our everyday world. He then states a personal account in which he expresses his indifference when he hears the word “riot in London” because it has become a “ritualized” event for him.  As a result, this introduction may lead to the reader to expect that he will be criticizing the actions of those who riot. Further, another element that may lead the reader to believe that he is in a critic standpoint is the title “ Planet of Slums, Age of Riots” . The title has a negative connotation due to the fact that there is an image of a violent history attached to the word riot and the word slums is often associated with the word ghetto. However, as one continues reading, it becomes noticeable that it is actually the opposite and he is introducing how he like many only saw the superficiality regarding mobs and did not see the actual cause of their actions. He progresses by saying that the creation of this violent image and irrationality is rooted in the matter media has decided to portray them.  
 Moreover, throughout the article, Maher quotes words that are commonly used but whose actual meaning may be misinterpreted. For example, the phrase “riot in London” was first presented as just another riot to add to the list in the opening sentences. However, Maher explains that its meaning goes beyond that of the death of Mark Duggan. Thus the phrase “riot in London” acquires a new meaning and becomes a need for change against an unjust system. Also, he explains how the word “mob” is actually a tactic that higher forces have used to deprive the resistance from their purpose and motivations by presenting them as irrational masses. By quoting these words he clarifies possible misunderstandings with regards to their meanings as well as signaling their importance.
Furthermore, the false image that the public holds of riots is rooted from biased misinterpretations from media. Thus, Maher invites the reader to listen to the rebels themselves and in doing so, he has given a voice to “the mob” which counteracts the meaning that governmental powers have intended to imply. The first argument stated by the rebels is “Nothing else has worked, this might”. People are only seeing the effects of their actions but they do not see that the cause of their riots is due to a lack in coverage through official channels when protests are peaceful.  Maher says, “If someone has an effective counter – argument to this, I’m all ears.”  He says this because it is true, people have attempted peaceful protest and they receive no coverage but past riots such the one in 2009 Oakland has proven to be effective with noticeable results.  The “rebels” express that their actions are actually responses to the corruption of governmental figures, a rioter states “We’re getting our taxes back.” Thus in the minds of the rioters, they are just reclaiming what was originally theirs and was taken away by wealthy politicians. They are not the individuals who are committing a crime rather it is the original accusers that are to blame for their “inadequate” actions.
In addition, Maher provides outside perspectives of those who support the rioters but are not physically present in the riots which are also another source of assumptions. Darcus Howe, a popular rebel figure, presents the idea of “the nature of the historical moment.” Maher then argues that critiquing the effects of riots in context to a historical moment is “ as effective as bemoaning the existence of gravity” because all rioters are a result of the injustices of capitalism and greediness of political figures .Moreover, he critiques The Guardian report which mentions the unifying of the “ deprived young men” but does not mention that those united are a much broader group including a variety of different groups which creates the assumption that the crowds are composed of a single ethnic group. Another occasion in which assumptions are created by an outside spectator is when Daniel Harvey mentions that “The rioters are simply not radical enough…. We have to radicalize them further.” Although he is advocating to support the rioters he neglecting the fact the rioters are actually radical enough, it is “the left” that have proven to be less effective.

Maher makes his claim in the conclusion, “We can learn from those rushing through the London streets.” This is contrary to his introduction in which he expressed his indifference towards the “riots in London”. This indicates a self-progression regarding his own views and he effectively addressed the means for which this progress was made. Once more Maher invites the reader to listen directly from the mouths of the rioters rather than outside spectators whose attempt to interpret their actions creates expectations that have stained the image of riots and mobs. 

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