"we carry death out of the village"

The Ideal City

Every public passion was thus wrapped up in philosophy; political life was violently driven back into literature, and writers, taking in hand the direction of opinion, found themselves for a moment taking the place that party leaders usually hold in free countries… Above the real society… there was slowly built an imaginary society in which everything seemed simple and coordinated, uniform, equitable, and in accord with reason. Gradually, the imagination of the crowd deserted the former to concentrate on the latter. One lost interest in what was, in order to think about what could be, and finally one lived mentally in the ideal city the writers had built.

–Alexis de Tocqueville, The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution


In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni

The Guardian report that the IPCC have just released a statement in response to an inquiry by one of their journalists:

Analysis of media coverage and queries raised on Twitter have alerted to us to the possibility that we may have inadvertently given misleading information to journalists when responding to very early media queries following the shooting of Mark Duggan by MPS officers on the evening of 4th August.

The IPCC’s first statement, issued at 22:49 on 4th August, makes no reference to shots fired at police and our subsequent statements have set out the sequence of events based on the emerging evidence. However, having reviewed the information the IPCC received and gave out during the very early hours of the unfolding incident, before any documentation had been received, it seems possible that we may have verbally led journalists to believe that shots were exchanged as this was consistent with early information we received that an officer had been shot and taken to hospital.

Any reference to an exchange of shots was not correct and did not feature in any of our formal statements, although an officer was taken to hospital after the incident.

Shock! Horror! Who could have predicted such a thing, etc, etc, etc.

Before we draw a veil over the whole sorry affair, let us briefly recap: The public is apparently told by the police that Mark Duggan was killed resisting arrest and firing at an armed police unit. The IPCC, the public’s champion, then contradict the police and release a statement saying that, on the contrary, Duggan never fired a shot. The public, understandably rather miffed at being led astray, very reasonably smash and burn London to the ground in a weekend long festival of violence and destruction. The pigs lied; people died. We’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take this any more!

Only now it appears that the IPCC were the source of the rumour that the police were fired on first, as well as being the source of the statement that they were not. So far from protesting against a police cover-up, the rioters were, at best, protesting against the IPCC contradicting and then correcting itself. Oh, noble cause! Oh, noble work!

Update: The Guardian adds,

Many of the first media reports specifically attributed the line about Duggan firing first to the IPCC. And our crime correspondent Sandra Laville tells me that Scotland Yard did not on any occasion brief her that officers were fired on first…

The first trouble began in Tottenham on Saturday evening after a vigil in support of Mark Duggan outside the local police station. One of the Duggan family grievances was poor communication from the authorities in the early stages. They were particularly upset at suggestions in media reports that Duggan had fired first.

Let them handle us robustly

Has any word been more abused this week than “robust”? Politicians, journalists and senior policemen queued up to deploy it before a shell-shocked population. “Our response will be robust,” they announced impressively, while somewhere off-camera, England’s major cities burned. “Our view of what the police should do to the rioters is understandably robust,” they told us: a robust view of a robust response. (A robust view—does such a thing even make sense? Trouble yourself not with sense or reason my friend; what is important now is that we come together under one banner, that of robustness). “Robust policing shown to work”, the newspapers exclaimed.  And how!

It is a fortunate thing, is it not, that as well as a method of policing that does not work, our leaders thought to keep in reserve one that does? Such foresight! All deserve badges, at the very least.