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Mr. X
August 14th, 2011, 12:57 PM
It's a Pattern: London Rioters Are Leaving Bookstores Untouched



While the rioters in England this week have looted shops selling shoes, clothes, computers, and plasma televisions, they've curiously bypassed one particular piece of merchandise: books. The Economist observes that while rioters have a centuries-old history of book burning, "books are losing out to high-end jeans and Apple-made gadgets" in London, with the Waterstone's bookstore chain emerging unscathed and the WH Smith chain reporting only one incident (some stores closed as a precaution). In explaining that the store would probably stay open during the unrest, one Waterstone's employee even felt comfortable enough to issue a dare to the rioters: "If they steal some books, they might actually learn something." The exception to the rule is the gay bookstore Gay's the Word, which had its front window smashed and its shopfront splattered with eggs (notably, no goods were stolen). "Our impression is that there are certain people who have an issue with a visible gay business and are using the excuse of chaos to cause anti-gay damage," an assistant manager told PinkPaper.

Confronted with all this evidence, The Huffington Post poses a couple vexing questions: "Did the bookstores survive because the rioters respect reading--or because they simply don't care about books? Is this a positive or a negative sign for the future of the industry?" Most people seem to be embracing the theory that the rioters simply didn't want books, particularly in the digital age. "The only shop NOT looted down the road from where I live was Waterstones," British author Patrick French tweeted. "I guess the rioters have Kindles--bought or looted." Martin Fletcher touched on a similar theme at the end of a report for NBC News. "A final thought that may say a lot about our times," he concluded. "In this shopping center every store had been looted but one, the book store." The "underlying message for bookshops," The Economist adds, is "hardly front-page news: looters, like more conventional consumers, are all too happy to ignore their wares."

Big Green Bookshop co-owner Simon Key, however, suggests the rioters may have been motivated more by economics than pure consumer desire. "The people who were doing this were mainly going for phone shops, high fashion shops and HMV, looking for stuff that they could sell on," he told The Financial Times. "Bookshops weren't top of the list."

Today, as the rioters spill into Britain's courthouses, we're gaining additional insight into who the young, enigmatic looters are and what motivated them to wreak havoc on England's streets, though news outlets are issuing somewhat conflicting reports. The AP, for example, says that the 1,000-plus people who have been arrested--some of whom are as young as eleven--share a deep sense of "alienation." One 19-year-old looter who did not appear in court explains, "Nobody is doing nothing for us--not the politicians, not the cops, no one." The AP adds that "the rage has appeared to cut across ethnic lines, with poverty as the main common denominator." A BBC infographic today suggests the rioters are primarily young--anywhere from 15 to 24--and male.

But other reports complicate that picture of young men struggling with poverty and social deprivation. The New York Times explains that while many of those who were remanded for trial hailed from an "underclass of alienated young people, with no jobs and few prospects," some of the young men and women came from affluent, middle-class communities and included a graphic designer, a postal employee, a dental assistant, a teaching aide, and a forklift driver. Sky News adds that one of the rioters who stole $8,000-worth of goods from a Comet store was a student at the University of Exeter and a daughter of a successful businessman. Many of those who appeared in court had no previous convictions, Sky adds. The Guardian, meanwhile, points to one suspect who had 96 previous convictions for theft.

So where does that leave us on the question of why the rioters refrained from looting and burning bookstores? The most likely explanation appears to be that the rioters were more interested in high-end clothing and electronics than books, for economic and personal reasons. But a Guardian article yesterday suggests the rioters may have been more principled about what they stole and what they didn't than one might think. The paper recalls how one person expressed indignation when a fellow looter reached for a hand-stitched wedding dress:

When another group finished ransacking a pawnbroker's and started cleaning out a local fashion boutique, an angry young black woman berated one of them. "You're taking the piss, man. That woman hand-stitches everything, she's built that shop up from nothing. It's like stealing from your mum."

A girl holding a looted wedding dress smiled sheepishly, stuck for anything to say.


http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/08/its-pattern-london-rioters-are-leaving-bookstores-untouched/41142/

Except for the gay book store.

So, two questions.

Why do you think they didn't loot any of the book stores? (Except for the above stated one)

Do you think the gay bookstore was looted to send a anti-gay message?

Anders
August 14th, 2011, 01:02 PM
Because they don't read books and obviously a homophobe attacked the gay bookstore.

Btw what's the difference between a gay bookstore and a straight one?

Antebellum
August 14th, 2011, 01:11 PM
Not a surprise, really. The majority of teens/young adults today would take an Ipod instead of a book, as they don't read and as the article says, Electronics/High End Clothing sell for more than a book would. Agreeing with user Anders on the second question.

SelenaStar
August 14th, 2011, 01:56 PM
I live in London, and the people who were rioting come from a socio-economic background where items like high-end electronics are seen as a major status symbol, hence why these businesses were targeted rather than bookstores.

For young kids - let's remember, the main age group taking part in the attacks were between 12-17 years old - in areas like Peckham, Tottenham, iPods, iPhones, XBoxes and the like aren't everyday items. If you're spotted wandering around the 'hood' (yes, the hood) with a brand new iPhone, your peers will automatically look up to you, material items demand respect (before they will mug you for it that is, especially if they are in their groups) and books...books just don't carry the same street value.

Which is why I think the argument that this violence, the riots have a 'political' purpose in so far as it is people from the deprived communities standing up against the poor conditions they live in and the extended cuts, while it will obviously have SOME relevance, is a load of nonsense (I realllly wanted to use a stronger term there but I'm going to try and maintain some kind of self-restraint, there's been too much fowl language over these riots even in the media...)

a.) 12-17 year olds are in school. Luckily for them, they don't have to think about the 'real world' yet - they don't have to worry about inflation, unemployment figures, etc etc. If their parents had been rioting like back in the Winter of Discontent then sure, political issues would have been brought to the forefront. But these riots are down to the simple matter of respect - there is none. No respect is left in British society, it's been eroded by a culture of pure consumerism, where people (especially young people who see their parents using the Welfare state as a way of life) believe they are OWED a living and don't have to go and work for it, which is why you find people stealing TV's and then trying to dress it up as 'anti-Government' rioting. Load of balderdash.

b. If it were real, political rioting, trust me when I say that NO store would have been left unturned, even if it hadn't been looted. Especially chain stores - the fact that major chain bookstores have been left unscathed just goes to show, these looters were pure opportunists who were sent messages from their mates over BlackBerry Messenger that there were free tracksuits to steal down at JD sports in town.

Although, having said this, I think it will bring up the issue of the conditions these socio-economic classes live in. They've been considered almost an underclass for too long while the establishment have focused on helping the rich get richer and bringing lower middle class families higher up the social stepladder. Now we're reaping the rewards for this, and anyone could have seen this kind of blow up coming if you looked in the right places in London - areas like Tottenham and Croydon have been simmering away for some time now, and not just because of the cuts because there have been small explosions since the Blair/Brown era.

All we Brits can hope is that our Politicians don't shirk away from the big hard questions and tackle them head on to stop this from happening again...although given the recent knee-jerk reaction of importing Bratton, I'm afraid to speculate that history will just repeat itself over and over...

Captain Fabio
August 14th, 2011, 03:32 PM
A) Books don't normally have a large face value when being sold on.
B) They aren't 'interesting enough' to the likes of people who looted the shops.
C) Books are pretty cheap

That pretty much sums up my thoughts on it and to do with the gay book shop, I don't think they even realised it was a gay one due to points above.

Esper
August 14th, 2011, 08:33 PM
Books, while somewhat expensive, don't have as high a weight-to-value ratio so you "get less for your money" in stolen books than designer goods.

Books also don't have any status among the kinds of people who would riot, loot, and burn down buildings. You're not going to impress your hoodlum buddies by showing off your stolen copy of David Sedaris' new book.

Why they targeted a gay bookshop? Because it was there and in the heat of the moment people let their prejudices show quite blatantly. These are poor working class people, right? Lack of education then might be a factor in why they never learned to have respect for people different from them. I mean, it seemed from the article that the only time someone stopped for a moment to think about the people they were hurting was when they realized they were hurting someone who was working class as well.

Anders
August 14th, 2011, 08:46 PM
A) Books don't normally have a large face value when being sold on.
B) They aren't 'interesting enough' to the likes of people who looted the shops.
C) Books are pretty cheap

That pretty much sums up my thoughts on it and to do with the gay book shop, I don't think they even realised it was a gay one due to points above.

How do books not having value, not being interesting to hoodlums and their price prove that they didn't know it was a gay bookstore? The fact that it's the only bookstore that got attacked, and the only thing separating it from other bookstores was that it was openly supporting gays, would lead anybody to believe the motives behind it were obviously geared towards that one difference.

Phantom
August 14th, 2011, 09:14 PM
The reason is chavs don't read.

Captain Fabio
August 15th, 2011, 05:26 AM
How do books not having value, not being interesting to hoodlums and their price prove that they didn't know it was a gay bookstore? The fact that it's the only bookstore that got attacked, and the only thing separating it from other bookstores was that it was openly supporting gays, would lead anybody to believe the motives behind it were obviously geared towards that one difference.

Have you ever thought they wanted to attack stores for the fun of it? Regardless of its origin? You remember the 89 year old barber who's shop had been there for 40 years and the thugs just attacked it for no reason? What message were they sending there? They hate getting their hair cut? Or that they will attack anything for the fun of it. There is a good chance these thugs that attacked the bookstore had the same mentality and just wanted to break stuff.
The reason I said books don't have value, is because I meant it doesn't have value to these people. They were looting things they wanted, they could sell on for a high price, I doubt you will get more money from a book in a local bookshop than a 42" TV or 32GB iPhone.

TRIFORCE89
August 15th, 2011, 07:48 PM
Have you ever thought they wanted to attack stores for the fun of it? Regardless of its origin? You remember the 89 year old barber who's shop had been there for 40 years and the thugs just attacked it for no reason? What message were they sending there? They hate getting their hair cut? Or that they will attack anything for the fun of it. There is a good chance these thugs that attacked the bookstore had the same mentality and just wanted to break stuff.
The reason I said books don't have value, is because I meant it doesn't have value to these people. They were looting things they wanted, they could sell on for a high price, I doubt you will get more money from a book in a local bookshop than a 42" TV or 32GB iPhone.
This.

Also, there could be a number of reasons for why book stores were largely ignored. Besides what was already listed... it's just random chaos and the book stores got the luck of draw continuously. Also they're illiterate and wouldn't know where to find a bookstore

PkMnTrainer Yellow
August 15th, 2011, 11:05 PM
A ... "gay bookstore"?

Huh. Bookstores never seemed like an experience that had anything to do with sex.

Oh wait they don't. .-.

No, it's not a conspiracy of anti-gays. It's simply a riot combined with a bookstore provoking people out of ignorance. Nothing to see there.

Oryx
August 15th, 2011, 11:14 PM
A ... "gay bookstore"?

Huh. Bookstores never seemed like an experience that had anything to do with sex.

Oh wait they don't. .-.

No, it's not a conspiracy of anti-gays. It's simply a riot combined with a bookstore provoking people out of ignorance. Nothing to see there.

Not all homosexuality is sex-related. Gay bookstores exist, and they're not (all, some of them are) raunchy places or anything.

I'm going with the 'heat of the moment' argument here - maybe one-on-one, the people that attacked it wouldn't have a problem with gays. But when you're there, and it's there, and you're angry and destroying stuff, I bet it's easy to forget all your civilized behavior like tolerance.

PkMnTrainer Yellow
August 15th, 2011, 11:40 PM
Not all homosexuality is sex-related.

...Homosexuality is a very simple answer to a very simple question, not a lifestyle, a fad, or anything more than just that. It is indeed entirely sex related, or at least should be. Books are not straight, or gay, or whatever ... unless they're erotic in nature. In which case bookstore would be a bit of a euphemism, now wouldn't it. ;o

Situations like this book store vandalism reminds me of a saying.

I'm just going to paraphrase it, since I can't remember the original phrasing anyway.

'Unless we're planning on having a relationship, I don't want to know your orientation.'

Oryx
August 16th, 2011, 03:42 AM
...Homosexuality is a very simple answer to a very simple question, not a lifestyle, a fad, or anything more than just that. It is indeed entirely sex related, or at least should be. Books are not straight, or gay, or whatever ... unless they're erotic in nature. In which case bookstore would be a bit of a euphemism, now wouldn't it. ;o

Situations like this book store vandalism reminds me of a saying.

I'm just going to paraphrase it, since I can't remember the original phrasing anyway.

'Unless we're planning on having a relationship, I don't want to know your orientation.'

What I'm saying is that homosexuality is more than wanting to have sex with the same sex as yourself. For some, it is a lifestyle, for some it is relationship-based. A "gay" bookstore doesn't focus on sex necessarily, the books it holds just often have more relevance to gay people or are written by gay people. If you've never been inside a bookstore that caters to gay people, then you really have no right to judge as you have no way to know what they are actually like. And aside from a store to actually buy books in, often places like that are meeting places for gay people, since it's not as easy for them to find other gay people as it is for straight people to find other straight people.

Seriously, no need to be so judgemental over a bookstore. Open your mind a bit, it would definitely do you some good.

superdogbiter
August 16th, 2011, 03:16 PM
Wow this is like a sitcom situation