Monday, December 28, 2015

Rebels Without a Clue: The Mall at St. Matthews and the rise of the "Nothing in Particular" riot

Remember when people had reasons for rioting? 

I'm trying to remember when demonstrations lapsed from being about something into being about nothing. As I recall, riots used to be about something—starting with material necessities (food, high prices, jobs, better wages and working conditions, etc.), then big events (the War in Vietnam), then big ideas and values (The French Revolution, civil rights demonstrations, the Arab Spring)—then they became about a pretext for other more general grievances (Watts riots, Ferguson, Baltimore), and now they aren't about anything in particular.

The disturbance at St. Matthews Mall in Louisville that made national news on Sunday was clearly another example of this latter kind of demonstration, which we are seeing with greater and greater frequency.

According to NBC News:

"As they were responding to those disturbances, others were breaking out. ... Disturbances started to feed on themselves." McDonald said. "They were just overwhelmed with a number of calls for service and reports of disorder."

The officers on duty at the mall called for backup, and 50 officers from five different agencies responded, according to police.

"It was a series of brawls" involving 1,000 to 2,000 people ages 13 to their early 20s, McDonald said, adding that "the entire mall" was affected.

It was another riot furthering The Cause of Nothing in Particular. It was an upper middle class disturbance in an upper middle class mall in a country that harbors more spoiled teenagers per square inch than any other place on earth.

It is another instance (the 2011 Wall Street and London demonstrations were two more prominent examples—see my article on those here) of a bunch of people with way to little to do and way too much time on their hands looking for a little existential self-authentification. They did it for the same reason that Albert Camus' Mersseault shoots the Arab on the beach in The Stranger: because he could.

"This was a riot," [Officer Dennis] McDonald added. "It was crazy." ... "I've been a police officer 33 years, and I haven't ever seen anything like this before," he said. "We always plan for worst-case scenario, but this exceeded that."

They were rioting for the same reason (if it can be called a "reason") that young people join ISIS: It gives them a purpose in their otherwise meaningless lives.

McDonald said investigators haven't determined what sparked the outbreak of violence, but they don't believe it was planned.

That's right: You don't plan something if you don't have any reason for doing it. You just do it. That's one of the salient features of the Nothing in Particular disturbance: not having a reason is a necessary part of it. It makes you feel like you've done something when you haven't really done anything, other than ruined a holiday weekend for a few policemen and their families. 

As I have pointed out before, these riots are not about anything—they're not even about nothing. That would be nihilism and nihilism is at least something. We know that nihilism had nothing to do with this because no self-respecting nihilist would be caught dead at a mall.

Nihilists at least believe in something so strongly (even if that something is Nothing) that they're willing to kill people and break things. The psychology behind the modern Nothing in Particular rioter doesn't allow him to do even this. 

These teenagers were rioting in the same sense as P***y Riot is a rock band: There's very little evidence that they actually do what they are purported to do, but it is in the interest of the media to pretend that they do, and so we all just go along with it.

It's hard to tell from the news reports, but it doesn't appear that there was any real violence to speak of. There were reportedly "brawls," but, since no injuries were reported, it is likely they involved little more than a scuffed up pair of Sketchers, or perhaps a torn pair of chinos here or there. These are rioters in need of remedial riot training.

The worst specific thing reported to have happened at the Mall at St. Matthews was that teenagers wouldn't allow the stores to close. Presumably this involved the risky expedient of standing around where you weren't wanted. 

Heck, they could've done that at home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"We know that nihilism had nothing to do with this because no self-respecting nihilist would be caught dead at a mall."

Love it.

Entered a hipster coffee shop today in the South and thought of this line. I was glad I had an alternative to Starbucks to go to though.