To Catch A Looter

Posted: August 9, 2011 in concern porn, metrosexuality
Tags: ,

Cities in the UK are riot zones. One man has died. There is talk of bringing in the troops, with echoes of The Troubles. But at least we have Tumblr to try and save the day!

Catch a Looter is one of the weirdest tumblrs I have ever seen. And I have seen some weird tumblrs.  It is ostensibly, a site to collect and collate photographic evidence of young people looting shops in London, with a view to helping the police with their enquiries. But it looks like most other tumblr sites do: it looks like a mediated vision of metrosexuality.

Look at the photo above.  In amongst the violence a sharp young man in a hoodie and a  bandana checks out a pair of jeans to see if they are the right size, the right brand, the right look. And beside him, stands an incongruous figure, a white preppy boy in chinos and deck shoes, as if he has been transported from another hipster tumblr, into the fray.

I consider ‘To Catch A looter’ to be ‘concern porn’. We look at the images and make ourselves feel better as if our contemporary need for voyeurism is somehow doing ‘good’, because we care. Because if we see any of these (mainly black, mainly male) youths, we will rush to phone Crimestoppers and ease our conscience. But we are enjoying looking anyway. I have seen people circulating a photo on twitter, of someone robbing a man while he lies on the ground, bleeding. I didn’t click on the link. But lots of  ‘concerned’ people did.

I also consider the site to be racist. Here, some black lads are photographed, not looting, not hurting anyone, but just getting off a bus. I have been told by a friend that some black young men are wearing their bandanas in their home areas to prove they are from that ‘manor’. Different styles/colours represent different areas/estates. They wear them to avoid getting beaten up, especially by someone who thinks they aren’t from ’round here’. These kids are scared and anxious and yes, angry. And some of them are looting shops and being violent. But many are not. So ‘Catch a Looter’ just seems to be adding fuel to the fires as far as I can see. But you know, if you want something to look at, knock yourselves out.

  1. billsnshits says:

    Reminds me of a website, the name I can’t recall, oh yes, stg like, that published pictures of iranian green revolution protestors and asked for information to identify them.

    Just so I can cash in my hero cheque here, for a micro second, I spent a couple days learning how to send denial of service attacks that other hackers (a true blue movement of concern pornographers with only internet hacktivism: outing “pedophiles” even if it mean teenage sex, but also stuff that “bs extreme bs liberal people” (such as myself) would approve of outing (which now, amusingly, I can’t recall). The hacker who had created the program was uninterested in implementing it or improving it for that political purpose (he’d also been a public identity selling his Computer Tech Supp. image as a programmer, so pehs. going all “pretentious political dude” isn’t very salable).
    But no help was needed, the program seemed to bring the site down for a few days. But then the danger was that we were also adding interruptions and bandwidth usage to irans already low bandwidth availability (making the concern porn uploading to youtube, but still highly embarrassing to a govt that wants to seem fine, not so embarrassing to their darker, “fuck everyone but our side” autocracy).
    In the end the informant site did come back up, having only had to change a some settings or some server software. And the “activists” who were all idealistic ideology and no real programming knowledge, had to give up, b/c no one knew enough programming to think of an alternative attack, once our denial of service program of choice had failed.
    Never bothered with that group again. Nothing contre. Just never bothered.

    There is a thin link between the riots now, like all protest-originated riots and stg like asian and middle east protests (whether former soviet areas, china, or greater arabia and persia) but there’s so little unity, so little focus, so nebulous an anger, that it’s easy to call them animals. Not just the criminals, it’s easy to call ANYONE related, animals. But then, if they were focussed, well spoken, restrained, creative and even in suits…many insecure people (of which there are many) would prefer to check out the show and demonize them.
    We can’t all be satisfied w/ the mirror. But gee I like the top shot with blondie white boy standing around in a suit with chaos around, as per usual. Like a movie, I am him.

  2. elissa says:

    Lot of darker skinned young men to be sure, real and imagined. The whiter well-to-do don’t have the patience to queue up in line for a bluejean loot. Could this be the British spring?

  3. billsnshits says:

    A beautiful british spring. With no political objectives but also no mass executions or torture.

    I found this vid on a consumerist oriented site dedicated to sony.

    The location audio is too far away from the scene. Try listening to grace jones’ witchery as accompaniment. It’s not that the fire is impressive (which it isn’t) but fire + music is bewitching.

    I hope they got some sony ereaders on which to read your and simpson’s books.

    If I lived in Londinium, I’d go to a cafe and pretend it was the last days of weimar. With sexy cabaret inside and thuggishly booted workers outside. Except this time, I’d think the nazis were basically confused, dull and nice. Then I’d go home to my maybe damaged and maybe burnt home and the fun would maybe be over. But it’d be nice for awhile.

    Recently the pie attack on murdoch was considered bad show and a foot shooting for “the left” or “justice” or some other nonsense, making murdoch look like the real victim. So if those lefties ruined “their chances” by pie-ing the face of NewsCorp, what does this massiveness “do”? Pie-in-the-face led them into checkmate, so who cares about being 1000x more bad?
    And yet this destruction will turn responsible lefties against the rabble, in a hypocritical effort to distract from their screw up with the pieing.

    God damn is everyone hip. Those black boys getting off the bus, so hip…and so, so, evil.
    You see why I can’t “care” anymore? It’s bs from every quarter. Life goes on without you.

    I don’t think even a “targetting/informant” site will lead to anything less than some mobs making some grotesque mistakes. But beyond that, will it be anything like “the massacre of the jews” in 1189?
    Weeeeee’ll See!

  4. Hugo says:

    Yes, you’re right, it’s car crash voyeurism. But please don’t wave a PC racism flag over Catch a Looter and pretend that the vast majority of those involved in the London riots aren’t black Londoners. You talk of colors: what kind of bullshit is that? Gangs, pure and simple. If you think that Catch a Looter is racist, watch out for the backlash. When it comes I am going to be long gone…

  5. redpesto says:

    I know it’d spoil the analysis, but are you sure that preppy boy isn’t a dummy? I mean, what kind of metrosexual white kid stands like the Duke of Edinburgh outside a shop that’s being looted? Or is he a real-life Tim Nice But Dim (‘I’ll just queue outside while the staff are busy’)?

    • If he was a dummy it would just add to the surrealness! I don’t know. He is really doing my head in! Who is he??

    • billsnshits says:

      I actually thought he worked there and just had to stand by and let everyone have at the place.
      He looks like many a plastic skinned sales clerk.

      Since it’s a still photo, it’s hard to tell the dummies from the real. Maybe they’re all mannequins, dressed up and positioned for a laugh.
      I just discovered Tim Nice But Dim. I feel like he talks a bit too often, during the day.

  6. Catch A Looter. says:

    Hello there. I set up the blog initially, and was interested in your comments.

    First, you’re probably right, there is an element of ‘concern porn’ about the site. People like to be outraged by what they see. This helped the site get a lot of attention; realistically the only people the site would be of interest to are those from London who could actually identify the alleged looters, but in reality it got attention from round the world. This worked in its favour; in part the idea of the site was to be a focus, of sorts, for the outrage people were feeling about the looters.

    Racist though? No, not at all. Interesting that you presumably assume I’m white, by the way. In reality there was no filtering of any images that I was sent based on colour of skin, that certainly wasn’t anywhere in my mind. The photo of people ‘getting off the bus’ is probably the least obvious ‘looting’ photo (I rejected many others which, whilst the sender had seen what happened, the picture didn’t reflect that), but it should be noted that they’re getting off the bus with bandanas through the emergency exit, and not simply ‘getting off the bus’.

    I’m not sure what a ‘mediated vision of metrosexuality’ is, but I think you’re granting me more intelligence than I deserve. There was no secret plan of racism, nor a vision of metrosexuality. I just put up the best pictures I could find in order to provide a focus for the outrage and helplessness I, and others, felt about the looting. That was it, really.

    I’ve also now stopped updating the site and am advising all readers to report directly to the police instead. Thanks for the comments and the post though – certainly the blog raised a lot of issues which I didn’t think about at the time, and has been an educational experience for me.

  7. I’ve sat and watched hours of footage, and Just don’t understand where the “the rioters are mostly black” idea comes from, the crowds I’ve seen have appeared to be multicultural, mixed white, asianI and black, I dont see how anyone can claim it’s all black without having an intentionally racist filter that they are employing. I can undestand it from halfwits like Nick Griffin who are appearing to be trying to stir up trouble for their own ends, but anyone who opens their eyes and looks can’t reasonably come to that conclusion.

    • I think the Catch a Looter site is just one example of the ‘media’ in the widest sense, focussing on black young men, as they make a catching photo/video. It fits a script, even if the person making the image/showing the video etc does not consciously think ‘black youths are responsible’…

      • Catch A Looter. says:

        But again, I would protest that there was no ‘focus’, consciously or otherwise. The photographs which were published were those that I received and which showed some activity, nothing more or less. There did seem to be predominantly black people in the pictures, but bunches of these photographs were from areas with predominantly black populations, so no surprise there. In contrast the Manchester pictures that I received yesterday evening (after I’d closed the site) showed predominantly white people; the GMP Wanted pictures are a fairly even balance of black, white and asian but I assume this will pass unremarked.

        I applaud the thought that’s gone into this, and I’m glad of it. There are pockets of people on the internet saying “Black looters, what a surprise” or similar, as if somehow black people would be more disposed towards criminality, which is absurd. I got a message after closing the blog accusing me of cowardice, saying that I’d closed it because I was worried that “calling black thief is racist” (sic). I also had messages applauding me for putting up pictures of white people, women, etc, to get away from the portrayal of the looters as mainly black children.

        But in this case, I can honestly say the charge of racism isn’t accurate. If you look for racism in a situation you can easily convince yourself you’ve found it, but it’s better to look at the situation and see if there’s racism, rather than make it fit. I’m open to any other accusations; I can’t say I went into this knowing exactly how it would pan out and I was naive in that respect, but certainly not racism.

        • Thanks for your comments.

          I think I may have been harsh in saying the site itself or you are racist.

          But I think as you have illustrated from the comments from people you quote, it could have fed into racist ideas from other people. And you closed the site before you put up the Manchester photos of more white people looting. I don’t blame you for closing the site, or even for setting it up. I just had some strong criticisms of how I could see people ‘using’ it and viewing it.

        • elissa says:

          Racist outcomes can stem from unintended consequences, or not well thought out plans. It not need be conscious or intent full.

  8. billsnshits says:

    Holy cow, QRG. You are popular!

    To “Catch a Looter”,
    I’m not black and I’ve never had the opportunity to say this otherwise,
    But You Get It, Bro!!

    I can understand the urge to do something against destruction. And when you can’t control it with your hands, shaming the perps is the next best way. But if you can feel a need to make things right, take action, and then, even then question yourself and your methods, you don’t need anything else, you just get it.
    Don’t ever lose faith in yourself or in your talents at critical thinking. That kind of self questioning and doubt during action can be used in anything: politics, science, the arts.

    Another example that motivates my doubt about public shaming. If you follow the NHL (maybe you’re a fan of northa merican hockey, what the hell do I know) you may have heard of the Vancouver riots and followed them. Disgusting behavior, immature dionysian destruction. But when some perpetrators were publicly identified, people didn’t go tho the police, they went to their homes. There was at least one case of mistaken identity where a total innocent had her house vandalized. People get violent in their indignation, however righteous its origin may be.
    Just as so many rioters just fall into the pleasure of pointless destruction, outraged citizens can quickly descend into the pleasure of pointless victimization.
    That you can figure so in the midst of trouble, is the mark of the critical thinker.
    I salute you! Even as I don’t know what should/can/will be done about the situation.

    This calls for a celebration.
    Man is the internet cool. Restores my faith yet again.
    And “you get it BRO” goes whether you are man or woman.
    Now, onto the schmaltz, for another night in the city of danger:

  9. ANON says:

    Those boys getting off the bus are part of the looting, you only have to look at the rest of the photographs to see that the boy in the green jacket was involved in another picture where looting was taking place outside a JD sports. That bus is also the same bus that was burned down… look at the number plate!

    You say that by looking at the pictures we are enjoying what we are seeing. That is absolute bull! I am a teacher at a school in London and I managed to identify 3 pupils from my school who helped burn down a fancy dress shop in Clapham Junction and destroy the flat above it! I am pretty sure that those people who lost their business and their home with all their belongings where happy that somebody bothered to look through the pictures and help identify some of these rioters!

    As a person who lives in an area where people walk around with banandas on their faces, I will tell you that your friend is wrong saying that they are trying to show where they come from! They are part of a gang and do not want to be identified because they are usually doing something illegal.

    Perhaps you should get your facts straight before you go off on one saying that it is concern porn and rascist! There are many people in London and around England who lost their homes, businesses and lives because of these careless, greedy, violent looters. The Catch a Looter website gave people a place to send there pictures before the MET police set up their website to send photos and the site was only up for one whole day before the owner took it down and directed people to the MET and Crimestoppers.

    • hi thanks for commenting. I know the person who set up the site was very reflective about it and has shown that in comments on here, too.

      I appreciate what an emotive issue it is and there are no easy answers. I just felt concerned (!) about how some people would use the site for voyeurism. That footage of the man who was mugged when injured got over 5 million hits. I can’t believe they were all people looking to help identify his assailants.

  10. […] know, the world of Oprah, Trisha, pilates, psychotherapy, helplines, and ‘u ok hun?’ concern. I think I was onto something. And I should probably write it […]

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