What we learned this week

  • A Yougov poll out this week reported that an alarming 33% of respondents were in favour of using live ammunition on rioters. Really? Do a third of us actually support shooting children in the streets, or are a third of us not aware of what ‘live ammunition’ is? Either way it’s not a good sign.
  • Seven years ago, the government announced plans to build houses for £60,000 for first time buyers, and launched a design competition. Whatever happened to those homes?
  • In the age of social media, “the state must prevent co-operation, and maintain homo economicus in the state of mutually suspicious individualism” – a provocative sociological reading of ‘criminal consumerism’ from Potlatch.


  1. I think the question about live ammunition is itself an immoral form of push-polling in a context where some people are so angry they will say anything that makes them sound hardline against the rioters. I wonder if they had asked whether the areas where the riots occurred ought to be nuked then they might got a similar result.

    The poll also shows all kinds of other things: that 90% of the population don’t understand what a water canon is used for (many politicians are included in this) and how slowly it can be deployed against rapidly moving rioters; that the majority of people were wildly pessimistic about the expected length of the riots; that LibDems truly are still facing an electoral wipe out.

    1. Yes, it’s a somewhat bizarre survey, and you’d only need to repeat it today to see what effect anger is having. Unfortunately a lot of our collective response is motivated out of anger, and we’ve moving fast without reflection. The two guys facing four years in prison for posting an incitement to riot on facebook are a case in point. No riot ensued, so it’s four years just for suggesting it – to me that’s political, they’re being used as an example, and it looks more like revenge than justice.

  2. Or worse than revenge (since revenge at least has the requirement that the one who suffers is the one who caused suffering; making examples just requires that the one who suffers bears some similarity to those who might potentially commit wrongdoing in future such that they can imaginatively connect with the illustration). For this reason, making examples is sometimes a greater breach of justice than revenge.

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