Novara: ‘The Riots’, one year on.

I joined Aaron Peters and Nina Power yesterday on Novara on Resonance FM to discuss the anniversary of last year’s riots. You can listen to it below – I think it’s also worth listening to the show we did with Dan Hancox during the events of last August (here), which has stood up quite well, especially given the patchiness of the sources and rumours that were flying around at the time.

I promised I’d put up the section of Badiou I was quoting, which was one of the essays in the recent ‘The Rebirth of History‘:

In these processes, where the state puts on its most hideous expression, a no less detestable consensus is forged over a particularly reactive conception that can be summarized thus: the destruction or theft of a few goods in the frenzy of a riot is infinitely more culpable than the police assassination of a young man – the assassination that caused the riot. The government and press hastily assess the damage. And here is the vicious idea spread by all this: the death of the young man – a ‘black hooligan’ no doubt, or an Arab ‘known to the police’ – is nothing compared with all these additional costs. Let us grieve not for the death but the insurance companies. (…)

Here, by contrast, it will be asserted that the life of a young man is priceless – all the more so in that he is one of the countless people abandoned by our society. To believe that the intolerable crime is to burn a few cars and rob some shops, whereas to kill a young man is trivial, is typically in keeping with what Marx regarded as the principal alienation of capitalism: the primacy of things over existence, of commodities over life and machines over workers, which he encapsulated in the formula: ‘Le mort saisit le vif’. Of this lethal dimension of capitalism the Camerons and Sarkozys are the zealous cops.

– The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings (London: Verso, 2012) p.20

Reasserting the primary importance of that police assassination, and the political (rather than apolitical or ‘consumerist’) content of last year’s riots is absolutely necessary when there is a concerted effort on the part of the police and the right-wing media to occlude the murder that sparked them off. Yesterday’s show is hopefully a small contribution to that effort.

I’d like to also point out that the medium of radio is perfect for allowing these kinds of discussions, at least when it’s removed from the contentless, soundbite-ridden ‘adversarial’ model of BBC factual or news programmes. Thank fuck for Resonance FM, really. Novara is one of the few media spaces that allows serious, thoughtful and critical discussion of current political issues, and I hope the discussions yet to come in this series will help broaden a political conversation currently dominated by Guardian cliché, vacuous opinion-mongering and a political spectrum so narrow as to be practically suffocating.

Novara goes out live on Resonance every Tuesday at 2pm, and is repeated on Sunday at 10pm. You can tune in on 104.4 FM, or stream from the website:

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