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The four-year jail sentences were harsh indeed, as the Guardian noted:
‘If the two Cheshire men had left home and actually taken part in a riot, it is likely they would have been charged with violent disorder. The average sentence passed on the 372 people convicted of violent disorder in 2010 was just over 18 months. The 1,434 people convicted of public order offences last year got, on average, two months inside.
‘Normally, to qualify for a four-year sentence, a convict would have to kidnap somebody (average sentence 47 months in 2010), kill someone while drink driving (45 months), or carry out a sexual assault (48 months).’
This vicious behaviour is fostered by ‘a world without any boundaries or rules. A world of emotional and physical chaos. A world where a child responds to the slightest setback or disagreement by resorting to violence.’
And who can doubt that compassion and restraint in the face of disagreement offer the best hopes for a peaceful world? The 11th century Buddhist poet Ksemendra recalled the wise counsel offered to one enraged king:
'Lord, do not talk like this. If you return anger for anger, anger increases. If you give hate in return for hatred, you will never be rid of your enemies. Would you put out a fire by covering it with wood? It will always rekindle... If you meditate on tolerance to overcome anger, all will become your friends.' (Leaves of the Heaven Tree, Dharma Publishing, 1997, p.333)
‘The real problem with the US and UK reaction to 9/11 was that they did not follow through… we should have gone on to deal with Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi as well.’
‘The US hopes that sorting Saddam will deliver to these other states the simple message: unless you desist from terror, you're next.’
Journalists like Phillips, who use national media platforms like the Daily Mail (circulation 2 million) to agitate for war at a time when the decision lies in the balance, are typically garlanded with awards, not sent to the slammer. After two years spent cold-selling Blair’s war on Iraq, David Aaronovitch, then of the Guardian, won the What the Papers Say Columnist of The Year Award for 2003. In the same year, following a similar pro-war performance, the Independent’s Johann Hari was made Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards (to his credit, Hari has since recanted his support for the Iraq war). Phillips was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 1996.
‘Since resigning in June 2007 Tony Blair has financially enriched himself more than any ex-Prime Minister ever. Reporter Peter Oborne reveals some of the sources of his new-found wealth, much of which comes from the Middle East.’
‘People write all sorts of really ugly and stupid things on Facebook, Twitter, email and other anti-social media platforms (including this one), and it's time they realised that they matter.'
‘it was noticeable that when Mr Blair delivered a powerful peroration in the Commons the cheers of Labour loyalists greatly exceeded the heckling he had earlier got from his own side’.
‘every time I see a nasty piece on new pix, CCTV footage or film of brutal incidents on the street… I hear the R-word [retribution] tip-toeing across my brain.
‘I want to see riot louts punished and, if punishment also helps them turn around their otherwise futile lives, then good.’
'... four years in prison for trying to organise a riot in Northwich or Warrington (no one turned up) is a bit excessive... Yet I'm not sorry at the thought that Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan... and Jordan Blackshaw woke up in the slammer on Thursday remembering that, no, it's not all a bad dream. It could be like this for the next 18 months, lads. And what if that big bloke on the next floor takes a shine to you?’
'Men in prison. Only subject area where jokes about rape are considered acceptable.'
'You're quite right. It's also disturbing that in these not infrequent, rather gloating references, there is an almost tacit assumption that rape is an acceptable part of the punishment. If it's so widespread that it regularly produces this unseemly speculation perhaps there should be some proper journalistic attention devoted to it.'
‘Those jailed following the riots are being victimised by existing inmates because of the decline in comfort, according to the relative of a teenager detained in Portland prison for an offence unrelated to the riots.’
‘“People are having their association time cut down to an hour a day - or possibly less. I've heard that some of the rioters have been attacked out of sight of the wardens - in the showers.”’
‘Sorry to hear that, but they did think they'd get away with looting unpunished. There's a lesson in that.’
‘Cases of sexual abuse in detention are not rare, isolated incidents, but the result of a systemic failure to protect the safety of inmates. Victims of prisoner rape are left beaten and bloodied, contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and suffer severe psychological harm. Once released – and the vast majority of prisoners do eventually get out – they return to their communities with all of their physical and emotional scars.’
‘As you point out it is a very disturbing example of the tendency to joke publicly about and diminish the problem of prisoner rape.’ (Forwarded to Media Lens, August 22, 2011)
‘The strong do as they can, while the weak suffer what they must.’
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Please write to:
Melanie Phillips at the Daily Mail:
Michael White at the Guardian: