09/08/2011 22:19 BST | Updated 09/10/2011 06:12 BST

Rumors, Misinformation Fuel London Riots

Originally published on, a digital information service surfacing emerging stories in news, entertainment, art and culture; powered by award-winning journalists.

By: Noah J. Nelson

In London this week, the world may be witnessing the first major information age riot in the Western world. Rioters have been using social media, SMS messaging and Blackberries to keep one step ahead of the police, although they may find that tactic will be their ultimate undoing as Metropolitan police requisition records to uncover the movements and identities of rioters after the fact.

The sheer volume of video, audio, and text that has emerged out of the scene makes a definitive account of the riots currently impossible. Yet, a possible narrative as to how, and why, the violence began is beginning to emerge. Multiple YouTube mirrors have been set up of an interview that appears to be a radio interview of a local man in Tottenham describing the beating of a 16 year old girl who had thrown a rock at police during the protest of the shooting death of Mark Duggan by Metropolitan police. The Daily Mirror has reported that 15 officers "set upon" the girl and that this incident was likely the match that set the powder keg ablaze.

Videos have emerged that appear to document the event (warning: language is NSFW).

One problem with this account is that it is, naturally, not from official sources. There is plenty of room for rumor and spin around the material, and in a conflict like this there can be little in the way of a trusted source. Bloggers are claiming that the radio interview has been scrubbed from corporate media sites (although it must be pointed out that YouTube isn't exactly a non-profit endeavor).

Bad information, misinformation, and a simple lack of information is the enemy here. A video of Darcus Howe, a 68-year old West Indian writer and broadcaster cuts to the heart of this.

Howe peels back the layers of rage and frustration that underlies the riots. Yet, his account of the chain of events leading up to the rioting relies upon the horrific rumor that had spread in London that Duggan had been shot in the head by police in a kind of execution style operation. The Independent Police Complaint Committee, charged with the investigation of the shooting, reports that Duggan was shot in the chest and that the family has seen the body and can confirm this. (Check the video at the bottom of the page.)

This is an age when rumor can travel at the speed of light, and we are bearing witness to the devastating effects.

Related posts:

  • Commentary: London Riot Seems All Too Familiar
  • Witness To The Shooting Of Oscar Grant Talks About That Night
  • New Shooting, Same Question: Should Transit Cops Have Guns?
  • Trumor Identifies The Twitter Users With Power
  • Cali Swag District Member M-Bone Killed
  • Go to | Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook