Saturday, August 13, 2011

Riots and rumours

Crikey it has been an odd week here in London. Scary too. Where I live luckily there wasn't really any trouble, a couple of shop windows got smashed but that's not really unusual at the weekends round here! But watching shops burn down in Croydon, minutes from where I used to live, was awful. On Monday night rumours started online that trouble was planned in our town, and then one of our neighbours knocked on doors saying that gangs were roaming round the shops and a shop had already been looted in the next town along. In real time it was terrifying. The only thing we could do was stay in, watch the news, and try and find out what was going on online. Twitter was obviously the main source, but in hindsight it was impossible to tell at the time what was true and what was rumours, and what was just made up. There were reports of Primark being on fire, shops five minutes up the road being looted, lots of things being on fire. The only thing that made me question it was the lack of sirens, and it not being on the news.

The next day it turned out that nothing serious happened, a few idiots breaking a shop window and nicking a bin. It could have been much worse. Then Tuesday afternoon more rumours started. As we had "got away with it" on Monday night, more trouble was planned for Tuesday. We were so worried we didn't go to zumba, the next day I felt really stupid for believing it all. But it is hard to know what to do for the best, go out and get caught in a riot leaving your young kids at home? I think we made the right decision at the time.

But although all this real time communication we have nowadays is brilliant in some ways, in others it makes things worse. Stoking rumours, nobody knowing what to believe, the way the rumours caught on was unbelievable. And once lots of people start reporting the same thing it makes it much more believable. But I think I've learnt a lesson about not always believing what you read, when I was at library school it was one of the basic lessons we learned - check your sources!

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