Letter from Simon Kelner

 

Share

To the persistent soundtrack of police sirens, I followed the rolling chaos on the streets of London and elsewhere on Twitter.

This was a first for me and, I suspect, for many, many thousands of others too. Deep into the night, I was able to keep track of developments in real time and, with such a fast-moving, dramatic story, Twitter had a definite edge on the traditional media. The voices were authentic, the information came instantly and there were even efforts to give the events sense and meaning as they were unfolding. No longer was this a social network: this was an indispensable news source. Nevertheless, it was something of a surreal experience. Interspersed with breathless tweets informing the world that gangs of youths were attacking a restaurant in Notting Hill, or that fires were raging in Clapham, were the occasional jokes, or a mind-numbingly banal observation, or a piece of shameless self-promotion from Piers Morgan (nothing new there, then).

I managed to resist the temptation to add my 140 characters-worth, until someone tweeted the opinion that this was "the night the Big Society died". Hold on a second, I thought. Maybe this is the Big Society in operation, only not in the manner in which was envisaged. As I understand it, isn't David Cameron’s big idea about people not relying on the state to sort out their problems, but to join forces with like-minded souls to find solutions to all manner of social issues? Of course, I’m being slightly facetious: the sense that we should take greater control of our own destiny clearly does not extend to fulfilling the desire for a new mobile phone by putting a brick through the window of your local Carphone Warehouse.

Yet every coin has two sides, and I don't think we should rule out the fact that, even for those intent on criminal damage and without any political motive, there is a belief, however perverted it may be, in communal action achieving results. But the ying to the yang came as dawn broke over our smouldering cities yesterday. If ever there was an example of the Big Society, it was the voluntary efforts made by a massive number of citizens to clean up their own neighbourhoods. The exercise was coordinated on Twitter and Facebook, in exactly the same way the rioters had planned their own activities. These are confusing, unpredictable times. Mind how you go.

Simon Kelner is Editor-in-Chief of The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and i

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea