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

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager - Slough

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Advisor

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a global m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Pete Doherty: To anyone struggling with addiction, just hang on — for more than ten years I've been powerless, but there's a way out

Pete Doherty
Former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry and the image she tweeted from Rochester  

Rochester by-elections: Forget Emily Thornberry, Labour long since betrayed the working class

Michael Collins
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines