The Guardian is ‘concerned’. I think this week the Guardian has been so ‘concerned’ that it might bust an artery.
So it is no coincidence that the original image illustrating this article about ‘gangster chic brands’ targeted in the riots, was the ‘racist ‘concern porn’ from Catch A Looter that I highlighted in my post about that rather ‘concerning’ tumblr.
Back to the Graun article. It reads:
‘When rioters went on the rampage over the past week, the chain that suffered some of the worst damage was JD Sports.’
This image of ‘rioters’ on ‘the rampage’ is dramatic and objectifying. The people involved in the unrest are labelled here and in other articles as ‘rioters’ and ‘looters’, making it harder for people to empathise with them and show any compassion. The article continues:
‘The riots affected a broad range of businesses, from Debenhams to Boots, Carphone Warehouse and Argos, which said 18 stores had been looted. A report this week said at least 10% of retail and leisure businesses had been either directly or indirectly hit by the riots.
But JD Sports became the enduring image of the devastation. Robin Knight, a retail expert at restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper, said it was targeted because it is seen to “embody youth culture”.
He said: “It has clearly positioned itself as a purveyor of very aspirational product amongst the UK’s youth. Currys and Comet got raided because they sell high-value products but JD was very clearly in their minds as [the place] where they’d get the stuff they aspired to. JD has almost been a victim of its own success. It has worked hard to appeal to the youth market and when the country tipped into lawlessness, it still appealed to that market.”‘
Here the journos are making a link between the violence that erupted on our streets and the actual branding by companies like JD Sports, aimed at ‘youth culture’ and rendering them a ‘victim of their own success’. Literally.
‘Branding experts are warning that the riots are a wake-up call for the fashion brands that JD Sports stocks. They have cultivated a “gangster chic” image and found themselves targeted by looters across the country. Mark Borkowski, a PR and branding expert, said that image was now coming back to haunt them.’
The thing that gets me is in using words like ‘gangster chic’ and ‘youth culture’, and featuring images of black young men to illustrate the article, The Guardian is conjuring up images of black disaffected youths, looting JD sports for the latest trainers as worn by I don’t know, who is wearing decent trainers these days? Jay Z? But it is not actually directly referencing issues of ethnicity and race. It just alludes to them. In a possibly racist way.
Someone who was prepared to directly address the complex issues of ‘black’ diaspora and black young men’s culture, as it has influenced wider ‘youth culture’ was David Starkey. But he got a kicking from liberal Guardianista types, as if actually talking about race is racist.
An intelligent consideration of his points can be found here, in a post by James P Easy:
The picture I have chosen to illustrate this piece, is one which was plastered all over the papers this week, and also blogs. It features a young black man,’equipped completely in Adidas’, and so associating that brand with the violence, and with young black men.
“The riots are an absolute disaster for a number of brands. From the day the Daily Mail and the Guardian used that picture of the hoodie equipped completely in Adidas it has become a massive crisis.’
Again, the objectifying term ‘hoodie’ makes it difficult for the reader to think of the young man in the photo as a real person.
‘Adidas will next week launch an advertising campaign featuring rapper, gang member and convicted criminal Snoop Dogg. The Adidas Originals advert also stars fellow US rapper Big Sean, who was charged with sexual assault last week.’
Again, The Graun mentions Snoop Dogg’s criminality, and the fact he is a rapper, and Big Sean who is a rapper charged with sexual assault. But it does not directly address what these ‘signifiers’ say about race, ethnicity and ‘youth culture’.
Maybe they haven’t read No Logo by Naomi Klein. It is a long time since I have, but I think it is one text worth revisiting. As far as I recall, Klein makes direct links between young people’s obsessions with brands, and social deprivation along ethnic lines in particular communities. I remember how she commented that the only way one neighbourhood could get a basketball court (in a US city) was by having it sponsored by Nike. With the logo all over the court.
According to one marketeer, this ‘crisis’ might not be so terrible for companies like Adidas because:
‘the most-stolen brands will receive “extra street cred” from their association with the riots and looting…Some brands may acquire extra street cred because they were part of it [the unrest],” he said. “It’s remarkable, but for brands that are targeted at the young, pissing off a lot of older people will actual increase the brands’ appeal to the young.”
Giorgio Armani in Birmingham was looted of goods worth over £500,000 this week, not to mention the damage to the shop. And Armani is not a ‘youth culture’ or ‘yob culture’ or ‘black culture’ brand, particularly is it?
If The Guardian is not prepared to show some reflexivity in its own racist concern porn, its lazy and hidden references to young black men, and ‘rap’ and ‘gangster chic’, then as far as I am concerned it is just part of the problem.
You get me?