Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Mark Duggan: "the best lack all conviction"


Here is the Independent Police Complaints Commission report on the death of Mark Duggan which sparked the 2011 riots in the UK.

I have just listened to his brother being interviewed on the Today Programme, attacking the report and the IPCC.

My first feeling was sympathy for a grieving brother. My next was: "Mark Duggan was a gangster - perhaps his family are no better...." Do I know Mark Duggan is a gangster? Several newspapers have said so. And then there is this photograph:


This photo is devastating - the kind of picture a defence lawyer would hate. The staring eyes, the ring and chunky bracelet, and of course the gun gesture, are all worth a thousand words. Plus, the fact that the subject is black. (Did that affect you? No? You sure?)

All of this activates a whole bunch of stereotypes in my brain. Those stereotypes then get transferred by association to Mr Duggan's family.

None of this seems like an ideal way to make a difficult judgment.

But what alternative do I have? After all, my thoughts on the other side are equally stereotypical. "You can't trust the investigation - the Metropolitan police are notoriously corrupt." How does that idea in my head link to the true level of corruption in the Met, which is - almost by definition - more than nothing but less than total?

Knowing a little of the psychology of belief makes me think that Yeats quote, "the best lack all conviction," is best read as a definition. The surer you are of yourself, the likelier you are to be wrong.

(I haven't read the report either. It's 500 pages long!)