Things have changed. People have stopped believing in the lies of those in power.
Obama, after behaving utterly nonsensically with the Debt Ceiling Circus, thinks that he can appear on TV and spin some mellifluous bullshit and people are going to buy it. Wrong. After he spoke, the markets collapsed further. He does not seem to understand that his deportment over, not only this financial crisis, but throughout his ridiculously "conciliatory" administration, has led to an actual lack of confidence in his abilities as a leader. Unless his words are followed by some righteous actions, why should anyone believe anything he has to say?
In London, after learning of the scandalous corruption of the Metropolitan police and the head of government cavorting in bed with Rupert Murdoch, after a royal wedding that cost millions of pounds, while many young people are unemployed, uneducated and ignored by those who are better off, a Black guy gets shot by the police and this is the pretext that ignites fearsome and barbaric riots. There is no excuse for the riots. But David Cameron takes two days to come back from his bloody holiday in Tuscany. The Mayor of London and the vice-prime minister think they can show up and do a little spiel of solidarity and do not expect, nor can they address in the moment, the outraged heckling of the people. Those in power are too used to the sound bite, to the choreographed routine; when something demands spontaneity and honesty, they are unable to provide it. Demagogy does not work anymore. Nobody believes these bozos.
People understand that power doesn't care for anything except to entrench itself, but they are also starting to understand that this makes power weak. It makes it look fake, it robs it of authority and legitimacy. By this I mean, not that the people have the power -- they don't -- but that they are not as gullible as they used to and that the abyss between those in power and those without is getting smaller. The fundamental change is of perception: there is nothing to respect anymore about those in power. Besides, there are new powerful digital tools that allow people to organize in a flash; whether it's legitimate protests and movements for social change, or massive acts of vandalism.
Politicians should be trembling, or at least adapting, but they continue to be completely oblivious of reality*. I found it rather funny and alarming that every single English figure of authority I saw in the news (Cameron, Clegg, Boris, the chief of police) was admonishing the rioters and looters like a parent chides an unruly kid after the fact: a lot of useless, patronizing, rather cowardly bluster. The fact is, they were not paying attention and now they are afraid.
*As for me, I would like nothing more than an enmasse public firing of absolutely every single member of the American congress, except perhaps for Bernie Sanders. All of them, out of a job at once. Is there any way to organize this?