After the hockey was over, we had a hideous riot in Vancouver. The only serious injury, thankfully, was someone who fell off an elevated highway. You can’t begin to imagine how hurt and angry with the rioters the people of this town are. There’s an interesting sort of Facebook-vigilante justice going on.

But first, let me push back on our Police chief and Mayor, both of whom I’m normally reasonably OK with. Their post-riot statements tried to blame the event on “anarchists”. That’s just bullshit. I’ll tell you who the bad guys were: they were us. Ordinary Vancouverites of the young male sub-species; sure, a lot of suburbanites, but look at the damn map; suburbs is what most of Vancouver is. Trying to blame the problems on Other People is stupid; and not helpful in keeping it from happening next time.

How do I know who they were? Because, like a lot of people around here, I looked at the pix and video, mostly aggregated for some reason on Facebook. I also ran across a few of the pages where people are naming-and-shaming. I’d link to them, but there are ethical issues.

Some of those named-and-shamed might be, well, innocent. And in Canada, everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence. I see folks online horrified at the name/shame thing, saying “send the pictures to the police, let them deal with it.”

Fair enough. Except for, suppose the picture showed a policeman being bad. And in fact, there’s been a trend, of which I heartily approve, of law-enforcement officials being held to account after their actions were caught on caught on video and posted to the Net.

Privacy is an ethically complex issue, and an interesting one, but let’s bypass the ethics and deal with a reality. If you’re in the vicinity of an intense public event, something that has any chance of being a news story, there is no privacy. It will be captured in photos and videos, and those captures will be published. No force of nature, let alone legislation, will keep that kind of material under cover.

You may disapprove on ethical grounds and I might even agree with you. But for your own sake, don’t pretend that anything you do can be both public and private.


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From: Mike Cantelon (Jun 17 2011, at 22:02)

Bang on. It's quite unimpressive having officials attempt to mislead the public about who did the actual rioting. The public's response is also weak: expressing "shame" and "apologies" but not asking hard questions about how authorities can prevent a similar scenario in the future.


From: len (Jun 20 2011, at 04:55)

Not a shining moment for an otherwise shining city. We did look into similar incidents in other places as part of public safety systems usually in the context of soccer riots. Some of the techniques involved using mapping to identify choke points, to prearrange transportation to avoid these and clustering, to identify locations where riots tend to emerge (bars, for example). Some were awful to contemplate but very profitable such as the facial recognition systems.

A harsh reality is that maybe ten percent of the population at any time is smart enough, well-informed enough and in practiced control of their emotions and that number is not always a count of the same people. Soccer in one country, hockey in yours, document management standards among some will send them screaming into the streets. A Rushkoff will insist we can program this and there is a parcel of truth to it as we've known for many years. We can apply more violent controls as we've seen and often deplore, but we can't change the fundamentals of the endorphin-addicted conflict driven brain.

I'm sure it's embarassing. But it wasn't planned. Abu Gharib was embarrassing and I'm pretty sure it was. In both cases, the awareness of what can become public doesn't appear to be a constraint. Sixty years of rock entertainment if nothing else shows that humiliation is not a reliable means to change behaviors. As the means become extreme, we seem to adapt by accepting ever greater levels of extremism.


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