Fool me once, Shame on You


June 20, 2011 by readlisaread

This is a sequel to yesterday’s post on the Vancouver riots, the resulting push-back of public shamings, and the observations made.

Yesterday I recapped my reaction to the previous 3 days.  The aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver riots. Today I was able to exchange ideas and opinions with my coworkers and consider what another day has meant to this event.

In point form, because I have already gone on at length about this, and I haven’t really changed my opinion, here are today’s reflections.

1) Facebook or Twitter did not tell hundreds of people to go to the downtown core with masks in their pockets and devilment on their mind. There was no planned “Riot-Flash-Mob” that came to light.

2) The public shamings seemed to have been sparked by the public crowing of “Look what I did in Vancouver!  W00t!!” from rioters and vandals. The original call was to post screen shots of people bragging about their part in the chaos.

3) Is there a place for vigilantism on the Internet?

4) Is it possible to ruin someone’s life by outing their bad behaviour? It begs the question “Shouldn’t they not have been behaving badly in the first place?”. Every year, some (dumb) kid skis or snowboards out of bounds and is fortunately rescued. Every year we argue about who should pay for the high cost of the rescue effort.

5) Don’t underestimate the power of hysteria and mob mentality– it was at play both in the riots and in the witch-hunt that followed.

6) When has shaming worked? Remember the “Shame the Johns” approach to fighting prostitution?  There are a number of good reasons why that was a bad idea.

7) Don’t forget that while a picture speaks 1 000 words, some of those words could be lies or misapprehensions: in a still photo,  throwing water on a fire can look just like throwing gasoline.

8) Does society have the right to stand in judgement? Well….protecting civil rights can’t be more important than protecting  life and limb. Is taking a stand against destruction any different than taking a stand against abuse or intolerance?

9) There was good–much good–that came out of the retaliation. Do we ignore that in our rush to protect the victims?  (And by victims, I mean people running through the streets appearing to throw tear can canisters back at riot police, seemingly pushing against a car about to be flipped, and possibly throwing large objects through plate glass windows).

10) Finally, the mainstream media is pointing a lot of nervously superior fingers at bloggers and Facebookers and Twitterers and beaking about the inappropriateness of the outings. That is a matter of opinion. The part I find suspect is while one mainstream news provider was vilifying the Internet Vigilantes, it was their camera crews at the fancy home of one suspected rioter, filming his dad driving down the street and posting the under-the-age-of-consent lad’s yearbook photo…

McCarthyism, witchhunts, outing, stockades, scarlet letters ….this is nothing we haven’t seen before, but now that we harness the power of the Internet, are we equipped to handle it?


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