Andrew Potter, in a recent Macleans article titled “Why People Can’t Help Themselves”, claims that the riots seen in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup game, in London over the last weeks, and even during the G20 riots in Toronto, can be easily explained:
People are over-thinking thins way too much. Any proper discussion of a riot and why it happens has to start with the recognition that rioting, especially for young men, is a huge amount of fun. At any given moment there are far more people willing to riot and loot than we like to admit, and the only reason there isn’t more of if is that if you do it by yourself or in a small group, you’ll almost certainly get caught. But if you can get enough peple to riot, you can all get away with it, which is why when it comes to getting one started, what the participants are faced with is essentially a coordination problem. The trick is getting a critical mass of people willing to do it, in the same place and at the same time.”
This, of course leads to the topic of “flash riots” triggered by instant messaging. Various social media has the power to bring people together, both for good and for bad motives.
While I have to agree with Potter that there is no shortage of people willing to smash and burn things, I think that he goes a little far in his condemnation of everybody. He closes his article by saying
Do you want to know what sort of person joins in a riot and trashes their city and loots their neighbour’s shop? Just look around you. Or better, look in the mirror. Rioting is fun and we’d all do it if we could?
Personally, I know that faced with a rioting situation I would find the whole thing repulsive and would head the other way. I know that many people would say the same thing, and a lot of them would actually be telling the truth. While my opinion of human nature is far from sparklingly bright, Potter manages to place it in a far darker place than even I would. Perhaps a significant portion of people (even young males) would find rioting fun, -perhaps even a majority-, but to include everyone, including “your doctor and your lawyer and everyone else you know” is perhaps a bit extreme.