Take one of the more positive videos to emerge from the Vancouver Stanley Cup 2011 riots. It features a man standing up to rioters while they smash a mini-car. Uploaded onto YouTube by dakmoose Thursday afternoon, the video was picked up by news sharing site Reddit and made its way to the front page in record time.
The man in the video stops the rioters with a ready catchphrase—“This is our city!”—and a brace of expletives. (Thankfully, he doesn’t have to defend himself against the mob like this older man seen being beaten here.) Another video of the same man attempting to punch a rioter can be viewed here. According to YouTube comments on the video, the man in black was part of a group of “anti-rioters” trying to protect the city.
Yet is he actually an anti-riot hero? A photograph taken by the Toronto Sun, a Canadian newspaper shows the same “This is our city!” man skateboarding by a burning car.
That made the Daily Dot team question if this man actually cares about his city—or was just hamming it up for the cameras like every other rioter.
A review of countless riot videos show many rioters apparently damaging public and private property just to record themselves doing so—and create YouTube-ready footage.
To be sure, YouTube users have collectively done a great job covering the Vancouver riots, from posting news segments to personal videos, with one user even recording transit police scanners and taxi dispatches and uploading them on the site. YouTubers have also naturally expressed their opinions on the riots in posted videos.
TheDistinO, a self-described Canucks fan and Canadian resident, called the riots the “biggest fail ever” and “brutal and horrible” in his “Why Vancouver?” video. “This is the anarchy I would expect in a war protest”
Vancouver resident and Canucks fan NatesDailies vlogged “I’m disappointed, but more than that, I’m embarrassed”, closing his video response with “the silver lining in all of this, is that we get to see who the true fans are. To everyone outside of Vancouver, the people you see on TV that are rioting, destroying our city, they’re not fans – they’re people who are influenced by alcohol and mob mentality – they’re the complete opposite of what this city represents” and “Stay classy Vancouver.”
Other YouTubers have taken a more proactive approach to the rioters, with YouTube user Foster842 uploading a video of a still image of Brock Anton’s Facebook status update where he proudly writes about his rioting exploits, including assaulting a police officer and burning cop cars. Foster842’s video description includes a link to a Facebook photograph of three men wearing tuxedo jackets they stole during the rioting (complete with full names), and the Facebook page “Brock Anton Sucks Dick”, which currently has 900 “likes”.
Foster842’s actions mirror those of the Vancouver Forum dedicated to documenting, identifying and shaming rioters, which is surprisingly easy considering many of the rioters bragged about their exploits on the Internet for all to see, with their full names. A Tumblr, too, was set up to track rioters through crowdsourcing, a spontaneous group project run over the Internet.
We can reassure ourselves that the Internet made these rioters easy to catch: Why, they even had a hand in exposing their own misdeeds. And we, the Internet community, crowdsourced them to justice!
Yet were the rioters drawn to act out by the thought that they could post the evidence online? In a reality-TV culture, are we becoming desperate for screen time?
That’s the kind of question whose answer you can’t crowdsource.