As the dust settles from Vancouver’s riots, a controversy brews.
Public shaming is Vancouver’s new favourite past-time. Know a rioter? Expose that ass!
But should we be doing this?
Some folks have very different opinions, and the loudest voice one hears on the matter is by local professor & author Alexandra Samuel, who explains her opposition very well in this piece, where she says “We have seen Big Brother, and he is us.”
While Samuels has great points, she is not in the majority on her opinions.
My position on public shaming shifting slightly. I worry about the severity of public outing right now because of the passion with which the entire city has jumped on these guys.
I loathe the extent to which some are taking the public shaming, via printing phone numbers and addresses of parents of rioters, contacting employers, and things like that. (Not cool, people. Don’t be an ass and do that, or initiate contact that way.)
We live in an era where the saying “Pics or it didn’t happen” is ubiquitous. Everything gets caught on video. If you had a camera on me 24/7, you’d find some real good footage for upending people’s thoughts on the person I am. This is true of all of us.
You’d sure as hell never catch me damaging public property, harassing or assaulting others, or flying into physical rages, though. You’d never catch me vandalising, shouting down a cop, shoving a citizen, or even littering.
That’s my ethos, and a lot of citizens share it.
We citizens are tired of the permissiveness with which people litter, vandalise, and generally abuse public spaces. We’re tired of people who get away with acting like assholes.
Maybe it’s time public shaming come into vogue.
Maybe it’s time we stop worrying about politicians with prostitutes, and start worrying about punk-assed people who treat cops like trash, who burn our city up, and who generally don’t seem to contribute to where we want to go as a society.
Destroying their lives, though, may do us more harm as a society than good.
In this instance, I believe we need to offer first-offense rioters a chance to redeem themselves. We need to give them an opportunity to give back instead of destroying. We need to allow them the chance to not throw their lives away over a stupid night in which they maybe chose to embrace a mob mentality when they might have never done otherwise normally.
Then there’s the part of me who feels that there are people on those videos doing heinous, awful things — beating people, blowing shit up. That side of me feels those people don’t get the benefit of the doubt. They don’t deserve it, they deserve to be outed.
In the end, my ambivalence on meting out justice the old-school way, in a court of public opinion, is tempered by the thought of living in a world where everyone felt accountable for their actions.
If people realise that being a jackass for 15 minutes on Youtube can have real long-term life effects, maybe then we’ll see people acting like citizens, not hooligans.
Actions should have consequences. Good citizens should be angered when hooligans act this way. Thugs who attack our police and other citizens deserve to be exposed for who and what they are.
However, just being present at the riot doesn’t mean one is complicit in it. Jumping on a burned-out car isn’t the same as burning it. There are levels of asshattedness going on here, and painting them all with the same brush of ostracism isn’t ideal.
So, I’m still at a loss. To some degree, this public shaming of thugs is long overdue. Hooligan behaviour needs to be seen as unacceptable, not “fun”. We need youth and others to understand that we expect more of citizens.
At the same time, lives can be destroyed by this process, and while I trust my own judgment in reading facts and situations in an equitable manner, I do not trust that others can or will do the same. My ethos is liberal and open-minded, which isn’t always the case with others, so whose idea of “wrong” is right?
The only thing that isn’t questionable for me is, if one is celebrating that kind of destruction, if they’re contributing to it in any way, if they’re cheering it on, then it makes them a douchebag, and maybe it’s in everyone’s interest to know that about ’em.
Beyond saying “Hey, this guy is a rioting douche,” I don’t think we should be doing anything. It’s not up to us to contact their employers, their schools, their family. We don’t have that right, and anyone who does it should be reprimanded.
In the end, Alexandra Samuels has a very valid point — it’s a really slippery slope. It’s a worrisome possible trend when one thinks of ways it might be misused.
But I don’t like the society we’ve become. I don’t like the lack of social responsibility so many show. If this is what it takes to have a society where everyone cares about how the street looks, respects others’ belongings, and treats each other with dignity, then maybe it’s time to stand atop that slippery slope and see if it leads us to a better place.