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Archive for March, 2012


  Mar 23, 2012 – 11:35 AM ET | Last Updated: Mar 23, 2012 12:06 PM ET

Shelby Zakoor

Shelby Zakoor

St. Patrick’s Day fun on Fleming Drive in London, Ont.

What do you make of last weekend’s riot at London’s Fanshawe College? Much angst has been expressed over the motives of the rioters who – like those in Vancouver’s Stanley Cup riot – seemed to be largely normal, everyday Canadians. Is there something different about this generation of youth, addicted to social media and too ignorant to realize that posing for pictures while rioting is not a good idea? Or are they no different than earlier generations, just better equipped with the technology to share their stupidity?

Marni Soupcoff, solitary and peaceful, nowhere near London: Overall, this is pretty much the same old youthful idiocy and groupthink of previous generations but with a new way to broadcast it. But I’m willing to believe there’s also an element of unthinking disdain for authority that has gained ground again after peaking in the early ’70s, then laying low for much of the ‘80s and ‘90s and beyond. I get the sense from media reports that things started to get out of hand in London because partiers resented the police presence … just because. They started pelting the police cars with bottles and generally attacking them on no particular grounds other than nebulous anti-cop sentiment. That they went further and assaulted the actual police officers with bricks and tires and planks is the scary part. But sadly not terribly surprising given how uncreative young people can be about finding an outlet for the natural rebellious tendencies of their age group.

Not to be ignored is the fact that the heart of the riots seems to be drunken students who have the luxury of having nothing better to do — like working for a living or caring for a family member or having to be productive in any way. Rioting if you’re destitute and unemployed is unacceptable. But it would be slightly more understandable than rioting just for the hell of it when you have a roof over your head and a degree in your decently bright future. Maybe these kids are suffering existential angst that I’m unaware of. Maybe they are standing up against political oppression or police brutality. I’d feel better if either or both of these scenarios seemed the least bit likely. The truth — that they’re just over-privileged young idiots who are easily swept up by a mob mentality and a general but rootless sense of disgust with authority — is a lot more depressing. I’m not saying that it’s new, but it’s perhaps more prominent than was the case in the last several decades.

In an aside, I wonder how drinking rates of young adults enrolled in college or university compare to drinking rates of young adults who are not in school. There’s binge drinking everywhere, but it seems to be especially prevalent when you get hoards of parent-supported students hanging out with each other in close proximity. People who have to worry about feeding themselves (rather than knowing they can nurse their hangovers by buying any number of greasy hamburgers with a swipe of their meal plan cards) or other such necessities may ironically drink less than their better educated peers. And even if they don’t, at least they aren’t likely to live in a building with hundreds of other people of a similar age and who-cares mindset. Clearly I’m going to have to home-school my kids through university.

Kelly McParland, staying away from Youtube: What really struck me was not just the mindless violence itself, but the doltishness of recording it and sharing it around. When this happened at the Vancouver Stanley Cup riot I figured it was a precedent, and future dimwits would learn not to convict themselves on Youtube. But I seem to have been wrong: the Fanshawe dimwits learned nothing from the exercise, or from the G20 summit violence, in which bozos jumped on cars while people took pictures. I can’t believe it’s because they were too busy drinking/studying/working at summer jobs to notice either of these events; there must be at least a few hockey fans among the crowd. And it’s not like they’re from among the lower educational orders, since they’re all college students. So they appear to be social cretins: able to pass academic tests but largely clueless about normal social behavior. That’s not all that new: people that age have long been pretty blockheaded about social interaction and human relationships. In this case the situation was exacerbated by the close confines of the student ghetto, encouraging the spread of the mindlessness once it broke out. If I was the mayor, I’d get together with the police chief and Fanshawe president and figure out a way to raze the neighbourhood, or introduce a form of enhanced security. Nothing too subtle: these kids aren’t bright enough for mere hints.

Matt Gurney, binge drinking in an undisclosed urban readiness location: Or maybe just fence in the neighbourhood and use big catapults to launch kegs of beer in. The students will raze it themselves in short order.

Look, kids are idiots. We get that. And social media magnifies and immortalizes stupidity. That’s clear, too. But what we’re seeing here is a total lack of consequences bearing fruit. Both in the sense of social media savvy and law and order. Because Marni is right. There is no underlying political excuse for these riots. They happened because a bunch of drunken idiots thought it’d be a blast to smash some stuff and set a fire or two. They did so knowing full well that police wouldn’t bust their jaw with a nightstick, wouldn’t blast them with water cannons, wouldn’t ride in on horseback. Whether because they know the local history of that street — the riot was the fourth major public disturbance since 2007 to strike Fleming Drive — or because they simply understand that the kind of country they live in will make excuse after excuse for the drunken mob, but none whatsoever for the police officer who might get caught on tape roughly tackling one of the rioters. The police get it, too. It’s no doubt when confronted with lawlessness, despite having the armour and the guns and the clubs, they withdrew. They always do.

We can be glad that’s the case, I suppose. Obviously I’m not trying to advocate for police brutality or excessive use of force. But I do think that if we actually value law and order in this country, we need to recognize the fact that lawlessness in the streets is a threat to public order and the civil society that makes Canada work. It should be extinguished with all necessary force when it appears, not allowed to burn out. If that means some idiots get busted up, oh well. Don’t join a riot next time. Make that the default response to a riot and I’m willing to bet the mob will figure it out real quick. It’s all fun and games until someone gets a nightstick to the solar plexus.

Also, we need to have real consequences for the dolts who stand around gawking. I bet in this crowd of 1,000 or so rioters, the actual lawbreaking was done by, maybe 50? But the other 950 stood around and gave them cover — both by emboldening the criminal element and by making it difficult for the police to approach the bad guys and safely arrest them. After a gathering is declared to be unlawful — which would be done with a megaphone or one of those nifty LRADs we heard so much about at the G20, after a set period — say, 10 minutes — everyone still on the streets should be arrested and hit with a steep fine. Five thousand bucks or so. Make mommy and daddy pay for the fact that their little miracle thought standing next to a torched news van was an awesome day to spend an unseasonably warm weekend evening. Anyone who doesn’t want to get the nightstick or the huge fan should walk right on out when ordered. I have zero tolerance for this sort of thing, and it drives me nuts that we let it happen in this country.

Marni Soupcoff:  1) Kelly, the Fanshawe President says he’s going to work on reducing student density in the neighbourhood. He must have read your mind. Or message.

2) Matt, at least the idiot onlookers served the purpose of capturing the idiot rioters on video and camera. London police are already being flooded with tips on who was involved in the riot thanks to their pictures being all over social media.

3) Matt, can’t agree that police breaking jaws and busting clavicles would be a good idea. That’d obscure how pointless and lacking in principle the riot was by introducing actual police violence and an actual reason to protest. But I DO wish some arrests had been made. Which leads me to…

4) Why haven’t the police made any arrests? I get that they had to retreat because people were throwing bricks at their head and they weren’t prepared to mow down a bunch of students with bullets. (Good call.) But look, they were right there — can’t THEY identify any of the people involved? Why didn’t they take their own photos? Or make sketches? Or anything that would help with identifying and arresting the perpetrators later? Shouldn’t they have thought of that?

Kelly McParland: It’s London, Marni, the worst thing that ever happened before was someone barfed in the parking lot after a football game. I think the cops were probably a bit flustered. Next time, for sure they’re bringing the pepper spray, if they can find where Goober left the can.

I can understand Matt’s scorched earth view on enforcement, if only because it would be so satisfying to the rest of us. But Marni’s right – it would turn the cops into the bad guys and the little darlings into the Star’s next front-page victims. And I think you’re deluding yourself if you think they might actually learn a lesson from it. The whole key to these cretins is that they don’t learn. That was my original point – after Vancouver and the G-20, don’t you think they’d have figured out that posing as you loot is bad for business? But that would require a) having read a newspaper in the past three years and b) applying the lessons in a practical manner. I doubt most of these kids could meet those onerous criteria.

Matt Gurney: As critical as I am of police who retreat before rioting mobs, Marni, I’m willing to cut them some slack on not whipping out their sketchbooks and charcoal while dodging bottles and bricks. Though you’re certainly right that standard procedure for any public disorder situation should be for the police to record as much as they can.

To Kelly’s point about the cops becoming the bad guys if they go all Legion of Doom on the mob, I’m not sure. The G20 is a weird example. At first, most people — including us Post ed board types — were supportive of the heavy police hand in restoring order and suppressing lawlessness. It wasn’t until later when we realized that the police largely missed all the criminals on the first day and took it out on innocent people the next that the public’s good will went away. I believe that Canadians would be willing to give police a lot of latitude in keeping order so long as they’re confident that the situation warrants it. A riot would. And if the police have lost the faith of the people to use violence, in measured portions, on their behalf, well, sadly, they only have themselves to blame for that. Not because most cops are bad. But because it seems that all cops protect the few that are.

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A man would be found sitting at the water’s edge, a freshly lit Churchill comfortably wedged in the corner of his mouth, alternately sipping a cheap pinot noir and an undetermined red from Cotes de Provence.  It was stupidly warm for a day in March.  Flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt made up his attire.    The sun beat down on the still water, revealing numerous white bellied frogs that had failed to survive the previous winter.  The man’s silver hair reflected off the computer screen.  His white beard was neatly trimmed, quite at odds with his overall appearance.  It was the perfect kind of afternoon to reflect on the passing of yet another year.  There was no sadness, no anger, no frustration.  The man felt a calm that went beyond the warm glow of the spirits he was consuming.  Much had been accomplished to this point.  Strange and exciting new countries had been visited.  Many friendships made and renewed along the way.  Pathways explored that only a few short years ago seemed beyond reach.  He had no doubt that the future held even more unusual and interesting secrets yet to be discovered.  Life was good.  He meant to leave a distinct and definite mark on it.  Pura Vida!

 

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