Perhaps you heard the story on the interwebs: after the Vancouver Canucks' devastating loss in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins, what started as a few fans throwing beer cans at an outdoor television screen escalated to full scale riots, complete with fires burning and looting. I must admit, this was a far better effort on Vancity's part than the "SF riots" after the Giants world series win. Still, it was an incredible thing to follow on Twitter - most of my friends seemed to be watching live feeds while retweeting the best info from Twitter. What really struck me as interesting, and on a scale I'd possibly never seen before, was the extent to which a large group emotion drove a set of actions beyond what you have to believe most of these individuals would have done individually. The escalation of the riots from an overexuberant moshpit to a full on riot, tear gas and riot cops included, seemed to be an entirely fluid process - one action following logically from the one before it. None of these people seemed like they were taking giant leaps in crazy. While the rest of the world seemed generally shocked that the riot participants were allowing themselves to be captured on camera, I have to wonder if the mob mentality made this feel "safe" - there were so many people participating, it had to feel as if you were anonymous in this crowd. While the rest of the city had collectively decided to frown down upon this behavior, that larger collective consensus was not available to the mob goers, whom had collectively decided this was acceptable behavior.
The next day, the interwebs seemed to have a different sort of mob mentality: that of a witch hunt. Blogs and tweets popped up chronicling the offenders, linking them to Facebook profiles and careers. Look, I'm not here to say these people shouldn't be punished or anything, but I can't help but wonder whether we're asking for trouble. I have no idea how people are linking these blurry photos to actual people, but once something, even something incorrect, is posted to the Internet, it's there forever, and by extension the association it draws. Furthermore, while even being in the streets that night was in some sense an endorsement of the riot, I'm not entirely comfortable with condemning someone for that. At the very least, most of these that I've seen seem to understand that and stick to documented cases of criminal behavior.
I also thought I'd point to the now infamous photo of the "Vancouver riot couple." Every major event these days seems to have an iconic image, and this one might serve it well. For all the craziness, the majority of the crowd only wanted to experience disappointment with their fandom, to find a point of connection, but it's too bad that it escalated thanks to a small minority of out of hand individuals. I was also fascinated by the hockey community's reception of this image. This was maybe not as large an event for those outside of the Vancouver and hockey communities, but for at least the hockey community, the event and image was large enough to inspire some remix culture. It's interesting to the rest of you only in so far as remix culture is starting to specialize and form within small groups, creating remix cultures.
Lastly, a sticktap to the amazing Vancouver citizens who got up the next day and cleaned the mess up. Note the use of Twitter and Facebook.