Psychology of a riot: They found it exciting

The wordpress daily question for today is: What would cause you to protest or riot for something?

The question was triggered by the rioting in Vancouver after game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final yesterday.  But my feeling is that high passion about hockey is not really a proximate cause for the rioting and that bad things were going to happen whether the Canucks won or lost.

The riot was about the crowd, about incitement by a small number of provocateurs and the descent into mob madness of a much larger number of people who were in it just for kicks and giggles.  I noticed a similar (although much more low key) phenomenon at Vancouver’s annual fireworks displays in English Bay.  Lots of teenagers and people in their early 20’s train and drive in from the suburbs, get drunk and stoned, and fight or smash stuff up.  The police usually control that pretty well with cordons and checkpoints and mounted officers, but the potential for random-seeming mayhem remains.

As an editorial in the Vancouver Sun notes:

Those who watched in shock as the media covered this year’s Stanley Cup riots — as the flames flew higher, the looting raged on and the cheers grew louder — couldn’t help but notice the visceral enjoyment experienced by the intoxicated men, and to some extent, women.

“They weren’t even angry. They were having fun,” said University of B.C. sociologist Rima Wilkes, who studies collective action.

“There seemed to be a lot of privilege there. They acted as if they were untouchable. As if they weren’t criminals…”

“Many people seemed to treat the riot as entertainment,” Wilkes said in an interview.“They were taking pictures of the fires and overturned police cars. If there had been a dead body, would they have shot a photo of that? People get caught up in the moment, and in the crowd mentality, and they think this is acceptable behaviour.”

Opinion: Psychology of a riot: They found it exciting.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Psychology of a riot: They found it exciting

  1. iamroewan says:

    The riot was the only thing in the local news that evening and also the next day, all that video and photography perfect for modern media. The news program we watched during supper the next day was start to finish riot coverage including several 30-second “in-depth” analyses from every psychology, political, social media and criminology “expert” reporters were able to solicit a comment from. “The News” is another form of entertainment, delivering vicarious thrills (or other emotions) for those of us who weren’t actually there.

    P.S. I know there is bad grammar in here but I haven’t got the energy to fix it.

    • Janettes says:

      Bad grammar, what bad grammar….? You’re so right about the news. Controversy, disasters, crimes, all covered with a breathless, almost gleeful, enthusiasm because they’re exciting. And you just have to love those “in-depth” reports – everything reduced to 1-sentence soundbites. We don’t watch the evening news anymore because a lot of it isn’t suitable for a small child and I must say that my stress levels, along with my sense that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, have definitely dropped.

      • iamroewan says:

        The Big Guy insists on having the news on TV while we eat supper but I find myself not actually paying much attention, gazing out of our windows into the bush and having random thoughts about all sorts of unrelated things. Nature going wild is another matter. When they’re showing bad weather on the news, or volcanoes, or solar flares, or earthquakes, or falling meteors I’m fascinated.

        If you didn’t notice the grammer then I feel better about it. I ended a sentence with a preposition.

  2. Janettes says:

    Ending a sentence with a preposition isn’t quite as frowned on as it used to be. I recall as an undergraduate, being told off for splitting infinitives as well as other stylistic preferences masquerading as grammar rules but i was never red-penned for ending a sentence with a preposition.
    I like weather as well. There was a big solar flare recently, and a partial lunar eclipse, as well as earthquakes and volcanic activity and I’m always absorbed in those stories. People being beastly to each other is much less appealing news. I just find it stressful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s