Forgive the dry title-I’m attempting to steer away from comedic but uninformative post titles. Also, this post isn’t necessarily humourous.
I woke up this morning to the news of idiotic celebratory rioting, complete with overturned, burning vehicles. Our yearly celebration of mindless excess (St. Patrick’s day) brings out some terrible, anti-social behaviour in a handful of people (let’s call them “fools”).If there’s a large enough gathering, these fools will congregate and egg each other on until something tremendously stupid happens.
No matter what the excuse (St. Paddy’s Day, hockey game, tuition increase), the fools will see the opportunity to act out and they’ll jump on it. The crowd around them gives them a sense of invulnerability, as if the rules of society are fully suspended when a large enough group of people stand around together.
And, traditionally, they have had the protection of virtual anonymity. Committing crimes in front of a horde of drunken by-standers is fairly low-risk. The witnesses aren’t really in any shape to provide stellar eyewitness accounts, and they’re really in no position to stop the fools without putting themselves in danger.
But here’s a neat twist of the tale: through the instant availability of communication that social media gives us, the community at large can find out about the event as it happens, complete with evidentiary photos. Those by-standers, who have very little control over the chaos around them, have gained the ability to safely alert the community, and record the perpetrators as they commit their thuggish nonsense.That bubble of temporary immunity is shrinking at an incredible rate, as a few of the dumbest fools will find out this morning. While the fires were still burning, people were sending tweets and pictures of the fools to the police, as well as sending photos out to the community in the hopes of identifying the people in the picture.
It’s vitally important to remember that there is a clear line between good citizen involvement and vigilantism. The temptation to use this quickly gathered evidence to chase and harass the supposed perpetrators is strong, but we have to resist it. No matter how damning the ‘proof’ may appear, we still don’t have the authority or responsibility to punish the fools. Their transgressions against societal standards and the rule of law do not in any way give us license to do the same.