Vancouver riots display Group Think Theory and Darwinism at its most ridiculous

Vancouver-based writer captures the post-game madness that took over the city, special to Monday Magazine

  • Jun. 16, 2011 5:00 p.m.

Rioters lit Vancouver ablaze on Wednesday night, June 15, after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup 4-0.

Vancouver-based writer captures the post-game madness that took over the city, special to Monday Magazine

British Columbians gathered around televisions or in bars on Wednesday night, waiting for what we had all deemed “the year the Vancouver Canucks will win the cup.”

Ninety minutes across the ocean from where I sat in my living room, I watched my team lose 4-0, I walked out of the living room, threw a few choice words toward my partner who hates my team, and went on with my life. I brushed my teeth and I ironed my hair. I screeched at the cat when he attempted to use my new leather couches as a scratching post. I, regrettably, took my Vancouver Canucks jersey off and hung it in the closet for next year. I timidly opened the door to my condo and snatched the Canucks carpet from the front of it and brought it inside. I swallowed my pride as a fan and put the carpet away until October.

This is all reasonable. Like any good fan, I shook my head and went to my bed to read. But books are not always interesting and I flipped on the TV instead. Breaking news. The station goes black for a minute as I wonder what the hell America has made news out of again — I am sick of people celebrating death.

A lovely blonde woman appears on the screen with a microphone glued to her pretty lips. She is standing beside an overturned car, which has been lit on fire. The fans are angry their team lost. This is, apparently, a great reason to light a BMW on fire. They literally dance around it and take pictures of themselves for Facebook. Idiots.

I have always had immense respect for journalists who leave their respective offices and the comfort of their orthopaedic chairs to really make a difference. Wednesday night was a brilliant example. The pretty blonde talks through billows of smoke and pepper spray as the viewers watch people (who, for the most part, look like those of us still sitting on our couches) attempt to run through fire and break down the windows of banks and drugstores — landmarks which define Vancouver. Thousands of people scream and yell, “Riot. Riot. Riot!”

The police are at a loss: this is not Detroit and it is not New York City. This is Vancouver, and Vancouver hosted the last Olympic Games with grace. Vancouver had a fantastic reputation after that. This is no longer the case. Canada is defined by the sport of hockey.

Police hold plastic shields and stand in a line as people throw rocks and garbage at them. They sit high on horses but do not move. A police car is lit on fire and they watch it burn. Dogs stand beside them. The fire trucks stands by, useless, because they cannot put out fires with such an angry crowd. At least, that’s what the mayor told viewers. He also told us that they were prepared for this — though they had hoped it would not happen.

Smoke billows over the city and pepper spray defines the air. People run into London Drugs and come out with — no kidding — cans of Pringles chips. (Although I would never loot a store, I would probably look for Demerol and morphine for my migraines, or some nice scented candles and soft slippers.) But Pringles?

The riots go on for hours and the journalists hunker down in the midst of it all. They cough through the smoke and pepper spray. They are pushed by rioters, and police. One journalist, cut off mid-spiel by a man grabbing his arm, yells, “Let go of my arm, man, let go of my arm.” And this is bloody great journalism. How often do you hear journalists use the word “man” in this respect?

From my living room, I watch my city continue to burn as windows break, chips are stolen and some unlucky pedestrians lay on the concrete bleeding.

Now, BBC is talking about the “angry Canadians” who “started a severe riot after the loss of a hockey game” and angry civilians, the ones who watched the riot from the comfort of their home, volunteer to clean up the streets while stating that, “they are embarrassed to be Canadian right now” because Canadians, of course, are quiet and serene beings. We provide troops and free healthcare. And we riot and break things and hurt people. And our police force is, perhaps, unprepared and sub-par. Oh, Canada!

So, how does Darwinism and the Group Think Theory tie into this all? “Group Think is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people … The primary socially negative cost of Group Think is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking … this often causes Group Think to be portrayed in a negative light, because it can suppress independent thought.”

This is the stuff I learned in college psychology class.

Here we see thousands of people thriving on the chaos of the riot, because, in part, the connection of a large group makes the behavior permeable — and permissible. People want to be part of large groups, they crave to be and, even those who stood by taking videos and posting them on Facebook, they too wanted to be part of the anarchy. And so they were.

In terms of Darwinism — a lovely theory stating that only the fit survive — the man who ran over a burning vehicle and lit himself on fire is not a good example. The man who stole Pringles is also questionable. But the journalists who were on the front line, bravo to you. You inspire me, and you gave courage to us all.

See more from Natalie at thethirdsunrise.com.

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