Appeared in the North Shore News – June 24, 2011
Rounding up the suspects responsible for Hockey Riot in Canada:
Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
Um, er, isn’t he dead? Leftist Trudeau’s legacy of determinedly keeping property rights out of his famed charter lives on. Three B.C. Liberal MLAs, Garde Gardom, Pat McGeer and Allan Williams, were prominent among those who failed to persuade Trudeau otherwise. The absence of property rights percolates through Canadian society and influences attitudes, so that smashing and looting of stores isn’t as important as (exploitation of) free speech, free assembly, etc.
Vancouver City Hall:
The buck stops on the desk of Mayor Gregor The Flake Robertson, apostle of traffic-snarling bicycle lanes, chicken coops in every backyard, urban wheatfields on every lawn.
Being city manager must be tough, but Penny Ballem hadn’t even read the report of the last unpleasantness, the 1994 Stanley Cup riot. Too busy counting chickens, maybe.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu:
The cops were ill-prepared to administer justice, crude though it is, at the only place in our flabby, slow justice system where it would immediately hurt — at the sharp edge of the gathering riot, at the front lines of the taunting creeps whose mocking images flashed the message of societal helplessness and the mob’s victory. Tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, firing the real thing into the air if need be, and protecting stores from the shameful smashing and looting, wouldn’t have been too harsh.
I’m inclined to absolve the dedicated Chu. He had to deal with The Flake. Fascinating to know what they discussed as the seventh game approached.
Vancouver’s supposed global reputation:
Oh dear, oh dear, mustn’t sully that! This fear, anxiously vented by worried politicians and especially business people, was held hostage by the mob. At the heart of it: Just as terrorists’ intent is to spread terror, the mob instigators’ intent is to spread violence — above all to provoke as much police violence as possible, switching fickle public (and media) opinion from approval of police to “police riot” status, and exposing liberal democracy as a sham.
When this strategy works, and it has, next day all the usual suspects — talk-show hosts, newspaper pundits, craven politicians anxious to join the above in blowing with the wind, and the likes of the civil liberties association — would deplore the cops’ over-reaction. Brings the revolution closer, man. Such schemers know crowd manipulation.
The media (and at this very moment I too am living off the avails of the riot; it’s what we do):
Alex Strachan, a copy runner who shared lively debates with the undersigned decades ago and now the Vancouver Sun’s excellent television critic, wrote: “I wish someone had asked what responsibility the local media bore in the run-up to the chaos. For two months, they ratcheted emotions higher and higher until, in the end, something gave.”
Dead right. In my own household I was barely able to read the Times Literary Supplement because of incessant hockey gabble, depriving myself of the pleasure of listening to Bill Good when — I barely exaggerate — even the Zamboni operator’s great-grandfather was grist for the CKNW mill. Yes, as someone who — no current sportswriter can say as much — clearly remembers Boston Bruins goalie Frank Brimsek (American-born, a rarity), “Mr. Zero” of 70-odd years ago, and exulted when the Winnipeg Monarchs beat Toronto St. Michael’s for the Memorial Cup in 1946, I still watch the game a little. Guiltily. Nobody loves and deplores Don Cherry more.
The sport itself:
Professional hockey is brutal, aimed at innocent-faced maiming, glorifying of “enforcers,” exhilarated by fights like no other sport, and accepting permanent brain damage as just the price of the entertainment. It’s kin to the street thuggery of riot night and its predecessors (and future performances — Grey Cup here in less than six months). As the educated folk would say, there’s a symbiosis between rink and riot.
The rioters, of course:
Louts, goons, morons, idiots, vandals, hooligans, anarchists, etc. Could there be another descriptive?
Average. More accurately, part of a demographic (my Special Agent D22V, in a downtown bar riot night, estimated their age range at 17 to 25). McJobbed, often parent-poor, and violence-soaked in a trashy culture of semi-literate chatter, murderous images and shattering noise, they should be allowed at least a certain measure of victimhood.
© Trevor Lautens, 2011