Pre-Olympic Fear and Paranoia in Vancouver

translink
Photo by cabbit

It seems Canadian authorities want to get in on the action of harassing photographers.

According to the CBC, an advertising campaign was launched in Vancouver in advance of the 2010 Winter Olympics to encourage citizens to be more vigilant about possible terrorism. With the tagline “Report the suspicious, not the strange,” the ads can be seen in TransLink stations throughout the city. The problem is, the campaign is essentially spreading suspicion and fear of cameras. 

As Richard Smith, who is a communications professor at Simon Fraser University, says in the article, “You’re asking people to make judgments about others’ behaviour. What makes something suspicious — is it the clothes I wear, the colour of my skin? How far do we go down that path?” Exactly. Your offbeat architecture photographer could be my fundamental terrorist on a mission.

Encouraging awareness is great, and I have no problem with that. However, ad campaigns like this are specifically targeting photographers and thereby criminalizing them. I don’t worry so much about the citizens’ reaction, but I do think this legitimizes law enforcement’s wanton and unwarranted harassment of photographers.

How much do you want to bet photographers on Vancouver’s public transit system are going to encounter a lot of problems in the coming year? (Keep us posted.)

Article via CBC

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4 Responses to “Pre-Olympic Fear and Paranoia in Vancouver”


  1. 1 Eric March 23, 2009 at 7:09 am

    You wrote: “… With the tagline “Support the suspicious, not the strange,”

    It looks to me like it says, “Report the suspicious, not the strange.”

    Not much better, but I just wanted to point it out.

    • 2 babydiscarted March 23, 2009 at 9:10 am

      Yes, you’re right…a result of writing too fast. Thanks.

  2. 3 msruckuz May 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I know this is an out of date discussion, but until recently I did see a few of these ads lingering in the skytrain stations. One of the particular images in this campaign that really made me uncomfortable was the one of the fellow spray painting a skull on a concrete wall, labeled as “Suspicious”, ie a threat to the safety of transit users. Okay…so, Bart Simpson was planning a terrorist attack on the 2010 winter games in Vancouver? Joking aside, when you look at the image closely (I got right up to the poster to look) it is a young man, maybe even a teenager. This raised so many red flags, it’s not even funny. Oddly enough, around the same time a huge street art mural on Beatty was covered up with blue paint, and that was even a commissioned piece, I believe!
    The message I got was that only VANOC supported public art is okay, and that anyone else, regardless of age, intention, or artistic background, not only will get slapped with charges for vandalism, but for being a “security threat”. I hope this has relaxed with the departure of the Games. Photographers felt threatened by the ad shown here, I’m sure street artists felt equally threatened by this one, more so than usual.
    Thanks for the rant. Happy painting.


  1. 1 In the Name of Terrorism, More Fear in London « Trackback on March 25, 2009 at 7:41 pm

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