VANDALISM AND DIRECT ACTION:
One thing has to be said for sure. The anarchist concept of "direct action" has been corrupted- mostly by those who claim the anarchist label- beyond all recognition in recent years, especially in North America, and, of course, beyond all measure in the USA. In its original formulation in the anarcho-syndicalist movements of Europe and Latin America and in the IWW of the 'anglosphere' it had a totally different meaning than the one it has come to assume today. In its original formation it meant action on the part of the oppressed without political mediation that would immediately correct a grievance. This meant that it was definitely not "symbolic" ie a propaganda gesture- voting with bricks rather than ballots. Neither was it "terrorist" in that it committed one act unconnected to the grievance in order to "terrorize" the ruling class into caving in on another matter. The classic such act would have been IWW walkouts at a certain hour to enforce a certain working time.
What does this mean ? It means that direct action is something that has an immediate effect, or at least the possibility of same. That it corrects an injustice or advances the interests of the oppressed not in some American psychobabble way but in a real material result. Such actions are totally disconnected from how "militant" or "violent" such actions are. They may be "militant". They may be violent". In most cases, however, they are neither. The foundation of an "infoshop" for instance is "direct action". Bombing a newspaper station because you think they 'support capitalism" is not. The former actually accomplishes something and is a direct response to correct a problem. The latter is (an invariably juvenile) expression of personal frustration that accomplishes nothing.
Then, of course, there are actions that do not result in immediate correction of a problem but gradually build towards it. Suppose, for instance, you hate the Royal Bank and its various corporate actions. You can take one approach, that of long term organizing and trying to present the evil actions of the bank to the general population. At a certain point one might hope that real direct actions (whether inhibiting the actions of the bank or building alternatives to its power) would begin to develop. Real direct actions supported by large numbers of ordinary people. On the other hand you can be lost in the incestuous world of a subculture where you cannot "read the political pulse" of ordinary people and imagine because most of the people in your friendship group hate the Royal Bank in a half-educated leftist way that the general population feels the same. Then all you have to do is plant a bomb to stimulate general rebellion. This whole scenario was played out over 100 years ago amongst anarchists when the general population was 1000 times more likely to be sympathetic. They weren't then, and they cannot be now.
Whoever did the firebombing in Ottawa may claim the "anarchist" label (assuming it wasn't a police action- if they are caught it wasn't; if they are not leave that option open) in a vague rhetorical way, but it has to be said that they don't have the foggiest clue as to what anarchism is beyond another "ism" to add to a leftist laundry list. Unfortunately it is still a minority position amongst North American anarchists in terms of understanding what "direct action" really means. Platformists and mutualists generally understand it, and the majority of educated syndicalists do as well. To others, however, it has become a synonym for either violence or militance. These things have nothing whatsoever to do with the real meaning of the term.