It has been interesting to watch our media culture come to terms with the Knockout Game, a series of random attacks in which young thugs sneak up on someone – frequently an elderly victim – and try to knock them out with a single punch, while their friends videotape the assault. It’s sheer nihilistic mayhem with a racial tinge, since so many of the attacks have come from black teens, and the victims are almost always white or Hispanic.
The media, and some law-enforcement officials, have invested much energy in pretending the Knockout Game doesn’t exist. To be sure, not every suspected attack turns out to be part of the “game” – sometimes they’re robberies, or assaults perpetrated for other reasons. However, the amount of effort spent pretending the Knockout Game doesn’t exist at all has been amazing. It’s something the media simply refuses to see, because it’s ideologically unacceptable.
After a wave of knockout attacks against Jews in the Brooklyn area, a hate-crimes charge was finally brought in late November, as reported by ABC News:
Amrit Marajh, 28, was charged with harassment as a hate crime after he allegedly punched the 24-year-old Orthodox Jewish man Friday morning.
The unidentified victim believes he was attacked as part of the deadly “knockout” game, where an attacker aims to knock out the victim with a single sucker punch, police said.
The violent game has been linked to assault reports in at least six states, and three people have been killed in suspected knockout attacks.
The unidentified Brooklyn victim said he was walking home early Friday morning in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn when he was assaulted and heard his alleged attackers daring each other to punch him out minutes before one actually assaulted him, according to police.
He said there was no question that the game was the motive for the attack, New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
There have been calls for a crackdown against this sudden, random violence:
Republican state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has proposed a bill that would classify the knockout game attacks as gang assaults, and would require that youths who participate in such attacks be tried as adults, facing prison terms of up to 25 years.
“These twisted and cowardly thugs are preying on innocent bystanders and they don’t care if the victims are young, old, a man or woman,” Tedisco told The Associated Press when he announced the bill. “Life isn’t a video game. These are real people whose lives are not only being put in jeopardy but in many cases destroyed.”
In response to the latest attack in Brooklyn, New York City Councilman David Greenfield told ABC station WABC-TV in New York that officials should send a message of “zero tolerance.”
“That’s why I called on the NYPD and District Attorney’s Office to literally throw the book at these individuals and to charge them with many crimes, including hate crimes and gang assault, because that’s what it is,” Greenfield said.
Now there’s a new story about hate crimes charges with respect to a Knockout Game attack, but this time they’re federal charges coming from the Justice Department – as far as I can tell, the New York case is not federal – and the perpetrator is white. From CNN:
Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, of Katy, Texas, has been charged with one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
According to the federal complaint, Barrett attacked the elderly man “because of the man’s race and color.”
The suspect made a video of the attack November 24, the complaint said. In the video, he allegedly commented that “the plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?”
He then allegedly “hit the man with such force that the man immediately fell to the ground. Barrett then laughed and said ‘knockout,’ as he ran to his vehicle and fled.”
The victim suffered two jaw fractures and was hospitalized for several days, the complaint said.
Presumably Barrett’s defense against the federal hate crimes charge will involve claims of mental illness. His lawyer says he suffers from bipolar disorder, and there seems to be plenty of evidence to make the case that he’s got serious issues:
Barrett, who is white, allegedly recorded himself on his cell phone attacking the man and showed the video to others. the department said. “The complaint alleges Barrett made several videos, one in which he identifies himself and another in which he makes a racial slur. In addition, Barrett had allegedly been working up the ‘courage’ to play the ‘knockout game’ for approximately a week.”
The victim’s face was swollen on one side, and he has had to suck out of a straw in order to drink, a nephew, Joseph Lewis, told CNN affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston.
Barrett allegedly told an off-duty police officer what happened and even shared a video, saying he felt bad, the TV station reported.
In other videos on his phone that police confiscated, Barrett used the N-word and said that African-Americans “haven’t fully experienced the blessing of evolution,” according to the criminal complaint.
It seems odd this would be the DOJ’s first foray into prosecuting a knockout attack as race crime. He made explicit racist statements on his cell phone videos, but he seems likely to mount a pretty effective mental-health defense against a hate-crimes prosecution, especially if there are records of treatment for bipolar disorder.
This Knockout Game situation has really gotten out of hand, and it’s spreading from coast to coast. The arrival of inexpensive cell phones that can create video recordings kicked things into high gear, although there have been reports of such random assaults going back to the early Nineties. It’s depressing to think society would have to send especially strong signals to convince a growing number of young people that recording random attacks and uploading them to the Internet is wrong, but there’s so much of it going on that the desire of authorities to send a strong signal is understandable. There are also concerns that the media will “overhype” the Knockout Game, leading to copycat attacks, but on the contrary, they’ve been downplaying it… and in any event, in the social-media era, it doesn’t require the benediction of Big Media to turn something like this into an extremely ugly cult phenomenon. Organized mayhem is bad enough; viral mayhem is worse.
Alarmingly, it seems like people who might not engage in other criminal activity are convincing themselves that Knockout Game attacks are somehow acceptable. Their predilection for selecting highly vulnerable victims has already led to serious injury and death.