I’ve been watching this brew for the last two weeks, waiting for an expose on whether this is actually happening or media hype. Today, many news outlets are finally reporting it as “hype”, not a sudden epidemic.
Have teenagers adopted a new game of random assaults, with the goal of a one-hit “knockout”?
If you’ve been following local news, watching national coverage, or reading your Facebook newsfeed, you might think the answer is “yes.” The Today Show, for instance, reports that “teenagers [are] knocking people out for the fun of it,” targeting “women and children,” with cases “piling up.”
Likewise, CNN writes that “A sick so-called game known as ‘knockout’…is catching the attention of law enforcement throughout the nation,” and USA Today echoes the report with a brief on beefed up police vigilance in cities such as New York, Washington, New Haven, and Philadelphia.
There have been several cases of people reporting random assaults attributed to the “knockout game” where a group of hoodlums attack a person with a sucker punch and then run. It is also known as bombing, polar-bearing, and polar-bear hunting. There is no doubt such attacks have caused serious injuries and deaths. But it’s not new. It was reported to exist under this label as far back as 1992. And it also has a form in Europe.
They have been connected to Jews and women and possibly generating an undue fear of young black men. In general, violent crime is declining. I know, you hear about the shootings and attacks like this but the rates are lower than in the “good old days”. The article notes that assaults like this are nothing new but by giving it a label and playing it in the media as a “trend”, it creates a fake panic. Of course, the media are kind of good at things like that. They do it all the time and they KEEP doing it.
I’m not claiming the game doesn’t exist. But the idea that it’s reached epidemic levels, or that it’s only being played by young black people, is a fallacy. As Alan Noble convincingly writes, “Analyzing data is not as simple as watching some YouTube videos and Googling ‘knockout game.’” And when it comes to the knockout game’s supposed popularity, the data is almost entirely anecdotal
These trends are self-perpetuating as they make for interesting conversation and gripping news stories. But it’s important to remain grounded and not succumb to a unwarranted fear about the world. It’s not all nasty and you probably are NOT going to get beat up while walking down the street.