an unsolicited opinion on a current event

I don’t normally like to do this kind of thing in this space, but here is my unsolicited opinion on a current event.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a rapidly escalating string of articles about the “Knockout Game” circulating through my feeds. You have seen it, too, by now. Even my mother has. On the phone with her the other day I made a bad joke about punching my spouse and she replied, “Oh, just like those black kids playing that awful new game?”

The tone in these articles was incendiary — watch out for the horrifying attack game sweeping the country; is your neighborhood next? — but the weird thing was that each referenced the same handful of cases, and most included the same blurry security video.

When I saw it shared for the dozenth time, this time by local police, I started to think: wow, this seems to be a real big thing. And I started to wonder: how much should I worry?

So I did some research on actual crime statistics. Here’s what I found:

  • Not much in terms of tangible, crunchable numbers. All of the resources I read again pointed the same handful of recent cases from Syracuse, New Jersey, New York, St. Louis, and East Lansing, and sometimes included generic, unsourced references to “activity” that had occurred in other cities. 
  • Endless pages of search results that essentially amounted to poorly written editorials about reverse racism. Please don’t Google “knockout game crime reports statistics” unless you want to feel really, really depressed for the rest of the day.
  • A few resources that indicated this game has been played for at least 10-20 years, which would suggest that it’s not new. Most referenced an incident involving an MIT student in 1992 as one of the first “knockout games” that resulted in a death. I did find mention of a punching case that in England in June of this year that referred to the knockout attempt as a “bomb,” which would suggest that the game, or variations thereof, isn’t necessarily limited to the US.

In the end, it remains unclear to me how much of the recent upswing of activity is a real trend, how much of it is copycat behavior due to the virulent nature of media, and how much of it is hyperactive fearmongering. 

Here are my thoughts about all that: 

  • Some people are terrible, awful jerks.
  • The amount of terribleness and awfulness that goes on in the world today is not more than the amount of terribleness and awfulness that went on in the world yesterday.
  • Do your homework.
  • There’s a fine line between education and misinformation.
  • It’s good to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, but I refuse to live my life afraid. 
  • Life is short enough without the energy I put out into the world being one of constant distrust and suspicion.
  • It’s generally a good idea to be distrustful and suspicious of hyperbole, and of hysteria.

Thanks for your time.

3 Responses to “an unsolicited opinion on a current event”

  1. Hear, hear. It’s one thing to write an “anecdotes are evidence!” story about men owning cats – that’s dumb but harmless. This fear-mongering is not harmless.

  2. Thanks for this! There are countless posts on my FB feed each week that I’d like to copy and paste this article to. It seems like social media has turned in to a place to spread fear (ex. “the thing you need to know about your breaks in the rain” “how diaper cream will burn your baby” “thugs mark your front yard with graffiti to come back and steal your dog for dog fights” etc ad nauseum). My husband and I get thrown a lot of shade because we are the annoying people who do proper research (or at the very least consult snopes) to discredit these types of posts.

    I once had someone share a post that keeping an unpeeled onion in your room “trapped” colds and viruses so as long as you kept an onion in your room, you would be healthy! You note that “The amount of terribleness and awfulness that goes on in the world today is not more than the amount of terribleness and awfulness that went on in the world yesterday.” Do you think the same applies to the amount of stupidness in the world?

  3. Hmm. So this is 100% new news to me. I have never heard of this. I guess this is what I get for living in another country and culture and not watching the news?

    Though I must say, not watching the news has improved my life I think. Ignorance is bliss?

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