Markets in everything: department of yikes

This possibility had never occurred to me:

Racial attacks like the ones behind the
arrest of 32 suspects in Denver are part of a trend spreading across
the country, gang experts said Saturday.

As part of the trend, black gang members videotape the assaults in
trendy tourist districts and sell them on the underground market as

"They knock a young white guy out with one blow to see if his knees
will wobble and surround them and take their money," said the Rev. Leon
Kelly, who runs a Denver gang-prevention program. "It's a joke."

Here is the full story and I thank new reader Mark for the pointer.  By the way, am I wrong in thinking it a bit unusual how the words "black" and "white" are thrown around so casually in this story?


The real money quote of this article is:

"There's always consequences," he said. "They've been targeting each other for years. Once it starts venturing out of the 'hood, it becomes a major issue."

In other words, black-on-black crime is less important than black-on-white crime.
Now, I happen to think this is more socioeconomically driven than racially driven, but the quote is right there staring you in the face nevertheless.

Three points:
1. Persons who make a living dealing with gangs as their target have an interest in hyping the event in order to get more resources; this is also good for television News at 6, thereby blowing it out of proportion and giving it more coverage.
2. Lot's of crazy stuff on You-Tube is mimic=ed by other persons as well. Dogs and animals that do crazy things; people who do crazy things. How many commercials have a disclaimer at the bottom that "Do not try this at home" because we know people mimic what they see.
3. The problem is the commercialization of the video, and mimicry. Everyone wants to be a producer and in film. Choke off coverage.

is it unusual because it tracks how people actually perceive and talk about these things, rather than how a supersensitive newspaper might write about such things?

The violence and assault herein are despicable.

There is nothing racial about these attacks. That is just window dressing to make an interesting news story and prepare an illogical defense.

Tyler - you are right to be concerned about the epithets black and white. Ascribing racial motivation to these incidents is in and of itself racist and perpetuates a tolerance for this behavior.

@Bay Area Alan: The word "epithet" has several meanings, only one of which makes sense in this context, "a disparaging or abusive word or phrase":

The words "black" and "white" are not disparaging unless you are a racist.

Ascribing racial motivation to these incidents might or might not be racist depending on the level of evidence provided. The article doesn't provide enough information to judge one way or the other.


If Ben Santer had said he'd punch Pat Michaels to see if his knees wobbled, would that have surprised you Tyler? :)

Saying there is nothing racial about these attacks is as silly as concluding that the attacks are certainly racial. There is a non-zero probability that some of these attacks have a racial element. There is no shortage of racism among poor African Americans.

The only reason why it might be defensible is the economic motive. Now, I am not a purchaser (nor do I have any future interest) in owning knockout tapes.

However, call this the Kimbo Slice phenomenon (where Kimbo knocks out people of all races and became a Youtube and now reality tv millionaire).

If the market (for whatever twisted reason) decides to pay more for Kimbo knocking out people, specifically white people with one punch than the reverse, and thats where the demand is in these video purchases, then it makes sense to include the races of the assualters and victims, as that is where there is demand for these underground "videos".

Then again, as someone who was too squeamish to watch the UAE prince torturing and then breaking a guys legs by running him over repeatedly with a SUV, maybe I misunderstand the market altogether.

Hmmm.. it's not racially motivated but it does have something to do with race. Here in the Netherlands, criminal members of ethnic minorities (Morrocan, Antillian, Turkish to a lesser extent) tend to target native (white) Dutch. Why? Because the Dutch people dont have cliques to back them up. It's more a trade-off than honest racism.

There was a similar incident in Columbia, Missouri, a while ago. The difference was that they perpetrators were young and apparently didn't film the incident, which did get caught on a security camera, which was instrumental in apprehending and prosecuting the perpetrators.

I guess I'll be the first to say it. No Tyler, you are not wrong in thinking it a bit unusual. These are not racially motivated crimes. The gang members are using racial profiling just the same as the cops. Neither is necessarily racist, but both are just as stupid as the other. Racial profiling creates a lot of wrongful arrests and much, much worse, a lot of wrongful convictions. Start talking about black gangsters from the 'hood and all of a sudden we're (non-'hood dwellers, including other black people) happy as long as one of them goes to jail for the crime. I really hope those in this thread who are defending racial profiling are not supportive of laissez faire economics. Those are very difficult stances to reconcile.

I echo those who think the racial terms are appropriate. Assuming the story is accurate, the actions are certainly racially motivated. Perhaps it's less amusing to KO a black person and makes for a less valuable tape.

That does not mean I think these crimes should carry any more weight than any type of similar assault -- and I'd guess most of your other commentators and readers don't support hate crimes legislation -- but race is apparently key to understanding this story.

All that said, you may be right that it's "unusual" that it's being reported so frankly. White-on-black crime is always reported as obvious hate crime, even when it may not be. Black-on-white crime doesn't tend to get the same treatment, even when the motives are pretty clearly racial as well as financial. Perhaps this frank story indicates we're moving a little bit closer to equality.

Racial profiling creates a lot of wrongful arrests and much, much worse, a lot of wrongful convictions.

Care to back up that statement with statistics?

Yes, that's why Police Chief Charles Moose is still looking for two white guys driving a white van, and O.J. Simpson is busy looking for the killers of his ex-wife (in between rounds of golf).

I really hope those in this thread who are defending racial profiling are not supportive of laissez faire economics.

I hope that you're consistent as well. If you happen to be walking down a city street alone at 3AM, and encounter several "black youths" wearing "doo rags" and hooded sweathshirts, walking with a "gangsta swagger" doesn't cause you to cross the street or walk in the opposite direction.

Because we all know that you're just as likely to get violently mugged at 3AM by a "doo rag" wearing black youth as a white Episcopalian wearing a Brooks Brothers suit.

Those are very difficult stances to reconcile.


"If you happen to be walking down a city street alone at 3AM, and encounter several "black youths" wearing "doo rags" and hooded sweathshirts, walking with a "gangsta swagger" doesn't cause you to cross the street or walk in the opposite direction."

Race can, and often does play a role, but I think the more looked for attributes are the doo rags, hooded sweatshirts, sagging baggy pants, gangsta swagger, etc. I've lived in so called "neighborhoods in transition" and found that many people are more comfortable around black youths who dress "normally" than white youths who dress in "urban styles". And yes, that's true at 3am too.

So, I want to know how the perpetrators in these attacks are dressed.

Wonder what the comments here would like if you'd flip 'white' with 'black' and vice versa in that article.

Just a variation on happy slapping.

"Happy Slapping is known to have started in South London, in particular the London Borough of Lewisham,[2][3] in a format known as "Slap TV", where a happy-slapping video would be recorded, and then watched by dozens of people like a TV show. The first newspaper article to ever use the phrase 'happy slapping' was "Bullies film fights by phone", published in The Times Educational Supplement on January 21, 2005, in which reporter Michael Shaw described teachers' accounts of the craze in London schools. Within the United Kingdom, where the term is used most frequently,[citation needed] it is associated with the ned/chav sub-culture."

"I really hope those in this thread who are defending racial profiling are not supportive of laissez faire economics."

Why do you hope that?
Were there a lot of Nigerians and Chinese in the IRA? Are 70 year old Eskimo women likely to be Mafia dons? You get a lot of Appalachian rednecks in the Yakuza? And if so, how do you connect it with laissez faire economics? Not saying there isn't one, but I'm too undercafeinated to see it.

All members of black gangs are black people. Not all black people are members of black gangs. Absolutely we need to be able to identify gang members. But assuming all black people are members of black gangs (ie racial profiling) is both irrational and normative. That normative byproduct weakens the individual responsibility of people being profiled as their lot is thrown in under the profile. Those who support laissez faire economics should not support actions that weaken individual responsibility.



The breathless identification of a trend guaranteed to scare the socks off fear-prone white people makes me suspect the Denver Post article on its face.

So has anybody studied whether the presence of these videos on "the market" reduces the need for individuals to act out, or do copycats reenact them? What is the net effect?

I have to say that I've never had the urge to travel to an alien planet and do battle and maybe that's because I can rent the movie.

Pretending that a black gang would not prefer to mug a rich white tourist serves no useful purpose. It also serves no useful purpose to presume that a black gang would not mug a rich black tourist.

Gangs are often organized along racial lines, and these lines have been progressively more perpetuated and reinforced by prison culture over the last last generation. I don't know why, in the face of such dreadful problems, people of diverse political views waste their times on blogs tossing bombs about others views and word choices on the blogs.

Anyone have any decent ideas about how to prevent the further hardening of these cultural lines? I'm way more concerned about helping low-income low opportunity urban youths find opportunity than I am concerned with how the words black and white are used in a news report. Seems to me they are substantively accurate, and unworthy of hand-wringing.

To focus on such matters IMO misses the point. Unless for you, the point is to reinforce you already hardened views about race in America. Not directed at anyone in particular here.Just sayin'.

I just wanted to comment since the article did reference Minneapolis. The actions that the "gang" took in our state was pretty minor. It was a group of no more then 8 young teenagers who videotaped exploits that skwed more jackass than gang activity. They did some minor assults aka pushing a biker over or tackling an unexpected person. The video will make you angry but it wont make you live in fear. Judge for yourself:

While the video in Minneapolis did raise emotions it was all pretty mild. No women or elderly, no weapons used. No broken bones or serious violence. So I would take this whole thing with a grain of salt.

Is no one's bullshit detector going off? Sounds like an urban legend to me. Where are the names of the victims? Where are the videos?

"Kelly said" or "Said Kelly" Appeared 9 times in this article, I couldn't be bothered to count "He said" and track it back to Kelly, although that does appear a few times, along with "Gang Experts." The guy has his own angle - probably finagling more money for his charity. I hope he does some good with it.

32 arrests in Denver that are "racially motivated" and I don't see the Police mentioning videos of any of them. Can we really disentangle racist crimes from crimes involving racial disparities, which unfortunately in this country means socio-economic disparities? Crime sucks, but lets not at an angle that isn't there. Criminals have found a soft target, and are taking advantage of it.

The real "yikes" is the fact that video, and the Internet, never forgets.

Historically, old enmities and old atrocities are smoothed over by the passage of time, as they fade from living memory. The atrocities of World War II were probably the first to be extensively filmed and photographed, but in the key postwar decades when European unity was being forged, you had to go out of your way to see them, in occasional documentary films or museum exhibits.

Now, everything is at your fingertips on YouTube. It's like picking at a scab that will never heal. This has implications for the future that we haven't thought through yet.

Is no one's bullshit detector going off? Sounds like an urban legend to me. Where are the names of the victims? Where are the videos?

Chip, you posted this two posts after video of the attack. That's just terrible.

Okay, let me rephrase that. The fact that these crimes are being video taped and sold sounds like an urban legend to me. The video was from a surveillance camera, not video taped by the alleged perpetrators. Local media hypes all sorts of violent crime and plays up sensational angles.

If anything I did was terrible it was not be explicitly clear on what I was calling bullshit on. I see no evidence for the market in video tapes of race violence.

I also will say that I don't think there is any evidence that these where motivated by race so much as the race of the victims was an added perk to the money earned. I don't think that mitigates the disgusting nature of these crimes. However, if we want to understand what happened it is necessary to differentiate actions motivated by race and those with a racial angle.

ps sorry if this posts multiple times, firefox is being wonky.

I've personally known two people who were shot and killed. One was a police officer (killed by a white guy), the other was an acquaintance visiting Minneapolis for the weekend (killed by a couple black guys in a robbery).

I don't go to Minneapolis. If I see anyone walking down the street signaling thuggishness then I came to the wrong place. However, not everyone can be a professor. Some of us have to be in these places.

This is my ideal solution with how to deal with thugs. Any race will do.

Homies, like most everyone else, think guns are a magic missile. They don't train.

For me, my years in the Patagonia felt I lot like my home in Nevada. The whole country is a lot like the U.S. with the lonely Patagonia being like the arid Southwest, just colder; the Pampa being like the the prairie Midwest; the jungles up north (where I never visited) being like the U.S. Southeast.

Sorry, wrong place to post that comment above.

Also re: black and white. It is an odd editorial choice to use black as opposed to African American. Small difference, sure, but it signals something.

Yes, because any human being living in America is an "African-American".

Don't believe me? Go take a DNA test. See where your ancestors came from?

And anyone walking anywhere deserted at 3 am who sees strangers should be cautious. Duh.

This kind of thing, if it is happening, will go on about as long as a victim doesn't kill any of the "jokesters" in self defense.

In a concealed carry jurisdiction, you have no clue if who you are accosting is armed. And trained. The odds of that happening may be lower in a tourist area. In other words, a victim may turn out to not believe in magic bullets but have actually taken the time to learn how to use a firearm.

Also, please spare us the lectures about cops not caring about poor on poor crime, unless you are also going to address the unwillingness, for whatever reason, of victims and witnesses to identify and testify against criminals.

Another great reason for my CCL here in Michigan. The only question: How many magazines can I carry?

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