I’ve had an uneasy feeling about reports of the “knockout game” since I first heard them.
They sound too much like the “wilding” hoax of a generation ago, which led to a lynch mob-like conviction of five kids for something that they did not do. I see that Will Bunch also has qualms.
As you may have noticed, we’ve been encouraging more people to buy and read the Daily News. I wish the mayor had read — or read more carefully — a really good piece that my colleague Jason Nark published yesterday, hours before both Mayor Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey went before the hot TV lights. Nark said the police in Philadelphia and around the country have no idea if the so-called “knockout game” is even real or just an urban myth, and that while there’s one — yes, one — incident in Fox Chase that Philly cops think might have fit this pattern, they were quick to add that, as Nark wrote, “the attack is just a new name for an age-old phenomenon: random violence.”
Chauncey Devega sees the stories of the “knockout game” as yet another in a long tradition of attempts to dehumanize Not White persons and dress them in menace.
I will not try to rewrite what he has expressed so well. Here’s a nugget:
(By the way, both as a trained historian and as a Southern boy who knows bigotry when he sees it, Devega is quite right–when nothing else works, or even when everything else works, bigots foment fear. Fear is their friend, their tool, their go-to weapon against good will. And now back to the nugget, already in progress . . . .)
The knockout game hysteria fits these criteria: it features long-standing white supremacist fixations on “black criminality”, is focused on young people of color, resonates with fears by white people regarding America’s changing demographics while reinforcing the White Right’s vacuous lie that white people are “victims” of “reverse racism” in the post civil rights era, and is disseminated by the Right-wing media apparatus.
Moreover, the way that the knockout game moral panic has been circulated by the news media is a very chilling echo of how race and rumor were historically used to incite white racial pogroms, spectacular lynchings, and other types of terrorism against African-Americans. Of course, there is an important distinction: the knockout game is an example of wanton street thuggery by criminals; the lynching tree and racial terrorism were rituals of mass white violence against innocent black Americans.
Follow the links–both of them. Read the rest(s).