Throughout grade school and high school, I often heard stories from teachers about the “good old days” of their youth and early adulthood. If a problem existed between two people and physical violence ensued, the quarrel was handled one-on-one.
Apparently — the way they told it, anyway — the matter was resolved at that point. The pair could shake hands, get on their way and forget about it. It was a matter of mutual respect and dignity, they said, unlike the gang violence and firearms depicted in movies.
These days, much has changed. In age where a common saying is “pictures or it didn’t happen,” a fundamental shift in culture has fostered an environment of over-sharing on social media.
The accessibility of digital cameras and mobile devices equipped with video capabilities proves a handy tool for information gathering and sharing. When it comes to filmed altercations, however, it has opened an avenue for authorities and the public to use the footage posted on the Internet to identify criminals and pursue charges.
A YouTube that went viral this week shows a 17-year-old teenager being severely beaten and bullied by seven teenagers in Chicago on Jan. 16. The video was rumored to be filmed by the sole female accomplice.
It is brutal stuff: The group takes turns punching and kicking the defenseless teen for nearly four minutes. They steal his jacket, shoes, backpack and cash while abusing him verbally.
Support for the young man from the online community via social media. And a Change.org petition calling for the the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Public Schools to take action has accumulated more than 15,000 signatures.
Seven teenagers were arrested Wednesday. One teen was charged as an adult and the remaining six were charged as juveniles, each with one count robbery and aggravated battery, according to various media reports.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy also told the AP that violence appearing in videos online more frequently is a “national epidemic” and called it “ridiculously stupid.”
In other words, this is not a unique, isolated event. Each day, 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube alone. Along with other video aggregators, a search can elicit countless videos demonstrating arguments, fights and aggressive violence.
The girl who allegedly recorded the attack in Chicago uploaded response videos explaining that the act was in retaliation. She claimed that the recent victim’s friends assaulted one of the arrested males in October.
It is this distorted style of thinking — an eye for an eye — that needs to end. Technology is not the problem.
Instead of focusing on stopping video uploads or students’ video habits, city officials, especially those in inner-city and at-risk neighborhoods, should develop more preventative measures and disciplinary action. That law enforcement officials can also use video to track down and punish offenders should be all the more reason to focus on the individual, not the medium.
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