The news media has been rapt lately with stories of an alleged game by young men called the "Knockout Game," in which participants choose an unwitting victim on the street and attempt to knock him out with a single punch. Jon Stewart summed up the media frenzy with his usual deft touch on the Daily Show a few weeks back.
Despite a startling lack of real evidence the game existed at all, it was treated as real by many media outlets and often focused on young "gangs" of minority men as the perpetrators. In something of a startling development, Katy, Texas resident Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, has been charged with a hate crime after allegedly playing the "Knockout Game" and striking an elderly man so hard it broke his jaw in two places.
The twist: Barrett is white and his victim is black. Police say he admitted to participating in the game and showed them video of the attack he had on his phone. He allegedly yelled "knockout" and laughed after assaulting the victim.
If convicted, Barrett could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His lawyer alleges that Barrett is bipolar.
The question arises for me almost instantaneously: which came first, the game or the reporting of it? There have been very few arrests of suspects involved in the so-called "Knockout Game," and their numbers pale in comparison to the random violence reported on American streets every day. Still, the outrageous and random nature of the crime plays well on 24-hour news network broadcasts.
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Now, at least locally, we have one confirmed arrest from the phenomena. And this one has the added bonus of supposedly being racially motivated. If the cable news networks weren't whipped up into a frothy furor by the "Knockout Game" already, this should most definitely do it.