April 9, 2008

Teen beating has nothing to do with YouTube fame

Some must find my obsession with adolescents frivolous, but we waste public funds on programs that ignore reality. "Protect the children" programs almost always suffer from ignorance because no one takes a tough-minded approach -- parents and professional child-managers would rather tell lies that suggest policies which give them greater say over we can and cannot do.

The rotten core of such programs is the belief that adults pose the greatest threat to adolescents -- as kidnappers, molesters, bad role models, or brainwashers (e.g., video game makers). The truth is that it's teenagers who pose the greatest threat to teenagers. Here and now, the three age classes (children, adolescents, and adults) have separate spheres carved out; as a result, teenagers compete exclusively with other teenagers.

Any good teen movie showcases this fact (see my reviews of Mean Girls and Clueless, or watch Heathers). The worst teen movies -- especially those made by John Hughes -- focus too much on the influence of parents or facets of adult society.

Recently, a group of girls in their mid-teens beat up another mid-teen girl and filmed it. You might think that news reports would emphasize the motive, but most that I've read (google Victoria Lindsay beating) have focused on the fact that the beaters planned to upload the video to YouTube. The idiotic father of the victim even went so far as to say:

Lindsay's father said the teens' motivation was to produce the best "shock" video, rivaling those readily available on sites such as YouTube or popular TV shows such as MTV's "Jackass." . . .

"I want stiffer punishments for these shock Web sites that entice kids to make these videos so they can be famous on the Internet," he said. "That is the motive, I am sure of it. It's crazy and it's terrible and they're gonna pay."

Now, my bullshit detector has a very low threshold, so it does produce false positives -- but never a false negative. Hopefully, you too thought to yourself, "teenage girls don't do that if they want to be internet celebrities." The news reports mention that at least one of the beaters is a cheerleader -- and I have a little theory about what 16 to 18 year-old cheerleaders would upload to YouTube if they wanted to shock, get attention, and become famous. Yeah, that's right. Why would they risk so much by putting a girl in the hospital, when shaking their butts in short shorts would earn them more fame (or infamy)?

Sure enough, the mother of one of the beaters explains what her daughter likely told her as the reason:

. . .the teens beat up Lindsay because she had been harassing and threatening them on MySpace.

Other reports say that this happened over text messaging as well. Now that's believeable. In fact, if you watch the video of the beating, you can tell the beaters are very angry for personal reasons -- not like a bunch of sociopathic boys who laugh in a detached way while filming themselves shooting strangers with paintballs. Perhaps the victim's father cannot read body language or facial expressions at all, but it's clear these girls didn't have fame on their minds.

However, "girl gets beaten up after verbally provoking other girls" is not the headline any of the reports are running. I obviously don't think the victim deserved a beating, but the grand solution to this type of problem is to warn teenage girls: "If you verbally tease or provoke other girls, especially in public forums where others can hear and spread the word, you might get beaten up." Pretty simple, really.

Instead, we must listen as grave news reports, clueless parents, and nutcase guidance counselor ladies inform us that these things are the fault of parents, bad role models, "shock" internet sites, removing God from the schools, or whatever else the person has on their agenda. Teenagers have been competing with, and beating up, other teenagers long before any of this, and they'll keep doing it: the urge to beat the shit out of your competitors is rooted in our imperfectable human nature.

To lessen the degree of savage beatings, we must first identify what the causes are, and then seek to prevent them. Only the non-deluded should be allowed to work on this, although fortunately tough-minded people are not in short supply -- they just happen to not work in the helping professions, where touchy-feely-ness is the rule, and where any honest attempt to figure out what caused the incident is met only with indignant sputtering: "You're blaming the victim!" Courts may deal with "oughts" when they assign blame and issue punishments, but crime prevention is mostly an amoral engineering problem; the moral part comes later, when we decide where we'd like to be along the trade-off continuum that the engineers have elucidated.


  1. This was a brutal and premeditated attack by white, suburban, middle-class girls with no humanity or remorse. I agree that the internet is not to blame. The culture and the parents are to blame partially for raising children with no sense of accountability or conscience. I think in this instance, a severe message needs to be sent to teenage girls everywhere. Assaults and violent behavior from females have been going up, and seriously, it is sickening and needs to stop. The next time, a girl could be killed. Send all 6 girls away for at least 10 years, with some going away for 20 years -and no parole. I am serious. A generation ago, white middle class girls were not doing gang beatings. Any young female who could stand around and watch this beating take place, with that girl crying and bruised, and then beat her more after her unconsciousness, needs to be removed from society. This trend has to end, and it has to end now. Unfortunately, I believe the punishment will end up not being as strong as it should.

  2. Go easy on me, since I'd only vaguely heard about the story before your post, but why did they record the beatdown? I'm reminded of a Simpsons episode where Kearney, Jimbo and co. have a camcorder as they go on a late night rampage, and one says, "Recording this crime spree is the smartest thing we've ever done!"

  3. The reports I read didn't say, but they did say that the beaters planned to upload it to YouTube and maybe MySpace.

    My guess is they wanted to remind the victim not to get out of line in the future, to show others in their high school that you don't fuck with them, etc.

    Of course, maybe there was one weirdo in the group who wanted to film it for giggles, not for mafia-type reasons. But the beating itself didn't have to do with this.

  4. Guys,

    We wont know "why" the beatings took place explicitly until the goddamned-good-for-nothing-media deigns to tell us. Im SURE the police have asked the girls why they lured the victim to the house, surrounded her, and started beating her.

    Could the media be pulling this because they know people will be interested in the "why" and will watch reports of the story for four or five days waiting to get a "reason"? Maybe.
    I do know one thing........the parents and the police know, and someone in the media has asked by now assuredly. A few "snarky" remarks aren't going to get six girls to do something like this, even if they were ghetto ho's. The victim (did anyone notice the "tough-girl" ripped up jeans she had on?) must have pissed off at least three or four of these girls. In fact, its hard for me to imagine that she had not insulted each and every one of them in some way. Maybe she did threaten them, maybe she was a bully.........but I kind of doubt it because she was smaller than the other girls present. Maybe she was larger than a couple of the three girls we didn't see in the video and they had been intimidated by the victim and the larger girls (older friends) beat her up for it. If a particular girl had nothing against her, its hard for me to imagine her going along with this after say.........minute two or three. They beat her for half an hour. She was unconcious.

    It was not justified of course. In fact, I hope the little ho's get sent to real prison if they are over 16 and a seperate reform school full of black ghetto ho's if they are under that----where all of them will learn about unfair numbers and fear and emerge very changed human beings after a couple of YEARS of their young lives. At the least, they should not be allowed in their school for at least one year and no more cheerleading. They beat her unconcious and she had a concussion. Hell, if she was hit a little harder, she could have been brain-damaged or brain dead as the force of a blow that can concust a human being isn't all that far from the force needed to really damage the brain.

    The truth is what needs to come out so it can be discussed and real solutions presented. No matter what the girl said, she shouldn't be jumped like that. Even if she was bullying one or two of the other girls, the media said nothing about the victim having a fight with one of these girls, so we are left to conclude all reasons for this were non-physical at this point. Girls (and boys) have social isolation as a weapon at their disposal to use any time they want. They are six and she was one. I quite frankly wonder what was promised the two lookouts (sexual favors? dope?)

    Im not that ancient dammit. This would have never happened in the late 1980s at my school. We only had a couple of fights there that I even remember in the hallways. Kids were a hell of a lot nicer to one another back then and much much less cliquish. Perhaps cliques are on the rise because social isolation is on the rise. Diverse societies are going to bring that, and we have diversity in social groupings more than ever before now. Its definitely more complex than "freaks", "jocks", and "nerds" and one or two hybrid goups in between them now.


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."