Is the Knockout Game a Hate Crime? Is It Even a Game?

ABC NewsABC NewsAmrit Marajh, the 28-year-old accused of sucker-punching Shmuel Perl, a 24-year-old Orthodox Jew, in the side of the head on Friday in the Borough Park neigborhood of Brooklyn, has been charged with assault, which makes sense, and aggravated harassment as a hate crime, which is harder to figure out. Leave aside the question of whether a criminal should be punished extra severely* when he is motivated by bigotry. (He shouldn't.) According to ABC News, Perl said he "heard his alleged attackers daring each other to punch him out minutes before one actually assaulted him." Hence the assault has been described as the latest example of "the knockout game," a pastime supposedly sweeping the nation in which young assailants dare each other to knock out randomly selected targets with a single punch. But if the victims are picked at random, as the knockout game reportedly requires, can they also be selected based on their ethnicity or religion? ABC does not mention any anti-Semitic slurs or other evidence that Marajh was looking for a Jew to attack, and neither do the accounts in The New York Times, the New York Daily News, or The Jewish Press. So why the hate crime charge? The Daily News story suggests that Perl just happened to be walking down the street at the wrong moment:

Amrit Marajh, 28, had just left a bar on McDonald Ave. on Friday with four friends and was talking about boxing when the knockout game came up, police sources said. 

"You can't do that," one member of the group said as they came upon Shmuel Perl, 24, according to a source.

Marajh allegedly said, "Yes I can, I'll do it to this guy right now!" before punching Perl in the face, leaving him bruised.

Marajh's lawyer, by contrast, told the Daily News "this had nothing to do with the knockout game." Also in dispute: whether the knockout game is actually a thing. "Police officials in several cities where such attacks have been reported said that the 'game' amounted to little more than an urban myth," the Times reports, "and that the attacks in question might be nothing more than the sort of random assaults that have always occurred." For example:

Much news coverage of reported knockout attacks includes 2012 footage from a surveillance camera in Pittsburgh of James Addlespurger, a high school teacher who was 50, being swiftly struck to the ground by a young man walking down an alleyway with some friends. Yet the Pittsburgh police said the attacker insisted the assault was not part of any organized "game."

"This was just a random act of violence," Police Commander Eric Holmes said in a televised interview last year. "He stated that he was just having a bad day that day." The assailant saw Mr. Addlespurger, the commander said, "and decided this was a course of action he was going to take."

Once such crimes are relabeled, of course, young thugs who are inclined to attack people for no particular reason may start using the new terminology, thereby retroactively validating it. If Marajh and his friends really were talking about "the knockout game," they were probably discussing what they'd heard from news outlets hyping this supposedly new trend.

*Addendum: Marajh's allegedly anti-Semitic motivation makes a big difference in the penalty he faces. Because he is accused of striking Perl, he presumably was charged with aggravated harassment in the second degree. Ordinarily that offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Charging it as a hate crime knocks it up to a Class E felony, punishable by 18 months to four years in prison. 

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  • ||

    First time I heard about it, I said to myself "this is the new jenkem".

  • Frodo Teabaggins||

    We call this Texas Tag or the Headshot Game down here.

  • ||

    Here's the problem with "urban myths" like this. Retards hear news people going on and on about how kids everywhere are running around punching people and then a few idiots will actually do it.

    Dear news media STFU about these bullshit "trends" and they won't actually ever become things.

  • ||

    The media's isn't hyping "trends" like this because they don't want them to become things.

  • Swiss Servator, referendiffic!||

    "Polar Bear hunt"

  • Dweebston||

    Honest question: do you believe these inbred retards are emulating news stories, or that the media found a label for an ongoing trend among inbred retards?

  • John||

    http://takimag.com/article/hun.....oad/page_2

    According to this article the guy below linked to, this has been going on for years. It is just now getting attention, probably because Drudge keeps linking to the stories.

  • wingnutx||

    It's been popping up in local news for 5-10 years.

    Denver had a huge problem with it in 2009 or so.

    Not sure why it suddenly became a national topic.

  • Jesse Walker||

    According to this article the guy below linked to, this has been going on for years. It is just now getting attention, probably because Drudge keeps linking to the stories.

    It's not "just now getting attention." Those other alleged crime waves got media attention too, which is why Goad is able to link to them.

    But the media have a perpetual case of amnesia, especially when it comes to dubious crime-wave stories. So it always gets presented as something new.

  • Tak Kak||

    Is Goad not pointing out National attention now vs. local attention previously though?

    (I just read the article and haven't clicked all the links)

  • Jesse Walker||

    I know I saw stuff about this a couple years ago in media outlets that were not in my backyard. But I don't remember whether any of them were "national." (The way stories in local outlets go viral these days, the local/national distinction can be hard to maintain. But it's certainly possible that this is the first time the Times has covered it.)

  • Dweebston||

    I retract my slur against inbred retards. Inbred retardation at least somewhat mitigates the accountability of those who suffer it, whereas spontaneous acts of violence committed by fully cognizant individuals deserves an altogether more derisory term.

  • Zeb||

    I don't think we can rule out their being inbred and/or retarded at this point.

  • ||

    I think taking isolated incidents and turning them into a trend takes people who would otherwise not do it more comfortable doing it.

    I think the term for it is social contagion.

  • Dweebston||

    I don't disagree, but I do think a catalyst needs fuel to work with, and the apparent nonchalance with which these creeps behave while eschewing all civility and basic human empathy points to a more significant underlying motive. Which isn't to say the trend is any worse than it's ever been, just that I don't believe such kids would behave very differently absent the coverage.

  • ||

    I agree. I just wonder if nonchalant, violent behavior wouldn't have been directed at random passers by in the absence of this. Particularly this being linked with "game" further disconnects it from normal social order.

    My thought is that this has been happening at a low grade level and that people who may have thought twice about punching a random stranger will become more likely to ignore that second thought as it becomes perceived as "normal" or at least common.

  • Drake||

    If white "youths" started knocking out black people, would it be a hate crime?

  • John||

    Of course. And when one of these little bastards finally tries this with the wrong person and gets shot, we will have to hear all about how the evil white man was out hunting black children again.

  • wareagle||

    that's already happened, hasn't it? there was a 60-year old woman who shot a couple, IIRC.

  • carol||

    Some punk playing the game knocked down a father who was waiting for his daughter at a school bus stop and then decided to taser the father for good measure. The father shot him in each leg. The kid admitted to playing the game and knocking our seven or eight people during the previous several days.

  • ||

    And when one of these little bastards finally tries this with the wrong person and gets shot

    It already happened. And the black kid died and the term "White Hispanic" entered our lexicon.

  • Entropy Void||

    WHERE, OH WHERE IS AL SHARPTON?

  • ||

    I'd like to see these idiots randomly assault someone in a municipality where concealed carry is allowed.

  • RBS||

    I think they did and one of them got shot. There is a video.

  • rts||

  • Jordan||

    Some woman wasted 2 of these thugs, as well. Don't have the link handy.

  • ||

    Is this the game kids play when they're not attending rainbow parties, or butt chugging, or soaking tampons in vodka?

  • Almanian!||

    This is what happens when BATH SALTZZ1!

  • Swiss Servator, referendiffic!||

    BATH SALTZ - Win.

  • Tak Kak||

    So did this only become newsworthy when they started knocking Jewish people?

  • I Callahan||

    This has been in the news for a while, even before a victim was Jewish. So spare us this nonsense.

  • Tak Kak||

    Can you back that up, please? I never saw anything on it here or drudge before now.

  • carol||

    Its been in the news for a few weeks now.

  • Tak Kak||

    Does that not coincide with the attacks on Jewish people in Brooklyn?

    http://rt.com/usa/crown-height.....ewish-681/

    Sorry, perhaps I sounded too literal with "now", I meant recently, as in this month, to be more specific.

  • ||

    The way this short of thing should be handled, is that the judge should be at his discretion to impose extra harsh punishments for either bigotry, or the kind of sociopathic idiocy entailed by "the knockout game". Randomly killing someone "for fun" or assaulting them "for fun" is just as bad as doing it out of race hate. I have a hard time distinguishing how one could be worse than the other.

    I also thought that was the whole point of giving the judge discretion in sentencing. To allow him/her to be leniant in some cases, and extra harsh in others. Both race hate and being a violent dickhead that randomly assaults strangers qualify IMO.

  • anarch||

    Randomly killing someone "for fun" or assaulting them "for fun" is just as bad as doing it out of race hate. I have a hard time distinguishing how one could be worse than the other.

    I too have a hard time distinguishing how one could be worse than the other, but I think I see how it could be perceived as worse, whether by the victim or by onlookers after the fact.

    Namely, that a target of an attack who conceives its having occurred only because s/he is a human being can take consolation in sharing misfortune, or potential misfortune, with everyone else on the planet (misery loves company); whereas being singled out because of one's specific characteristics (whether individual, such as "I don't like your face," or group (I hate black/white/female/male people) might lower the victim's self-image/self-esteem [cf. Gunnar Myrdal's & Kenneth Clark's influence on Brown vs. BoE; from the court's holding: "Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn."]. (Cont'd...)

  • anarch||

    (...Cont'd)

    That's my understanding of the rationale for enhancing penalties for "hate" crimes, whose selectivity I oppose because it approaches thought-policing, invites tendentiously appropriating and speculative attribution of others' motives, inflames groupthink exploitation via victimology, and is inconsistent, determined by fashions. For example, how many robberies have been prosecuted as hate crimes on the basis of the rich constituting a protected class?

  • Jeff R.||

    Not sure if it's really becoming more widespread or not, but this kind of crap has been around for a while.

    I'm against hate crime laws, but the senseless brutality of the attack certainly calls for more aggressive punishment than the usual Tut-tutting.

  • ||

    Yeah, the severity of the attack is more relevant to the punishment than the motivation behind it.

  • meh130||

    How many blacks have been victims of the knockout game?

  • Mike M.||

    The Polar Bear Hunt? Hahahaha lololololol.

  • Calidissident||

    ^Exhibit A of what I was talking about below. I'm sure no black person has ever been suckerpunched by another black person they didn't know. What is it with our society's fascination with interracial violence? The vast majority of violence for any race is intraracial, and no one gives a shit about 99.9% of specific incidents, yet any time a black person attacks a white person or vice versa (for whatever reason), it's national news.

  • The Other Kevin||

    There are people who think this is a cover-up because they hear this is mainly done by black kids. Even Thomas Sowell wrote a piece about it last week.

    Seems like the new jenkem to me, too.

  • lap83||

    Thomas Sowell has been writing about race riots for years. Just because it's now got a new trendy name doesn't mean he's falling for a fad news story.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Drudge has been linking to these stories pretty consistently lately. I assume that is from where the sudden attention comes. I don't believe in hate crimes but this does seem to actually be the opposite. Unless people not paying attention to his or her surroundings and not likely to be carrying is a race.

  • Enough About Palin||

    So the prevailing wisdom is that all of the footage that's out there and the perpetrators saying it's a game is just our imaginations running wild?

  • ||

    I also have a hard time seeing how "playing the knockout game" could be regarded as an exculpatory circumstance. Wouldn't we WANT to punish such idiocy extra harshly?

    "I'm sorry you honor, but you should let me off because I only punched that guy FOR FUN, not because he provoked me or because I wanted to rob him!" This does not seem to me to be a compelling argument.

  • John||

    I agree. "I needed the money" is at least a rational if stupid reason. That person might be able to be rehabilitated. But "I was bored and just wanted to beat someone up"? That person needs to be removed from society.

  • some guy||

    Agreed. Even "I get a little crazy when I'm off my meds" is understandable and potentially fixable. The only solution to "I was bored" is a lesson in how nice it is to not be in jail.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    A more cogent account.

    Cosmotarians writing about racial issues always remind of the time the girls in my 6th grade science class had to disect a frog...

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    COCKTAIL PARTIEZ

  • wingnutx||

    That's a pretty decent article.

    Thanks.

  • Zeb||

    Why does race or the fact that it may or may not be a game or a trend have any bearing here? What else can be done about it if you know the race of the people involved?
    It's assault. Punish the people who do it. Shoot them if they try to do it to you. What else are you going to do?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Zeb, how can you properly race-bait if you're just going to be all colorblind this and justice that?! Damn you!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "the knockout game," a pastime supposedly sweeping the nation

    Eight or ten guys get sucker punched (maybe) and it's time to panic.

    Eight or ten million people lose their insurance coverage, and it's a glitch.

  • John||

    It seems to be happening more than eight or ten times. And being safe as you walk the streets is kind of a big deal. And even if it happens just once, it offends people's sensibility. If you want to let me shoot young black men on sight, then I am okay with not making this a big deal. But until we do that, "hey what are the chances it happens to you?" is not really a very good answer.

  • Zeb||

    If you want to let me shoot young black men on sight, then I am okay with not making this a big deal.

    Huh? An entire class of people deserves death because a tiny minority does some shitty stuff?

    "hey what are the chances it happens to you?" is not really a very good answer.

    But what other answer is there? It has always been a possibility that any random person walking down the street could decide to attack you. Seriously, what else can you do besides treat this like the crime it is and punish the people who do this?

  • Calidissident||

    What's ironic is that if a feminist made the exact same argument regarding rape (and eliminating the modifier "black") John would freak out and criticize her for stereotyping, fear mongering, etc.

  • Calidissident||

    I think P Brooks's point is that the media (and our culture in general) tend to focus on things that in the grand scheme of things are not nearly as common and/or important as coverage makes it seem, and that they often do this while there is much more important things going on. Obviously, things like this shouldn't happen ever, and the perpetrators are idiotic cretins that should be properly punished for their acts. But that's true of any violent crime. Why are these incidents (which as others have pointed out, many of which are probably not related or examples of any sort of "game") so newsworthy compared to all of the other stories that are more important, but don't get the coverage? Why freak out or be terrified at the possibility of this happening to you, rather than all of the other things that have a far higher likelihood of occurring? Your logic could be applied for anything, and I seriously doubt you apply it consistently. And I really can't believe you even typed that second to last sentence.

    I'm not singling out this story BTW. To give other examples, our society's fixation on school (or other public) shootings, murders committed by "assault weapons," all the various drug scares, the panic over white vigilantes hunting down black teens, etc. are all examples of what I'm talking about.

  • Generic Stranger||

    If you want to let me shoot young black men on sight, then I am okay with not making this a big deal.

    WTF? Did American hijack John's handle?
  • ||

    Seriously. That didn't make any sense at all.

  • wingnutx||

    It's not a hate crime as long as you yell "World Star!" while you film it.

  • Dave Krueger||

    "Hate crimes" are just a tool of politicians to make themselves appear to be tough on crime. Basically, the characterization of crack dealers and the advocacy of tougher sentences for them served a similar purpose. Hate crimes are a mechanism for demonizing some perps more than others so that imposing a tougher sentence comes off as if it is solving a problem when, in fact, it's really just creating a problem and feeding the prison industrial complex.

    The only real game going on here is the perpetual game of labeling some people as subhuman in order to justify treatment that would otherwise not be tolerated. The most active participant in that game is the government. It's used extensively to justify wartime brutality and short circuit the public's moral compass (to the extent that the public even has such a thing).

  • ||

    The only real game going on here is the perpetual game of labeling some people as subhuman in order to justify treatment that would otherwise not be tolerated.

    True. Using a term like "knockout game" to describe assholes who may or may not be violent racists running about knocking people out on the street for the hell of it is totally dehumanizing, and punishing them for it would never be tolerated under any other circumstance.

  • Almanian!||

    When Iran starts playing the "knockout game" with nukes, THEN you'll all be sorry!

  • Jesse Walker||

    Once such crimes are relabeled, of course, young thugs who are inclined to attack people for no particular reason may start using the new terminology

    "The Knockout Game" sounds so dorky, though.

  • RBS||

    I have a feeling the kids participating don't actually call it "The Knockout Game"...

  • wingnutx||

    It's just "knockout".

  • Locke||

    Obviously video games are responsible

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I call it a flash mob... of knuckles!

  • Sugarsail||

    We used to just TP people's houses for kicks when we were kids...now this?

  • carol||

    I was more of an egger, but TPing was fun too.

  • lap83||

    The words "hate crime" are why this is news. Black on non-black crime is quite common. Who cares what people call it? Of course, NYT cares because if they can point out the infrequency of the phrase then they can act like the underlying behavior doesn't exist.

  • some guy||

    Leave aside the question of whether a criminal should be punished extra severely* when he is motivated by bigotry. (He shouldn't.)

    From a policy perspective I agree, but on a personal level, if some asshat sucker punches me I'm going to want him to spend as much time in jail as possible. I will also be wanting him to pay me as much money as possible.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I'd like to see these idiots randomly assault someone in a municipality where concealed carry is allowed.

    Ray Kelly, Mikey Bloomberg, and the various assorted vegetables running Mayors Against Legal Gunz say, "Take your medicine. An officer will be with you at some later date to take your report."

  • Redmanfms||

    The rhetoric is pretty stupid, it's not "sweeping the nation." However it is a "thing" and has been going on for at least 4-5 years. I saw my first "knockout game" video on YT in mid-'09. Back then it mostly seemed to be youngish black men knocking out other unsuspecting black men. You used to be able to actually search "knockout game" on YT and it would come up with pages of results that were self-produced videos of thugs sucker punching people in the streets (almost all the results now are of panicked news coverage).

    I suspect the panic now is A. our intrepid newstards have finally come across the phenomenon, and B. a lot of the more recent attacks have a racial element.

  • shamalam||

    This makes me wonder if young master Trayvon was playing the knockout game with Zimmerman and lost?

  • Almanian!||

    Martin clearly lost whatever "game" he was playing. That'll learn ya...

  • Zeb||

    Seems unlikely as a big part of the knockout thing appears to be showing off to your thug friends.

  • Calidissident||

    Obviously I don't know what actually happened, but if I had to guess, I don't think Trayvon just jumped out of the bushes and attacked Zimmerman. I think he probably went looking to confront him for following him, as Zimmerman was looking for him, and that a brief verbal altercation led to the physical fight. Obviously can't prove this, but it's my best guess. In any case, I don't really think it would count as the knockout game, as it seems like Zimmerman would have been targeted personally (for creeping him out), not randomly.

  • SIV||

    Obviously I don't know what actually happened, but if I had to guess

    Jeezus Fucking Christ, not this stupid shit all over again.

  • Calidissident||

    Loosen up your panties, shamalam started the speculation, not me.

  • Mike M.||

    "Police officials in several cities where such attacks have been reported said that the 'game' amounted to little more than an urban myth,"

    They're saying that because they're being ordered to say that by their political bosses.

    Urban myth, my ass. Suderman's great buddy Matthew Sadbeard Yglesias was a victim of this "game".

  • Calidissident||

    I'm sure there are literal examples of it, but I also think that a lot of people are making the equation that "any assault by a black person against a non-black stranger = Knockout Game." Yglesias himself doesn't think he was a victim of the Knockout Game, and from his description of the encounter, it sounds like he was shoved to the ground (not punched), and then kicked several times. Obviously fucked up, but that doesn't sound like what the Knockout Game is usually described as.

  • Mike M.||

  • Calidissident||

    My apologies, the way he phrases it in the article he wrote today didn't give that impression

    "But to be clear about something—insofar as there's supposedly a "game" here where the contestant tries to knock someone out with one punch, that absolutely isn't what happened. I was knocked down, but definitely not out, and then after that I got kicked a bunch of times."

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/mon.....burger_bar

    From that description, it sounded to me like he got shoved to the ground and kicked. It could be an example of this "game," but who knows. Random assault wasn't invented in the last few years by black youths. Regardless, what happened to Yglesias wasn't at all the main point of what I was saying.

  • Calidissident||

    *To add to that last sentence, I should clarify that the second part of my first sentence was my main point, not what specifically happened to Matty.

  • Careless||

    I guess the guys who kicked his ass didn't read the game's instruction manual. Or maybe they were Canadian league players

  • ||

    But then lo and behold right by Catania Bakery a couple of dudes ran up from behind, punched me in the head, then kicked me a couple of times before running off.

    If only we had the proper zoning then this would not have happened.

    /Yglesias

  • A Frayed Knot||

    Part of the motivation for the hate crime charge could be motivated by the fact that over the past 3 weeks, 6 religious Jews have been apparently victims of knockout attacks in Brooklyn.

    Not that this necessarily justifies the hate crime charge, but it would be nice if Sullum hadn't omitted the facts suit his view.

  • B.P.||

    Here's Denver in 2009...

    http://www.thedenverchannel.co.....wn-attacks

    A bit of a different fact pattern.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    I don't know if it was called anything at the time, but I can tell you that in the 80's in Brooklyn I saw black guys randomly punching whites on buses, usually as they were getting off. I used to take the B50 if anyone is from Bklyn. This was in the East NY section.

  • GILMORE||

    White People + East New York + Any time since 1960 = ass kicking.

    There's a reason its not being "gentrified"

  • johnl||

    Over at The Daily Caller, Tim Cavanaugh reviews the NYT article as a rare event of the NYT not falling for an overhyped pseudotrend.

  • Almanian!||

    TIMMEH!

  • ||

    One would assume if the knockout game were real you could check out its origins from the original reports of it.

    Do the reports have sources? have you checked those sources? If you did then why the fuck is this story not about that investigation?

  • JeremyR||

    It's most certainly a thing. It's been happening in St. Louis for years.

    Why it's being hyped now, I guess because it's finally spread to NY.

    Is it something that people should be hysterical about? No, but it's not something that should be swept under a rug, either.

  • GILMORE||

    I agree, the rise in hand-injuries among young urban males is a concerning problem, one which the ACA should help address.
    /Jay Carney

  • GILMORE||

    FWIW, this 'knockout' thing was a popular fad in England about 8 years ago... trying to remember what they called it. It was more about filming someone getting randomly jacked, tho. At the time what mystified people was the absence of any robbery - which was apparently de rigeur. Some seemed disappointed. Like, "In my day, if I clobbered a lad, well then at least you nick his watch. Stands to reason." File Under = Kids These Days...

  • wingnutx||

    "Happy Slapping"

  • GILMORE||

    +1 3AM Donner Kebab for you sir

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_slapping

  • MasterDarque||

    Ah the plague of dangerous black youth.

  • widget||

    Jacob Sullum mentions nothing about the skin color or ethnicity of the perps. If you notice something like that you should take more blue pills.

  • ||

    inorite? It's those 20-something white hispanics you gotta watch out for

  • JParker||

    Strictly in answer to the question "But if the victims are picked at random, as the knockout game reportedly requires, can they also be selected based on their ethnicity or religion?", the answer is "yes"; adding a set of constraints to a random selection does not innately make it non-random. For example, "random number generators" (which in most cases are actually "pseudo-random number generators") are generally used to map their results onto a specific range, such as the integers from 1 to 6, to simulate a die roll; many values are explicitly disallowed, but the result is considered random.

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