Growing Doubts About Whether the ‘Knockout Game’ Is a Real Trend

An alleged “knockout” attack
Screenshot from YouTube

"The woman is defenseless, strolling down the street with a pocketbook over her shoulder," Jesse Singal wrote last week for Columbia Journalism Review. "She has no idea that she's about to be brutally attacked. The man, who is black, runs up behind her, rears his right arm back and to the side, and strikes her viciously in the head. She falls to the ground, apparently out cold, while he runs away.

" 'New at 11 o'clock now, an alarming new wave of attacks across the nation has arrived here in our area,' reads Leon Harris, an anchor at WJLA in Washington, DC, as the footage plays during a broadcast earlier this month. Other grainy videos follow, all allegedly connected to a 'game' called 'Knockout,' 'Point 'em Out, Knock 'em Out,' or 'One Hitter Quitter.' The game is as simple as it is horrifying: Teenagers attack someone randomly in the hopes of knocking them out. They don't even take anything.


"It's a scary, eminently media-friendly story, based as it is in gruesome footage of innocent victims being attacked by out-of-control teens. But there are signs that this story is not being reported carefully and risks sparking unnecessary panic, some of it race-driven. Foremost among them is the fact that the footage of the man running up behind the woman, which is appearing just about everywhere, has nothing to do with Knockout.

"Rather, as one Reddit commenter pointed out, it's footage of a 35-year-old man attacking a woman in East London [England]. It was a random attack, yes, but quotes from the man suggest some combination of substance abuse and mental illness may have been to blame. He was not a teenager partaking in some viral trend in the US. Given the number of stations that have replayed this unrelated footage, it's worth asking whether those covering Knockout need to be engaging in a bit more discretion, especially to avoid contributing to an ongoing media narrative of young black men as dangerous.


"It's important to note that there is in fact evidence to support the existence of a teen activity called Knockout — it's not as though this is a media-manufactured hoax. Ralph Eric Santiago, a 46-year-old homeless man, was killed in a September 10 attack in Hoboken that police say was Knockout-related. A WILX segment on Knockout in Lansing, MI, included an interview with a kid who was shot by his would-be victim, and he explained that he had engaged in the activity a number of times previously.

"So yes, it exists. But is it a 'trend'? [Is it] on the rise? How many teens actually participate? We have no idea, no hard facts, and for now this vacuum of real information is being filled in by clip after scary clip played on repeat. On careful observation, many of the clips don’t even seem to reflect the game as it’s being described. . . ."


Some media outlets are hyping the attacks more than others. James E. Causey wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The website has a monthly 'fight compilation' that shows excerpts of hundreds of fights, from women being sucker-punched to brutal gang attacks. A majority of these acts involve people of color, and far too often there are more people recording the incidents than . . . offering assistance to the victims. These videos often earn thousands of views and 'likes' and 'recommendations' on Facebook, which turn the perpetrators into overnight sensations. . . ."

Causey also wrote, "While the knockout game has recently been the lead item for late night news and newspapers nationwide, here's a newsflash — this is not a new game. Counselors who work with troubled youth tell me that these crimes have been occurring for years; they weren't tagged with a headline-grabbing name like 'knockout game.' . . . "


There is more. A week ago, Oliver Willis of Media Matters for America reported, "Over a period of several days, Fox News hosts and contributors demanded that Rev. Al Sharpton condemn a series of 'knockout' attacks that have occurred in several cities. Sharpton condemned the attacks in a speech on Saturday, but Fox has so far failed to report on the condemnation. . . ."

Zerlina Maxwell of the Grio countered, "The focus on Reverend Sharpton is peculiar. Does a white representative have to put out a press release after every school shooting or random act of violence committed by young white males?. . . "


History argues that the hype is inevitable, according to Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in his blog for the Atlantic: "Since the days of slavery, into the days of super-predators, and now the time of the Knockout Game, there has always been a strong need to believe that hordes of young black men will overrun the country in a fit of raping and pillaging. It's how we justify ourselves. Information can't compete with national myth."

Cara Buckley, the New York Times: Police Unsure if Random Attacks Are Rising Threat or Urban Myth (Nov. 22)


Michael H. Cottman, Why Cosby's 'Family Values' Show is Just What We Need Right Now (Nov. 21)

Michael H. Cottman, ANALYSIS: Should Unsuspecting Citizens Defend Themselves Against ‘Knockout?’ (Nov. 26)


Davey D, Huffington Post: Don't Believe All the Media Hype About the 'Knockout Game' (Nov. 26)

Zerlina Maxwell, the Grio: Why it's wrong for the right to blame Sharpton for 'knockout game' (Nov. 26)


Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Investing in the Criminal 'Just Us' System (Nov. 26)

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: KO the 'knockout game' hooligans

Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: Hell Yes, Knockout Game Is A Hate Crime

Will Wright, the Grio: How 'knockout game' hysteria hurts black America (Nov. 25)


Councilman Elected in Media Fail Held on DUI, Pot Charges

A city councilman elected last month in the journalism fail in Flint, Mich. — the felony on his record went unreported — was arrested on Saturday, according to local news accounts, accused of drunken driving and possession of marijuana.


Flint City Attorney Peter Bade said Monday he would appoint a special prosecutor in the case involving Councilman Eric Mays, who was jailed about 2:50 a.m. Saturday after police said they found him trying to change a tire on a car with four flats on Interstate 475, Dominic Adams reported for

"Bade said he wants to appoint a special prosecutor in the next few days because Mays is the sitting councilman in Flint's First Ward and Bade doesn't want even the appearance of a conflict of interest," Adams reported.


Mays was elected last month along with Wantwaz Davis, who served 19 years in prison for second-degree murder, and two women who filed for bankruptcy.

"It is possible that Flint voters would have elected Wantwaz Davis if they'd known he shot a man three times. Or that they'd elected Eric Mays if the paper told them he had pled guilty to felonious assault. But their newspaper never told them," Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio’s political analyst, wrote last month.


Marjory Raymer, editor of the Flint Journal, apologized to readers after the election.

Adams also reported, "Mays' days in that council seat could be coming to a close. Anita Brown, who lost to Mays by seven votes in the November general election, was granted a recount that will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3.


"Mays referred questions on the arrest to his attorney.

" 'This is something I worked for my whole life — my council seat,' Mays told The Flint Journal today, Dec. 2. 'I clearly got a vision and believe I can be used.' "


Although the Flint Journal did not report the felonies, many voters apparently knew the candidates' backgrounds. In the comments section under one of the news stories, a man identifying himself as Davis said, "They knew about my past at the flint public library form, they refused to give the information to the public, because they knew that I was already telling it to the public, which would not have given them the ratings that has been given them, but that is okay, because 455 voters knew about my past, and that's what matters."

A news director agreed. "Wantwaz Davis' history was talked about in great detail as the reason for why he was running. It was all part of his narrative," wrote a commenter identifying himself as Jason Cooper, news director and a show host for WFNT-AM.


Adams also reported, "This isn't Mays' first [run-in] with the law. The First Ward councilman pleaded guilty to felonious assault in 1987 and served a year of probation. Mays said the man had been threatening his life before Mays threatened him with a gun.

"He also was convicted of aggravated stalking in 2001 that involved a woman [whom] Mays worked with at a Delphi plant in Buena Vista Township. Mays was sentenced to five years probation following the felony conviction, according to Saginaw County Circuit Court records."


Mays and Davis are African American.

The Journal has 14 writers and a staff photographer, including three African American and one Hispanic reporter, according to an employee who asked not to be identified.


Eclectablog: City councilmember works overtime to make Flint a laughing stock, arrested while changing tire on car with 4 flats

Josh Marshall, Eric Mays' attorney speaks about Mays' arrest

Afi Scruggs, 5 Specific Ways The Flint Journal Can Do Better


Daily Kos Rejects Obama Cartoon as Ape-Like, Racist

Cartoonist Ted Rall posted this message on his site Wednesday:

"A message has been issued from site admin . . .

" 'Your depiction of Barack Obama as ape-like is intolerable. Being critical of Obama, even ferociously, is not the problem. Through British and American history, blacks have been subjected to racist depictions of themselves as monkeys and apes. No excuse is acceptable for replicating that history no mater what your intent. If it happens again, your posting privileges will be suspended. ' "


Then he wrote:

"Daily Kos is a major liberal/Democratic Party blog. About a year ago, the blog began running cartoons. To their credit, they paid a modest fee for them. Many alternative political cartoonists were invited; I was not.


"At the time, the owner of the blog mentioned as an aside that I would be welcome, like anyone else, to post to Daily Kos. A few weeks ago, I decided to take him up on that.

"Why did I post there for free? To access readers, many of whom would enjoy my work if they saw it. It was an experiment.


"The experiment ended yesterday. When I went to log on, I received the above message. I clicked the acknowledgement.

"Which marks the end of my experiment posting to Daily Kos. I might consider altering the way I draw a political figure for a paying client. A very high-paying client. Someone who employed me full-time.


"I’m sure not going to alter my drawing style for $0.00 money. . . ."

Rall also wrote, "Anyone familiar with me and my work knows I’m not racist. My criticisms of the president are unrelated to his race, and to say otherwise in the absence of evidence is disgusting. . . ."


Rall's note generated discussion on the Daily Kos site.

Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News: Health Law May Offer Part-Time Workers Better Options (Nov. 26)


Anna Challet, New America Media: Fewer Kids Uninsured, But Coverage for Latino Children Lags (Nov. 25)

Lee A. Daniels, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Forcing Poor People to Go Hungry (Nov. 26)


Hope Gillette, Voxxi: Obamacare Spanish-Language Website Expected To Work Soon

Rachel D. Godsil, The Root: Hey, Media: White People Are Poor, Too

Craig Harrington and Albert Kleine, Media Matters for America: How Print And Broadcast Media Are Hiding Obamacare's Success In Controlling Costs


Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Obamacare — a question of morality

Jerry Large, Seattle Times: America may be reaching its limit on economic inequality


Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review: What is an Obamacare consumer story, anyway?

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Law protects all faiths, not all behavior

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Obama has bigger problems than a broken health care website (Nov. 18)


Noah Rothman, Mediaite: Reporter Bob Franken Blasts Obama on MSNBC: 'Most Hostile' to Press 'in U.S. History'

Mark Trahant, Demise of filibuster is good for Indian Country (Nov. 26)


Would Greater Press-Box Diversity Help Kill the N-Word?

Would having more black journalists in sports media help kill use of the N-word among players? Dexter Rogers, identified as a Yahoo contributor and independent filmmaker, made that contention in an article Wednesday for the Huffington Post.


"Personally I've written extensively about the need to diversify sports media," Rogers said in an open letter to ESPN's Skip Bayless, a white writer who argued against use of the N-word. "As it stands today [it's a] lily-white institution where views are skewed and diverse vantage points are often discouraged.

"Somewhere along the line African-Americans who seek to bring light from a vantage that's lacking are often viewed as militant and divisive. Yet for you Skip you are viewed as noble, open and forthcoming for helping to ignite a discussion.


"As an African-American I've been fixed with an array of racial comments from readers over the years. In 2011 I wrote a commentary titled, In Response to a Racial Slur: I'm Nobody's Ni*g*r. I wrote about my personal experience in being called the N-Word and other expletives stemming from a piece I wrote.

"The outlet refused to publish my content yet those same editors allowed bigots to call me out my name. Had there been more diversity at the outlet constructive dialogue and resolution could have manifested. . . ."


Meanwhile, syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. was among those responding to defenses of the word by some black athletes and journalists.

"The mushrooming controversies prompt two African-American NBA analysts, Charles Barkley and Michael Wilbon, to defend their usage of the N-word," Pitts wrote Saturday.


And it's not just the jockocracy, either. Last week in The New York Times, celebrated social critic Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is African American, made the old 'context' argument; i.e., it's OK if we say it, but it's not OK if you say it. In defending the N-word as an 'in-word' Coates noted how some women will jokingly call other women by a misogynistic term or some gay people will laughingly use a homophobic slur in talking with or about one another.

"Some of us would say that's not such a good look, either. Some of us think there is cause for dismay when women, gay people or any put-upon people adopt the terminology of their oppressors as self-definition.


"But the larger point is this: so what? Like it or not, the N-word is not like the words used to denigrate women and gay people or, for that matter, Italian, Irish or Jewish people, simply because the experiences those peoples endured in this country do not compare with those of African Americans.

"The N-word is unique. It was present at the act of mass kidnap that created 'black America,' it drove the ship to get here, signed the contracts at flesh auctions on Southern ports as mother was torn from child, love from love and self from self. It had a front row center seat for the acts of blood, rape, castration, exclusion and psychological destruction by which the created people was kept down and in its place. The whole weight of our history dictates that word cannot be used except as an expression of contempt for African Americans. The only difference when a Matt Barnes or Ta-Nehisi Coates uses it is that the contempt is black on black.


" 'Context?' That argument grows more threadbare every time it's made. It may also be growing less effective in cowing white people of good will. As reporter Richard Prince recently noted in his online ['Journal-isms'] column, a number of white journalists have refused to be silenced on this. That includes Mike Wise of the Washington Post who wrote a brave piece confronting those who would deny him the right to be concerned because of his race. . . ."

Coleman Collins, ESPN: Exporting the N-word

Allen Johnson, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: Take the n-word out of the NFL (Nov. 26)


Vaughn McClure, ESPN: Falcons tackle touchy subject: the N-word

H. Lewis Smith, Undressing the N-word.

Jason Whitlock, ESPN: Keeping the faith

Almost 2/3 of Female Journalists Threatened in Their Work

"Almost two-thirds of women journalists have experienced intimidation, threats or abuse in relation to their work, according to the findings of the first global survey into violence and threats against women working in the news media," the International News Safety Institute reported Monday.


"The survey by the International News Safety Institute and the International Women's Media Foundation was released to coincide with the UN's Global Forum on Media and Gender.

"It found that the majority of those threats, intimidation and abuse directed towards female media workers occurred in the work place and were committed by male bosses, supervisors and co-workers.


"The survey also found that the majority of women who are harassed do not report what has happened to them, despite the fact that more than half of them confirmed that the 'experience had a psychological impact on them.' . . ."

"60 Minutes" Segment on Capitol Told Only Some of Story

Monday marked the 150th anniversary of the completion of the dome atop the U.S. Capitol, and CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" Sunday took viewers into the dome, 288 feet above ground level.


The report, narrated by Scott Pelley and produced by Nicole Young, was careful to note the contribution of the enslaved Philip Reid, who cast the Statue of Freedom atop the dome, but there was much more to the participation of African Americans in building the Capitol.

"Blacks were not just brute labor at the Capitol. They also brought highly specialized expertise in carpentry, bricklaying, ironworking, and other skilled trades," Jesse J. Holland, an Associated Press reporter, wrote in "Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C.," published in 2007.


Holland also wrote, "More than four hundred slaves, or more than half of the documented workforce that constructed the Capitol, cleared trees from Jenkins Hill and dug up stumps for the wide avenues that radiate out into the city, according to research first publicized by NBC reporter Edward Hotaling in 2000. We now know that slaves baked the bricks used for the building's foundation, worked the Virginia quarries where the sandstone was cut, and laid the stones that hold up the Capitol to this day. . . . "

In the "60 Minutes" segment, historian Lonnie Bunch described the statue: "Well, she is this beautiful woman who has some Native American features [and] is capped by this beautiful headdress as reminder that this is a country that was different because it was built first and foremost around the issue of freedom. . . ."


Roland Martin Says Va. Digs Remind Him of Texas Home

Roland Martin's new home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs was the cover story of the Washington Post Real Estate section on Saturday. "A bit of Texas in Virginia," it read. "At home with Roland Martin/ Political analyst's 8,400-square-foot dwelling reflects his home state and need for plenty of space."


"In June, the Martins bought an 8,400-square-foot dwelling on 4½ acres in the Beacon Hill community of Leesburg," according to the story by Kathy Orton.

" 'Let's be clear: I live here, but I'm from Houston,' Martin said. 'This is the closest I feel to being back home in Texas.' " He added, "Being born and raised in Texas, I value space. I absolutely value space."


The spacious new digs are not exactly like the Texas where Martin, host of the daily radio show "News One Now," was raised.

As Martin wrote in his syndicated column in 2002, "I grew up in a black neighborhood and attended mostly all-black primary and secondary schools."


Martin clarified for Journal-isms. "No, I didn't grow up in such a house.

"I'm speaking of living out here is like living in Texas," he said by email.

Short Takes

"Fusion launched one month ago today, and TVNewser has obtained an internal email network CEO Isaac Lee wrote to the staff praising while urging continuing innovation," Jordan Chariton reported Thursday for TVNewser. Chariton also wrote, "Fusion, which is not in enough homes to be publicly rated by Nielsen, is depending on Web traffic. Lee's email highlights's traffic — half of which comes from mobile devices — as well as Fusion TV's headline-grabbing interviews. . . ."


"LIN Media's CBS affiliate WISH Indianapolis (DMA 26) has named Lori Wilson co-anchor of 24-Hour News 8 at 6 and 11 p.m. Wilson is currently anchoring WISH's 5 p.m. newscast, which she will continue to co-anchor with David Barras as part of her new role," TVNewsCheck reported on Wednesday.

"The Oregonian's top editor, Peter Bhatia, is a finalist to become dean of the University of Nebraska's journalism schoolAaron Mesh reported Nov. 26 for Willamette Week. Bhatia, 60, will visit the campus in Lincoln on Dec. 16 and 17. He's one of five finalists vying for the dean's seat at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. . . . "


"Four foreign journalists were honored with Press Freedom Awards Tuesday evening recognizing their work in the face of severe reprisals, including physical threats and imprisonment," the Associated Press reported Wednesday. "The Committee to Protect Journalists' 2013 International Press Freedom Awards were presented to Ecuador's Janet Hinostroza, Egypt's Bassem Youssef, Turkey's Nedim Sener and Vietnam's Nguyen Van Hai in a ceremony at New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel. . . ." Hai was unable to attend because he is serving a 12-year prison sentence under a law that bars "conducting propaganda" against the state.

"On Oct. 29, 2013, Maria Haroon turned 31," Brigitta Kinadi wrote Sunday for New America Media. "But her birthday, usually a joyous occasion, was different this year. This is the first year Maria celebrated her birthday without her identical twin sister. Both Maria and her twin sister Sara suffer from a heart condition in which the heart becomes so weak and enlarged that it cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Sara's heart failed too soon. She died in March in their home country of India, only a day before both sisters received medical visas to go to the United States. Maria and Sara were both practicing pediatricians in India. Now, Maria, who is kept alive by an artificial heart, is waiting for a heart transplant." Kinadi also wrote, "ethnic media have played a unique role in Maria's struggle for a new heart. . . ."


"I was born in this city — I grew up on Staten Island," Rachel L. Swarns wrote Monday in debuting her New York Times metro column, "and I will be chronicling this unsettled economic landscape, writing about work, the workplace and the economy. There will be stories of success, of reinvention and of people just getting by. But there will also be stories of options narrowing, hopes dimming. . . ."

"This year, ABC News will have one of its own on Barbara Walters' annual 'Most Fascinating Person of the Year' list: 'Good Morning America' anchor Robin Roberts," Merrill Knox reported Monday for TVNewser. Knox also wrote, "Others who made the 2013 list: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, NSA whisteblower Edward SnowdenMiley CyrusJennifer Lawrence andPrince George, the first child of Duchess Kate and Prince William."


In Chicago, "Robin Robinson said farewell to the anchor chair Tuesday night after 26 years at WFLD," the station reported Wednesday. " 'I'm leaving the chair after nearly 30 years here at one station with the smartest, most engaged audience anywhere — and some of the best colleagues in what I consider not just a business, but a service,' she signed off Tuesday night. . . ."

"News of Yahoo hiring Katie Couric is about as exciting as turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving," Tracie Powell wrote Saturday for the Washington Post's "She the People" section. Powell also said, "In this digital era, it would be more newsworthy if a black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American had gotten the job instead of Couric, especially at a time when non-whites make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population but only 12 percent of U.S. newsrooms, according to a report released this year by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE). . . ."


"Conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza tweeted his followers before Thanksgiving with what he imagined was a hilarious and irrefutable put-down of President Barack Obama: 'I am thankful this week when I remember that America is big enough and great enough to survive Grown-Up Trayvon in the White House!'," Tony Norman wrote Thursday for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "In one fell swoop, Mr. D'Souza tied Trayvon Martin, the black Florida teenager killed by neighborhood watch vigilante George Zimmerman, to Mr. Obama in a way that he hoped would discredit both. . . ." Jonathan Capehart wrote in the Washington Post, "What D’Souza wrote and its racist implications are beneath contempt. . . ."

In Baltimore, "After 20 years at WJZ-TV anchorman Kai Jackson has informed management that he is leaving the station at the end of the year,David Zurawik reported for the Baltimore Sun. "Jackson co-anchors one-half of the 4 p.m. and all of the 5 p.m. weekday news on WJZ. He also reports for the 11 p.m. newscast. . . ."


"An unprecedented eleven country study has concluded that public broadcasting in Africa has a long way to go if it is to align with continental and regional frameworks, which promote open and free public spaces where all issues concerning people's lives can be aired and debated," Richard Lee wrote Monday for the Johannesburg-based Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

Everett L. Glenn began a three-part series, "Unsportsmanlike Conduct: The Exploitation of Black Athletes," Nov. 26 for the National Newspaper Publishers Association. "While White colleges and industry stakeholders (networks, sponsors, apparel companies, etc) are reaping huge financial rewards off Black athletic talent, the people who make it all possible are not sharing in the benefits. Blacks are undoubtedly the stars on the football field and basketball courts. But economically, African Americans remain confined to the sideline. . . ." Glenn wrote.


"The Independent Television Service today announced grants to eight documentaries from its Diversity Development Fund," Dru Sefton reported Nov. 22 for Sefton added, "Selections include 'The G-Force' by Pamela Sherrod Anderson, about grandparents raising grandchildren; 'Africa Town' by Kathy Huang, on the migration of Africans into China; and 'Metal Road' by Sarah Del Seronde, exploring the historical links between Navajos, traders and the railroads. . . ."

"Media Co-op journalist Miles Howe was arrested again today while covering resistance to fracking in New Brunswick. It appears he was specifically targeted," the Media Co-op Editorial Collective reported on Nov. 26. Members of the Elsipogtog First Nation have clashed with police in the fracking dispute.


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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