Is the News Media Over-Hyping "The Knockout Game?"

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"The Knockout Game" is a phenomenon where teens assault strangers by trying to knock them out with one punch. Is this a new trend? Is the media making it worse? Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY assesses the patterns behind this story and how it's being addressed by the media.

What We Learned 

  • It's All About the Video Jeffrey Butts says while this is not a new phenomenon, it's getting attention now because there are videos.
  • Are These Hate Crimes? Butts says this is way too early to be attributing this to hate crime. Victims are wide-ranging. 
  • For Teens, This May Not Seem Like a Big Deal Butts suggested that for teens, if violence is a normal thing in your life, punching someone may seem like a minor infraction, and that the media attention is partly responsible for spreading this meme. 
  • Does Race Matter? Several listeners called in to suggest that these crimes seem to racially motivated and mainly a black on white thing. Butts says, "In any kind of criminal behavior, people tend to focus on the race and ethnicity of both the victim and the perpetrator. I think it's just inappropriate to draw inferences from a few cases or even from a dominant pattern because that encourages you to think about this as a racial behavior. I think it's more about the age of the perpetrators; it's probably more about social class."
  • This Isn't A New Thing Butts says that in a search of the Washington Post archives, there was a mention of "The Knockout Game" in 1895.
  • Let's Stop Calling it a Game "If these things were called 'random attacks' or 'sudden assaults' or something other than the word 'game' it may communicate a different message," says Butts.