What can we learn from the Chicago Facebook kidnapping?
It’s hard to know which is the worst response to the kidnapping and physical assault of a teenage lad with special needs in Chicago: the general silence from the Twitterati that normally whips up a storm over hateful crimes; or the very loud embrace of the attack by an alt-right keen to pin the blame for it on Black Lives Matter.
The assault, streamed live on Facebook by the protagonists, makes for grim viewing. A gang of black youths taunt the terrified young man. They cut his clothes with scissors, flick cigarette ash on him, dig into his scalp with a knife. He was later found wandering the streets, and now four people have been arrested for the attack.
That the attackers broadcast their foul deeds is striking. It points to an increasingly warped reality-TV culture, where exposure — of the self, of one’s failings, of one’s virtues, of everything — counts for all. Young people in particular live every part of their lives in the virtual glare: their social lives, their personal lives, and now perhaps their violent lives. There have been live-streamed suicides, and now we have a live-streamed assault. In our tell-all culture it seems nothing can be done privately anymore — even crime.
That the protagonists made no effort to cover their faces suggests they may have considered their behaviour cool, even good. There was a warped political streak to the attack. They shouted ‘Fuck Trump’ and ‘Fuck white people’. This might suggest that being anti-Trump has become so right-on, and being against ‘white privilege’ so PC, that these attackers thought of themselves as doing decent work. We don’t know, of course, but the self-publicity and anti-white nature of the attack makes it something worth discussing.
But many aren’t discussing it. It hasn’t caused a Twitterstorm, certainly not among the Twitterati, that leftish, right-thinking set that usually sets the agenda on Twitter. This is revealing. Just imagine if a group of men filmed themselves attacking a woman while saying ‘Fuck Hillary’ and ‘Fuck women’ — it would be global news, for weeks. It would be held up as evidence of the West’s entrenched misogyny and of ‘Hillary hate’. But a group of blacks attacking a white while saying ‘Fuck Trump’ is not proof of anything, it seems. There’s a double standard.
But then there’s the flipside: the race, not to discuss the attack, but to exploit it for political gain, primarily as a means of attacking BLM. Alt-right tweeters are using the hashtag #BLMkidnapping. Alt-right observers are using the attack to push their white-victim narrative. This is virtually indistinguishable from when sections of the British left cynically used the murder of Jo Cox by a right-wing nutter to delegitimise Brexit. In both cases, a rare act of cruel violence is used as a stand-in for political argument.
This suggests the alt-right and PC left have more in common than they’ll ever admit. Both given to a victim mentality, both prepared to use awful crimes to score points.
Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.