Teenage fights get taped, go viral

Balled up fists. Covered both his eyes. Pointed to the clock and then held up three fingers. I knew exactly what that meant and so did everyone else in class who watched him do this schoolroom gladiator gesture.

At three o’ clock, we would meet on the field and fight. Word would spread through school Don King was promoting the joint. By the time three hit, the crowd was standing room only.

There was something pure about it all.

Two young men would enter--hopped up on fear and phony bravado. One would win, the other would lose and the rest would be rumors, excuses, complaints of injustice but no actual proof. Meaning the lie of winning or not fully losing still existed. Once it was done it was done, assuming of course that he didn’t have any brothers or cousins who wanted to take up his stance. The only fight left was your word against everyone else’s. So if you didn’t win the actual fight there was still a chance you could win the war of words.

Good thing I grew up when I did.

Now area schoolyard scraps are nationwide and easily viewable on sites like Youtube and Worldstarhiphop.com. And here is the problem: these fights are getting more brutal because, well, technology is raising the stakes. No one wants to lose. Period. But really no one wants that loss broadcasted to millions, having each punch played over and over again while classmates dissect it. Recently, a shaky handheld camera shows kids in a strip mall parking lot in Maryland crowded around watching two young ladies going for broke.

The headline reads: “Cutthroat: Girl Gets Lumped Up During Female Scrap!”. The enticing freeze frame is a screen-grab of one of the young ladies with a massive knot on her forehead.

Total views: 413,575 and counting.

Cell phone cameras have made, “shooting a fair one” a little unfair it seems since view counts now have to be considered when walking into the fray. The fight won’t be intimate. It won’t be legend. It won’t be a story that you had to be there to see. It won’t even be a story that can die down the way stories often do. It will be the video that everyone who wasn’t there can click on and watch and comment. Cell phone cameras, the Internet and high school just don’t mix. It is like a perfect storm for mass produced mayhem: The access, the portal and the pumped up energy of children finding their way.

I don’t condone, advocate or consider violence an answer to anything. But I also grew up in D.C. at a time when asking someone to stop bothering you didn’t stop anything. Fighting in school is old. Taping it is new. For all the cyber-bullying and cell phone captured tussles there has to be a limit to the voyeuristic madness. There has to be a bit of self-restraint by all those involved. And if you can’t stop the madness, or the fighting, then stop taping it or maybe stop viewing but in all of it something has to stop.

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