Teen Beating Caught on Tape 0 Shares Email Cheering and shouting "World Star, baby," passengers aboard an NYC subway train were videotaped in November encouraging three young men to punch and kick a stranger who was hospitalized with injuries. Rather than onlookers' filming the beat down, victim Daniel Endera later told a reporter, "they should have at least called the cops.
The videos fit into three neat categories: Another egregious example occurred Saturday in Atlanta, where two of the teens accused of beating a young man they perceived to be gay had video cameras rolling during the alleged attack, which was uploaded to World Star Hip Hop and other websites that alerted police and prompted a federal investigation. Because it was one guy against three other people. By them going ahead and wanting to release it and put it on the Internet, I feel they wanted the attention, they wanted to make themselves look like they were brave, they were strong.
But in my opinion, I'm the brave one. But crime pays in most of these cases; the website nets about million impressions a month, according to its founder, Lee "Q" O'Denat, who started the site as a way to share lesser-known rap music but now envisions a World Star media empire.
O'Denat, 38, said the sensibility of the "urban media" site and what gets picked to be featured on the home page each day are a matter of showing users what "really goes on the world.
We're covering what's out there. We're just the messenger. We're not creating it, we're displaying what's going on in today's world," O'Denat said in an interview about his website. That reality focuses on the street events to which O'Denat says his audience can relate, including crime.
Endera, the New York subway victim, was punched in the face and kicked in the stomach for close to two minutes without any intervention from other people on the train. Indeed, the young women recording the incident can be heard laughing and discussing the video.
Such reaction illustrates what researcher Jeff Ferrell calls the merging of "real-life fights and made-for-TV conflicts," which are becoming indistinguishable, especially to young people. What we once called gangs are now closer to video crews.
She ends up on the floor after being hit by multiple patrons. The theme is common in many of the fight videos, where bystanders egg on attackers and yell "World Star Hip Hop" as the incident is ongoing, as if the purpose of the violence were to make it onto the website.
Ferrell says that's precisely what's happening, with young people becoming so desensitized to violence through other media, including TV, video games, and movies, that they don't think much of it to videotape violence themselves when they see it. In one fight, a kid really did go to the hospital with a fractured skull. It's not fake in that sense, but it's immediately perceived as an image.
If I'm standing 5 feet from a kid fighting and instead of intervening I'm thinking of a camera angle, in that moment, it's already been abstracted. You've already made it an image," he said. O'Denat said he thinks it's stupid that viewers of his website would make or film a fight in order to get on the website, but can't be held responsible for those who do. Knowing others upload makes you want to upload," he said. O'Denat said the site cooperates with anyone who wants a video of themselves removed from the site, and emphasizes that the website labels its risque videos with a warning before viewers can watch.
World Star's founder and its attorney defended the website as something akin to journalism, with general counsel Jennifer Granick going so far as to say it roughly equivalent to the New York Times and ABC News reporting on crime and news in the world. Everyone's a news reporter going out and saying what's happening in the world," O'Denat said. Most people don't understand this is what's going on outside. There's stuff on news sites all the time when investigations or reports about something happen and then police investigate and someone gets charged.
Christine O'Brien, spokeswoman of the Philadelphia Police Department, said World Star and similar sites have helped detectives zero in on suspects quickly just from watching the videos. They solved one such crime in early January, when a man was jumped, beaten and robbed while waiting for a subway.
The incident was uploaded to World Star Hip Hop, and detectives made an arrest in the case four days later. You don't realize how many people follow YouTube and the videos. It's a great tool in solving a lot of these crimes. It's similar to people wanting to watch Jerry Springer. The audience that likes those kind of shows has similar sensibility for World Star. People love to see that. It's real, unscripted, unrehearsed," he said.
We're like DJ-ing the whole world. While crime has actually gone down in the past 15 years, the media's widespread portrayal of it makes it seem like it's more pervasive, he said. It's not about morality, but about production values. It's absurd to ask kids not to focus on violence when the rest of the media is. Alexa, a Web analytics company, ranks the site th in site traffic in the United States, ahead of culture websites like MTV.
For O'Denat, that translates to significant income. In the future, he hopes to create a media empire, including original programming, shows and signed artists with the same World Star sensibility.