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The 'knockout game' faux media trend has finally jumped the shark

Oh my God! Parents, quick, lock up your black sons!

There’s a roving gang of Hasidim in Brooklyn randomly beating up blacks!

It’s happened at least once, and it could definitely happen again. And it seemed like it might have been a game, or part of a possible trend. Or … whatever. It’s proof for sure of white hatred and resentment against black people.

I could go on here, but you get my overheated point.

The “knockout game,” a faux trend promulgated by media outlets who have deliberately or unthinkingly bought into racial stereotypes about black teenagers has kind of jumped the shark. A couple of weeks ago, the echo chambers of talk radio were awash in rants about how black teens were randomly attacking white people, and how a media cowed by the forces of political correctness refused to reveal the attackers’ race or call the assaults racial hate crimes.

People have definitely been attacked, no question about that. A woman on a bicycle in Washington, D.C., was hit in the face. Several Jewish people in New York City were victims of random assaults.

But there’s nothing to suggest there is a trend of black teenagers attacking whites, then uploading cellphone videos of the mayhem, as has been claimed.

So what to make of the Williamsburg attack, in which, according to news reports, a group of Hasidic Jews allegedly set upon 22-year-old Taj Patterson, who is a black fashion student? Patterson said the men surrounded him and shouted anti-gay slurs. 

Gays, as it happens, are the group at greatest risk for hate crime attacks of any sort. So why don't we call random assaults of gays "knockout" attacks, because that might put a brighter media spotlight on a real trend, as opposed to a made-up one.

In any case, now we're starting to hear stories that serve as correctives to all the “knockout game” racial baloney that’s out there.

St. Louis, for instance, was taken for a ride last month when a young woman claimed to have been the victim of a knockout attack, and her case got nationwide coverage.

A few weeks later, however, St. Louis police said 23-year-old Ashley DePew had fabricated the story to protect her boyfriend, who had assaulted her. That doesn’t make her any less a victim, but it does mean that credulous media tend to buy into a prevailing narrative. To its credit, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which was suspicious about inconsistencies in DePew's story, did not report the assault as a "knockout game" attack.)

The hoax was a particularly cruel joke to play on St. Louis, where in 2011, a spate of “knockout” style assaults by teenagers actually did plague the city. One resulted in the death of a Vietnamese immigrant named Hoang Nguyen, and another took place in front of the mayor.

Police believed some of the assaults were inspired by a 16-year-old boxer from a local gym whose nickname was “the Knockout King” and who told police he created the “game” out of boredom. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a detailed story about the phenomenon, focusing on a case against seven juvenile defendants that fell apart when the prosecution’s star witness, a 13-year-old girl, failed to show up in court.

But that was St. Louis. And it was more than two years ago. And it does not prove there’s a race war being waged on white people by black teenagers.

Even James Addlespurger, the Pittsburgh, Pa.,  teacher who has become a poster child for the current “knockout game” hysteria says it’s all a bunch of hooey.

Surely, you’ve seen the video; as he walks down an alley, he is cold-cocked by a 15-year-old. Captured on surveillance tape, the assault became Exhibit A in the last month’s burst of media coverage of the so-called game. And even though the crime took place in 2011, the tape has been revived (and revived and revived) for the current round of fear-mongering.

“I feel I am being exploited,” Addlespurger said in an interview Sunday with HuffPostLive. “People are using it to push their own agendas, and that’s what people do.”

HuffPostLive showed Addlespurger a clip of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly spouting racist pseudo-sociology to explain the attack: “It all goes back to the alienation of black men. They are angry, they didn’t have a family and their father abandoned them…. They’re acting out on the street, they’re sold a bill of goods by the civil rights people that the white society is at fault.… But with the Internet and the notoriety, this thing could really could get out of control.” (I’m so tempted to add: “he said hopefully.”)

Addlespurger, 51, who was bloodied and bruised in the Oct. 4, 2011, attack, refused to buy into the racial stereotyping. “I am not going to fan those flames of hatred,” he told HuffPost Live. “They are using me to push their agenda…. I am being manipulated.”

Even the teenager who attacked him rejects the knockout game/race war narrative.

Dajour Washington, now 16, was convicted of aggravated assault and served nine months in a juvenile facility. On Nov. 25, Washington appeared on ABC’s “Nightline.” The program did not use his name or show his face, but he has been identified repeatedly by Pittsburgh media.

Washington told “Nightline” that he socked Addlespurger impulsively, to show off for his friends. “It was just like, ‘Let me knock this guy out, let me hit him’ — basically like showing off to let them know I could fight.”

Addlespurger’s race was not a factor, he said, and he had never heard of the “knockout game.”

“I’m going to be completely honest with you,” Washington said. “No matter who would’ve walked down that alley at that time, they would have got hit.”

Horrific yes. But perversely good to know.

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Twitter: @robinabcarian

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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