Collage of Tweets About The Attack

4 Teens Beat Up Disabled Man Demonstrating Polarization of the Internet

People are using the event to further their own agendas because the teens were black and the disabled man white.

Emma Lindsay
Jan 7, 2017 · 12 min read

Four black teenagers in Chicago beat up a mentally disabled white man. Here’s what Al Jazeera had to say on the matter:

Four people have been charged with hate crimes in connection with a video broadcast live on Facebook that showed a mentally disabled man being beaten and taunted, threatened with a knife and forced to drink from a toilet.

The assault went on for hours, until the victim managed to escape.

The African-American suspects, who were jailed, can be heard in the video using profanities against their white victim, white people in general and President-elect Donald Trump…

The case heightened political tensions on social media, with some, including far-right activists, suggesting that it was linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. Police said there was no indication of any connection.

Chicago torture video: Four charged with hate crimes, Al Jazeera English

Before I go on, I have to address why I chose Al Jazeera as my source description. Al Jazeera is an international news source that is based in The State of Qatar on the Arabian Peninsula. Aka, here:

Why does that matter? Well, Al Jazeera is internationally respected news source that has won many awards, but it is basically only trusted by “extreme liberals” in the United states. Partly, I’m sure, because its name sounds all arabic and stuff.

Personally, I don’t believe any news source is “objective” BUT I do think they are likely to be objective on certain topics. Al Jazeera, as an institution, doesn’t really have much ideologically at stake with race relations in America. What it wants is to keep its position as an internationally respected news source, so is likely to report on this topic in a fairly unbiassed way to look respectable and shit. However, Al Jazeera has been accused of bias on other topics, (on the Syrian war, on Israel/Palestine relationships, etc.) Now, sometimes it’s good to read their take on these topics because they will differ from the American bias. Al Jazeera writes things leaning far more pro-Palestine than typical news sources in the US will, for instance, and even if you’re pro-Israel, it’s always good to see the other perspective.

But, I wouldn’t quote Al Jazeera as an “objective source” on Palestine or Israel. (God, I’m not sure who I could quote as objective on that, but thankfully I’m not writing about that now.) There was a slight lean in the Al Jazeera article, by calling the people linking the attacks to Black Lives Matter “far right” instead of just “right wing,” but I see why they did it. Not *all* right wing people are making that claim. Still, overall, I thought they did a pretty good job highlighting the horror of the event while not strongly taking sides.

So now, let’s see what the Huffington Post has to say on the topic:

Authorities have charged three teens and a 24-year-old woman with a hate crime after a Facebook Live video showed four people torturing a man who authorities say has mental health issues.

The suspects, who are black, yell “fuck Donald Trump” and “fuck white people, boy” at the victim, who is white. It is not clear if the victim was a supporter of the president-elect.

Prosecutors from the Cook County State Attorney’s Office did not specify if they labeled the attack a hate crime because of the man’s race or due to a mental health problem, according to The Washington Post.

4 Charged With Hate Crime After Facebook Live Broadcast Shows Man Being Tortured, The Huffington Post

There is a certain antiseptic quality to their writing. While Al Jazeera starts with the title “Chicago torture video” the Huffington Post leads with “4 Charged With Hate Crime.” Al Jazeera is looking for clicks, The Huffington Post isn’t. Al Jazeera is willing to call out the sensational nature of the video, The Huffington Post is not.

Here’s a controversy: can you even commit a race hate crime against a white person? Conservatives would say yes, many liberals would say “no” or “I’m not sure.” The reason liberals would have some confusion, is they’d say “whiteness” is privileged over “non-whiteness” and it’s only a hate crime if you’re committing it against someone without privilege (by the same argument, female crimes against men or gay crimes against straight people would not be “hate crimes.”) Or, phrased another way, white people started racism, and many liberals would argue argue anti-white sentiment is a result of oppression, not racism. Conservatives take a simpler approach, and basically say if it’s a hate crime for a white person to beat up a black person, it should be a hate crime for a black person to beat up a white person.

What do I think? Well, actually, I don’t think “hate crimes” should be a thing. If you beat the shit out of someone because you don’t like their flowers, I think you should get the exact same sentencing as a person who beats the shit out of someone because they don’t like their race. The standard for punishment should be the pain the victim suffered. Maybe we could label things “hate crimes” for filing purposes, but I believe they should have no impact on sentencing.

But hey, I don’t make the laws.

Anyway, you can see the liberal discomfort over labelling this a hate crime. Despite noting that the suspects yelled “fuck white people,” The Huffington Post wonders if this could be a hate crime because the victim was mentally disabled. The idea that there could be a hate crime of race against white people just seems wrong to them. They also keep the description of the attack fairly modest compared to Al Jazeera.

Huffington Post:

In the footage, the victim is bound and gagged while the four assailants beat him and dump ashes on him. The attackers also slash the victim’s clothes with a knife and cut his hair so close that it makes his scalp bleed.

Al Jazeera:

Four people have been charged with hate crimes in connection with a video broadcast live on Facebook that showed a mentally disabled man being beaten and taunted, threatened with a knife and forced to drink from a toilet.

The assault went on for hours, until the victim managed to escape

In the Huffington Post “his clothes were slashed,” in Al Jazeera “he was threatened with a knife and forced to drink from the toilet.” Al Jazeera also notes that the assault lasted for hours until the victim could escape. The Huffington Post additionally refrains from further social analysis whereas Al Jazeera had no trouble naming the social conflicts that arose as a result of this attack. The Huffington Post has the vibe of having to report this because it’s big news, but really hating it because they know it provides some level of ammunition for their political opponents. They want to downplay the racial aspect of it, and the intensity of the violence against the victim.

Speaking of their opponents, what do the conservatives think of this?

So, first off, The Blaze (who I follow on the facebooks) was pretty quick to report on it. I saw it from them before I saw it from Washington Post or anything like that. They’ve also written multiple articles on it with substantial analysis, a far cry from the the Huffington Post’s reluctance to dive in deeper. So, what did they say?

Here’s an excerpt from the initial article I read from them:

A disturbing video of a white man being tortured by four black individuals while tied up and gagged has surfaced as a Facebook Live yesterday from a woman named Brittany Herring. During the video, the white man’s clothes are cut, peppered with cigarette ash, is kicked, punched, and cut as Herring speaks to the camera.

The reason for the torture is that the white man supposedly voted for Donald Trump.

The victim is reportedly special needs, and was a “high-risk missing person” according to police.

During the video, the foursome can be heard saying things like “F*** Donald Trump! F*** white people!” and laughing as they torture the man.

Chicago foursome in custody after live streaming kidnapping and torturing Trump supporter, The Blaze

So, first off the bat, notice the difference in titles. He’s not a man, a tortured man, or a mentally disabled man — he’s a Trump Supporter. Now, we don’t even know if he really was a Trump supporter, the attackers didn’t even claim he was a Trump supporter, they just said “Fuck Donald Trump” as they were beating him up.

The Blaze also referred to the victim as “special needs” which is more euphemistic and vague than “mentally disabled.” Additionally, they buried the fact that he was “special needs” 3 paragraphs deep after establishing alternative motive for his attack (Trump voter.) While Huffington Post wanted to downplay the violence and racial motivation of the teens (was it a hate crime because he was mentally disabled?) The Blaze wants to downplay any potential non political motive. Why, that man they beat up — he was a Trump supporter just like any other Trump supporter. That could have been any one of us out there, getting beaten up! They’re trying to drive empathy for the victim from their audience base.

They go on to publish several more pieces on it. Here’s a clip from another pice they wrote:

[L]iberals are noticeably reluctant to apply the hate crime label in these kinds of cases. Indeed, they’re more likely to call it a hate crime when you leave a bad tip for your Hispanic pizza delivery boy than when a group of black teens inflict unspeakable physical torment on a disabled white kid. The reason for that is simple. Hate crimes must be motivated by racism, and liberals believe and have been taught that it is not possible for white people to be victims of racism. Racism is all about power and institutions, they say, and because blacks have no institutional power, they cannot be racist.

That said, I would tend to agree — though for vastly different reasons — that this atrocity was not a hate crime. It was worse. As is often the case with atrocities committed by teenagers in the inner city, it appeared that the primary motivation was not a hatred for the victim but a total indifference to him. They were not shouting in anger. They didn’t seem to be enraged at all. They were laughing. They were amused. They were having the time of their lives.

They didn’t abduct their victim and torture him because they had something against him. They abducted and tortured him because they thought nothing of him. They found his pain and fear to be utterly hilarious. It was all just a bit of recreation. They weren’t exacting revenge on an enemy — they were toying with an insect. They were pulling the legs off a grasshopper. The grasshopper happened to be a human being, but that distinction was meaningless in their eyes.

Matt Walsh: This was not merely a hate crime — it was much worse, The Blaze

This piece, to me, is simultaneously the most dangerous AND has the greatest potential.

Walsh has a fairly accurate view of liberal ideology even though he disagrees with it (I cut out paragraph he spent calling liberals stupid, it muddies the conversation.) He says that “by the law” this is obviously a hate crime, but argues why this was “worse” than a hate crime.

So, this is dangerous because what Walsh was describing was actually a typical motivation for a hate crime, not a “worse” motivation. Do you think that white people who lynch black people didn’t express the exact same indifference toward their victims that these black kids displayed towards their victim?

The danger present is that this crime was not worse than other hate crimes, and marking it as such may delegitimize the significance of violence against other groups of people. What is great about this piece is that Walsh has accurately seen the true emotional motivation of “hate” crimes and explained it in a conservative voice. What makes hate crimes possible is not an active rage but a complete lack of empathy for the victim. It is this lack of empathy, not overt anger, which drives atrocity.

White people often have trouble empathizing with brown people. When they see something painful happen to someone who isn’t white, they don’t feel the same emotional response that they would with someone who is white.

People of color know this, and have to live with this pain every time they interact with white people. BUT — now white people know what that’s like because they’ve watched a video where a group of black teenagers disregarded the humanity of a white teenager. I don’t believe in hate crimes, but if I did, I’d say this is a hate crime, no better and no worse. The liberals are wrong to try to minimize it, and the conservatives are wrong to try to differentiate it from other forms of hate crime.

When talking about racism, we have two levels of racism. We have structural racism and interpersonal racism. Structural racism describes how the system is stacked against you because of your race, and interpersonal racism describes the inability for someone of one race to empathize with someone of another. I agree with the liberals that we can’t really have structural racism against white people (some white people would disagree, but I’d argue they’re on the receiving end of classism not racism) however I agree with the conservatives that you can have interpersonal racism against white people. It is possible for a person of color to be unable to empathize with the pain of a white person because of race. As we just saw in that video.

We need to use this event to help explain how people feel. If white people felt terrible reading about/watching this white kid get beat up by 4 people who didn’t think he was human, they should also consider how terrible black people feel watching other black people getting beaten up by people who don’t consider them human. It’s horrible, isn’t it, to feel someone disregard your humanity because of your race? It’s horrible to think we live in a country where your fellow citizens may deem you worthy of such degradation.

Now consider this: these kids are going to get spanked by the legal system. I think they’ll be in prison until their 40s. Contrast this with this 3 white high schoolers who raped their mentally disabled black classmate with a coat hanger. It was deemed to not be a “hate crime or a sex crime” and at least one of them has already gotten off with no prison charges:

How would all these conservative white people feel if those black teenagers got off without any charges? They’d be pretty fucking angry, yeah?

This is what Black Lives Matters is angry about. I’ve been to BLM marches, and I wouldn’t go again, but they’re not trying to start a race riot or anything like that. In fact, they have a large commitment to non violence in their protests. They’re angry because people keep being unable to see the humanity in black victims just like those black kids were unable to see the humanity in that disabled white boy.

White people are committing crimes against black people, and getting away with them systematically, because juries are having trouble empathizing with black victims. We have become so racially polarized that white people will empathize with white faces and black people will empathize with black faces. This is a big problem, a big, big problem, and we’re not addressing it well. We’re making it worse.

The liberal media needs to stop downplaying the pain of violence and discrimination against white people, and the conservative media needs to stop pretending like the pain white people experience is worse than the pain brown people experience. We need to say “yes, it hurts when people do this to people you see as being like you — can you now understand the pain all these other people are experiencing as well?”

Everyone is always pushing their angle and ideology. The liberals want an equitable, but somewhat brainwashed, world order, and the conservatives want to make sure their way of life doesn’t die out, often in ways that are obviously unsustainable. But, deeper than all that, is a common humanity that is often overlooked in service to these ideologies.

And, it is that underlying humanity we must keep seeking out.

Emma Lindsay

Written by

Facebook: — Twitter:

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade