The Intellectual Street Brawler: What if They Held a Street Fight But Nobody Watched?


Way to come back from T-day festivities and get all depressed over the state of our humanity.
What the hell, misery loves company. Check out Sucker Punch: The art, the poetry, the idiocy of YouTube street fights over at Slate. Yup, knuckle draggers staging, then taping, disgusting street fights all for your viewing pleasure.

The author is an English professor and fight fan who’s using the education his parents denied themselves to give him making street brawls high brow. That’s unfair, I know, but so is glamorizing hooliganism (these folks go around ‘happy slapping’ unsuspecting women) which writing like this certainly does. As does my linking to it.

The more of them you watch, the more familiar you become with certain recurring formulas: mean kid or kids nailing unsuspecting victim, drunk guy flattening drunker guy outside a bar, bully getting or not getting comeuppance, go-ahead-and-hit-me scenarios, girls fighting for keeps while male onlookers anxiously strain to find them hilarious, backyard or basement pugilism, semiformal bare-knuckle bouts, pitched battles between rival mobs of hooligans.

I realize that this probably makes me a bad person, but I find the online archive of street fights to be edifying, even addictive, ripely endowed as it is with both the malign foolishness that tempts you to despise your fellow humans and occasional flashes of potent mystery that remind you not to give in to the temptation. There’s an education in these videos—in how to fight and how not to fight, for starters (executive summary: Skip the preliminaries, strike first, and keep it coming), but also in how the human animal goes about the age-old business of aggression in the 21st century.

Far be it from me to deny another ink-stained wretch his day in print, especially such a thoughtful and talented one, but I find his ‘loophole’ (‘there’s an education in these videos’…) make-weight. Acknowledging the existence of something doesn’t make you either an enabler or responsible for it, but writing about the existence of something pernicious (however “age old”) without dogging it is…problematic.

I watched as much as I could stand of these videos and remembered again my fears over raising a son. Imagine looking on-line for something “edifying, even addictive, ripely endowed” and seeing my child happy slapping a young woman or sucker punching a classmate in the school parking lot after hours. Too bad men don’t have a back 40 to plow anymore. I’ll just go there–unless you’re a cop searching out these kinds of videos to make arrests, you’re glamorizing the kind of random street violence that makes our cities increasingly unliveable.

Maybe I’ll just go back to my T-Day hide out where there was no cell reception and no internet. Ignorance truly is bliss. Or it was.