Saturday, August 16, 2014

Louisville Purge Frenzy

A tweet from a 16 year old boy led to the cancellation of a high school football game last night in Louisville, and had the metro police department on highest alert.  The Iriquoi High School student tweeted “Whos trying get a Louisville Purge Started With Me?” on August 10, and has since told sources that he didn’t think it would get taken seriously, until it did. The flyer that accompanied the tweet spread like wildfire on social media sites and the city of Louisville was a powder keg yesterday evening as residents anticipated the possible events that had been hyped on local media outlets.  The meme evolved to include warnings to residents of Jacksonville, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, and Cleveland to be prepared to undergo a Purge in their cities as well.

The brilliant minds behind the Metro Purge forgot the apostrophe to make Louisvilles possessive. SMH

Word spread that participants were to go out and incite chaos, vandalizing, assaulting, and taking over the city.  A rough plan was formed that directed would be participants to congregate at the Louisville St. Xavier-Simon Kenton high school football game and at the Katy Perry concert on the state fairgrounds.  The problem with their lack of structure was that the concert wasn't until tonight (Saturday), so anyone who stormed the arena would have found it empty.  A report was made to the police of suspicious people being inside a large unnamed public complex some social media users believed to be the KFC YUM Center where Perry performed tonight.  School officials took the threat seriously enough to postpone the scrimmage football game until this morning. 

Soon after the announced Purge starting time, Twitter was abuzz with calls users heard coming over police scanners they were listening to via internet sites and apps.  Scanner sites were down sporadically from the overwhelming traffic. While many residents went on about their daily activities unconcerned, some residents were terrified, having been caught up in the frenzy of the hype.  This was spurred on by outlandish prank 911 calls, along with the usual Friday night in a larger city criminal activity being reported.  #PurgeLouisville and #LouisvillePoliceScanner were among top trending topics on Twitter throughout the night as users tweeted the entertaining dispatches they were hearing.  

A friend and I listened for a bit on a scanner app, and heard several ‘shots fired’ reports, and vague calls made about suspicious people in bushes and traveling the streets.  Among the more entertaining reports to come across Metro radios last night were a man in a panda suit beating on a woman’s backdoor, hipster teenagers breaking into the zoo and freeing a giraffe that was then seen walking downtown, a man stealing beer and a pickle, a dildo being thrown at a windshield in an intersection, and a shirtless black man raping a kitty cat.  Several prank callers recorded their 911 calls and posted them to the internet, like this one, in which the caller reports being ran off by “black men with afros in suits wearing masks yelling ‘the pool is closed because of stingrays infected with AIDS.’”  I would think the calls could be traced and would personally fear prosecution for filing a false police report.

Old pic that got recirculated last night

As entertaining as all these events were, what it says about our society is troubling.  The anonymity of the internet encourages these little pseudo-anarchist movements.  In this case, it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, but was fueled and the next thing you know people are in the streets of Louisville scaring other people.  Life is trying to imitate horror.  

The notion was based on the 2013 film that depicted our country in the not too distant future, where a new government sanctioned a 12-hour Purge for one night each year, during which all crimes were legal and emergency services were suspended.  There was a message in the film’s subtext, power out of control.  Would-be Purgers in Louisville didn’t seem to realize the activities they hoped to carry out were just as illegal as they always have been.  It almost seemed like Halloween came early this year. Well, maybe ‘Corn Night.’  There were numerous reports of people in masks or with their faces painted roaming the streets, sometimes supposedly hiding in backyards or banging on garage doors.  It wasn’t clear whether several reports of people seen in the streets with knives, machetes, hammers, and swords were valid or more pranks, but we’re betting on the latter.

Local media outlets reported heavily on the possible ‘Purge,’ but failed to deliver any substance.  Nearly all the related stories were carbon copies: tweet passed around, people afraid it will happen, quotes from random people on how they felt about it. They did nothing to quell the rumors, report on the lack of any real Purge activity, or put people at ease.  

There were many different reactions to the events.  Some social media users were actively watching out for threats, reporting in that all was clear.  Others made jests of the fiasco.  On a Reddit discussion about the whole thing, users discussed why people would make these prank calls, knowing resources would be pulled to check them out, while spreading personnel thin to deal with actual emergencies.  ‘Chootee’ said, “Some people in a scary situation try to be tough and make light of things. Some people don’t take things seriously, ever.”  User “Limetreehermit” replied, “Yeah, but I’ve got my pistol out anyway.”  Youtube was flooded with gag videos of 'Purging,' with tense introductions that led to someone cutting the tag off a mattress or kicking over a garbage can. Trollers took amateur footage of armored personnel carriers firing tear gas in Ferguson, MO earlier this week and claimed it had just occurred in Louisville.

Some criminal activity is to be expected in a city with a population the size of Louisville’s, especially on a summer Friday night.  Accidents, drunks, domestic incidents, occasional murder, a home invasion here and there;  that’s to be expected.  Twitter, 4Chan, and Reddit users commenting on the police calls referred to hearing someone being dispatched to the scene of a homicide and others followed suit.  One dead person doesn’t seem like much of a Purge to me, though.  

I have no doubt that one of the main reasons the ‘Purge’ notion spread so fast was a direct result of the recent events in Ferguson, MO after the shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown by a police officer, who’s name was withheld until yesterday, when heavy pressure from the online group ‘anonymous’ may have influenced officials into releasing information earlier than they would have, but more on that next time.  Calls for peaceful demonstrations there have been overshadowed by violence and looting.  It almost seems that there is a population among us who are just waiting on the catalyst to spark these moral panics in our society .

With the exponentially growing trend of ridiculous faux news being propelled without question by social media, I shudder to think what we should anticipate next.  Perhaps everyone will be watching the next meteor shower believing they’ll see Transformers flying down to earth.  No doubt everything will turn out okay, as someone will start a Twitter trend that the military-industrial complex has successfully mutated some turtles into teenage mutant ninjas who will save us from a resulting military state of martial law.


Links of Interest:
Live Blog user posts supposed dispatches
Broadcastify - online police scanner.
Audio of police dispatches, the bestiality complaint at 3:00

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