I was planning to riff on Tad Friend’s New Yorker piece about futurists who want to live forever. (Summary: lots of interesting research but very little real progress.)
Then I encountered this headline: “Day care workers charged with running toddler ‘Fight Club'” — which, get this — they aired on Snapchat! On a daily basis I encounter more and more incredible things on the internet. What could encapsulate the modern moment better than the Li’l Snapping Turtles Brigade? (I made up that name.)
A few details, per the New York Post:
“In the video clips, Kenny can be heard referencing the activity as ‘Fight Club’ — quoting from the book and movie of the same name in encouraging the children to engage each other physically,” according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors and Lightbridge management insisted that none of the kids was injured in the scraps.
Day care officials copped to the violence but called it an “isolated incident.”
Day care officials tried to make sure parents who were approached by The Post adhered to the first rule of Toddler Fight Club — which is not to talk about Toddler Fight Club.
I have some unanswered questions. How many Snapchat followers did they have? Did the orchestrators plan to monetize their Brawling Babies endeavor? (I made up that name too.) How would they go about doing that — pay-for-access like a porn star’s private Snapchat, or via advertising? What brand would solicit the endorsement of a heavily bruised four-year-old? Weren’t the perpetrators like, “Hmm, maybe this is illegal?”
The sensationalism. The amorality. The fact that the fight videos were disseminated via Snapchat, of all venues! 2016 was 100% this and I expect 2017 to keep stepping up the pace admirably.
Everyone is a media critic these days, but I must say, it astounds me how mainstream the sordid and the prurient have become. (In some ways I’m happy about it.) Any scaleable broadcasting platform that isn’t censored, or isn’t easy to censor, will be used for fucked-up content ASAP. WorldStar fits the pattern, and they’re relatively tame!
Snapchat still surprises me. I mean, I know the company made its name by helping teenagers sext each other. But still — PVP toddler matches?
Adrien Chen has investigated how scarring content-moderation can be for the arbiters of the platforms that do maintain strict content standards, in a definitive Wired article and later New Yorker followup.
I guess people used to watch public hangings back in the day. Maybe this isn’t so different.
Header artwork by Christopher Dombres.