Law enforcement in Kentucky and Florida have responded to social media calls for violence based on the plot of a 2013 horror film, The Purge.
In the film, a totalitarian government in the United States has created an annual event where any crime, including murder and rape, is permissible for a 12 hour period. The only limitation to the night of criminality is that it is illegal to harm high-level government employees.
On Wednesday police in Kentucky responded to a social media announcement calling for a “Louisville Purge” to take place on Friday, August 15.
“Certainly, we want to put to rest that we are aware of a threat and we have a contingency plan to deal with such an act,” Louisville Metro Police public information officer Dwight Mitchell told WHAS11.
Mitchell said the police will be increasing patrols and taking “extra precautions” at the Kentucky State Fair and other large events on Friday.
In Jacksonville, Florida police have responded to a similar social media call for violence scheduled for August 31 at midnight.
“We are aware of The Purge posting… and are looking into this. Obviously, we will not discuss tactics, but as with any perceived threat, we appreciate the assistance of the public in passing that along to us,” Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said in a statement released by police.
“When appropriate, we will make a public response. At this time we have no credible information to indicate that this is a legitimate threat to the city of Jacksonville,” Rutherford said.
In Pennsylvania, police are downplaying a threat based on The Purge.
“Regarding the recent social media postings related to a ‘purge’ in McKeesport, there is no credible threat to the community regarding this posting, nor is there any reason to be concerned,” a post on the City of McKeesport Police Department Facebook page states.
“This attention is an example of the exaggeration involving social media posts. Please do not be concerned by this posting as it is deemed not to be a threat of any value. The person responsible for the original post is being investigated.”
The phenomenon of flash mob violence began in 2011 when young people used social media to organize crimes, including robbery and violence against bystanders.
“What social media adds is the ability to recruit such a large group of people, that individuals who would not rob a store or riot on their own feel freer to misbehave without being identified,” notes Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.
New York, Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland, Milwaukee and other large cities have experienced violent flash mob events in recent years.
A corollary is the “knockout game” in which one or more assailants attempt to knock out an unsuspecting victim. The “game” first came to public attention in 1992 when a Norwegian exchange student was killed by three teenagers playing the game in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“In America today there are millions of young men and women that don’t have jobs and that don’t have any hope and they are starting to take out their frustrations on innocent people,” writes Mike Snyder of End of the American Dream. “Our society is crumbling, and fewer people than ever seem to have any sense of morality.”
“The United States is becoming a very cruel place. As the economy continues to crumble and as people become even more desperate, the flash mob attacks are going to become more frequent and the bizarre crimes are going to become even more horrible.”