If you’re in a tense situation and someone yells “World Star,” you should probably seek cover. Those two words have become a sort of warning shot for a generation steeped in violent media, and with new amateur videos of fistfights going up every day, the site that spurred the phrase shows no signs of slowing down.
WorldStarHipHop is a website that has become infamous for featuring surreptitiously-filmed violent altercations, but last week they wound up in hot water for hosting a video that Newark mayor Cory Booker called a “human tragedy.”
The grainy footage, taken in August, shows a young man being stripped naked by three men on a New Jersey street and whipped with a belt. One of the attackers has claimed the cause of the beating is a $20 debt owed by the boy’s father before ordering him to say, “dog-eat-dog world.”
With the incident quickly going viral on WorldStar and other social media platforms, the three men suspected in the beating were soon arrested and charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, possession of a weapon, and robbery after allegedly stealing $20 from the victim.
“We do not tolerate this viciousness. We do not tolerate this kind of evil in our community,” Booker said in a press conference. He called the incident a “blow to the conscious of our community,” pointing to a “subculture of violence we have to address.”
Dr. David Wall Rice, professor of psychology at Morehouse College believes the bombardment of violent content into traditional media spaces is definitely cause for alarm.
“What we’re really doing is integrating grotesque violence into the everyday norm,” says Rice. “When it comes to young people, developing and learning how to be in the world, these are the cues they’re picking up.”
While Rice admits that instruction from home is the foremost influence, he also argues that the immediacy and constant presence of digital media make violent content that much more powerful.
“These things are in your face, in your ears constantly without sensible examples to moderate them,” he says. “You may think it’s harmless entertainment but there is nothing healthy about seeing a young kid stripped down and hit with a belt. Ultimately, it has the capacity to desensitize those who watch it.”