Recently a misguided teenager “pranked” Louisville, Kentucky with a grammatically challenged poster threatening residents with a real life “purge” event. The event, scheduled for Friday of last week was set to mimic the horror movie The Purge and its recent sequel, The Purge: Anarchy. Both movies depicted an annual night of mayhem and violence without repercussions against the perpetrators of any crimes. Although the teenager later said his motivations were just to have some “fun,” the prank went viral on social media sparking citizen fears of riots, looting and violent mayhem. Now, “purge” copycats have cropped up in cities across America making similar threats and authorities have no other option than to be on the alert even if they believe that the threats are copycat pranks that will not be carried out.
Social media is once again buzzing with “purge” threats and while most residents are of the mind that these threats are just a symptom of the social media culture that allows for the spread of rumors in a moment’s notice, still, people are afraid. The “what if?” factor is very high and there is no denying that current culture supports “flash mob” violence. There is also the sad fact that some people are indeed inspired by movies like The Purge and may have a difficult time separating reality and fantasy. This misguided perspective can be uninhibited by societal norms and lead to behavior which, if it catches on in a crowd, can provide the opportunity for mob mentality crime. It is this that has residents afraid, not that they truly believe that their neighbors are going to participate in some rampant night of violent anarchy.
In Pensacola, Florida there was a threat populating social media of a real life purge event for last night, which did not happen. Before the projected start time, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan stated that the department was aware of the “threat” and was investigating it. He also cautioned the media and residents to “exercise a mature and measured response” in how they reacted to the threats which could not be legitimately verified.
Currently there are additional threats of real life purge events circulating in cities such as Phoenix, Atlanta and Detroit and in the states of California, Texas, and Colorado. In Knoxville, Tennessee, a real life purge event is supposed to take place on August 23. In Cincinnati, the event is scheduled for August 30. In Colorado, there is a list of cities making the social media rounds with a purge event planned for September 6. In Texas, the purge event is supposed to happen on the night of August 29, although many have joked on Twitter that this cannot be true as there will be football games that night and as football is sacred to all Texans, clearly that purge is a hoax.
The threats of a real life purge started with a violent horror flick followed by a thoughtless “prank’ by a teenager with a twisted sense of humor. Despite the current crop of copycat real life purge event threats, most authorities do not seem to be truly concerned about potential violence. Although the threats are being circulated on social media venues, many on social media are now using these threats to create humorous posts rather than taking them seriously. However, pranks or not, the fact remains that the copycat threats of a night of lawless violence continue to keep residents on edge and authorities have no choice but to increase their vigilance which requires the investment of public safety resources.
Opinion by Alana Marie Burke