Something very strange happened today. I watched two adult men put on balaclavas, jump out of a car, kidnap a child from a playground, and drive away while the parents of other kids ran after them in a heroic attempt to save a child they didn’t even know from a gruesome fate.
Thankfully, I didn’t witness this in real life. I was sitting in the comfort of my office watching a ‘prank’ video by one of the new generation of YouTube pranksters who seem to be completely incapable of knowing where to draw the line.
While the full video is available on YouTube, on principle alone I won’t link directly to it. As much as it pains me to link to WorldStarHipHop, I would rather you watch the video there than give these idiots any more direct promo for their dangerous antics.
This ridiculous ‘prank’ was pulled by cousins Jason and Jesse Holden, two Washington-based men who run the ‘TwinzTV’ YouTube channel along with Jason’s twin brother Jeremy. Their past ‘prank’ videos include such classics as the “Robbery Prank,” where they hold unsuspecting members of the public at gunpoint while they pretend to rob a store. It’s safe to say the bar has been set pretty low for these guys.
The men framed their kidnap ‘prank’ as a ‘Child Abduction Prevention and Awareness Video.’ I still haven’t been able to work out what that means exactly, but they essentially found a misguided mother who would allow their child to be “kidnapped” as part of the ‘prank,’ and set about scaring parents half to death and traumatizing a few dozen children in Sequim Park, Washington.
They start their video with the following text:
As a society, things are becoming more violent and crimes against children are continually increasing. In our efforts to prevent these crimes we are not keeping up with the violence, abductions, and rapes being done to our children. Approximately 4,600 children are abducted by strangers each year in the United States.
Firstly, statistically speaking, the U.S.A. is becoming less violent and crimes against children have actually decreased over the past few years. Also, the belief that 4,600 children are abducted by strangers every year is based on a misinterpretation of a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1992. The study actually estimates there are 200-300 kidnappings per year. In 2011, 115 children were abducted by strangers, according to the FBI. While one is still too many, to suggest that thousands of children are snatched by men in balaclavas is a complete lie.
And even with the wall of text at the beginning of the video, I still have no idea what the point of the video was, and what exactly it’s supposed to teach about child abductions. All of the children were supervised, except for the one that was kidnapped, and bar anchoring their kids to the ground, there’s literally nothing any of the responsible adults in the park could have done to prevent their child from being kidnapped in that situation.
If anything, this video could have the opposite effect, and could show the creeps out there just how easy it is to grab a child and run.
Their supporters -who are thankfully few and far between- believe the ‘prank’ is OK because the child’s mother (and, presumably, the child) was in on the ‘prank,’ and because the men called 911 a few minutes before pulling the ‘prank’ – But that couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, I’d say that calling 911 actually made their prank even worse. If you’re pulling a prank that could cause public distress then you should definitely inform the police at least 24 hours before you pull your prank, but DO NOT CALL 911. Emergency call wait times are going up all over the country. Find the non-emergency phone number for your local police department and use that instead of causing people with real life-threatening emergencies to have to wait.
The children running away screaming, the angry parents trying -and failing- to stop a child from being kidnapped. There are very real emotions in this video, and the people affected by it will remember this ‘prank’ for a very long time. All while the Holdens celebrate their most-viewed video ever – 60,000+ views at the time of writing.
However, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.
There is something very wrong in a world where the Holdens can make hundreds of dollars from a video traumatizing dozens of children, while Evan Emory -one of the old school YouTube pranksters- can be arrested and jailed for manufacturing child pornography for simply editing explicit lyrics into a video of him singing a nursery rhyme to children.
More and more failed YouTube pranksters just like the Holdens are committing crimes (or pretending to commit crimes) and calling it a prank or worse, a ‘Social Experiment.’ Whatever label they choose to put on it, putting people you don’t know in perilous situations just to see what they will do is not funny, and never will be.
If it’s not funny, you’re not pulling a prank, you’re just being an asshole. Calling your video a ‘Social Experiment’ or an ‘Awareness Video’ doesn’t make you any less of an asshole.
This is a continuation of the one-upmanship that has happened in the YouTube prank community ever since the beginning. Everyone wants to do a bigger prank than the last guy. It has now reached a strange point where being arrested or having an interaction with the police has become a desirable way to end your video. If the cops arrest you, that’s worth at least an extra 100,000 views. If that’s your strategy, and you’re OK with wasting police time then more power to you. But continuing to involve the public, negatively affecting on the lives of normal people to achieve your goal of “views” really isn’t OK.
When you consider that the people pulling these pranks stand to gain thousands of dollars from advertising, you start to get a real insight into why this dangerous prank trend is continuing. It’s especially amusing to see the more popular YouTube pranksters acting magnanimous about their “Social Experiments” and “Awareness Videos” when we all know they’re only in it for the money and the exposure.