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By: Samuel Bowhay, Grinnell College

The fascination with “bum bashing” continues to grow.  On YouTube in July 2009, people have posted 85,900 videos with “bum” in the title, an increase of 15,600 videos since April 2008.  Further, 5,690 videos can be found with the title “bum fight,” representing, again, an increase of 1,460 videos since April 2008.  In contrast, other derogatory terms; such as, those used in regards to African Americans, the “n” word is found in 25,900 video titles while the “f” word used in regards to homosexual persons can be found in 66,600 videos.  It should not astonish us that, out of these derogatory words, “bum” has the most videos associated with it as we continue to view the shameless abuse of homeless individuals as less than a hate crime.  The use of the word “bum” has become desensitized, even commonplace, in the language used in our day-to-day lives.

Beginning in 2001, four videos were produced and placed on a website promoting “bum fighting.”  Today, over 6.8 million copies of the Bumfights DVDs and videos have been sold.  As a result, teenagers began mocking the videos by recording themselves beating up homeless individuals just for the thrill of it. A majority of the time, participating homeless individuals were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.  Some were even lured into participating with money. In early 2008, the “bum fighting” website was shut down due to a civil lawsuit filed by the homeless individuals that were involved.  The settlement also forced the company to provide financial compensation to its victims.

These videos represent a new form of dehumanization and exploitation against homeless individuals.  NCH strongly discourages the use and purchase of these videos as the homeless people involved are manipulated into performing these outrageous acts.

Sadly, with the release of these videos, violent attacks against homeless individuals have soared across the nation and others have become inspired to model the videos.  In early 2007, a video of two homeless men fighting while a crowd cheers surfaced in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Advocates fear the promotion of the video will spur the production of similar videos.

Although major retailers have stopped selling bum fighting products, some smaller companies continue to do so.  Additionally, these videos remain popular videos on sharing websites.  We must act now to reverse this trend.

Example of a dehumanizing “Bum Fight” Video:
TITLE:  “Bum Fights”
LENGTH:  2:20
CONTENT:  Producers pay homeless individuals with alcohol to perform humiliating acts.  The homeless individuals then complete the following tasks:  one individual is pushed down a rocky hill on a skateboard (in slow motion), another person jumps into a full dumpster from a rooftop, and two homeless people fight.  In addition, the video portrays the homeless people chugging the alcohol payments before undertaking these tasks and explicit images of injuries received while completing these dangerous tasks.  These explicit images and the use of slow motion effects add greatly to these moments of dehumanization.
RATING:  4 of 5 stars (4,902 ratings)
VIEW COUNT:  4,134,123


CONTENTS: Main page | pdf of full report | Acknowledgements | Dedication | Executive Summary | Purpose, Methodology, and Previous Reports | Introduction | Historical Summary of Hate Crimes/Violence Data for 1999-2008 | Summary of Hate Crimes/Violence Data in 2008 | Summary of Teen/Young Adult Involvement in Hate Crimes/Violent Acts | Summary of Ages of the Accused versus Ages of the Victims | Summary of Victims Who Were Middle-Aged | Cities where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Map of Cities where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | States where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Map of States where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred in 2008 | Cities Where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred – 1999-2008 | Map of Cities Where Hate Crimes/Violence Occurred – 1999-2008 | Comparison of Hate Crime Homicides vs. Lethal Attacks on Homeless Individuals | National Media Coverage of Hate Crimes/Violent Acts Against Homeless People | Video Exploitation of Homeless People | Recognizing Anti-Homeless Violence as Hate Crime, by Brian Levin | Legislation | Recommendations for Action | Model City/County/State Legislation/Resolutions | Adopted City/County/State Legislation/Resolutions | Public Education Initiatives | Listing of Incidents by City | Case Descriptions Involving Deaths | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Rape/Sexual Assault | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Setting on Fire | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Beatings | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Shootings | Case Descriptions Involving Non-Lethal Police Harassment/Brutality | Appendix A: Sources | Appendix B: NCH Hate Crimes Public Service Ads |

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