Based Violence for Profiton our conversation yesterday in the comments thread for my Red in Tooth and Claw: The Language of Killing article, I am curious to know your thoughts on the following matter.

Do you believe violence — as framed in the context of yesterday’s article — creates or serves as commerce in the urban core?

Is the infliction of physical suffering a necessary city commodity from which secular humanism rises?

Or does violence only eat itself by gnawing and clawing away at its inborn behavior until red is all that’s left?

Violence for Profit


  1. There’s a restaurant in a neighboring town that is reputed to serve good food at great prices. It has been burned down repeatedly because the owner refused to pay “street insurance” or protection money whatever you want to call it (or so one version of the story has it). Is the owner’s refusal to pay or respond in violence a way to close the loop of violence? Or is the owner setting himself up to be a red stain on a block of those who choose to pay?

  2. A S!
    Now that’s exactly what I’m talking about today! You pay for “street protection” and in that payment you ensure your place won’t be burned down or robbed. You don’t see that kind of shakedown in the suburbs much or in the country… ever.
    On the East Coast that kind of kickback can cost thousands of dollars a month –- it’s an expected part of doing business — and if you don’t play along but continue to make lots of money even after taking hit upon hit against your property, the necessary next step if for you is to end up in the pool of red because you refused to play by the rules of the urban jungle.

  3. But if one plays by the rules of the urban jungle and pays the protection money, aren’t they just supplying their “attacker” with the means of extorting more money from them at a later date or even to fund the destruction of their neighbors?
    FYI – The other version of the story is that the owner knows that they will burn his place down and is making a mint on collecting insurance.
    Seems unlikely though because his premium’s got to be high after that many times being burned down.

  4. A S —
    No, if you pay to play you are ensuring your own survival so you can take the next step up to the mountaintop. This sort of evolution protects selfish interests above all else so if you’re dead in a pool of red you have failed to continue the species and ceased to evolve.
    I agree no insurance company would keep paying off if the building keeps getting destroyed. The owner will be driven into the red too many ways if something good doesn’t happen soon.

  5. Protection is an interesting business Dave. You pay and you expect to get all the chits that go with it but actually invoking a favor beyond the base payment puts you in deeper with those you wish to evolve away from…
    Sometimes the best-kept secrets are those that never have to sleep with the fishes.

  6. I love the police and have the utmost respect for them, but sometime violence becomes currency for them as well on the mean streets of the urban core.
    This is from a police brutality case from my area.
    From the 2001 7th Circuit Court of Appeals case of United States of America vs. David Brown and Bruce Troxel.

    Next door, off-duty police officers Brown and Troxel whiled away the night of July 14 socializing and drinking at the Caddy Shack Lounge (“Lounge”), a strip club and bar.
    Although Brown moonlighted at the Lounge as a bouncer, he was not working that night or early the next morning. Around 2:00 AM, Brown and Troxel heard that a man was dealing drugs in the D&W lot and went to investigate. …
    As Brown and Troxel approached Wilhoit’s cab, Wilhoit turned his lights on. Troxel
    approached the passenger’s side of Wilhoit’s cab, demanded that Wilhoit open
    the “mother- f**king door right now” and held his police badge up to the window.
    Troxel was not wearing a police uniform. Wilhoit refused to open the door because,
    he said, he thought Troxel was going to rob him. Wilhoit did not believe Troxel
    was a police officer because Troxel was dressed in plain clothes and there was no
    police cruiser in the immediate vicinity.
    Troxel went to the driver’s side window, which was rolled down 6 to 8 inches. Troxel put his badge through the driver’s window, demanding that Wilhoit exit his cab. When Wilhoit refused, Troxel reached inside the cab; with one hand he choked
    Wilhoit by twisting his thick gold necklace tightly around his neck. With the other hand, Troxel grabbed Wilhoit’s hair and attempted to pull him out the window.
    Terrified, Wilhoit stabbed Troxel in the arm 5 to 6 times with his pocket knife.
    Seeing Troxel’s injuries, Brown, dressed in a police jumpsuit, approached both the passenger and driver’s side of the cab demanding that Wilhoit exit the truck.
    Wilhoit continued to refuse. Brown leapt onto the hood of the cab and identified
    himself as a police officer, showing Wilhoit the word “POLICE” on his back.
    Despite Brown’s demands, Wilhoit steadfastly remained in the cab. Brown pulled his gun and pointed it at Wilhoit.
    Convinced he was being robbed, Wilhoit yelled into his CB radio for someone to call the police. Brown responded, “I am the f**king police! Unlock the door!” and kicked the windshield repeatedly.
    Wilhoit finally opened his cab door.
    According to Wilhoit, Troxel struck him in the face with a hard object, and both defendants repeatedly punched and kicked Wilhoit. Wilhoit attempted to defend himself, but Brown threw him to the ground.
    The defendants put a gun to Wilhoit’s head and threatened that if he told anyone of the incident, they would kill him and his family. They told Wilhoit that they should “kill him now” and throw his body out back in the transfer lot.
    Defendants took Wilhoit’s wallet and asked him where he lived. Wilhoit answered truthfully, but his driver’s license reflected a previous address. Defendants accused Wilhoit of lying, smashed the side of his truck with a hammer, and reiterated that they would kill him if he told anyone of the altercation. …
    The Carda incident occurred roughly one year prior to the altercation with Wilhoit.
    While Brown was working as a bouncer at the Lounge, he pulled a chair out from under an exotic dancer, Jill Carda, as she tried to sit down. Carda confronted Brown.
    Brown threw Carda into a wall and then face down onto the ground. He choked her by stepping on the back of her neck and pulling her arm backward until it cut off her breath.
    Brown asked the Lounge owner whether he should “take Carda out back and finish her off.”
    The government urges that the Carda incident is probative of Brown’s intent to use his police affiliation to effectuate disproportionate and violent punishment against people who failed to respect his authority.
    Defendants argue that the Carda incident is not probative because Brown was not acting under color of law when the incident occurred; specifically, Brown was not wearing any police gear.
    When he worked at the Lounge, however, Brown drew attention to his police authority.
    He insured the Lounge patrons’ awareness of his affiliation by regularly wearing his police uniform and jumpsuit to his job as a bouncer.
    Brown’s general emphasis of his police affiliation diminishes the importance of the fact that Brown was not wearing any police uniform on the day of the Carda incident.

    Content edited for language.
    Sometimes violence becomes a way to show others who is “the boss” and thus increase ones “currency” as the Alpha-male of a particular area in the urban core.

  7. Excellent, Chris!
    Yes, the violence flows across many backs in the urban core. The quickest way to show someone who is boss on the street is to flash a gun. It used to be enough just to shake a fist.
    When the cards get called –- and they always do; and the guns are drawn and fired — there are guilty parties created on both sides of the barrel and from both sides of the law. It’s a vicious cycle that will continue forever because to kill, to beat, to maim to wound, is not just how America was founded — it was very inertia that created us.

  8. Hi David,
    Thank God things have changed from the days of the mid-1990s when Gary was a place where people were being gunned down in the streets left and right.
    Here’s another case where violence was used as currency to show others who is the toughest on the streets.
    From the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case of United States vs. Harry Bowman, a.k.a. Taco, a.k.a T who was active in my corner of the world last century as the international president of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
    Writes the court:

    The Outlaws profess to be “1%ers,” or the one-percent of bikers who have rejected societal norms and dedicated their lives to the club.

    Here’s a story from the court case about the way the group planned to use violence against a competing motorcycle gang.

    The War Wagon Incident
    In June 1994, numerous Outlaws descended on Gary, Indiana, to attend an event at a local speedway. This event was also customarily attended by the Invaders, another motorcycle club. The Outlaws suspected that the Invaders were affiliated with the Hell’s Angels.
    On the night before the event, Bowman met with attending Outlaw presidents. Randy “Mad” Yager, the president of the Gary Outlaws, also held a meeting with the attending Outlaws and announced that they were to attack the Invaders at the speedway.
    To carry out this attack, the Outlaws planned to use a “war wagon,” or a vehicle modified with steel plating and several gun ports.
    The war wagon was equipped with firearms and other weapons to facilitate the attack.
    The Outlaws drove the war wagon to the speedway, but no Invaders ever arrived.
    After the war wagon left, it was stopped by Gary police officers. The officers seized firearms, ammunition, and smoke grenades from inside the war wagon.

  9. Crazy, Chris!
    I remember when I was young that the Hell’s Angels would “visit” North Loup, Nebraska once a year and party near the old chalkmine.
    Residents were warned by the town Sheriff to stay inside, to keep your head down and not make any trouble and the Hell’s Angels would have their fun and leave.
    It was amazing to watch a town of 400 people go into lockdown to become a ghost town in the dead of summer.

  10. “The quickest way to show someone who is boss on the street is to flash a gun.” It’s sad but also seems true for the playground some of the elementary schools.

  11. Right, A S — and the problem with that gun flash is that once it’s shown you either back down or you fight over control of the trigger. There’s no simple way to always extricate oneself from that direct and impending threat of violence without trying to use greater violence.

  12. I think we’re already there and into Kevlar wear, A S!
    We’re already into bigger guns.
    We have machine guns.
    We use sawed-off shotguns.
    I guest the next step is… hand grenades… then military grade Anthrax… then Stinger missiles… then…

  13. Did you see what was selling newspapers in Germany and now selling advertising in every other major media outlet world-wide? Pictures of German troops holding skulls (and other things) in Afghanistan are featured in Bild.
    Not too long ago, a video tape of a sniper shooting at American troops was playing on CNN.
    It’s another sign of the commodification of violence.
    Does all of the “if it bleeds, it leads” news coverage desensitize us to violence?

  14. Chris!
    Yes! Those “sales” images are indeed appalling!
    Blood sells the evening news. Finding ways to avoid the blood gets no one a chit at all.
    Life has always been cheap but watching someone die has never been a cheap thrill. It is the ultimate in voyeurism.

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