"Swatting," for the blissfully unaware, is the practice of calling in a false police report, causing them to send a heavily armed band of SWAT officers to bust into the house of your choosing, the idea being to scare the inhabitants. Add in a political motivation to do so, and we've just given you the dictionary definition of terrorism. Or as many newspapers prefer to call it, some good old-fashioned pranking.
The latest "It's just a prank, bro" incident happened to David Hogg. On Tuesday, someone too lazy, physically unfit, and/or socially inept to go outside and throw a brick through a window or post a letter with a bullet in it instead called a armed response team on Hogg's home, claiming someone was inside with an AR-15 (incidentally, the same style of rifle that killed 17 of his classmates). Hogg is a vocal anti-gun advocate and one of the most hated and loved teenagers in the U.S., but not in the Justin Bieber way (who also got swatted in 2012, by the way). He is openly the target of many anti-gun-control groups. Yet somehow, someone with a grudge sending armed stormtroopers to his doorstep is still reported on as a "prank" or "hoax," some silly hijinks, as if prank-ordering 200 pizzas is the same as ordering 200 bullets with ten corresponding trigger fingers.
Swatting was first popularized as a weapon for messing with online gamers, then to harass video game critics during Gamergate, and now to do the same to gun control advocates. Identifying the fringe groups behind all these acts isn't a complicated case to crack. All the lines on the board connect to a single center like an asterisk -- or more appropriately, an asshole. But while swatting may have started out as a malicious, sociopathic prank by internet trolls, it has become something much more sinister.
Today, there seem to be more news stories about unnecessarily brutal police interventions than those on cute animals at the zoo. People are getting shot by cops just for making the wrong hand movement or walking down the street. Police encounters are all slowly devolving into Dirty Harry scenes in which your survival is as much dependent on your lawfulness as it is on you feeling lucky, punk.
Swatting has already killed someone just like that. Andrew Finch, a random 28-year-old, is now dead over a $1.50 dollar bet made during a Call Of Duty game. While being mistakenly revenge-swatted, he confusedly reached in his pocket, and just in case he was pulling out a pocket-sized laser gun able to pierce their inch-thick body armor, a highly trained fighter with a readied weapon opened fire without flinching. Finch was killed, but the police officer was not arrested or even fired -- he was just performing as advertised. But if SWAT doesn't kill people, who does? Gosh, if only the NRA had a handy slogan to allocate responsibility for that.
So to keep pretending as if swatters don't know the intense dangers of sending armed police to unwitting victims is downright irresponsible. And it's only getting worse. Swatting seems to have become an element of a larger trend in the U.S. whereby as the reputation of the police gets worse, more and more stories seem to pop up of people frivolously calling the cops on whomever they dislike. In May, a woman was having an argument with a man in a car, when she just started shouting "Gun!" at the top of her lungs, which is an intimidation tactic that only works if everyone has learned that that can get you killed if there's a squad car nearby. Clearly, for these people, calling the cops has just become another way to point a gun at someone you hate and not feel responsible for when it blows up in that someone's face.
So let's stop calling this a "prank," as if swatting is in the same category as setting a flaming bag of dog shit on someone's porch. It's more like setting a flaming bag of dog shit on someone's porch and then switching out the welcome mat with a landmine. It's a tactic used by violent cowards to get the police to do their dirty work. It's attempted murder by cop.
Cedric is on Twitter, where he lives like a digital hobo with no physical address to send armed men to.
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