People are taking serious risks (that sometimes end in death)
because of viral challenges and impulsive decision making.
A popular 1999 movie called Fight Club is known for its attempts to make violence funny, even though real violence is more often tragic than anything else. In one scene, a character sprays a priest walking by with a waterhose intentionally to start a fight. After the priest confronts him, the character sprays the priest again, and then both men end up fighting.
Movies and TV make some forms of violence seem like no big deal – fights among students usually result in characters talking to the principal and maybe being assigned detention. Unfortunately, the real world is rarely that gentle when it comes to consequences for fighting. In fact, it’s very easy for a fight or a viral challenge to quickly get out of hand and turn into a major tragedy.
Consider the idea of one-punch deaths, which is when a person can die as the result of being punched once. The person doing the punching doesn’t even need to mean to hurt the other person, let alone kill them. The “Knockout” game is yet another “viral challenge” that’s causing trouble and can end in death. In the challenge, people try and knock someone unconscious with a single punch to the back of the head. Usually, a random stranger is selected, and the person doing the challenge runs up, punches their victim, and then runs away.
While a single punch alone might not seem like a big deal at first (especially if it’s a ‘willing’ victim that agreed to be punched), the fact that it’s the back of the head being punched creates all sorts of danger. Death is a possible consequence of this challenge, and that means even the punchers with willing participants could face criminal charges (which could end with them having to go to prison)!
In Texas in 2017 for example, a 30-year-old man was leaving a restaurant when he was suddenly punched in the back of the head and fell to the ground, unconscious. It turns out the puncher was a random teen. The teenager that had attacked the man was later charged with a crime called ‘aggravated assault’, and that was after he turned himself in. Turning himself in was probably his best option – he could have faced more serious charges if he had refused to cooperate or if the victim’s injuries were more severe.
Another case to consider is one from Las Vegas in March of 2017. At the time, a fight broke out between four men as they were waiting in line outside of a nightclub. During the fight, one punch that was thrown caused one of the men to hit the ground. That man was rushed to the hospital, and later died from the blow. The man who threw the deadly punch was charged with voluntary manslaughter after he turned himself in and was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison.
Yet another case from Nevada happened in March 2021. Thirty-three year-old Brandon Leath was harassing and yelling at a man and woman who were walking across a bridge people use to cross the Las Vegas Strip. Eventually he chose to wait for them at the bottom of an escalator, and then punched the man without any warning. The man then died from his injuries shortly after being punched by Leath. Mr. Leath was later charged with murder, which is a class A felony, and faces a life sentence or even the death penalty, as Nevada is a state where the death penalty can be enforced.
Fights and one-punch situations aren’t the only violent challenges that can accidentally cause deaths (even in situations where both the victim and the person causing the death agreed to take part in the situation). Another viral challenge that’s recently had deadly consequences involves kids holding their breath or being choked by one of their friends until they almost pass out just to see what it’s like! The challenge is called The Blackout Game and The Passout Game, and while it’s actually been around since as early as 1995, it recently regained popularity through the social media platform Tik Tok.
Most of the victims of this recent choking challenge have been children. While they can be extremely lucky and avoid the permanent brain damage (which is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain), that’s not always the case. In Utah in 2018 for example, a mother found her 12-year-old son unconscious after he had attempted the challenge. Although she called for help, he later died from a lack of oxygen to his brain. Another case in Australia had students in school asking other students to choke them out for the challenge (in the United States, that could lead to some misdemeanor charges even if no one was seriously injured).
While cases of deaths from a single punch or from being choked out may seem rare, they’re far more common than you might think. All it takes is a moment for something to go seriously wrong, and it could cost you serious jail time in jail or prison, or even your life. With both the One Punch and Blackout Challenges, criminal consequences aren’t even the only thing that people should think about when deciding to participate in one of these viral crazes. Several different parents are suing Tik Tok after their children have died because of the challenge spread on the app, but it’s unlikely they’ll stop there. The parents are also likely to sue any of the kids that helped their children become victims of viral challenges.
All and all, while violence may be portrayed as comical or simply good fun, there are a lot of unintended consequences waiting on the other side. Even if it’s just for the clout, or for a joke on your friends, no one wants to be responsible for a loss of life, much less have to deal with the legal consequences that come with it. Remember: it takes something as small as a thirty second decision to ruin the lives of both a victim and the person who hurts them.
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Contributed by: Ethan Champagne
Edited by: Mike Kamer