Cure Violence, a Chicago-based violence prevention group, believe in taking direct action. Not content to simply advocate or legislate for crime prevention, the group put their lives on the lines to mitigate hostile street conflicts and try to defuse violent situations– which occasionally backfires and leaves them in incredible danger themselves.
Recently, the online magazine Vice have been running a two-part documentary, Chicago Interrupted, based on Cure Violence's efforts. But how they're going about it smacks more of cheap search engine optimization and crass commercialization of violence. The program they've developed to promote the documentary, Eye For an Eye, also spotlights news stories on vigilantism, vengeful Youtube pranks and other topics geared more toward the promotion of violence than its prevention. And to top it all off, Eye for an Eye is hawking preorders for Bethesda's upcoming game Dishonored. The game's tagline: "Revenge Solves Everything."
In a damning report on Gapers Block, Chicago resident Jason Prechtel criticizes the maneuver from Vice, saying that it not only undercuts Cure Violence's life-risking direct intervention efforts but tastelessly glamorizes what Cure Violence seeks to prevent.
To get an idea of what the interrupters and Chicago police are up against, look at the statistics. More than 300 people were killed in Chicago between January and July 2012, a nearly 30 percent increase over last year. As of last week, that number is up to 374. A dozen people died from gun violence during a 72-hour span on Memorial Day Weekend alone, and one person has already been charged in what the Chicago Tribune described as a revenge killing. The spate of revenge killings in Chicago is so bad that Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy uses "gang audits" to figure out information like who gang members are and where they fight in order to prevent future casualties. Revenge, be it gang-related or personally-driven, is the driving factor in Chicago's cycle of violence. Nobody seeking to stop the bloodshed takes it lightly.
Curiously, Vice isn't the first "hip" media outlet this year to make light of Chicago's gang violence problem for the sake of online video content. Pitchfork Media ran into trouble recently when they conducted an interview with young local rapper Chief Keef at a New York City shooting range for their web series, Selector. Despite Keef's gang connections and complaints that the video was insensitive to the city's violence problem (the rapper was on house arrest for allegedly pointing a gun at a police officer), Pitchfork only removed the video after Keef-dissing rival rapper Lil JoJo was fatally shot, and a police investigation was launched into Keef's possible connection with the murder after he sent a tweet mocking JoJo mere hours after his death. Apparently, Vice didn't get the memo that it wasn't cool to casually appropriate Chicago violence for web videos anymore.
While Prechtel clarifies that he isn't attacking Dishonored itself for being a violent game –especially as, he notes, it's possible to complete the game on a total pacifist run– he does condemn the ad campaign's choice to emphasize killing, especially in conjunction with Vice's promotion of Cure Violence and their documentary partnership.
Since Prechtel's write-up went live, Vice have removed the Chicago Interrupted documentary from the Eye For an Eye website, but we're still awaiting an official comment from Vice.
Visit Cure Violence's website to find out more about the group or to offer your support.