While one cannot exclude that a small minority of people who ingest alcohol in large quantities tend to become more violent, the recent spate of ‘coward punches’ that has led to deaths of Daniel Christie and Matthew Stanley is likely to have other causes.
Chief among these is the copy-cat. The ‘knockout game’ as it is called in the United States, is described by NPR US as
A teenager, or a bunch of teenagers, bored and looking for something to get into, spies some unsuspecting mark on the street. They size up the person, then walk up close to their target and — BLAM — punch him or her as hard as possible in an effort to knock the person out. The most brazen perpetrators even post the videos on sites like YouTube and Vine.
While there have been five reported deaths in the US from this ‘game’, Jamelle Bouie urges caution to put the phenomenon in proper context. In fact it is often difficult for Police to tell whether assaults are part of the ‘knockout game’ or just ‘random assaults that always occur’.
Importantly, though, alcohol is never mentioned as the catalyst of the violence. There are a number of reasons cited for the growth of the phenomenon - among these race and antisemitism.
So why is it that when the ‘game’ is imported to Australia (to what true extent is not yet known), alcohol is cited as the major factor?
I suspect the wowsers are seeing an opportunity for further regulations to promote their anti-drinking message. The media are lapping this up – with front page stories of a surge in ‘alcohol fueled violence’. But where is the evidence? Why not blame a lack of discipline, boredom, use of other drugs, or a slack judicial system? Indeed how do we know that the so-called ‘coward punch’ is not just a myth and the people killed and injured have been assaulted just as others have been in the past.
Whatever the cause, and whatever the extent of the ‘coward punch’ phenomenon in Australia, surely the key is that those perpetrating the violence be subject to the full force of the law? The person alleged to have assaulted Daniel Christie, Shaun McNeil, has a long history of violence, including four assaults and two breaches of apprehended domestic violence orders. McNeil has never served time in jail. If he indeed assaulted Christie, he should be convicted of manslaughter.
But enough with the ‘alcohol-fueled violence’. Do not give violent criminals an excuse for their crimes.