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By Andrew Minik
With two and a half million subscribers, TwinzTV styles itself as “the best and craziest pranks on YouTube,” and it specializes in baiting criminals. Most videos follow a simple formula: coax thieves into committing a crime, sabotage the scene, and finally torture the criminal because “revenge is the best medicine.”
In the video below, Jeremy and Jason Holden leave an open U-Haul in an abandoned parking lot. Once the thief sneaks into the truck, the twins launch their trap. Quickly locking the loading door, the pranksters take the robber for a joy ride. With the floor coated in baby oil, the thief slides across the U-Haul. After several minutes of sharp turns and abrupt stops, the YouTube stars open the back door and unload a paintball gun on the man before he flees the scene.
Disturbing as it may be, TwinzTV videos receive millions of views across YouTube and Facebook.
Because the man was committing a crime, the audience laughs guilt-free. The problem is the precedent it sets for administering justice outside of the law. Entrapment (luring people into committing crimes) is only illegal when perpetrated by the police, the pranksters have never been charged.
However, vigilante justice presents a direct threat to the rule of law. Heroes like Batman are idolized for doing the job of law enforcement. And like Batman, these citizens hope to make heroes of themselves.
In Oregon, government apathy has led to vigilante militias offering their help to provide security. One group pledging protection, the Three Percenters, is described by Political Research Associates as a “paramilitary group that pledges armed resistance against attempts to restrict private gun ownership.” Whether perpetrated by the left or right trusting a militia to provide security and its own brand of justice undermines the authority we entrust to law enforcement.
Meanwhile in Berkeley, California, police apathy towards ANTIFA has energized right-wing vigilantes.
According to Rebel Media’s Lauren Southern, Trump supporters were told not to bring any weapons, guaranteed police protection. Once the police fell back from the scene, demonstrates pushed back. These groups prefer taking the law into their own hands. Hoping to become a hero, or even a meme, the rule of law is kicked to the curb.
No comic book super hero nor viral prankster justifies vigilante justice. Even the most anarchic libertarians recognize that the basic function of government is to protect citizens. When people take the law into their own hands we undermine the authority of the law. The solution to police apathy is not vigilantism, but rather confronting law enforcement’s resistance to doing its job. Illegitimate militias and online torture chambers are not a solution, but a symptom of the problem.