Blog seeks to draw attention to purported thugs in Charleston area
Bigg Freedro Juicee may not be the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, but he does cut an imposing figure posing with his arsenal of guns and a fat wad of Benjamins hanging from his mouth.
Juicee, a 19-year-old “street pharmesis” from Goose Creek, plasters photos of himself flashing $100 bills, guns and gang signs on his Facebook page for all his friends to see.
Whether he is an actual bad guy or someone just pretending to be involved in the gangster lifestyle is unclear, because his real name isn’t listed.
But either way, Juicee’s posts have made him an unwitting star on a new local web blog aimed at outing drug dealers and other villains who prowl Charleston-area streets.
Since its debut March 31, “Charleston Thug Life” has profiled more than two dozen supposed hoodlums, using screen grabs from Facebook pages to turn their subjects’ own words and images against them.
The blog has attracted the attention of police and appears to be building a loyal following. But some in the community worry that it is stoking racial tensions, and one veteran newsman describes the effort as “electronic vigilantism.”
The anonymously authored posts feature young black men striking menacing poses with a formidable array of weaponry — military-style rifles, shotguns, machine guns, pistols — along with drugs, and lots and lots of cash. There also is abundant commentary disparaging local schools, civil rights groups, the media and parenting in the community.
Most of those profiled use street names to disguise their identity, but they apparently think nothing of showing their faces or photos of their babies and children showered with cash or holding guns. Several also freely post threatening messages or list occupations such as “dope dealer at Hustlers Inc.” and “top of da line trigga-men.”
It’s unclear if those being profiled are aware of the blog. Attempts to reach them this week proved futile. But much like the bridge runner whose sun-dappled looks made him an Internet sensation as the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, the exploits of these street characters are reportedly drawing thousands of hits to the fledgling blog.
Among those paying attention are area police and prosecutors.
North Charleston Detective Scott Perry, for example, said his department’s investigators and Gang Intervention Team plan to use the site as an investigative and information tool.
Among those profiled is a North Charleston man currently awaiting trial on drug charges. His Facebook page features a photo of him double-fisting a pair of pistols and another shot with a large stack of bills piled next to bag of what appears to be marijuana.
Who’s behind the blog remains a mystery. The authors don’t identify themselves on the site, and they did not respond to a request for an interview from The Post and Courier this week. They did, however, post a statement on the blog explaining their mission to “expose as many of these hidden thugs as we can; for as long as we can.”
The authors said they started the blog in response to a perceived lack of balanced media coverage of the police shooting of 17-year-old Carlton Lamont Pringle last month. They objected to comments by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in published reports that faulted police and painted Pringle as a choir boy.
The bloggers later put up a Facebook photo of Pringle holding a gun and statements from his mother’s page in which she expressed concern about his love for “tha streets.”
The bloggers wrote in their statement that they distrust the media and prefer to remain anonymous so they don’t have to gun down any thugs who come looking for them for vengeance. They said they prefer to “spill their digital blood.”
“We don’t do this for recognition, or the potential for it,” they wrote. “We don’t do it for personal gain. There is no money to be made in this endeavor. We simply found an information vacuum and chose to fill it. In doing so we assist our fellow law abiding citizens of the Lowcountry.”
Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina, said the blog has more to do with vigilantism than journalism. While it raises community awareness about crime, it also may be fueling community strife and division and providing notoriety for those it profiles.
“It’s very easy to speculate that more harm than good could come out of this,” said Bierbauer, a former senior White House correspondent for CNN.
Also wary is Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, a group the bloggers refer to as “National Association for Advocacy for Criminal People.”
Scott said social media can be a positive force in the community, as it was in drawing large and diverse crowds to recent rallies to protest the February shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin by a block watch captain in Florida.
But efforts like the thug-life blog set back the discussion over racial justice and equality, she said.
“Social media is a double-edged sword.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.