Last Thursday, McDonald’s worker Rayon McIntosh appeared to beat two women with a metal pole after they were seen jumping on the counter and then swinging at him. The struggle was caught on a cellphone camera and promptly uploaded onto YouTube, where it went viral over the weekend.
The original video has been removed, but before it was taken down it was mirrored hundreds of times and gathered countless media mentions.
It’s one of the unwritten laws of YouTube: Footage of violent altercations in fast-food restaurants always go viral. These same videos, given that they usually feature the urban poor and play on our preconceptions about race and class, also have a knack for stirring up controversy.
The now-infamous clip of McIntosh and his attackers is no exception. Despite the brutality of the altercation it shows, the Internet, particularly YouTube, has come to his defense.
According to Gothamist, a local New York blog, the women originally attacked McIntosh when he stated he had to run a counterfeit test on the $50 bill they were offering.
Following the incident, McIntosh, who recently finished a 10-year prison sentence, was fired and charged with felony assault. The two women, one of whom suffered a broken arm and fractured skull, were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Despite the severity of the women’s injuries, YouTube has come out in almost overwhelming support for McIntosh in comments and response videos. Many people are saying that McIntosh was acting in self-defense—or that the women had it coming.
That latter sentiment may sound distasteful, but as many YouTubers put it, they’re just being real.
YouTubers also took newscasters to task for trying to spin the story in way that they said was incongruent with the actual footage.
“Noticed the cracker EDOMITE reporter kept saying that the male worker attacked these 2 wild bitches. Clearly, it was self-defense. These days, who can't take a chance on what type a weapon someone may be carrying...” itazawam4 wrote on CBS footage of the incident.
An elderly white man said in his vlog about the incident that McIntosh should be “promoted to a hero,” and was disappointed to learn he “faces criminal charges” for “defending himself,” adding, “I would not charge him if I was the prosecutor.”
YouTuber TreMuch began her video with a joke, saying she feels sorry for the “white lady” because she won’t be able to even see a McDonald’s commercial “without having a flashback.”
“No more Big Macs for her.”
TreMuch also said “the girl had it coming” and that “she shouldn’t have hopped over the counter.” She closed her vlog by saying McIntosh acted in self-defense, and her commenters agree overwhelmingly.
“How was he supposed to know they didn't have a knife or gun on them? Even past that, was he suppose to just stand there and be attacked without defending himself? I hope he doesn't get time,” commented bigjamesbrown.
MegaSwizzard, who lists his age as 32, said the fight reflects a problem facing the black community—of young black women jumping into the fray with the young black boys: “You see, at home, Shaniqua is taught to hit when she don’t get her way. ”
MegaSwizzard goes on to tell a story that compares white, Hispanic and black households and how children are raised in each—a topic that recently generated a lot of discussion on Twitter.
So far, the reaction seems concentrated on YouTube. McIntosh’s cause isn’t drawing nearly the same response elsewhere. A Facebook page, “Free Rayon McIntosh,” had at time of publication attracted likes from 187 people, and Twitter was hardly buzzing about the incident.