|NYC Homeless Man: Mario Tama/Getty Images|
If you're curious to know what's giving more than 6 million viewers on YouTube a thrill, you should go to the site and enter the key words "bum fight", which will produce in excess of 5,000 videos showing homeless individuals in the US, mostly older men, being plied with lethal alcohol and goaded into performing ridiculous acts such as punching walls with their bare hands, diving from heights into dumpsters, fighting each other and generally being humiliated, mostly by younger men who have a home.
If you'd like some more laughs at the expense of "bums" then log on to www.bumrise.com, which proudly boasts being the 2008 browser game of the year with more than 3 million players. Here, you can establish your bum username, and then he – it's nearly always he – can collect cans or pickpocket pedestrians for money, which can be used to buy weapons to attack other homeless people. As one 10-year-old – who became a former player when he explained the purpose of the game to his dad – put it: "You are supposed to get in fights, beg for money and drink beer – to get more points!"
This might meet some people's definition of innocent fun (though not anyone I hope to know) until you read the 11th annual report released this week by the National Coalition for the Homeless, which documents over 1,000 vicious assaults on homeless persons. Of these attacks, 78% of which were carried out by males under the age of 25, the very demographic which is targeted by the creators of bumfight and bumrise and TV shows like South Park or American Dad where homeless people are continually portrayed, in the words of the report, as "contagious, walking dead zombies capable of only panhandling and fighting"
(Click here to read the full story on the UK Guardian website)