Gang Bangin' Good Times!

While I was being shot at on the I-405 today, I began thinking about the current gang situation in America. If you live in the United States or any other part of the world, you've undoubtedly been exposed to the wonderful world of America's street gangs. They've consistently ranked in the "Top 20 Media Menaces" category for the past 15 years or so, despite the fact that street gangs kill less people annually than scurvy. Street gangs are the media's sweetheart, and news broadcasts will leap for a chance to pump out any special reports detailing how there's a fairly good chance you and your children could be brutally murdered by street gangs while buying nondairy creamer at the local 7-11. Gangs are one of the most photographic topics to cover on the news, ranking up there with natural disasters, "un-seansonlike weather," and Congressmen who have been indicted for improper relations with a fax machine. It's a safe bet that any gang-related activity will be covered in detail by the local news, as the broadcasters only put off those reports to explain how the defenseless members of your family have a better chance of swallowing an entire jumbo jet than not being murdered by a street gang.

However, the news media has never done a satisfactory job of detailing the entire "street gang" phenomenon, tracing the evolution of gangs throughout history. I mean, we all know what gangs are like these days, but some people aren't aware of the stunning metamorphosis that these ruffians, hooligans, and nogoodniks have gone through in the past century or so. Let's take a brief look at street gangs through the 1900's:

1900's - 1920's

Since America was still in its startup phase and hadn't secured enough funding for an established street gang training program, many of the so called "gang members" were nothing but filthy immigrants and homeless beggars. Gangs were a collection of bearded guys and dirty children who sat around a barrel which had been lit on fire a few years before. Since the majority of the population was covered with mud and soot from the nearby coal mills, nobody could tell anybody apart, and gang warfare was nearly impossible. The majority of gang members' time was split between playing a harmonica and dodging spinning newspapers that carried bold print headlines regarding World War I.

FAVORITE GANG CRIMES:

Loitering. There was nothing else to do, so gangs just stood around and wore those stupid gray driving hats that all the retired people wear these days.

Vandalism. When loitering, the gang members would lean up against walls of various "mom and pop" stores which sold candle wax or walking canes or monocles or whatever stores sold back then. As a result, all the coal atoms on their clothes would rub off on the store walls and it would look like a couple hundred people had been vaporized by alien ray guns on the side of the store. Police would try to arrest the street gangs for this, but the cops were so dirty that they wouldn't be able to see their uniforms and would forget they were actually on the Police force.

1920's - 1940's

Foreign, non-American countries began to export their most proficient criminals, ensuring that the United States had a steady supply of Tommygun purchasers. Gang bosses from Ireland and Italy began to take over the "mean streets" of New York, Chicago, and to a lesser extent, downtown Beloit. Many gangsters chose colorful and intensely stupid nicknames like "The Nose," "Crazy Legs," and "Sticky Fingers" because their last names (which were highly foreign) sounded goofy. People would easily forget how dumb their real name was if they chose a nickname such as Antonio "Spinnin' Crawdad" Magalabeli. Gangsters weren't as filthy as they were in the previous 20 years because the power industry shifted from using coal to... well, something else I guess. There's a lot of footage of people working in steel mills back then, so I guess power plants were fueled by really hot melted steel.

FAVORITE GANG CRIMES:

Extortion. Street gangs would threaten to burn down a shopkeeper's store if he didn't pay them a certain number of dollars every week. Store owners would usually come up with the cash because mob gangs were fat, hulking, unbelievably ugly men who had divots the size of peach pits in their face. Each gang owned a particular "turf," a section of the city that contained all the abandoned warehouses along the coastline. Coastline property was highly prized back then, as it allowed easy access to dump dead bodies and partake in the following illegal activity:

The Import / Export Business. While not a crime in itself, the "import / export" business was simply a cover for a wide range of illegal activities. When the Police questioned mob bosses about their business, they would reply, "I'm in the import / export business" and then would begin to cackle evilly. Then the cops would ask what exactly they import and export, and the mob boss would stop laughing because the only thing he ever got overseas was a STD from an Italian hooker.

Booze / Gambling. Technically speaking, prohibition took place around 1919, but since I'm too lazy to go back and add it (and I've never been particularly concerned with correctly reporting facts), I'm going to lump it into here. The government decided that not enough people were worrying about foreign policy and various wars overseas, so they decided to ban all alcohol. The government also decided to ban gambling, dancing, swearing, hitchhiking, right turns on red lights, and endings sentences with a preposition. Gangsters soon realized that they could begin manufacturing booze and selling at ridiculously high prices, so the government eventually repealed Prohibition and decided to begin the art of "taxing the unholy hell out of liquor," which they still do today. It seems to be working because, hey, I haven't thought about foreign wars since I finished my sixth White Russian about 10 minutes ago.

1940's - 1960's

The second generation of true gangster criminals began, and they proceeded to get a lot wussier. While previous generations wore coal-infested rags or snappy business suits, the criminals of the mid 1950's chose to wear plain white shirts and jeans. Also, since they were born and raised in America, they had more traditional American names like "Stevie" and "Ernie" and "Frankie" and various other names which ended with "-ie." This generation wasn't as concerned with producing crimes as they were with looking "cool." Their main pastime consisted of standing around with their armed crossed, smoking cigarettes, asking asking if anybody else had any more cigarettes that could possibly be smoked. They would also spend a lot of time combing gallons of hair gel / pig lard into their hair, because having a highly flammable fire hazard above your head was all the rage.

FAVORITE GANG CRIMES:

Dancing Really Late At Night. Gangs with names like "The Falcons" would challenge other gangs with names like "The Brawlers" to fight outside malt shops. They would take a couple swings at each other, somebody would get knocked down, and soon each gang would take turns singing about whatever ugly girl they were fighting over. At the end of the fight, the girl who was being fought over would choose whichever side had the most convincing dance number and light show. A few minutes later, after realizing how annoying the girl's New Jersey accent and toxic hair spray fumes were, they would return the girl and start dancing somewhere else.

Speeding. All money earned from late night dancing performances would be funneled into the "shiny new car parts" fund, which would go to making gang members' cars even longer in size. A person's manhood was directly tied into the length of their car, and most of the hardcore gang members had vehicles which couldn't be crammed inside a zeppelin. That's why gangs were often seen hanging around junkyards; every single piece of scrap metal that they could find was instantly bolted or welded to the front of their Ford / Chevy. If the part was too ugly to be stuck to the outside of the car, it usually ended up somewhere in the engine.

1960's - 1980's

Known by historians as "The Era of the Pimp," the streets in the 1970's ran rampant with hustlers who had more gold inside their mouth and around their neck than Fort Knox. Instead of peddling drugs and booze, they now peddled women. And drugs. And booze. The gangsters of this era are generally known as being much cooler than the ones of the previous generation, whose toughness was demonstrated mainly by combing their hair backwards. The pimp street gangsters dressed a lot cooler, had a hipper attitude, and were the first gang members to actively hit women when they got obnoxious. Street gangs all revolved around a central pimp figure who ruled the streets with an iron fist that had been dipped in gold. Their minions, a legion of really ugly people who had greasy hair and jean jackets, committed crimes for their boss by holding wacky jewelry heists and driving through the streets of San Francisco really fast, although sometimes they jumped across ravines in slow motion. When the mid-80's rolled around, gang members began to get less greasy but they also started wearing flamboyantly homosexual neon colors and jeans with the knees cut out, so it all balances out on the grand scale of horridness. Prostitutes, which were also known as "hos" back then, were under heavy demand because people who looked grotesquely hideous were quite the rage at the time, which is known as "The Era of Really Ugly Women." No wait, I guess I wrote earlier that it was "The Era of the Pimp." Oh well.

FAVORITE GANG CRIMES:

Disturbing the Peace. Gangs had mobile stereo systems (known as "boomboxes") which were able to blast hideous 80's music within a six-mile range. Note that this started taking place in the 1980's; before then, the only musical devices gang members had were AM radios the size of a wheelbarrow and record players which skipped a lot and only played songs about girlfriends who died in a car accident. Those were a lot harder to put on your shoulder and walk around town with. For example, it cost a small fortune just for the extension cords.

Prostitution. As mentioned before, "pimps" sold their "hos." It was a relationship much like webmasters and the networks they're hosted on; networks "pimp" ads onto their "ho"sted sites, who are repeatedly expected to be bitch-slapped without complaining. This works out just fine, as webmasters have the same union representation as whores, which is zero, so everybody's happy. Well, except the webmasters, but since when did anybody care about two-bit whores anyway?

1980's - CURRENT

The present generation of gangsters. According to the news reports and television shows, which are never ever ever wrong in any form, all of them are black and Hispanic. Oh sure, you'll sometimes see a couple white guys in the background during a few movies, but all they do is wear their hat backwards and nod their heads. All the real "movers and shakers" are muscular black guys and Latinos with rags around their heads. This apparent minority takeover of the gang scene is in big contrast to the past 80 years, which were predominantly ruled by goofy white guys. This also marks the first time gang members actually started committing "real" crimes, like drug dealing and cutting through Police officers with a chainsaw. Wait, I think that was in "Robocop 2." Oh well, it still applies. Make no mistake, there are a lot of white guy gangs, but they're usually found either mopping floors at Dairy Queen or updating their Geocities website.

FAVORITE GANG CRIMES:

Causing Rival Gang Members to Become Dead. Gang wars intensified from the original "dancing until one gang gets bored and goes home" to what they are today, firefights involving more ammunition than your typical John Woo film. The news media encourages the use of automatic weapons, as they have a higher chance of killing innocent victims in the crossfire. They love that kind of junk, just as long as the victim has family members who aren't afraid to weep on camera and provide their station with killer ratings and a new paranoid reason to never leave your home.

Selling Drugs to People Who Want Drugs. The government frowns upon the sale of drugs, as they feel they should be the only ones to sell things which addicts and controls the entire population. This puts a small kink into the drug dealing business, but since the government can't even go a day without causing something they own to either blow up or get involved in a sex scandal, they're not incredibly effective.

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth look at gangs throughout the 1900's. If you didn't, take it up with your local gang union representative, who will lodge a formal complaint with my webmaster union representative. Make sure to include drugs with the deal.

Yes, Now STOP

Cliff Yablonski will update tomorrow. He's currently, uh, away from the computer. Stop emailing, uh, him.

– Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka (@lowtax)

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