It's official. Pranking is a pervasive part of YouTube culture that will probably never go away. It's as wholly ingrained on the platform as vlogging and "the boyfriend tag" are (except, you know, inherently awful). We've always been critical of prank culture and the moral dilemmas that present themselves when trading shock value for clicks, but this latest pranking controversy is next level shocking.
You may remember a couple of months ago when we reported on the prank collective Trollstation, whose domestic violence attack prank had just about everyone furious with disbelief. The latest fall out from their attempts at fame have them officially in over their heads.
Four members of Trollstation were imprisoned yesterday for their roles in fake robberies and other punishable offenses. The offenders, all aged 20-29, pleaded guilty to counts of inciting unlawful violence with their behaviour.
The video in question sees the men rushing into the National Portrait Gallery with their faces covered and pretending to snatch art from the walls. In the video they broadcast a fake alarm and cause a stampede of people trying to rush out of harms way.
At the bottom of the video, Trollstation offers a warning. "Please don't reattempt [sic] this stunt the boys have been charged and awaiting hearing for Public Disorder and Public Nuisance."
Aside from the prank being pretty crap and not at all entertaining, these boys are facing between 16-20 weeks in prison for a video that only got 200,000 views on YouTube. Like the saying goes: it sucks to suck.
Guys at Trollstation just got sentenced for 8 - 24 weeks in jail...All just for 200,000 views...I CBA— KSI [SDMN] (@KSIOlajidebt) May 17, 2016
Since the news broke, Trollstation have been retweeting messages of support from fans who believe the sentences are too harsh.
Here's the thing. It's quite easy to say that the police are being too strict and that these men don't deserve to be thrown in jail for their actions. On the surface a prank is a prank and, of course, there was no malicious intent.
However, not all pranks are created equally and their actions have context. We're living in a world where masked gunmen really do storm art galleries, football stadiums, resorts, and hotels. The year is 2016 and no one in their right mind would attempt to simulate a terrorist attack or an armed robbery in a public setting. It just isn't done.
These four members of Trollstation aren't in prison because the police can't take a joke. They're in prison because they aren't savvy enough to come up with content that will earn them the attention they so clearly crave without raising the ire of rational thinking people.
While prank videos tend to be a load of old bollocks, there are some that are cleverly shot, executed, and marketed. This is not one of those videos. Trollstation is not one of those accounts.