Strangers on a Train

Recently, a friend of mine who lives in California posted a video to his Facebook page with a caption that read, “Stay classy New Jersey.” Oh boy, I thought. Now what?

When I clicked on the link I found myself engrossed in an eight-minute cell phone video of a young woman arguing with a red-headed young man on a northbound River LINE train from Camden. Almost immediately the spat turns violent as the woman proceeds to punch the guy several times, spit in his face, and repeatedly kick him in the head. All the while her physical assaults are accented by lines like “You’re a cheater!” and “It’s not okay to mistreat girls!” and “I hate you!”

Classy indeed.

The incident, which was caught on video by a fellow passenger, comes to a close when the train halts at a stop in Pennsauken and two transit police officers enter the car to escort the man and woman out onto the platform—but the young woman wasn’t going to go away quietly. Once on the platform, she grapples with the officers and eventually forces them to pin her to a bench and put her in handcuffs.

According to an article in the Courier Post, the young woman, 26-year-old Lisa Alyounes from Westville, was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, as well as simple assault. Alyounes’s father is quoted as saying, “Lisa is not normally like this.”

Watching the video (which garnered more than 250,000 hits on Youtube), I was struck by the fact that no one attempts to stop the assault. In fact, the witnesses to this drama often seem amused. The most impassioned reaction comes from a woman off-screen continually complaining about how she was going to be late for work.

I’m also disturbed by this latest reminder of the ubiquitous and nonconsensual voyeurism made possible by modern technology. Watching this video feels a little, I don’t know…icky. Like I’m bearing witness to something very private, very personal, and very sad. And no matter how much her father might like to claim otherwise, this is now the legacy of Lisa Alyounes, a young woman swiftly branded psychotic by an eight-minute Youtube video served up as Facebook fodder. In 1984 we all feared the outside observance of Big Brother. But here’s the chilling thing: Big Brother is us.

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