YouTube Is Making Money Off Human Suffering in Kensington

Plus, the end of the road for Johnny Doc?

A screenshot from one of the Kensington livestreams on YouTube

A screenshot from one of the Kensington livestreams on YouTube

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YouTube Is Making Money Off Human Suffering in Kensington

I’m part of the pre-TikTok generation. Meaning I love YouTube.

YouTube is a place where I can go down a rabbit hole discovering bizarre 1970s music like “Rasputin” by Boney M. (Seriously, if you’ve never seen the video for this tune, you should take a few minutes and watch it now.) YouTube is a place where I can, in about three minutes, learn how to fix my $500 Dyson vacuum cleaner that I got as a housewarming present years and years ago. When my son caught a catfish, YouTube was incredibly helpful in showing me how the hell to clean it. (My advice: Catch a fish other than a catfish.) And then there’s the YouTube fireplace that we play on Christmas Day.

I’m not naive. I realize there’s gotta be a dark side. But I didn’t realize just how gross YouTube could be until Monday, when a friend told me about a 24-hour livestream from Kensington. (She learned about the livestream here.) It turns out there’s not one Kensington livestream. There are three.

Because the world is a sick place and because humanity is positively doomed, you could, if you choose to, watch three separate livestreams depicting human misery, strife and sickness in the massive open-air drug market that is Kensington. The cameras seem to be automated, panning around for all the world to see.

As I’m writing this, there are 402 people watching one stream. Another 150 are watching the second. The third has about 80 viewers. And people aren’t just watching. They’re communicating in a chat window next to the livestream. Some make jokes or other insensitive remarks about the people in the videos. The chatters nickname people they see in the stream, often using racially insensitive monikers. (One feed claims to be from a police surveillance camera, but the Philadelphia Police Department tells me these cameras don’t belong to them. They also point out there’s nothing illegal about the cameras.)

The channel has some 42,000 subscribers. You can also buy a membership to the stream for 99 cents each month. This gives you access to various unspecified perks. Then there’s the $9.99 monthly membership, which allows you to view the countless hours of archival footage from Kensington. And there’s plenty of advertising. Meaning YouTube is allowing whoever is behind the channel (and it’s not clear exactly who that is) to monetize human suffering with these videos that depict people who don’t even realize they’re being depicted. (Neither YouTube nor the contact for the livestream page replied to a request for comment.)

I’m not exactly sure why anybody would want to spend their free time watching something like this. But to anybody so interested in what’s happening in Kensington, I invite you to join my teenage children and other members of our church youth group this Sunday when they prepare and deliver hot meals and toiletry kits to people on the streets of Kensington. As they do every month.

Is Today the Beginning of the End for Johnny Doc?

In 2003, PoliticsPA named John Dougherty, aka Johnny Doc, one of the most politically influential people in the state. Twenty years later, the former head of Philadelphia’s electricians union, has fallen far and hard.

Last year, a federal jury convicted Dougherty of bribing Bobby Henon, back when Henon was a member of City Council instead of inmate number 77029-066 in USP Lewisburg, where his projected release date is 2026.

Today, jury selection begins in another federal case in which Dougherty is accused of embezzling a boatload of money from the union and using it to buy everything from Boyd’s gift cards to Red Bull to Bruce Springsteen tickets to, well, Noxzema. (The list of 169 things he’s accused to buying with the dirty money is actually hilarious.)

But that’s not all. No matter what happens in the embezzlement case, there’s yet another federal case waiting in the wings, accusing Dougherty of extortion.

Thus far, Dougherty remains a free man, because the judge overseeing the cases agreed to hold off on any sentencing until they have all concluded. I’m pretty sure you and I wouldn’t get that level of courtesy. Then again, we’re not Johnny Doc.

Local Talent

We haven’t heard much from Quinta Brunson lately thanks to all the striking going on in Hollywood, which has delayed season three of her hit show, Abbott Elementary. But she did pop up recently at a benefit event at a home in Los Angeles, where she had some interesting things to say about TikTok.

Quinta Brunson with Oprah Winfrey and Colman Domingo

Quinta Brunson, recently spotted with Oprah Winfrey and fellow Philly native Colman Domingo (Getty Images)

“Sometimes I really worry about the future, and I worry about kids,” Brunson said. “I see the Tik and the Tok, and I get really scared. I worry that there aren’t places where people are honing in on their crafts anymore — and I say this as a child of the internet, I’m a YouTube, Instagram kid.”

She went on to remark that TikTok might be “ruining art.”

Reader Mail

Messages continue to come in about my thoughts on Lonely Planet lumping Kansas City in with Philadelphia on a list of the world’s ten best cities to visit. Yesterday, I shared a very gentle message from a guy who moved from Montco to the Kansas City area many years ago. After that, I heard from Robert, who is the reverse: a Kansas City native who now lives in Philly. His thoughts, in part:

The best thing about Philadelphia is that it’s just 90 miles from New York. … Philadelphia is dull but affordable and convenient.

It’s hard for me to reconcile the idea of somebody moving from Kansas City to Philadelphia and finding us dull, but so be it. Reader mail is reader mail.

By the Numbers

2 a.m.: Time this Blade Runner-inspired subterranean ramen bar in Rittenhouse will close on weekends. A welcome addition to the late-night dining scene. Slurp!

0: Number of Targets the big-box company is opening in University City now that it just pulled out of a deal to open one at the former International House on Chestnut Street. This news comes months after Target closed its store at 12th and Chestnut in Center City. Ten Philadelphia Targets remain.

100 percent: Chances my wife and kids will beg me to get the heater going in the next few days, given that temperatures are expected to dip below freezing.

100 percent: Chances I’ll reply, “Maybe if you weren’t walking around the house in shorts and a t-shirt,” as I do every year.

And from the On-Hold Sports Desk …

Hey, Philadelphia!

For some reason, the L.A. Clippers are happy, too. Weird. In less sanguine news, Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner is being investigated by Major League Soccer after a New England Revolution player alleged that Wagner used a racial slur during their playoff series. The player said the slur was in German, Wagner’s native tongue, but that it was familiar to him because he played in that country.

For those who care — Bueller? Bueller? — the Flyers play today.

All Philly Today sports coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.