The criminal underworld isn't shy when it comes to using social media. Mexican drug cartels intimidate citizens over Twitter, British extremists document jihad holidays on Instagram and Brazilian drug dealers flaunt their assault rifles and earnings on Facebook.
Those based in the UK are no different, flaunting pictures of gang tattoos, wads of cash and sports cars publicly and on pretty much every online platform their phone's coverage can reach.
I found out about the Guns, Murder and Girls (or GMG) gang on YouTube. In February 2012, three members of the gang were found guilty of brutally murdering an 18-year-old. However, one of them – a guy named Lennie John, who also raps under the name YR – appealed against his conviction and walked free from court after a judge overturned his 22-year sentence. After he was released, John put out a music video about his time in jail. After clicking on the YouTube profile that published it, I was able to find a slew of other Facebook and Twitter accounts that appeared to be linked to GMG in one way or another. I also spoke to one guy who aligned himself with a GMG branch based in Leeds.
For context, GMG is a predominantly South London-based gang, described as a section of the wider-reaching Peckham Boys – which includes other divisions, such as Lettsom G'z and Peckham Young Gunners. Many GMG members have been arrested in recent years, and have been responsible for more than a few murders in the city.
Although linking these social media accounts to gang members is not as easy as consulting a list of known affiliates, many of those pictured brandish the GMG logo and boast about the group's activities with updates such as “Big funds were [sic] my plans are” and “Cus my real niggas still here”.
Apart from a seemingly endless array of porn videos, the profiles are full of self-motivating slogans and posts about their entrepreneurial skills. My personal favourites include: “Mind set to get it so I barely sleep till I get it”, “Quitting shouldn't be one of your many options” and “Work hard! Play soft”. Finally, perhaps in an attempt to mock rival gangs, some posts include photos of knife crime victims, with antagonistic captions such as “next time stab me properly cah he here still smiling..solider shit he didnt even drop a tear [sic]”,and indirect call outs like “Bunch of pretenders”, and “Dum kids”.
I wish I were that committed to my job.