A couple of days ago I published this website‘s first longform article, “Detroit Urban Survival Training: Satire or Surreal?” – a deep dive into one Mr. Dale Brown of Detroit Urban Survival Training. Since then, I’ve had an uptick in users using the contact form. While some emails were fun and supportive some were – let’s just say, a bit ticked off. As with any blog when you’re starting out feedback is precious. So to rehash said article:
- Dale Brown owns and operates a private security firm / self defense training out of Detroit, Michigan.
- He’s been successful as a bodyguard in spite of the fact that he appears to have very little to do with martial arts.
- What he lacks in martial arts skill – he makes up for in charisma and social skills.
- His military background is very ambiguous. He claims he spent 2 years as a paratrooper
On this last bullet point, I received an interesting tip. According to the tipster, it’s very likely Brown was a part of a reserve unit from 1989 until 1991 because that would allow for him to do Private Investigations on the side. Which is a claim he makes on his linkedin.
Upon further investigation, it’s been determined that the crest on the Maroon beret likely belongs to the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The tipster concluded with another important assertion – men typically enlist for increments of 3 years, as such it’s highly unusual that Brown has done under 2 years in the military.
While the authenticity of the tipster has been confirmed, I am unable to confirm some of the specific details the tipster has pointed out.
- Now, another important bit I have unearthed in my continued investigation concerns Brown’s PI training – in spite of claiming to be a licensed PI (private investigator) in Virginia, the public state database disproves this claim.
Constructive feedback aside, it appears me digging into his background hasn’t been welcomed by all folks. One email in particular contained a number of threats in addition to disdain over the fact I’ve decided to fact check Mr Brown and Detroit Urban Survival Training. The email in question is attached below:
Its sad how much ppl have their lifes.pried into just tell everyone its fake and move on u stalker freakshows. Ur disgusting. Vile killable. Parasites. Stop digging into personal stuff or ima dig into ur skull. All ur details are on the internet and findable too.
To this point I reiterate – most of my coverage of Dale Brown draws from information made publicly available by Dale Brown himself. In an attempt to find out who he really is: I’ve viewed his Facebook page as far back as it was possible, watched a documentary on him and listened to a number of his appearances on fringe libertarian podcasts. Most times, Dale Brown himself is the primary source and a majority of my investigation has just an exercise in trying to reconcile his past statetments.
I harbor no ill feelings towards Dale Brown nor Detroit Urban Survival. In writing “Detroit Urban Survival Training: Satire or Surreal?”, my intent was to examine how DUST became a viral phenomenon – and through this process, I’ve been simply fact checking his claims and pointing out certain inconsistencies that remain unresolved. Do note, in the world of martial arts, and of fandom in general, the “lore” of the idol in question often changes over time. As a simple illustration of such small changes in Dale Brown’s “origin story”, check out this particular instance.
In some earlier interview appearances, he describes himself as being being unable to pay rent. As a result, he asked to provide security for a building in return for staying in an apartment rent free (for 6 months).
His hardship enabled him to stumble onto the foundation of what eventually became a very successful private security business. To re-iterate, this doesn’t invalidate his success – or lessen my personal opinion of him.
At the same time however, in another article published later, Dale talks about how he started in the business after being scolded by the police for interfering when a 14 year old was attacked.
After witnessing an attack on a 14-year-old girl and being told by police he would face consequences for intervening in violent crimes, he says he recognized that the community was lacking protection, with police focused more on prosecution of crimes.
This is what I mean by “lore change”. Did the impetus to start DUST come from providing security to his temporary shelter, or from some unfortunate encounter with the police while in the act of saving a child? The first version is lackluster, portraying him as almost accidentally stumbling into the world of self-protection. The other one is more dramatic, a hero born out of the flames of righteous indignation. Engaging in revisionist history is a common thing, often times public figures will find ways to make their origin stories more engaging to the public.
Why is all of this important though? His “story” evolving, is a detail that is relevant in judging how reliable he is as ‘a narrator’, in both his interviews and in his content. More importantly, what are we to make of what Dale Brown will do with his new found platform? Through the years Brown has made many postings about racial injustice, bad policing and other societal problems. While his reach has been smaller and more local, he’s been a keen advocate for many of these important issues and there’s no reason to question his motives. It’s a testament to how charismatic he is as well. He is capable of contributing to the public discourse.
But it’s also very telling, that the very same month he became a viral sensation, he purged his social media profiles of any social justice content that could alienate certain segments of his audience which might be drawn to content creators in the self-policing and law enforcement niche. Dale Brown is well aware that banging the right drum to the world at the right time on social media is key to good business. While Brown has facilitated a lot of good for the victims of domestic violence (in particular) in Detroit, he’s also financially benefitted greatly from both the security business and the social media exposure. And at a point when he’s been peaking in the public discourse, rather than double down on highlighting the civil issues he’s advocated heavily for in the past – Brown has instead opted to become an entertainment personality with a wink and a nod, and erased years of social media activism. Change of heart or cynical marketing to his new found audience? Interpret that as you will – I know I have.