Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Facebook Fugitives

by Donna Pendergast

Craig "Lazie" Lynch was incarcerated on an aggravated burglary charge at Hollesley Bay Prison in southern England. Last September he escaped the minimum security facility by walking away; he began a life on the run. But rather than seek anonymity, the effusive escapee began to taunt police with profanity-laced insults on his Facebook  page, bragging of steak dinners, girlfriends and the free life.

One picture (left), posted around Christmas time, shows him shirtless with a cooked turkey in one hand, middle finger raised on the other, and a strand of tinsel garland around his neck. The caption in his Facebook information box said: "life is what you make it, live fast die young." His arrogant updates included "Craig Lazie Lynch is thinkin' which lucky girl will be my first of 2010" and "I've got a fantastic video, me watching the London firework display, surrounded by thousands of incompetent pigs."

Lynch's Facebook page was shut down after authorities contacted Facebook looking for information as to his whereabouts. Lynch responded with a new Facebook page named Maximus Justice, where he began an even bolder string of taunts. By the time he was recaptured in January, he'd become a web celebrity with nearly 40,000 Facebook fans. He was even the subject of a song written by American country singer Kent Crawford titled, naturally, "Crazy Craig Lazy Lynch."

If you think this sounds familiar, you are right. In March, I posted a blog on Colton Harris-Moore, the one-man crime wave from Seattle who walked away from a halfway house. He's achieved mythic status for his daredevil crimes and open mockery of the police. His exploits have earned him a large Facebook following and attracted national media attention. Like Lynch, he has also inspired a song, called "The Ballad of Barefoot Harris." Harris-Moore remains on the lam despite the offer of $50,000 to turn himself in. The offer expired last Tuesday at 3:00 p.m., and the money, which had been placed in a trust account by a Washington lawyer, is being returned to its anonymous donor.

While Lynch openly courted fame, Harris-Moore's fame has grown due to his uncanny ability to pull off crimes that seem straight out of the movies while continuing to evade arrest. Nonetheless, both fugitives acquired a large fan base on Facebook and cult-hero status for escaping from custody and making a mockery of the police. Lynch has been called a "Digital Dillinger," and Harris-Moore has been compared to Jesse James (without the murders) and D.B. Cooper.

So why, as a culture, do we romanticize criminals who defy the system? Is it because many of us like to challenge authority -- vicariously? From Robin Hood to Jesse James, people rally around the defender of the common people, pitted against the oppression or corruption of the established power structure. But Robin Hood at least took from the rich to feed the poor.

Lynch and Harris-Moore benefit no one other than themselves. They feed nothing but their own egos with their escapades, and by publicly taunting police and any efforts to rein in their criminal, self-serving behavior. Yet their numerous Facebook followers suggest people admire their exploits rather than condemn their anti-social behavior.

In these days of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, heroes can be created and immortalized almost overnight. The glorification of criminals on social networking sites is the latest twist on a recurring theme that suggests a complex dynamic where normally upstanding citizens harbor a strange affinity for certain criminal behavior.

The perception of crime as glamorous is all too commonplace in the impoverished inner-city. Youths with little future fear police while looking up to the power and status of easy money from drug-dealing and brutal displays of violence meant to keep people in line and ensure loyalty. One can only hope that the public interest in Facebook criminals is more fascination than true admiration.

Statements made in this post are my own and do not reflect the views, opinion or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.


TigressPen said...

Lynch and Harris-Moore benefit no one other than themselves. They feed nothing but their own egos with their escapades, and by publicly taunting police and any efforts to rein in their criminal, self-serving behavior.

That comment hits the nail dead center!

I've always thought it sad people immortalize criminals. This includes the selling of their memorabilia. I am outraged at their crimianl exploits so I guess I cannot understand the mindset of people who hurrah them or those become accessories by aiding them in their flight from justice.

Maryann Miller said...

Wow, what a story. I must live under a rock as I had not heard of either of these men.

Like you, I hope their popularity on Facebook,etc, is a result of fascination with the bizarre and not admiration.