Thursday, July 15, 2010

The myths of the Barefoot Bandit ~ By Phil Elmore

(This post was updated 07/15/10 at 4:50 a.m. Central to add the video you will see below.)

Before we begin reading this column, here is an example of the hysterical hysteria regarding a non-folk hero, Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called Barefoot Bandit:

Colton, Steal A Plane For Me: A Musical Tribute To Colton Harris Moore a.k.a. The Barefoot Bandit

Video provided by MrForcefreak513

I am glad that Phil wrote this column. It concerns me that somebody that is nothing but 2-bit thief manages to have a cult following. Yes, I checked out the Colton Harris-Moore Fan Club on facebook. What are these people thinking? Colt never did anything to help anyone out. Or you could say that he DID help people out... uh... of their personal possessions, not necessarily anything to be that proud of. The only thing that he did manage to do that was anything extraordinary was to avoid capture for a couple of years.

Phil is absolutely correct when saying that Colton could not have acquired the needed skills nor the fame without the technology of the internet and flight simulator games. His skills, if he is even really all that smart, could have been used for good purposes, and not for ripping people off. I just hope that after a long period of incarceration, that he learns how to use his abilities to help people rather than to hurt them. Hopefully, he'll follow the footsteps of Frank Abagnale Jr. (who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars worth of checks as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor, and becoming so skillful that the FBI eventually turned to him for help in catching other cheque forgers), or Kevin Mitnik,who now runs Mitnick Security Consulting LLC, a computer security consultancy.

Again, Colton is not really that big of deal, he is not a legend, and Leonardo DiCaprio won't be playing his part in an upcoming movie. Just sayin'...

Technology created the Barefoot Bandit. It was technology that allowed Colton Harris-Moore to access the information he used and to acquire the little training he had to commit the crimes for which he is believed responsible. Without the Internet, without flight-simulator games, without the easy access to diverse and sometimes obscure information that our technologically saturated age affords, Colton Harris-Moore could not have known how to do what he did. But technology also created the Barefoot Bandit in promulgating, in disseminating, his legend. Without the Internet, without blogs and Facebook and online T-shirt sales and video sharing and countless "fans" talking to each other across the country and even around the world, Colton Harris-Moore could not have become famous. Had he not been famous, he would not have been caught ... and so this technological snake begins to consume its own tail, circling back on itself in what is, ultimately, not a very exciting story at all.

Colton Harris-Moore is a thief, and that's all he'll be remembered for being.

By Phil Elmore

Posted: July 15, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

His name is Colton Harris-Moore, and he's in big trouble.

The moniker "Barefoot Bandit" was hung on Colton Harris-Moore sometime before or after he left a chalk footprint at the scene of one his crimes. When he was "perp-walked" off a plane in Nassau, true to his legend, he wasn't wearing any shoes. His notoriety is all the more remarkable because he was neither violent nor political. He made no statements of any substance, and he fought for no great causes. Internet denizens have dubbed him a latter-day Robin Hood, while some reporters have claimed he's built "a reputation as a 21st-century folk hero." Yet he did nothing to help anyone but himself – and while his crimes were confined to theft, they were crimes.

Colton Harris-Moore has been a fugitive for two years. That's longer than many hardened, armed criminals manage to hold out, with the exception of a few notable hard cases like James Charles Kopp and Eric Robert Rudolph (both of whom were reportedly assisted by people or groups who considered them heroes despite their despicable acts). When police finally closed in on Harris-Moore in the Bahamas, he stole a boat and led them on a chase worthy of an action movie. Eventually, the cops shot out the engine of the boat. Colton, armed for perhaps the first time in his criminal career, reportedly put the gun to his head in some sort of dramatic final play. Other reports say he tried to throw the gun into the water before he was taken. Regardless of what happened, Colton Harris-Moore was captured without injury to himself or others. As of this writing, he has been deported to the United States to face the consequences of his two-year adventure.

It was that adventure that eventually got him caught. Colton, you see, is famous, thanks to the Internet. His Facebook page has thousands of followers. At least one fellow in Seattle started selling T-shirts bearing Colton's picture. 20th Century Fox has purchased the film rights to the story, and Harris-Moore's mother is fighting to get control of her son's "entertainment interests."

It was that fame that prompted concerned citizens, who recognized Colton in the Bahamas, to call the police.

What you may have missed in all this – I know I did, at first – is that Colton was not a wealthy child who happened to have a pilot's license. He never had any formal pilot training at all. He's the product of a troubled childhood, a disturbed young man who is also very intelligent. He reportedly taught himself to fly a plane using flight simulator games and possibly using research he did on the Internet. (At least one report claims he had a laptop and a GPS unit with him when he was captured.) At 19, he has more solo hours in light aircraft than many adults trying to get their pilot's licenses. He is believed to have stolen five planes, two cars and a boat – and that's not to mention the hundred or more burglaries of residences in the United States and Canada the authorities think he committed.

The boy's story is incredible, to be sure. He is not, however, a folk hero. Jackson Holtz, writing last year, said it best:
Colton Harris-Moore is no Jesse James. No Robin Hood. No Billy the Kid or misfit MacGyver. ... The line between fact and fiction has started to blur in the past few weeks, as the 18-year-old from Camano Island has gained international notoriety as a wily, fleet-footed commando who continues to stay steps ahead of the police. ... [As] the elusive teen has become banter for talk radio and [blogs], lore often has outgrown truth. … He's no boy genius. It's unlikely that he and his mom will be nominated for the mother-child pair of the year. He's not blamed for every crime in the Pacific Northwest. He's no survivalist. He likely didn't hot-wire airplanes. And he's not always the barefoot burglar.

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