[Humanist] 23.550 innovative use of the medium

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Jan 8 07:43:12 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 550.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 08 Jan 2010 06:41:25 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: innovative use of the online medium

Fugitives taunt their pursuers on the Internet, Facebook, MySpace

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010; C01

Craig "Lazie" Lynch was hanging out in someone's kitchen, half-naked and 
wrapped in a Christmas garland, gleefully holding a turkey while 
flipping an entirely different kind of bird.

He was supposed to be in jail.

In the past two weeks, this little paradox has made him a folk hero to 
thousands of people around the world.

He stands for something. Or he's a raging idiot.

The story so far: Lynch, a 28-year-old Brit, was serving a seven-year 
sentence for burglary at a low-security prison outside of Suffolk, 
England. He escaped in September 2009. Police issued a public appeal for 
tips to his whereabouts; in late December someone informed the local 
paper that his whereabouts were completely transparent. On Lynch's 
recently updated Facebook page, he was complaining about the weather, 
feasting on a venison steak and "thinkin, which lucky girl will be my 
first of 2010!!"

After news of his Facebooking became public but failed to lead to an 
arrest, Lynch decided to go for broke and act like a complete jerk.

"I had a funny feelin that my door was going to come off this mornin," 
he wrote in one smug post guaranteed to torque law enforcement officials 
everywhere. "Then I remembered the [police] are thick as [dung]. And 
went back to sleep."

He posted the Christmas turkey photo, plus another in which he held a 
placard encouraging people who spotted him to dial 999, the British 
equivalent of 911.

"We've got ongoing queries to locate him," Suffolk police spokeswoman 
Anne-Marie Breach says wearily. "We're asking for information on where 
he actually, physically is," not just what his virtual updates might imply.

After Facebook apparently shut down Lynch's personal profile last week, 
fan sites began springing up, one run by someone claiming to have been 
in touch with Lynch. It gained more than 40,000 members worldwide before 
Facebook removed it on Monday. A replacement group has already acquired 
more than 2,000 followers. A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on 
the site's actions, citing the ongoing investigation.

"Fugitives since, what, Jesse James have been chiding their pursuers," 
writes Bryan Burrough, who has written several books about American 
criminals, via e-mail. You had Bonnie and Clyde leaving behind written 
odes to their exploits, the Zodiac killer sending missives to San 
Francisco newspapers. "What is genuinely fascinating now is that, while 
for years a crook might chide a cop in a phone call or handwritten note, 
they can now do it for all the world to see." As with all things on the 
Internet, the elimination of the middle man makes the story infinitely 
more personal. Imagine the follower count that would exist for Bonnie 
Parker's Twitter feed.

The fascination with fugitives "lies in our devotion to live by workaday 
rules," Burrough says. "Don't cut in line. Please the boss. . . . We all 
do this, to some degree of frustration, and thus we tend to live 
vicariously through the exploits of those like Dillinger or even Lynch."

Usually when a fugitive's acts become public on social networking sites 
it's because of stupidity, as in the case of Jonathan Parker, who paused 
in the middle of allegedly robbing a Pennsylvania home to check his 
Facebook account, then forgot to log out when he left the burgled house. 
Or Joseph Wade Northington, nabbed for a South Carolina bank robbery 
when officials were alerted to a MySpace message reading, "On tha run 
from robbin a bank Love all of yall." Or Maxi Sopo, who fled to Mexico 
after allegedly committing bank fraud, then bragged about the party 
scene there to his friends on Facebook, which included a former 
Department of Justice official.

Cases of deliberate nanny-nanny-boo-booing via technology are rare, 
according to FBI spokesman Jason Pack. But those are the ones that 
acquire mythic status.

Take the New Zealand couple who received an accidental credit of $10 
million New Zealand to their bank account. Instead of returning it, the 
two took the money and ran to Hong Kong with family members who blithely 
sent status updates about the trip while police pleaded for their 
return. Facebook group "Run, Leo, Run" was promptly founded in their honor.

Or take "barefoot burglar" Colton Harris-Moore, a Washington state teen 
whose suspected thefts have escalated from cars to private aircraft 
(they say he hot-wires them), and who has taunted police by leaving 
behind notes and a self-portrait on a digital camera (he's cute). 
T-shirts reading "Fly, Colton, Fly" were promptly created in his honor.

As for Lynch's devoted fans . . .

"I see it as where maybe Craig is trying to make a movement about 
something," writes Nikki Skouby-Bigby via e-mail. Skouby-Bigby is a 
Missouri mom who administers one of Lynch's Facebook fan pages. "But I 
don't think he's ever said, and I know everyone wants to know why. . . . 
He seems like a man that is serious about what he's trying to prove and 
not just to be out acting crazy."

Lynch's fans write speculative fan fiction about his whereabouts, 
claiming to have spotted him at football games, hanging out with singer 
George Michael, riding mechanical bulls at bars. They specialize in 
fantasy futures for Lynch that contain more freedom than his real future 
likely will.

"It's tough man," writes a fan named Jose Lorente. "You will be running 
your whole life, at least that makes you to live in present time always, 
and not sleeping like almost all of us."

Azaria Jagger, who has blogged about Lynch on Gawker.com, has another 
piece of advice: "Just don't pull a gun or anything when they come to 
get you, because then we'll all feel like jerks for cheering you on."

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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