Give a Man Enough Rope and He’ll Eventually Hang Himself

You know those movies in which the Villain is about to win? His plan has worked, the Hero’s incapacitated, and everything is going perfectly, but before he finishes off the Hero for good, he starts talking about his own brilliance? He goes on and on and on about why he did it, he wants you to understand his motives… and you’re sitting there thinking, “JUST SHUT UP, KILL THE HERO, AND YOU’LL WIN!”… but of course that never happens.

They’re too proud of what they did. They want you to know it. And they destroy themselves in the process.

That’s what came to mind when I saw that the Bend, Oregon church vandals were not only caught, they were speaking to the press about their motives.

It makes about as much sense as cheating on a test, getting away with it, then posting a public message on your Facebook wall explaining how you did it.

They come off sounding childish and just plain stupid.

Officers arrested Tyler Rios, Damien Pooschke and Elisa Bellah for criminal mischief. They were booked into jail and released a short time later.

“I mean, even the police officers said that like, our graffiti was their favorite. And, you know, I think honestly, they wanted to arrest us, but a few them had differing opinions.”

Those words from Tyler Rios, one of the three Bend 18-year-olds arrested this weekend, accused of being behind a graffiti spree across Bend over the past three weeks.

They also said they used washable poster paint at two Bend churches, writing Bible verses alongside messages like “Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster” (and pink writings on the glass doors such as “Was Jesus Ignorant Too?”).

The 18-year-olds said for them, it’s more than just “kids being kids.”

“We wouldn’t just vandalize to vandalize, and we understand the legality of the situation,” said [Elisa] Bellah. “We understood while we were doing it, what we’re doing is illegal, and we’re not doing it to be teenagers. We’re doing it to either make a point, or bring some joy and fun to Bend.

Just. Shut. Up.

No one thinks you’re cool, and whatever point you wanted to make was lost in the midst of your jackassery.

Part of me wants to slap these kids and say, “Don’t you realize someone’s going to Google your names when you’re applying for a job one day?“… but part of me also wants to sit back and watch them not get that job.

And because you’re not mad enough already, it’s worth noting the children are just bragging about what they did on Facebook.

Pooschke is only upset with the mugshot because he’s not smiling in it:

And Rios thinks he’s the second coming of Sirius Black:

On a side note, I was upset that KTVZ was giving the vandals this much airtime, because they shouldn’t be getting publicity for their stunt… But after thinking about it, I’m glad they did it. They’re letting the kids dig their own grave. And each time they open their mouths, they come off looking worse…

(Thanks to Jeff for the link)

  • http://considertheteacosy.wordpress.com Consider the Tea Cosy

    So those kids are being idiots. But, y’know, I don’t feel very much like gloating over that. Lots of us did incredibly stupid things once and then grew the hell up and got over it. It sucks that these kids are always going to be google-able at one of their worst moments.

  • Claudia

    The Harry Potter poster is actually kind of funny. However much like many teenagers, they vastly overestimate their own cleverness and importance. No, you weren’t being a destructive little brat, you were bringing “fun and joy” to your town. Uh huh.

    Well, seeing as how you did this purely as a public service, I think we have the perfect compromise to combine your artistic “skills” with your wish to bring joy to your community. Bend has about a dozen elementary schools. I’m sure more than one of these could use a nice paint-job, don’t you? I think getting these kids to repaint the outer-walls of a few of them while wearing clown suits would be great. It’s a win-win-win. The school gets new paint, the children are entertained, and these teens can be with children who share their level of emotional maturity.

  • Shea

    Just wanted to say I saw a bit of you on Fox (via Gawker) and while I am a believer, I completely respect your position and think that you helping out on the clean up is a wonderful thing. Good on you.

  • Narvi

    That’s not Potter, that’s Sirius Black. Easy mistake to make for an old man like you, Hermant (just joking).

    I wonder if it’s significant to the comparison that Sirius Black was unjustly jailed…

    (not that I think the tagger’s innocent, but he might view himself as an unjustly persecuted hero – delusion at it’s best).

    (Hemant says: Dammit. I knew that, too. Thanks. It’s fixed now.)

  • Jenny Wren

    I like Claudia’s idea. But I differ in one respect. My 6yo has more emotional maturity than those three put together. I hope their parents are embarrassed. Because it would be even more disturbing if they weren’t.

  • http://cannedamathome.blogspot.com CannedAm

    They’re just kids. That’s the thing. They’re being kids. Their prefontal cortexts aren’t done cooking. I truly hope they are able to step out of the shadows of their teenage stupidity in time. It would be a terrible thing if any of us were judged on the merits of our actions when we were 16-19 years of age.

    This doesn’t excuse unacceptable behaviour, but it does make sense of some senselessness. Eventually they will have developed the power of second thought and they’ll say about themselves “what dumbasses!”

  • RickW

    Doing stupid destructive or offensive things in the name of Atheism only reenforces the negative views society has on us already. Like I said before, they just set Atheists back another 50 years. Thanks douchebags!

  • Charles Black

    They might be acting like kids but what they did is still incredibly stupid no matter how one looks at it.

  • Todd

    “You just…don’t…get it, do ya?” ;-)

  • Gordon

    Unless the photos chosen were very unrepresentative their tagging was very simple and boring. If they are going to claim they brightened up the town then their work could at least have been detailed and creative.

    For example the Sirius Black poster, if they’d painted that on the walls, they’d have some kind of argument. Especially if the picture at the centre had been Jesus. Have you seen this wizard?

    Still, it boggles my mind how quickly they caught these guys compared to the billboard/bus vandals. It’s almost like tagging a church is seen as a crime whereas vandalising an atheist billboard is seen as a public service.

  • Alex

    Hemant, I thought you were a high school teacher. Isn’t doing dumb things part of being a teenager? I tend to worry more about the ones that are too self conscience to act out and take risks. Those are the ones acting like sheep in the churches you write about.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com Yet Another Atheist

    These “kids being kids” were 18 years old. They’re not kids at all; they’re adults. They are fully responsible for their own actions.

    Doing dumb things may be part of being a teenager, but by 18 you should have enough common sense to not do stupid illegal shit like this. That’s why 18-year-olds are expected to be mature enough to sign contracts, live on their own, and be legally responsible for their own actions.

  • http://cannedamathome.blogspot.com CannedAm

    Someone should probably tell the prefontal cortext that it needs to be done by one’s 18th birthday.

    The biology doesn’t EXCUSE their behaviour, nor will the law. I’m saying don’t judge their idiocy as character flaws. This idiocy should pass.

  • Ibis

    You’re being pretty harsh. They did something stupid and juvenile, but it wasn’t done maliciously, nobody was hurt, and nothing was permanently damaged. Given their age, it’s not surprising that they’re not thinking ahead about the consequences of their actions. I hope that any potential future employers will not be as merciless as you.

  • Larry Meredith

    wow, you are really digging into them act making it out like they are way worse than they actually are.

    what they did was stupid. It wasn’t art. They’re full of themselves. They didn’t come off sounding just plain stupid, I don’t know what you’re talking about there… It was irresponsible but they weren’t being destructive. They were making a point, but did it in a very poor way.

    Lots of people do stupid things when they’re ~18. Wanting to physically assault children and hoping they never get a job because of a googleable stupid thing they did at 18 is really harsh.

  • Kyle S.

    Making a mess for others to clean up and pretending there’s a deeper meaning to it? Yep, that’s teenagers.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    On a positive note this is a great thing to bring up in job interviews as a lesson learned. Assuming that they do learn from it.

  • Bones

    Just what was their point?

  • Barb

    I think that these kids could use a little understanding. They are teenagers, in a relatively small town, in America… which means that these kids have been bombarded by these churches for probably their whole lives. They don’t understand yet how to be a “friendly” type of atheist because at this point they fall into a demographic that the churches aggressively target (gotta get ‘em while they’re young). They made a mistake, but it seems that from their point of view it was retaliatory, an act against an oppressor, which when you’re an atheist teen is unfortunately true. One day they will find that there are supportive people in the world, people who understand, they’ll find better ways to act against that oppressor, if we offer them our understanding now.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jalyth Jalyth

    If this was artistic in any way, it might have been funny or clever. But words written in black without calligraphy or good penmanship isn’t graffiti art. It’s tagging. There’s a difference.

  • http://shadesthamatter.blogspot.com Amanda

    Thankfully, I grew up mostly in the pre-Internet era, so none of my idiotic acts will be documented forever. I mean, I don’t think I ever set out to do anything illegal, but had I been caught in the middle of one of my “practical jokes”, my childish pranks would have been forever enshrined.

    Point being, every teenager probably has some logically-questionable acts they’ve committed; while these kids (yes, I do think they are still “kids”) did a horrible job attempting to justify their actions, I do feel a shred of pity that this will follow them.

    …and I do think this post came down a wee bit too harsh. Yikes.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    I think you’re being a dick here Hemant.

  • frizzlefrazzle

    Yet Another Atheist Says:
    June 21st, 2011 at 8:53 am

    These “kids being kids” were 18 years old. They’re not kids at all; they’re adults. They are fully responsible for their own actions.

    Doing dumb things may be part of being a teenager, but by 18 you should have enough common sense to not do stupid illegal shit like this. That’s why 18-year-olds are expected to be mature enough to sign contracts, live on their own, and be legally responsible for their own actions.

    I think you greatly over-estimate the average 18 year old.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t speak for all of them, but I certainly was having a great time at the University of Georgia when I was 18, and breaking a few laws along the way.

  • BEX

    You know who’s the real winner in this situation right? YOU ARE Hemant!! They gave you an opportunity to make a good impression on the world.

  • http://facebook.com/djcrowmix MYDJCROW

    I’ve got to admit, that Sirius Black picture was pretty funny.

  • http://estevancarlos.com estevan

    Hearing those kids comments fleshes out the story a bit. They knew what they were doing. Probably wanted to get caught so what’s the big deal now?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    I was a helluva lot worse than these kids could ever be. Yeah, they’re being boneheads, no big deal. Put them to work doing public service and ask them to apologize in person to the pastor(s) and congregation(s) effected by their silliness. That should learn ‘em.

  • Michael

    They were also posting on the fsm website saying that the owner supports graffiti because there’s a stencil in the fsm book.

  • Lee

    I think they’re just acting like silly teenagers. Not that it means what they did is okay. I remember being that age, and me and lots of other older teenagers sometimes did stupid things like that, out of a need to be “revolutionary,” make the masses think, that sort of thing. Haha, it seems so foolish and pathetic now, but a lot of teens are that way. They’ll most likely grow out of it and then think, “my God, wasn’t I a dork?” which makes it unfortunate that someone a few years from now could find this on Google. I would hate for my boss to find things I did when I was 17 on Google because I’m not the same person now I was then.

  • http://nosuchthing.blogspot.com SalvadorArachnor

    “Part of me wants to slap these kids and say, “Don’t you realize someone’s going to Google your names when you’re applying for a job one day?“… but part of me also wants to sit back and watch them not get that job.”

    Hermant, you are discussing this as if those kids had slaughtered the pastors cat, nailed it to the door of the church and wrote their slogans with its blood- in other words, your opinion cited above is totally out of proportion and makes you look like a petty bourgeois who thinks that every juvenile rule breaking must be answered with “harsh consequences”

    I didn’t like your “outreach” campaign because the concept of atheists paying to clean up financially well equipped churches tagged by some rebellious kids made it look like we somehow felt responsible for the vandalism.

    But this new post about the situation of the three sprayers makes me doubt if your blog is worth my time. A naturalistic perspective goes hand in hand with compassion and empathy -because you know they couldn’t have done otherwise- not with sardonic “let them reap what they sew” comments sprouted by someone who has tried to milk the event for his own self-aggrandizement. Have you framed your picture with that republican Senator yet btw.?

  • skm9

    They’re teenagers who did something stupid. I don’t fault their stated intentions or their target, and they’ve made a statement admitting guilt. Let it go already.

    And while they did make a mess for someone else to clean up, they also gave us (Hemant) an opportunity to show a large national audience that many atheist humanist adults can go out of our way to help out even organizations we despise.

    Personally, I would never give any assistance of any kind to any faith-based organization under any circumstance. Certainly not to one which extorts money from its members by threats of (posthumous) torture. But those of you who did made us all look good.

  • http://defendingreason.wordpress.com/ Ben

    … but part of me also wants to sit back and watch them not get that job.”

    Wow. You wish future unemployment on some teenagers simply because they were rebellious teenagers? That sounds very much like the church after the graffiti:

    “But the bottom line is that God is the one that’s going to get revenge…

    Petty.

  • Grifter

    I’m a bit confused. What crime did these kids commit? As I understand it, the “paint” was washable, so there was no permanent damage. How is it, then, any different in concept from advertising flyers put on a car or doorknob?

    They had a message to convey, they did so in a nondamaging way. They are being kind of toolbags about it, but I understand neither the arrest nor the vitriol from Hemant.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    “And Rios thinks he’s the second coming of Sirius Black”

    Except Sirius was innocent.

    Seriously (no pun intended), the people who did this vandalism are just showcasing their own irresponsibility and inability and/or unwillingness to make an argument for their views. It’s not like they’re some heroes living in an oppressive place where vandalism was the only outlet they could use to express their views.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    for goodness sake, they committed an act of childish vandalism. They didn’t hurt anyone, or make anyone afraid, they spread some paint around on a building that probably preaches bigotry against gays, and maybe even puts up anti-gay billboards.

    These boys are going to suffer the consequences for a long time, and you seem to be gloating about it (something I find somewhat distasteful)

    Please put their crime in perspective and compare it with the behaviours of those “good” Xians against those they disapprove of.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    I agree with the people who are saying that they should do some community service or something similar to that. I especially like Claudia’s idea, and I agree that they seem to think they’re more clever than they really are. The thing is, it wasn’t either a funny joke or a serious message/cause, so they just end up looking ridiculous in my view.

    It doesn’t seem like an offense they should go to jail for, and certainly not a long time (especially if the paint was washable and did no permanent damage), but at the same time, I don’t accept their age as an excuse.

  • Neil

    I’m glad to see that the “hang ‘em high” mentality seemingly espoused in the article isn’t too prevalent among the readers here. It’s a destructive and self-righteous mentality based on personal emotional needs, and nothing else. I’m certainly NOT excusing what they did because a church was the target.

    The vandals were not clever, or revolutionary, thought-provoking, or even particularly creative. They were stupid, mildly destructive, and inconsiderate of their fellow citizens….and that’s just about it.
    Let me know when they reach the level of mendacity and selfishness of the average right-wing politician, or even non-partisan city council member, or even a shoplifter, and maybe I’ll get all mad and climb up on my high horse too!

    I understand the impulse to hold people to a higher standard when they might reflect badly on oneself or one’s group, even if that bad reflection is unfair and undeserved(as it almost always is)….but Hemant seems to want to make them responsible for further sullying the good name of all atheists…which is unfair and ridiculous. Those are the kind of stupid standards that religious fanatics and far-right conservative bigots espouse, and sounds more than a little like the way some religious groups treat the “backsliders” and apostates in their ranks-more concern for the “image” of the tribe than the people who compose the tribe or the rules that govern the tribe. NO THANK YOU.

    And for the record, I don’t get all twisted up when religious kids do mean and stupid things either, unless there are real victims that are actually harmed. Unless there is a pattern of intentional harrassment, poster paint on a door and window isn’t even at the level of a good toilet papering. The Horror!

    I also give a little leeway in certain situations…although one can’t be sure of their situation without further details. From my own experience growing up in small towns full of pious ignoramuses, quite a bit of pressure can build up, especially in the young. I would give the same additional leeway to a young christian, jew, or muslim who acted out in response to constant “othering”. I can’t say that has anything to with this situation, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    I have no problem with these vandals facing the full fair consequences of their actions. But from what I’ve seen in America, I am more concerned about them getting a much stiffer punishment than a run-of-the-mill vandal or even a religious bigot targeting non-religious people would receive. People who can pose as “lapsed” christians, or who feign enough remorse are often given lighter sentences, and poeple like these kids, whose motive seems to spring from disrespect of social norms often get harsher sentences, regardless of how much damage was done or how right the kids might be in their lack of respect. Anytime one is on the “wrong side” of popular opinion, especially where religion is involved, courts often find ways to punish extra for the “disprespect” instead of punishing for the crime itself, a kind of “hate crimes” metality that only protects self-righteous majorities. I hope that the media attention in this case is enough to keep that from happening.

  • Lukas

    Part of me wants to slap these kids and say, “Don’t you realize someone’s going to Google your names when you’re applying for a job one day?“… but part of me also wants to sit back and watch them not get that job.

    So are you advocating life-long occupational ban for every kid who ever painted graffiti, or just those who make us atheists look bad?


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