Crooks, Thieves, and Basic Low-Lifes

Tell me I’m not the only one bothered. I know I’m not. I hope I’m not.

One of the first stories I read online this morning was about young people protecting and defending the museums in Egypt.

Defending them against looters. Against fellow Egyptians who would take advantage of a national breakdown in law and order to steal from their country. From their countrymen. From their country’s past.

Steal their country’s future.

I then read the most recent installment of a  continuing series in our local paper about metro school systems in trouble because teachers and administrators—teachers and principals—are being investigated for changing test scores on the CRCT, the mandatory state tests for students in grades 1-8.

Students didn’t cheat. The educators did. To make themselves and their schools look better to those who will study the results. (I have no comment on the validity and usefulness of the tests. My shock rests on those who should know better than to cheat, but who so obviously failed that lesson in school—and in life—themselves.)

Then a friend e-mailed about a Web site that allows members to post whole e-books on the site—e-books that the members didn’t write. The site owners allow the posting of property for others to download by people who don’t own the property and who aren’t authorized to offer it to others. They provide a forum for people to give away what isn’t theirs and make the rightful owners of the property prove it is theirs before they make any move to take down the stories.

Then there are those who post YouTube videos of movies and TV shows, content that isn’t theirs. And they know what they post isn’t their property, but they do it anyway. Proudly. Defiantly. With no regard for the rights of others.

A few weeks ago, during an unusually tough snowstorm, looters broke into shops in town, carting off whatever moved them. They figured the owners and employees wouldn’t be there to stop them, that the police would be too busy elsewhere to come after them. And so they took what wasn’t theirs because the law was too distant to get in their way.

They didn’t police themselves. They didn’t act as people who knew right from wrong. They went with impulse, trusting they wouldn’t get caught.

They had no integrity, no ability to do the right thing when no one else was around.

They simply didn’t care that they stole what wasn’t theirs. Destroyed property that someone would have to replace. May have destroyed someone’s livelihood.

***

If you change test scores, you’re a liar and a defrauder and a cheat.

If you take something that’s not yours, you’re a thief. A self-centered thief.

You’re the bad guy. You’re in the wrong. You are a crook.

And no amount of posturing or posing or swaying other thieves and cheats to your side to bray about your rights will change these simple facts.

***

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About the author

Beth Hill. I'm a freelance fiction editor and I write medieval adventure and contemporary romance. And, yes, I've got a day job, too. But it allows me the flexibility to edit and write, so it's a good one. I blog at The Editor's Blog, where you can find all kinds of writing/editing tips. My editing Web site is A Novel Edit.

»» 9 Responses to “Crooks, Thieves, and Basic Low-Lifes” »»
  1. Kat Sheridan says:

    Beth, utterly brilliant and I concur 10000%. It makes me want to hunt down these folks and smack them. I choose to believe that the universe will balance, and that what goes around comes around and that karma is a total bitch.

    And then I go and read about the storm in Chicago that shut down Lake Shore Drive and stranded a thousand people in their cars. Good Samaratins climbed over fences and waded through snow to bring these folks coffee and granola bars and news. It makes me feel much better about humanity.

  2. ~Sia McKye~ says:

    “Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.” Theodore Roosevelt

    I do agree that stealing is stealing.

    That website reminds me of some of the music sites. The premise is, you bought certain things–music or stories–and you share it with others who have also bought those things.They don’t look at it as stealing but sharing their legally owned possessions with others. Still not right, regardless of the *reasoning*.

    On YouTube I’ve seen many who have shared music and add lyrics or use music with their own videos and I’ve seen them state clearly that it’s not theirs but xyz released by and on what date. Many are just fans. Since you can’t download the music or movies/videos from YouTube, it’s still protected. Perhaps that’s why the owners of such things let it go. Gives them exposure but you want the *whatever* you have to buy it. Big bands, like Avenged Sevenfold for instance, are well aware of their music being on YouTube. They allow it even though they haven’t given written permission. Like hearing it on the radio.

    I’m not arguing in favor of it, just saying I don’t have a problem with YouTube in so far with what I’ve seen. But then, I haven’t looked at everything on there.

    Administrators changing test scores so they can receive monetary rewards from the government or masking their incompetencies, that I have a serious problem with, looting too.

    Good article, Beth.

  3. Hi Beth,

    Fine post. There’s an “information wants to be free” crowd out there, with lots of cool intellectual justification by various pundits(check out Wired for some examples) on why “free” is so good. The problem is, that an artist, be they musician, writer or another sort whose content can be exchanged in digital form, will be very hard pressed to make a living if they can’t gain any compensation for their work. There are two sides to the copyright story, but the tightening of rules on things like “fair use” has probably helped prompt the backlash, which entails ignoring copyright altogether.

    I think it’s up to the artist to allow what they’d let out there for free and what’s released only under copyright. Distributing free samples is a very workable marketing strategy, but enabling people to steal property and post to 3rd party web sites is totally unjustifiable in my view.

    As for administrators changing test scores, that simply sounds like criminal activity to me and fraud charges are in order, particularly if there’s a potential money grab from the government involved.

  4. Beth says:

    Kat, those who do right always make me smile.

    Sia, one of the things that bothers me about people posting stuff they don’t have the rights to—and that includes broadcast rights— on YouTube and similar sites is that not only are they posting illegally, they violate YouTube’s TOS to do it. Right on the upload page is a note that says people who upload agree that what they upload is something created entirely by them or that they have authorization to upload it. We know they don’t own broadcast rights to TV shows, movies, concerts or ball games.

    Just this week the Feds closed down 10 Web sites that offer links to streaming ball games, a right that other people pay good money to offer.

    I just don’t get the mentality that says I can take the property of others and do what I want with it just because I want to. Don’t parents teach about right and wrong anymore?

    • ~Sia McKye~ says:

      “…TV shows, movies, concerts or ball games.” That I understand. I guess I listen to mostly music on YouTube, or I look at book trailers. Other than that, I’m not on the site.

  5. Beth says:

    James, it all sounds like criminal activity to me. And worse, it’s a loss to the culture. Why do we do what’s right only under compulsion? Why don’t we just do right because it’s right?

  6. Wanda H. says:

    Wonderful post Beth. And I agree totally. It makes me sick to realize that educators will change test scores to protect their own heinies and to get money not deserved. Looting is a sick, criminal behavior perpetrated upon ones’ neighbors while something horrible is happening all around. And posting something that isn’t yours is simply stealing.

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  7. Pat Bertram says:

    I won’t read books or watch movies where the hero is a thief or a murderer or a cheater. Such stories make the crook seem romantic, and there is nothing romantic about crime. Whole generations are growing up believing that it’s okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t get caught. It isn’t okay. “Getting caught” isn’t the arbitor of integrity.

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