The Barefoot Bandit: I don't get it

Why is Colton Harris-Moore so popular? Shouldn't we be happy to see the 19-year-old fugitive in chains?
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The Barefoot Bandit's capture is big news in the Northwest

Why is Colton Harris-Moore so popular? Shouldn't we be happy to see the 19-year-old fugitive in chains?

Someone please convince me that I should care about the Barefoot Bandit. Colton Harris-Moore, the 19-year-old man from Camano Island who was recently caught in the Bahamas, has been allegedly breaking laws across the country — stealing planes, boats, cars, and money, and busting into people's homes and businesses. He's eluded the law for a couple of years after escaping from a halfway house. He has a long record and a troubled past.

Somehow, this has made him, according to some, a "folk hero." One with a Facebook fan page.

Perhaps it's his success at living off the grid, though, ironically, it's the Internet that made him a media phenom. Maybe part of the appeal is the reality-show quality of his globe-trotting survival tour.

But we're not talking about a latter-day Robin Hood here. This is not a guy stealing from the rich to give to the poor. There's no political cause, no righteous protest. He's no black-clad anarchist, no rebel, no revolutionary.

The "Free Colton" T-shirts make him sound like Che Guevara. Is the "Barefoot Bandit" a political prisoner? Please.

His victims are happy that he's been caught. But others are disappointed, and a defense fund has been started. And his mama has been quoted as encouraging him: "When the cops come and bother me that's when I think 'run Colton run, fly Colton fly.' I'm proud that he taught hisself how to fly," said his mom, Pam Kohler. She says her son will have an "entertainment lawyer" to represent their Hollywood interests.

How nice for "hisself."

You'd think those who believe in upholding the law are just a bunch of spoilsports.

From an Associated Press story:

"These people that support him, they've never been violated by having him break into their homes or businesses," said Joni Fowler, manager of a cafe on Orcas Island north of Seattle where Harris-Moore is accused of taking as much as $1,500. "Just knowing he has a huge network of supporters makes me really worry about the state of this country."

I'm with Joni Fowler on this. What's wrong with people?

It is true that ideologically there are some folks who don't believe property crime is really crime; it's screwing the insurance companies, or it's making a statement against the whole concept of private property. I suppose only in a society choking on overabundance would such an idea catch on. Stealing stuff from people with too much stuff: What's the real harm?

And people might be encouraged in this belief because so many police departments no longer take property crime very seriously. It's low on the totem pole for police response. Are our strapped police departments busting their balls to find out who smashed your windshield and stole your cell phone? How many cars do you have to steal before you do serious jail time?

And cynicism is understandable when Wall Street robbers sack the financial system and go unpunished ("some rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen!"). Maybe they see the "Barefoot Bandit" as a kid who's getting some for the little guys everywhere.

But believe me, this guy is no populist Tom Joad.

He's no "wild child" or Huckleberry Finn.

He's no fugitive from injustice.

He's not even Sasquatch or D.B. Cooper.

What I see is the weird mythologizing of a punk.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.