The thing about vandals. July 8, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: computer hackers, computer virus, malware, vandals
Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have spent the past two hours on our laptops, frantically running every anti-malware program we could think of and checking in with the official site, http://www.dcwg.org/, to see if our computers were about to be cut off from the internet tomorrow (Monday) because of an attack by malicious malware. I’m sure many of you have been doing the same.
Though we’ve been assured by every program we’ve run that our computers aren’t infected with malware, viruses and the like, our paranoia is fueled by comments such as one on the official site that notes that if our servers have been hijacked, we’d still get an all-clear reading from them. Then, come Monday, BOOM! No internet access.
This is horrific for anybody, but is untenable for OFB and Silence, who are freelance writers and editors. Silence is especially vulnerable, being on a super-tight deadline at the moment. Loss of internet access could compromise her first turn-in date, which in turn could compromise her professional standing and affect future projects, and not in a good way.
All this turmoil—plus the waste of a perfectly good Sunday morning—has caused our friend Ben to once again reflect on the nature of vandalism. And actually, I think about it often. It’s never made the least bit of sense to me.
Let’s take a look at the opposite of vandalism: Theft. In this case, self-interest rules: You have something I want. Rather than try to get it through legal means, I’m simply going to grab it from you, because you don’t matter to me and whatever it is does. This is criminal behavior, but at least it has a payoff from the criminal’s point of view.
Recently, a guy here in scenic PA robbed a 7-11. When apprehended, he explained to the police that he’d recently been laid off and needed to come up with money to pay his mortgage. I guess we the taxpayers will be paying his mortgage for the next few years, as he contemplates his course of action in jail. But, in his own mind at least, his attempted robbery had a clear financial benefit to him.
Ditto the folks who hack into people’s bank and credit card accounts. They’re criminals, but they’re trying to get money for themselves illegally, just like the folks who ask you to wire money to their suffering families in Nigeria. Theft is theft, whether you’re Bernie Madoff milking millions off the wealthy, or some guy trying to keep his house or grab a few dollars to pay for a meal. For these people, the loss to others doesn’t matter compared to the gain to themselves.
This is inexcusable, but greed, self-interest, desperation, stupidity, and manipulation are not exactly new developments on the human scene. The guy who grazes the salad bar at the local grocery without bothering to pay for his purchases or steals a car from a mall parking lot or smashes a store window and makes off with a big-screen TV may be despicable, but at least we know where he’s coming from. He wants something, and he wants it for free. Let the rest of us pay for his free ride.
Our friend Ben finds a sense of entitlement despicable, and the sense of entitlement coupled with opportunism that could create a Bernie Madoff or a Ponzi scheme or some guy ripping off old people by insisting that they pay him to bring their houses up to code unforgivable. But at least it’s all understandable.
What isn’t understandable at all to me is the guy who smashes the store window and wrecks all the TVs but doesn’t take one. The guy who steals a stranger’s car, then deliberately crashes it and walks off. The guy who implants malware or a virus that takes out millions of computers, causing untold harm to people he’ll never know, while delivering no material benefit of any kind to himself.
This is not just immoral, it’s amoral. It’s destruction for its own sake, period. It’s destruction not because the vandal wants something, but simply because he knows he can do it. Our friend Ben wonders how we’ve failed these people, how we’ve somehow cut them free from all connection to humanity and to other people, so they can harm total strangers without the least twinge of conscience or benefit to themselves. How we’ve allowed them to become something other than—and less than—human.
Tomorrow, when you turn on your computers, our friend Ben hopes that your internet connection is intact, that you’ve vanquished the latest vandal attack. What a shame we can’t seem to vanquish the mindset that creates them.