AskMe: Hope me break the law! May 9, 2007 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Ask Metafilter: Help me become a professional shoplifter -- don't we have a guideline against helping people learn how to break the law via AskMe somewhere? Considering that repeat shoplifting is a felony, I think this would fall under that guideline.
posted by SpecialK to Etiquette/Policy at 12:33 PM (96 comments total)

It might be a good idea to give an obviously problematic thread more than eight minutes to get noticed and deleted before proceeding to the callout portion of the program.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2007


Before you close this thread, let me just say that that was the greatest AskMe thread ever. Sidebar?
posted by Mister_A at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2007


Ugh, so lousy. Is it me or did that guy misspell his own username?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:37 PM on May 9, 2007


ha! he misspelled compliance. that's because he's done being a sheep and complying with grammar. all language is theft.
posted by shmegegge at 12:37 PM on May 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


And he got fisked. This man Fisk was a Major with the Alliance's Special Forces division, and was the commander of the Nishr Taskforce during the Galactic Civil War.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:39 PM on May 9, 2007


And yet he spelled "accosted" correctly. Will wonders never cease?
posted by Mister_A at 12:40 PM on May 9, 2007


Hey, at least he had the guts not to couch it in stuff like, "I want to help my mom get back at the Big Corporations Who Keep Her Down".
posted by mkultra at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2007


Shoplifters of the world unite and take over.
posted by Abiezer at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


ha! he misspelled compliance. that's because he's done being a sheep and complying with grammar. all language is theft.

I once lived with an anarchist subletter in college and he repeatedly explained to everyone in the apartment "if everyone just did their (*^&%)@# part, the world would just work."

Then he would proceed to never pay his rent on time.
posted by spec80 at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


"tescos"?
posted by Dizzy at 12:45 PM on May 9, 2007


{NOT CAPITALIST}
posted by Dizzy at 12:46 PM on May 9, 2007


{NOT CAPITALIST}

surely you mean {not capitalist}
posted by ludwig_van at 12:49 PM on May 9, 2007 [11 favorites]


Maybe he was making a point about that other thread from a few days ago, which while carefully worded, basically was "how do I get the security tag off this thing I 'bought'?".

Or maybe I'm overthinking.
posted by smackfu at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2007


Beans are ready!
posted by Dizzy at 12:54 PM on May 9, 2007


"tescos"?

Tesco.
posted by CKmtl at 12:54 PM on May 9, 2007


Anyway. Faking an illness is a much better way to get back at or manipulate the man. Harder to get caught at than stealing. Unless you fake a tumor.
posted by tkchrist at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2007


Dude probably shouldn't be shopping at places with anti-theft scanners anyway.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2007


Okay - how did I miss this other classic by the same poster : I am a Mutant with an enlarged brain
posted by twine42 at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2007


*glares at Uranus*
posted by twine42 at 12:57 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


(sigh).
posted by Dizzy at 12:59 PM on May 9, 2007


Ah man, I'm glad I wasn't on metafilter when I was under 21 or I may have posted a question just like that (not that I ever committed any sort of crimes).

Now whenever I see anyone making the same foolish arguments, I visibly blanche at the flawed thinking.
posted by drezdn at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2007


On the other hand, I fear that it may have been posted by my future brother-in-law.
posted by drezdn at 1:02 PM on May 9, 2007


Silly kid, don't you know shop lifting will give you a hernia?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:09 PM on May 9, 2007


He read a book and it changed his life! Books are awesum!
posted by NationalKato at 1:10 PM on May 9, 2007


Perhaps he just wanted to provide a negative example for this question.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:11 PM on May 9, 2007


Flawed thinking?

< fagin>Dear old gent passing by
Something nice takes his eye
Everything's clear, attack the rear
Get in and pick-a-pocket or two.

You've got to pick-a-pocket or two, boys
You've got to pick-a-pocket or two.

< /fagin>
posted by kosem at 1:12 PM on May 9, 2007


I'm writing a book about a professional shoplifter...
posted by Durin's Bane at 1:12 PM on May 9, 2007


An accusation of illegality that is actually well-founded? Never thought I'd see the day.
posted by brain_drain at 1:14 PM on May 9, 2007


Heh. Advice: Shoplift with your legs, not with your back. Or there was a thread a while back on MeFi about Spanish shoplifiting artists.
posted by klangklangston at 1:17 PM on May 9, 2007


Shop 'til you droplift
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:25 PM on May 9, 2007


I started small just stealing books

And I'll start small just putting rusty staples in your kidneys and forcing sharp but crumbly pieces of slate under your finger and toenails while seeing how many match heads I can fit under your eyelids

Sorry. He touched a nerve there.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:25 PM on May 9, 2007


Okay - how did I miss this other classic by the same poster : I am a Mutant with an enlarged brain
posted by twine42 at 3:56 PM on May 9


ikkyu2 exposed his deceipt in that thread.
posted by caddis at 1:27 PM on May 9, 2007


"ikkyu2 exposed his deceipt in that thread."

Deceit.

(I lost the county spelling bee in the fifth grade by misspelling it exactly as you did, and it's still a sore subject with me).
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:40 PM on May 9, 2007


all language is theft.

This amuses me a great deal for reasons I don't understand.

I have to disagree with everyone and say that I don't think this post should have been deleted. It seems to me that the illegality itself was never the justification for deleting such posts, but only those that might get MeFi into trouble with someone or other. I don't see how that applies to this question. We have other questions that implicitly or explicitly involve illegal behavior. Why is this one special? Because almost no one here approved of it? Because the poster is probably an idiot?

Far too often it seems like the deletion of these sorts of questions are decided upon this particular community's norm for acceptable illegal behavior. That doesn't seem right to me. I mean, it'd be okay if we were an explicitly moralizing community. In practice, we often are. But we claim to be more neutral, and we try to be, and rightly so.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:42 PM on May 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Conversely, if he really is a mutant anarchist with a business degree, I kind of want to meet him.

Under controlled conditions.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2007


If he has gnarly mutant powers, the ability to compose a decent sentence is not among them.
posted by Mister_A at 1:47 PM on May 9, 2007


Ethereal Bligh, disingenuous much? There are very few grey areas when it comes to direct theft.
posted by Firas at 1:52 PM on May 9, 2007


Far too often it seems like the deletion of these sorts of questions are decided upon this particular community's norm for acceptable illegal behavior. That doesn't seem right to me.

EB, please, spare us the high-minded moral relativism. THE GUY WAS ASKING FOR SHOPLIFTING TIPS. Sometimes there's just no gray area and sometimes people just need to be kicked to the curb.
posted by mkultra at 1:55 PM on May 9, 2007


deceipt n. The lack of a receipt for an item one has shoplifted.

"The store manager did not believe the thief's claim that he had paid for the item, due to his deceipt."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:57 PM on May 9, 2007 [14 favorites]


Am I the only one who thought that question was a joke? For some reason it reminded me of the empty question someone posted a few weeks ago.
posted by epimorph at 2:04 PM on May 9, 2007


Illegal, and based on a misreading of Proudhon. Excellent.

He apparently missed the other statements accompanying "Property is theft":

Property is impossible.
Property is depotism.
Property is freedom.

This was not a man telling you to go steal crap. It's a lot more complicated than that.
posted by Arturus at 2:06 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe this particular behavior is entirely unambiguously, um, "wrong". That's not the point. The point is that there are a great many other behaviors that are illegal but have greater ambiguous acceptability than this one. Why do we, as a community, need to be in the business of rendering judgment on the acceptability of particular illegal acts? A better standard that is clear and even-handed is that only in cases where the question (or answers) might get Matt into trouble should be deleted. Let everything else stand, even if it's noxious.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:11 PM on May 9, 2007


Because by deleting this question, we all look smarter.
posted by smackfu at 2:15 PM on May 9, 2007


No, another standard that is clear-cut is one where the community near-universally thinks something is unacceptable. Then again, I'm more of a common law person than a civil law type :)
posted by Firas at 2:16 PM on May 9, 2007


A better standard that is clear and even-handed is that only in cases where the question (or answers) might get Matt into trouble should be deleted. Let everything else stand, even if it's noxious.

But mathowie (and crew) are the ones who decide that. Having AskMe turn into a "help me break the law" resource is not what we want, so questions like this are discouraged in the FAQ and deleted when we see them. Grey area questions sometimes stay, but the general rule is that sketchy lawbreaking questions go.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:18 PM on May 9, 2007


You know, I have 100% respect for Jessamyn, and also for Matt and the policies of the site.

I understand why this was deleted (and even with a pleasantly funny deletion reason).

But I really liked this AskMe.

Just for the record or whatever, lots of folks ask metafilter about subjects that I personally object to on moral grounds. Advice on buying stocks, advice on buying electronics and other consumer goods, and advice on travel to distant lands are some examples I can think of off the top of my head of topics where the asker is saying "Help me get something I want by exploiting others". It's not the intent of the poster to exploit others. None of us WANT to support sweat shops, or want children to have to work in dangerous factories, or want forests to get chopped down, or want to support the land mine industry, or what not, but our consumer choices mean that we are supporting all those ugly realities. And askme supports that type of question all the time.
posted by serazin at 2:22 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Isn't it illegal to hop on freight trains? There was a question about that a couple days ago i think.
posted by puke & cry at 2:40 PM on May 9, 2007


Isn't it illegal to hop on freight trains? There was a question about that a couple days ago i think.

Ah, but that is on the Official MeFi Administrator Approved Illegal Acts List.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:45 PM on May 9, 2007


Thank you oh silent and awesome moderators for fixing my comment just now. Even when I was basically disagreeing with you, you're still quietly making everything work for me. Now that is some principled and thoughtful moderation skill.
posted by serazin at 2:46 PM on May 9, 2007


My bet's on "testing out characters for my comic book in a pseudonymous forum".
posted by ardgedee at 2:48 PM on May 9, 2007


...all language is theft.

You took the words right out of my mouth.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:51 PM on May 9, 2007 [8 favorites]


Somewhat strangely, I agree with EB. Unless there's good reason to believe mathowie may be exposed to legal risk there's really no need to delete such questions. In the past there's been stupid questions about how to dispose of a body that everybody just loved and yet a question about shoplifting is suddenly beyond the pale. Perhaps the former question was just a joke but still, rational adults ought to be able to discuss criminal strategy and other taboo topics without moralizing crusaders showing up to shout 'This is wrong! You're promoting crime! Think of the children!' from the rooftops.

Having AskMe turn into a "help me break the law" resource is not what we want, so questions like this are discouraged in the FAQ and deleted when we see them.

Yet the Green is hardly Crime School and such questions are very rare as is. Leaping at every legally questionable question without any kind of reasonable perspective is just censorship. Which is ok, I suppose, but it need not be prettied up.
posted by nixerman at 2:54 PM on May 9, 2007


Here's the one I was talking about. Part of the question is even "How do I avoid getting arrested?"
posted by puke & cry at 2:57 PM on May 9, 2007


Leaping at every legally questionable question without any kind of reasonable perspective is just censorship.

The whole point is, we don't. I can't speak for the other admins but I have a flow chart in my head I go through with these things involving questions like

1. is this question obviously a joke and yet still answerable? (see: zombies, bodies, etc)
2. is this question likely to bring lawyers and/or cops down on the site and possibly make mathowie have to turn over user information? (see: ebay fraud question, other topics)
3. If yes to #2, is the topic one that would be interesting to get the EFF or ACLU involved with and make a fun civil liberties case out of? (see: some bittorent questions, marijuana questions, most drug questions generally)
4. Is the illegality of the question in an area where the MeFi servers don't live? (see morality/ethics/crime questions about non-USian countries)
5. Is this question likely to freak out/piss off a large enough subsection of MeFi users that its remaining isn't going to be worth the MeTa headache? (I have seen this very rarely with AskMes by people who seemed to have some sort of mental illness)

Most of the time I just ask mathowie what he thinks if I gt a chance. They're his servers and it's his risk, ultimately, and the risk of whoever asked the question in the first place.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:06 PM on May 9, 2007


hopping a freight train hurts no one, except perhaps the person doing it. stealing hurts the merchant. I bitch more than most about deletions, but AskMe is something special and if is to stay that way then tawdry how to cheat, how to steal and how can one be bad to others type questions have no place there.
posted by caddis at 3:07 PM on May 9, 2007


In the past there's been stupid questions about how to dispose of a body that everybody just loved and yet a question about shoplifting is suddenly beyond the pale.

As I recall, there was nothing in the body parts disposal question that screamed "This person killed someone and is trying to dispose of chopped up body parts". "I want to become a professional shoplifter" makes it pretty clear that the asker would make use of any good info to actually steal.

The train-hopping one irked me a bit, not so much for the illegality of it, but because of the stupidly dangerous nature of it. Train-assisted limb amputations and all that.
posted by CKmtl at 3:10 PM on May 9, 2007


To be fair, he is talking about shoplifting from Tesco, so it's not like regular morality applies.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:23 PM on May 9, 2007


What jessamyn did not include explicitly in her workflow was this:

(6) Is it poorly constructed, weird, and from a user who has had some contentious flareups on askme already, and thus just that much more a candidate for axing than a similar question presented in much, much better fashion?

Because that's a big contributing factor. If it were a pristine and straightforward query, I would have pinged Matt and Jess and said, "hey, what do you think about this?" But that's not the question that was asked.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:25 PM on May 9, 2007


Surely the question-asker's main offence was to misunderstand Proudhon's central thesis in 'What is Property?" Must have nicked the abridged version.
posted by Abiezer at 3:31 PM on May 9, 2007


I used to be a professional shoplifter. This deletion disparages my admittedly poor career choices.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:32 PM on May 9, 2007


The train-hopping one irked me a bit, not so much for the illegality of it, but because of the stupidly dangerous nature of it. Train-assisted limb amputations and all that.

Which was made abundantly clear in the thread.
posted by atrazine at 3:56 PM on May 9, 2007


DevilsAdvocate :) Now do one for depotism!
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:06 PM on May 9, 2007


Depotism is a religion based on repeated visitations by the Virgin Mary at a train depot.
posted by The World Famous at 4:10 PM on May 9, 2007


deceipt n. The lack of a receipt for an item one has shoplifted.

"The store manager did not believe the thief's claim that he had paid for the item, due to his deceipt."


Awesome! Now all I need is a time machine and I WILL BE CHAMPION.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:16 PM on May 9, 2007


...once. When I was five.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:22 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


As I recall, there was nothing in the body parts disposal question that screamed "This person killed someone and is trying to dispose of chopped up body parts". "I want to become a professional shoplifter" makes it pretty clear that the asker would make use of any good info to actually steal.

So, what it have been OK to ask How exactly can someone pull off being a professional shoplifter? I'm writing a novel about someone who ends up on the streets resorting to illegal activities and I want to be as accurate as possible.
posted by jmd82 at 5:10 PM on May 9, 2007




Oh, can I get some tips on shoplifting Vicodin, by any chance? For this novel I'm writing?
posted by porn in the woods at 5:20 PM on May 9, 2007


Ugh, so lousy. Is it me or did that guy misspell his own username?

Obviously a dictionary wasn't one of the books he lifted while starting his career.

As for the question and deletion, I am sort of conflicted. It was a trollish question, so it deserved to be deleted. But the irksome thing is that if someone really wanted advice for how to be a better shoplifter, they could have said it was to help develop a book/screenplay character, it would have been ok. The thread would have been full of "when I worked in retail, people always used XYZ method to remove security tags" or other practical advice.

I find it disturbing that we encourage people to create a fantasy situation to frame their question. I'd rather have someone state their intentions and, as long as it didn't fall into any territory that would create legitimate trouble for mathowie, we just decide to answer it, or not, based on our own values/moral code.

I'm not really reacting to this specific question, but it seems that policing ask.meta has become a sport for many people who are hyper-sensitive and over-the-top PC.
posted by necessitas at 5:52 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's another questionable one.
posted by puke & cry 40 minutes ago


yeah, but the replies are pretty good
posted by caddis at 5:57 PM on May 9, 2007


I don't own the sandbox.
I do enjoy playing in it.
If the owner of the sandbox says don't use the sand that way, I can abide or I can go to another sandbox.
Everything else is commentary.
posted by Dizzy at 6:14 PM on May 9, 2007


So, what it have been OK to ask "How exactly can someone pull off being a professional shoplifter? I'm writing a novel about someone who ends up on the streets resorting to illegal activities and I want to be as accurate as possible."

I was just pointing out that the shoplifter question and the body parts disposal one aren't exactly on par.

The former blatantly states the intent to use the info to steal (well, to steal bigger and better things, from bigger and better stores), while readers would have to assume any nefarious intent in the latter. With the former, some moral [and legal?] responsibility could be on the answerers / community / admins for having supplied and given access to the info. With the latter, it's on the asker for having presented false circumstances.

As for whether it's OK to frame fishy requests as non-existent fiction research... Not really. But, it would be hard to say who is and who isn't actually writing a novel. If questioning the unwritten circumstances behind a question became commonplace, are restaurant recommendations for couples going to be deletable because *gasp* the asker's SO might be underage?
posted by CKmtl at 6:22 PM on May 9, 2007


I knew that guy didn't look 19!
posted by cgc373 at 6:24 PM on May 9, 2007


Porn in the woods, awesome username!

There's a thread about that very topic in AskMe; I have to go see what the kids are yelling about else I'd track it down for you.
posted by Mister_A at 6:38 PM on May 9, 2007


For Mister_A, porn in the woods: meet Porn in the woods?
posted by cgc373 at 6:52 PM on May 9, 2007


Mr. A: first Google result. And I'm just guessing, but I have a feeling that pitw already knows about that thread.
posted by box at 6:53 PM on May 9, 2007


If questioning the unwritten circumstances behind a question became commonplace, are restaurant recommendations for couples going to be deletable because *gasp* the asker's SO might be underage?

How old does one need to be to go to a restaurant?
posted by necessitas at 6:58 PM on May 9, 2007


Denny's has a height requirement.
posted by Dizzy at 7:16 PM on May 9, 2007


If the owner of the sandbox says don't use the sand that way, I can abide or I can go to another sandbox.

But sometimes the owner of the sandbox asks the people playing in the sandbox what they think about how the sandbox is run, and listens to their answers with an open mind.

Everything else is commentary.

Commentary the sandbox owner occasionally finds very useful, you mean.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2007


How old does one need to be to go to a restaurant?

Heh.

Underage as in the nookie that the asker would be hoping to get after impressing the SO with a fancy meal would be statutory rape or child molestation or whatever. Not old enough to be legally Significantly Othering the hypothetical Mefite.
posted by CKmtl at 7:23 PM on May 9, 2007


No--
I'm talking about an actual sandbox.
My neighbor is angry I let my kitty out and now I have to buy this expensive sifter-thingie.
"Commentary" is rhyming slang for kitty poop.
posted by Dizzy at 7:24 PM on May 9, 2007


Aw, go Significantly Other yourself.
posted by The World Famous at 7:26 PM on May 9, 2007


Conversely, if he really is a mutant anarchist with a business degree, I kind of want to meet him.

Under controlled conditions.


If those conditions involve meeting him in a cell made entirely of plastic so you can have games of chess layered with innuendo then I heartily approve.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:46 PM on May 9, 2007


I'm not sure I want to know, but how much innuendo can a chass game supply? "My knight takes your queen"? *thinks*
posted by Firas at 7:48 PM on May 9, 2007


"Is that a Reti's Opening or are you just happy to see me?"
posted by Dizzy at 8:00 PM on May 9, 2007


I question the Vicodin one too. I'm no admin, and I don't play one on TV. But... Hmmmm... Ya well, whatever, I left my dropping in there too.
posted by The Deej at 9:14 PM on May 9, 2007


another standard that is clear-cut is one where the community near-universally thinks something is unacceptable

That's a myth. For one thing, there's rarely such near-universal agreement about anything whatsoever. And even threads that exhibit such represent only a small fraction of "the community." You'll never get close to knowing what "nearly" everyone on MetaFilter agrees about.
posted by scarabic at 9:16 PM on May 9, 2007


scarabic, you probably know exactly what I meant to get at. I even clarified the more substantial issue I was invoking viz constitutional vs. common law.
posted by Firas at 9:21 PM on May 9, 2007


Yeah, but if you really are writing a novel about a shoplifter/something else illegal, then it's a legitimate thing to ask about.

I mean, I'm considering a question about how long it would take someone to die of blood loss from a severed arm vs a severed hand, and how it would affect them in the meantime, but I'm not ACTUALLY planning on mutilating anyone. (Only "considering" for now, since there's a book I think might have some answers, and I'm going to hunt that down first.)

And if you think that someone is just using "writing a book" as a cover, nobody's forcing you to help them.

But "How do I become a shoplifter" is clearly over the line.

I just like the deletion reason, really.
posted by Many bubbles at 9:59 PM on May 9, 2007


I'm really leaning towards the idea that this is a "What Not To Post to AskMe" joke.
posted by orange swan at 11:02 PM on May 9, 2007


See, I understand why you guys did this. I accept it. The part of my brain that understands how things works is assuring me that this was the right decision.

However, this guy was obviously very stupid. He would not have thought to check the MeTa for his own thread. We could have colluded to give him astoundingly bad advice and try and guess which random Fark link he became. It would have been a fun game for all of us, and I think would have brought us together in the long run.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:36 AM on May 10, 2007


Luckily he can graduate from shoplifting to house breaking.
posted by b33j at 1:51 AM on May 10, 2007


I think this could have been phrased less antagonistically but I think we should be a more open to questions asking how to break the law. The only way to make systems secure is to know how people break them. All the questions that ask "How do I do Foo illegal activity" give the people who want to prevent Foo cheap lessons on the attack vectors against their security.
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 AM on May 10, 2007


That was a waste of a kick-ass user number.
posted by agropyron at 10:09 AM on May 10, 2007


Oh wait, he's not banned. I misinterpreted cortex's deletion reason for that question.
posted by agropyron at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2007


Yeah, he's not banned; I just liked the image of someone trying to make off with the equipment.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:15 AM on May 10, 2007


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