4 'Victims' It's Time to Stop Feeling Sorry For (Part 2)

#2. Americans Who Get Harsh Punishments for Petty Crimes Committed Abroad

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Listen, some people who wind up in unfortunate situations totally bring that shit on themselves. That's especially true when it comes to Americans who commit crimes abroad and then act surprised when the shithole country they decided to start being a criminal in also turns out to have shithole prisons.

The outpouring of misplaced public sympathy that almost always accompanies a situation like this can be traced back to the 1978 film (and 1977 book) Midnight Express, which tells the true story of a man named Billy Hayes who was facing a life sentence in a terrifying Turkish prison before finally escaping.

Looks like the cover art for the VHS release was made in a Turkish prison also.

I've seen the movie a few times and come away from it thinking the exact same thing every time -- don't tape 4 pounds of hash (which is a lot, by the way, a whole lot) to your torso and then try to fly out of Turkey with it, dummy. I'm supposed to feel sympathy because your idiocy resulted in a book and movie deal? I'll move into a Turkish prison myself before that day comes to pass.

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That's a lie.

Of course, there are absolutely times when that public outrage is warranted. Arresting a woman for reporting that she was raped, for example, is the kind of thing that should end with a U.N.-sanctioned bombing if all other negotiations fail.

I'm less sympathetic if, say, you vandalized a bunch of cars in Singapore and have to endure being beaten with a stick as repentance. That's a problem that can be avoided simply by not being a vandal, which is how the majority of the world, regardless of nationality, approaches the situation.

Of course, there's a good chance that you already don't feel sorry for the people above or anyone of their ilk. What about those more innocent cases, though?

For example, do you remember those hikers who were arrested in Iran and accused of being spies for the United States? Is the government responsible for seeing them back home to safety? That depends -- are they really spies?

Michael Nagle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Of course not.

If so, then yeah, do what you can to get them back. And I suspect that if you've booked a trip to hike along the Iraq/Iran border anytime in the past decade or so, there's a good chance you had motivations that go beyond a routine nature walk.

If that's not the case, though, I'd direct you to the lead-off point from the first version of this article. Bailing you out when a wacky adventure goes wrong shouldn't necessarily be the public's responsibility.

Or what about the case of Laura Ling, the American journalist who was arrested for entering North Korea without permission? By all accounts, she was in fact guilty. Her more famous big sister, Lisa Ling (whom you undoubtedly remember from her time on The View), even said as much in an interview about the incident.

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Good looking out, sis!

The Washington Post took it a step further, explaining that the U.S. changing their request to have Ling released on "humanitarian grounds" to a plea for amnesty amounted to the government acknowledging that she did commit a criminal offense.

So why does Bill Clinton have to personally fly to North Korea to talk them out of imposing their insanely harsh sentence? Because the television network she was working for while in North Korea, Current TV, was owned by Al Gore, that's why.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The rest of us shouldn't expect the same treatment. And that's exactly the way it should be.

#1. People Who Get Catfished

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There comes a point in time where a scam gets to be so commonly known that people who still fall for it are less like victims and more like cogs in the evolutionary machine whose only real function is to be eaten by predators. Like people who fall for Nigerian email scams, for example. Those dipshits still exist, sometimes in the form of an entire law firm. It would probably be a tall order to find a lot of people who legitimately feel bad for someone of sound mind who still gets taken by such an obvious con.

Along those same lines, I think it's time to add "catfishing" to that list of plots and ploys that shouldn't be fooling the right-thinking segment of the population anymore. If that's a term you've never heard, it basically means that one person has conned another into an emotional relationship by using a false identity. Um, just like real catfish do, I guess? I've never really understood the name.

Oh, well I guess I get it now.

Feeling sad for people delusional enough to believe that someone who refuses to meet them in person isn't hiding a dark secret made for a fun documentary and a less-fun-bordering-on-sad television series, both simply titled Catfish. And you know what? When something has received that much attention, you're only doing yourself a disservice by not looking into what all the fuss is about.

This guy plays Catfish, I think.

It's like losing a trivia contest because the last question was about a Lady Gaga song and you've for some reason decided that, despite having a breadth of knowledge in all other areas of pop culture, knowing things about something that so many people like is beneath you.

Or maybe it isn't anything like that. I'm just saying, learn some shit about the world. If everyone is talking about a crazy new thing, at least give it a Google so you know why it's so crazy. I've always assumed that was why Dateline NBC had to stop doing those To Catch a Predator shows. At some point word must have gotten around in the pedophile community that the Internet was no longer a good place to pick up kids.

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If you see cookies and lemonade, get a lawyer.

Or maybe someone finally realized that show was basically televised entrapment. One of the two.

Whatever the case, we've reached that same point with the catfish phenomenon. Stories like this one about a woman who sent $25,000 worth of cash and prizes to a man she met on Match.com who claimed to be a soldier in Afghanistan but turned out to be a scammer in Ghana are unfortunate, but at the same time, holy shit, who is still falling for that kind of stuff? It would be one thing if the entire $25,000 scheme unfolded in one sitting, but it didn't. Her first clue that something was amiss was when the pretend soldier asked her to send him a new laptop, but to send it via FedEx to Ghana instead of sending it to Afghanistan where he claimed to be stationed. You can forgive idiocy like that once. It's harder to dismiss as innocent naivete when you do $24,000 worth of the same stupid thing.

And don't even get me started on Manti Te'o.

J. Meric/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Unless you'd like to join me in mocking his silly tattoos.

My point is, there are tons of stories and resources out there warning people of the dangers of things on the Internet that seem too good to be true. If you don't take the time to make yourself aware of them, whatever happens as a result is at least partially your fault.

Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should check out right here. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

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