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Posted by No_Name_ (17403 posts) - - Show Bio

Most of us read superhero stories to get away from the drama of real life and forget about reality. Superhero books to us are simply stories we can delve into that remove us from the daily problems we face and allow us to enter into a world of fantasy. For most, that's where it ends; crime fighting is simply fantasy and fiction and left up to the train professionals.

Vigilante "Phoenix Jones"

For some, however, fighting crime as a masked vigilante is an everyday reality. You may have heard of real life superheroes; pocket groups of costumed heroes which are (for the most part) unrelated to one another and are scattered throughout different cities across the United States. In their spare time, they don a mask, cape and cowl and take to the streets fighting daily injustices by defending those they see as being "innocent civilians." But when did the lines of fiction and reality blur for these individuals, and what compels them to take matters into their own hands? More importantly though, are their actions really beneficial to our society? Are they really "keeping the peace"?

== TEASER ==

It's been a bad week overall for real life costumed vigilantes as two costumed heroes came under fire for two unrelated crimes; something that may be interpreted as being a signal that law enforcement may start taking these costumed real life heroes a bit more seriously by removing their power. Earlier this week police arrested self proclaimed superhero "Phoenix Jones" when he attempted to defend what he believed to be a woman who came under attack outside of a Seattle, Washington nightclub. Later that evening Jones was arrested for assault when he used pepper spray on a group of club goers. "Jones' " real identity has since been revealed and he's officially been unmasked.

The above video initially shown on MSNBC was taken by one of Jones' friends who took footage of the masked hero in action to demonstrate just how much of an impact Jones's crime fighting has on crime. However, based on the fact that one of the women proceeds to hit Jones with her shoe after he sprayed her with pepper spray, you have to wonder whether or not he's providing an actual service to the community, or if he's only aiding in disturbing the peace. Additionally, now that he's been unmasked, he could potentially come under more fire for having taken matters into his own hands.

Mark Wayne Williams aka "Petoskey Batman"

In Michigan this past May, Mark Wayne Williams was also arrested by law enforcement officials in Petoskey, Michigan after being found hanging on the side of a building. Police charged Williams with several counts of carrying concealed weapons, a gas injecting weapon and another for causing domestic disturbance. This week, the "Petoskey Batman" as he is referred to on his Facebook fan page was given six months probation where he was told by a judge that he would have to hang up his tights, at least for the time being.

These are only some of the instances where "real life heroes" have taken to the streets in order to try to do society some good. However, you have to wonder whether or not they are, in the process, hurting themselves, jeopardizing their own lives as well as placing the people around them in more danger than they are helping a situation.

In a recent HBO documentary, director Michael Barnett followed a group of costumed vigilantes based in New York City in order to understand why they do what they do as well as to see whether or not their actions actually serve to benefit society. His findings indicated that the individuals who don costumes and take to the streets primarily feel that the "NYPD [law enforcement in general]...is completely unreliable." When promoting the film, Barnett appeared on 'The Dylan Ratigan Show' to discuss the documentary and explain what these indiciduals have in common with one another.

"I hate to make generalizations about the community, but ultimately we found that by and large most of these people do this because it stems from some tragedy or trauma that happened in their lives. Once they start to over compensate for that tragedy in becoming a real life superhero they become addicted...to becoming a real life superhero."

Clearly, these heroes seem to have a commonality when it comes to the "why they do what they do." Most feel that they have endured personal experiences where law enforcement failed them, and are therefore prompted to take things into their own hands. But just because we have some folks in costume running around doesn't mean that the crime rates are on a decline, right? So are they really helping the situation? Should they continue to fight crime as costumed heroes, or are they just endangering themselves?

#1 Posted by cattlebattle (12585 posts) - - Show Bio

they're mental patients

#2 Posted by Deadcool (6809 posts) - - Show Bio

They are stupid, and they SHOULD stop doing that...

#3 Edited by weaponxxx (427 posts) - - Show Bio

Grant Morrison has a great take on real life vigilantes in his book Supergods....must read!

However aside from a few outstanding costumed heroes who take vigilantism a little too seriously, most of these people provide food and clothing to the homeless and server other various charities. They simply do it in a brightly colored costume. Don't get me wrong Phoenix Jones clearly somewhat mentally unstable, but I think as long as these people let the police do their jobs and don't harm themselves those around them they have every right to express themselves as they see fit.

#4 Posted by Crazy Pan (708 posts) - - Show Bio

I think that if I had the skillset, I might join them. But unfortunately, I'm not in much condition to run around and fight crime. But honestly to me it seems like more of a fantasy. This isn't the comic book universe--it's the real world. It isn't even Kick-Ass world. In the real world, things just don't work like the comic books we fantasize.

#5 Edited by TheRedRobin96 (334 posts) - - Show Bio

No, they do a terrible job any way. Phoenix Jones is lame and stupid, I thought he quit months ago, by the way whats his real name??? Plus he is kind of an ass.....the archer guy in one of the videos looks "promising" though.....

#6 Posted by turoksonofstone (13199 posts) - - Show Bio

..............hmmm.

#7 Posted by crazed_h3ro (1000 posts) - - Show Bio

I say if a person can go out every night in an outfit to stop crime and to protect people, has more heart than any other person has, and then some. But if your going to be serious about it, please do not dress in bright colors,stop a fight that has no lethal weapons involved, and most importently be sure you are fit for it, both mentally, and physically.

#8 Posted by Fluke-buddha (644 posts) - - Show Bio

Vigilantism is a crime for a reason.

#9 Posted by Mr. Kamikaze (521 posts) - - Show Bio

Cool in the comics. Pretty stupid (and dangerous) in real life. Unless you can fly and lift over 100 tons and have bulletproof skin, just let the cops earn their pay. Don't be a moron.

#10 Posted by Yumulu (762 posts) - - Show Bio

Vigilantism does not work that well in comics even if you have super power or cool gadgets. So a mental patients with a peeper spray can ... yeah right.

#11 Edited by Mercy_ (92607 posts) - - Show Bio

It's terrible and should be outlawed. The thought behind it is nice and I'm sure there are some very altruistic individuals involved, but the cold hard truth is that they do more harm than good. The majority of these people are not trained (a few karate classes isn't being trained) they have no idea what to do for many of the situations that they come up against. Many don't have concealed carry permits and in addition to that are also carrying illegally modified weapons. There are so many different possibilities as to how what they do can all go straight to hell. In addition to that, say they do actually apprehend a criminal or stop a crime? They are not the Police and do not have the right to jail somebody. That's false imprisonment. And even if they don't jail then and just perform a citizen's arrest (not sure the legal specifics on those), they've still botched all the evidence and opened themselves up to a lawsuit.

TL;DR: It's a nice thought, but keep the crime fighting to the professionals.

Moderator
#12 Posted by feebadger (1436 posts) - - Show Bio

It just can't end well, can it?

I mean, is it just me or is it only a matter of time before one of these guys either gets killed or seriously hurts someone else? I can't help but believe that dressing up as a hero to fight crime is linked to a mental instability somewhere, as the documentary mentioned. Let's face it, even the heroes in comics usually make the decision to do what they do after some tragedy in their past, Batman being the most obvious example, i guess. I think heroism is helping people, no matter what. I think going out and looking for trouble and then exacerbating it by pepper spraying folk is a desperate attempt for attention. Ultimately, this will reflect back on the comic industry and those who read comics in a negative light.

#13 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23334 posts) - - Show Bio

Until people start taking it seriously enough to emulate the Punisher, it's pointless. 

#14 Posted by gangly (107 posts) - - Show Bio

From many videos that I've seen about Phoenix Jones in the past, his primary occupation on patrol was to try and convince obviously drunk people to take a cab instead of driving. This is something that the police could never do, yet it most likely saved at least a few lives. Because of as little as that, he'll always be a hero to me, costume or no.

#15 Posted by Fatale (30 posts) - - Show Bio

"300+ Registered Superheroes"? They have to register? WHEN DID THE CIVIL WAR HAPPEN?

#16 Posted by PaperRonin (1071 posts) - - Show Bio

I'd be a Supervillain.

#17 Posted by ssejllenrad (12847 posts) - - Show Bio

@gangly said:

From many videos that I've seen about Phoenix Jones in the past, his primary occupation on patrol was to try and convince obviously drunk people to take a cab instead of driving. This is something that the police could never do, yet it most likely saved at least a few lives. Because of as little as that, he'll always be a hero to me, costume or no.

Amen!

#18 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6885 posts) - - Show Bio

I actually am a firm believer in regulator activity, what most people refer to as vigilantism. I know many of you may disagree with me but often such things happen when official law enforcement shows to be lacking in its ability to protect the common welfare. Besides, half the time vigilantes rise up to do what they do when it becomes clear that cops are either unable or unwilling to do what their salary expects them to do. Its at the very heart of what the entire Enlightenment Period was all about in human history, and to which gave rise to our American Revolution; when legitimate power fails to protect the interests of the people, it is the right, privilege AND duty of those said people to take matters into their own hands and see justice done. In the end its to what end and purpose and often what means adopted that judges how good regulator activity does. In the case of the Petovskey Batman or Phoenix Jones, its probably best to keep the superheroes in comics. In case of your Charles Bronson brand of regulator, then perhaps there is a certain degree of justification possible.

#19 Posted by Burnstar1230 (209 posts) - - Show Bio

Costume + Pepper Spray does not make you a superhero. Like its been said before, most of these 'superheroes' had a tragedy in the past to make them put on the costume, but to me, it just sounds like they want an excuse to take out the anger that they couldn't vent out for one reason or another and want to cause trouble more than stop it.

#20 Posted by CrimsonAvenger (1162 posts) - - Show Bio

I fully support Vigilantism. When the police can't or won't stop crime, it's up to the people of this country to take the law into their own hands. Sometimes guys like Phoneix Jones help out just ordinary citizens and convince them not to get into their car after drinking. No matter what, I'll always consider the man a hero. If the police can't or won't do their job, then it's up to the people to do it for them.

#21 Posted by Mercy_ (92607 posts) - - Show Bio
@Fatale

"300+ Registered Superheroes"? They have to register? WHEN DID THE CIVIL WAR HAPPEN?

I adore you.
Moderator
#22 Edited by Primmaster64 (21138 posts) - - Show Bio

They are not really superheroes...you need to have superpowers to be a superhero...

#23 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23334 posts) - - Show Bio
@Primmaster64 said:
They are not really superheroes...you need to have superpowers to be a superhero...
No you don't. Iron Man and Batman are superheroes. 
#24 Posted by The_Assassin_ (17429 posts) - - Show Bio
@FadeToBlackBolt said:
@Primmaster64 said:
They are not really superheroes...you need to have superpowers to be a superhero...
No you don't. Iron Man and Batman are superheroes. 
Logic strikes again...
#25 Posted by Primmaster64 (21138 posts) - - Show Bio
@FadeToBlackBolt said:
@Primmaster64 said:
They are not really superheroes...you need to have superpowers to be a superhero...
No you don't. Iron Man and Batman are superheroes. 
They are heroes...not superheroes...At least from my POV
#26 Edited by nobodythere (86 posts) - - Show Bio

This is something I used to have a strong opinion on, felt very strongly these "real life superheroes" were all lunatics. After watching the Superheros Documentary from HBO my opinion changed. Several of them are doing good things and are incredably brave. Dark Guardian, for example, goes out and confronts drug dealers head on. Showing no fear, even when a person threatens violence, he stands his ground. The man was almost twice his size, totally intimidating, and Dark Guardian made him go away; he made that area of the park safe. Another one is Life, he spends most of his time getting to the know the homeless on a personal level, handing out food and drinks at his own personal expense. He wears a costume so people take notice of what he is doing, leading by example.

Do feel more then a handful of them have some issues, Master Legend comes readily to mind, he was not portrayed well in the documentary. Quite a few of them are untrained and will get hurt when they upset the wrong person, nonetheless, their hearts are in the right place and the idea of doing good deeds loudly is a good one.

The story of Kitty Genovese is a great example of why these people are popping up and several of them say hers was the story that inspired them, thirty eight people watched her get brutally killed in a New York neighborhood on March 13, 1964 and no one did a thing. Its terrible and not totally isolated around the world. Scream rape and no one comes running. Scream fire and you have a crowd.

If a "real life superhero" stops someone from doing something terrible, stops someone from becoming a victim, does any kind of good at all, its worth it. Period. Can't take the crazies and lump them up with the ones who are making a difference. Every clique has a few bad eggs. Pay attention to the ones doing good things and not the ones failing. Would be nice if the media showed the good for once. Guess a man handing out food and water while sitting down with a homeless man in a costume that looks like a dead cowboy isn't sensational enough.

#27 Posted by Shadowdoggy (3815 posts) - - Show Bio

unfortunately, they're a liability. They should find ways to better the community without carrying pepper spray and putting themselves in harm's way.

#28 Posted by EscGamer (113 posts) - - Show Bio

well looking at them i have to compare to batman since he's the closest to a live hero you can get and he trained for it for like a long long LONG time. he studied law, criminology, martial arts and all that then went out in a suit. instead of stopping a club brawl stop some drug dealers and prostitution rings. thats making a difference. dont forget the provide the evidence for the cops.

#29 Posted by RainEffect (3240 posts) - - Show Bio

I support vigilantism, provided it doesn't cross any lines such as killing or unnecessary violence. 
 
What I don't support is these jokers. Some of them are overweight and geeky looking, Phoenix Jones' costume looks ridiculous. The only guy who even might be able to be taken seriously is that archery guy. If he rocks a bow and that mask, then I'm sure he won't be having any ladies hitting him with shoes. But, they need to take a lesson from Batman. You can't just run around in a costume, you look ridiculous. You have to conceal yourself and use the night to your advantage. If you can't, then don't wear a mask. If you're so concerned about your identity, then just wear a scarf over half your face - that looks more intimidating than these fools.

#30 Posted by UnosInfinitos (148 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh wow... odin bless the internet

#31 Edited by LB70145 (191 posts) - - Show Bio

@Primmaster64 said:

@FadeToBlackBolt said:
@Primmaster64 said:
They are not really superheroes...you need to have superpowers to be a superhero...
No you don't. Iron Man and Batman are superheroes.
They are heroes...not superheroes...At least from my POV

Batman does have a power, it's called being a badass lol

Anyone who says Iron Man doesn't have powers hasn't read Iron Man in a while.

#32 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23334 posts) - - Show Bio
@LB70145 said:

@Primmaster64 said:

@FadeToBlackBolt said:
@Primmaster64 said:
They are not really superheroes...you need to have superpowers to be a superhero...
No you don't. Iron Man and Batman are superheroes.
They are heroes...not superheroes...At least from my POV

Batman does have a power, it's called being a badass lol

Anyone who says Iron Man doesn't have powers hasn't read Iron Man in a while.

Heh, true.  
 
All of those (Extremis, etc...) were given later. He was still a superhero before that =] 
#33 Posted by Blue_Shield (749 posts) - - Show Bio

@nobodythere said:

This is something I used to have a strong opinion on, felt very strongly these "real life superheroes" were all lunatics. After watching the Superheros Documentary from HBO my opinion changed. Several of them are doing good things and are incredably brave. Dark Guardian, for example, goes out and confronts drug dealers head on. Showing no fear, even when a person threatens violence, he stands his ground. The man was almost twice his size, totally intimidating, and Dark Guardian made him go away; he made that area of the park safe. Another one is Life, he spends most of his time getting to the know the homeless on a personal level, handing out food and drinks at his own personal expense. He wears a costume so people take notice of what he is doing, leading by example.

Do feel more then a handful of them have some issues, Master Legend comes readily to mind, he was not portrayed well in the documentary. Quite a few of them are untrained and will get hurt when they upset the wrong person, nonetheless, their hearts are in the right place and the idea of doing good deeds loudly is a good one.

The story of Kitty Genovese is a great example of why these people are popping up and several of them say hers was the story that inspired them, thirty eight people watched her get brutally killed in a New York neighborhood on March 13, 1964 and no one did a thing. Its terrible and not totally isolated around the world. Scream rape and no one comes running. Scream fire and you have a crowd.

If a "real life superhero" stops someone from doing something terrible, stops someone from becoming a victim, does any kind of good at all, its worth it. Period. Can't take the crazies and lump them up with the ones who are making a difference. Every clique has a few bad eggs. Pay attention to the ones doing good things and not the ones failing. Would be nice if the media showed the good for once. Guess a man handing out food and water while sitting down with a homeless man in a costume that looks like a dead cowboy isn't sensational enough.

I watched the HBO Doc as well, and agree many of your points, the good things are often overshadowed by the bad.

Moderator
#34 Edited by weaponmaster (1412 posts) - - Show Bio

@Babs:

He used pepper spray on 4 male clubgoers that were beating the tar out of 2 other clubgoers. He was breaking up the fight and not protecting the woman. The woman who was hitting him with the shoe was with the four assailants who were attacking the two men and she waqs trying to attack them with her shoe as well. She was not someone he was protecting who then turned on him. She was with the criminals and she then herself began to assault Phoenix Jones. If Phoenix had not intervened those two gentleman who were being assaulted would have likely been much more seriously injured. I guess you would rather the four men beat the other two into unconsciousness or worse while everyone looked on and noone did anything at all. by the time the police got there the two victims would have been pulverized. He saved those two men from grievous harm. Get your facts straight before writing an erroneous, biased article that attempts to lead the reader to adopt your conclusion when you yourself don't even have all of the facts or are pretending as if you don't.

If you knowingly altered the facts because of your own personal biases then shame on you. This was not a news article it was thinly veiled, biased, proseltyzing. Period. Give people all of the facts and allow them to decide rather than trying to underhandedly convince people that your opinion is correct. That is amoral social engineering and not responsible journalism at all.

Here are some videos that you should have included to balance this article.

The first video shows the what happened initially and you can clearly see the 4 men viciously assaulting the two and Phoenix protecting and saving these men. If you had have actually research thouroughly this story you could have easily found this:

This second video is an interview of Phoenix Jones and it clearly shows him to be an intelligent, charismatic, and lucid person and he explains the altercation in detail.

http://video.foxnews.com/v/1218887605001/

#35 Posted by hitechlolife (194 posts) - - Show Bio

It's all fun and games until someone decides to emulate Frank Castle.

#36 Posted by darkrider (438 posts) - - Show Bio

if i am going to fight crime i need uncle scrooge money and batman skills

#37 Posted by ips (68 posts) - - Show Bio

This topic recently came up in another forum I use and it was really interesting to see how it played out.

First of all... the above article is wrong about the specific of Phoenix Jone's case. Since the case became news worthy other videos surfaced (youtube them) which show that Jones peppersprayed the one guy beating the other guy and the crazy girl decided to chase him. She wasn't confronted by jones at all and seems to have been defending her Man's honour. lol.

Anyhow, I use to think these guys were completely crazy. It's easy to write them off that way because of their costumes. But the HBO documentary someone else mentioned and the recent interview Jones did for Fox changed my mind. There is legislation that allows for citizen's arrests in most communities and there is no difference between these guys and The Guardian Angels; other than the crazy costumes. But most of these guys are aware of how the costumes look, and are using it as a way to scare off the criminal elements rather than resort to violence. Let's face it, even criminals are scared by crazy people and since we all agree they look crazy dressed up, this isn't a bad idea.

It's their choice and I respect it. I just hope that they don't take on more than they can handle.

Lastly, I love how people keep comparing these guys to Batman because he's a trained expert at whatever... he's not. He's a freakin comicbook character and does not exist in real life. Batman is successful at what he does because he has a team of writers saying that things go his way for the past 80 years or whatever. There is no precedent to compare these guys to in real life at all.

#38 Posted by Migz13 (169 posts) - - Show Bio

It's hard to be a superhero... but to be a supervillain?

Yeah... they're called terrorists.

#39 Posted by Ganthetsward20 (687 posts) - - Show Bio

Well i do like laughing at them, its almost worth it. Well okay its not. But my point that i want to get to is thatthere should be real guys out there who care and want to help people. Thats a good thing. whereing tights and looking like a real freak is a bad thing. I wish we had someone who showed us how it could be a good thing...maybe there is one out there who sticks to the shadows and works through the law enforcement and actually knows what hes doing and has a goal in mind. But these people mentioned do not...there is that one group called the guardian angles and they are probably the closest thing to a group of hereos and it doesnt work all that well.

#40 Posted by Talyn (16 posts) - - Show Bio

@nobodythere: I felt the same way you did until I watched that documentary.

They might look silly to us but at least they are doing something to better their communities. How often do any of us go out the way to help someone we dont know. It seems we all have the if it doesn't effect me directly I dont care attitude. Which is sad, so if some people want to dress up and help there fellow man, good for them. At least they are doing something, you can make fun of them, call them crazy or whatever but most people aren't going to do a thing to help a stranger in trouble.

#41 Edited by AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge (1221 posts) - - Show Bio

As cool and weird as they guys want to "make a difference" in the world, these are guys who are fan boys and girls who obsessed with comics. My friend and fellow Comic Vine User, DemonicBlade, wants to be one these "heroes". Maybe this is what Fredric Wertham feared his "infamous" book (which ALMOST killed off comic books) - "SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENTS".

I blame certain films that reflect this issue of this topic:

1.) KICK-ASS (2010, Rated R): An unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.

2.) DEFENDOR (2009, Rated R): A comedy centered around three characters: an everyday (mentally challenged) guy who comes to believe he's a superhero, his psychiatrist, and a teenage prostitute he befriends.

3.) SUPER (2010, Rated R): After his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer, an everyday guy transforms himself into Crimson Bolt, a superhero with the best intentions, though he lacks for heroic skills.

4.) SPECIAL (2006, Rated R): A lonely meter-maid AND comic book fan has a psychotic reaction to his medication and becomes convinced he's a superhero. A very select group of people in life are truly gifted. Special is a movie about everyone else.

#42 Posted by grkpektis (141 posts) - - Show Bio

They're just as worthless and stupid as real cops. But at least they're not arresting innocent people just because they want to reach a quota

#43 Posted by kitsuneconundrum (208 posts) - - Show Bio

i think they deserve respect.

#44 Posted by King Quisling (1980 posts) - - Show Bio

I've been considering becoming a real life villain. My hopes are to move to NYC next summer. Maybe there I'll begin my life anew.

#45 Posted by zombietag (1491 posts) - - Show Bio

i was wondering when this would come up.

the thing is, for most of them (and DEF for phoenix), its not even about being superhero as much as it is a publicity thing. i mean the guy tells people all about his suit, his secret hideout, etc. he does all these public appearances and interviews and yada yada, but i haven't heard of him doing much more than breaking up a few fights.

so no, they arent superheroes at all to me. its more about getting attention it seems.

i think if a REAL superhero were to come about, it would probably be something more like year one, where its in the shadows and behind the scenes, and most of us wouldnt even know about it.

#46 Posted by Neverpraying (1465 posts) - - Show Bio

I find really like vigilantes to be comical that is all.

#47 Posted by _jackbauer (157 posts) - - Show Bio

@Babs: yeah, well... that's, just like, your opinion.... man....

#48 Posted by RedOwl_1 (1664 posts) - - Show Bio

@darkrider said:

if i am going to fight crime i need uncle scrooge money and batman skills

yeah that's why I leave superheroes in the comics... but if I were rich like those famous guys I'll be a "vigilant" too :D

but Oh crap I'm the only one who thinks ~ Oh I have seen that before in Smallville there happened exactly (or almost) the same thing ~

First like " Vigilantes are BAD examples for people... *One month later* The aren't vigilantes they are heroes, they are our hope" But... I don't think It happens in real world :(

Well just say "Good Luck Guys ;) "

#49 Posted by I'maDC/ImageGuy! (1648 posts) - - Show Bio

Phoenix Jones sprayed that white woman's face for JUSTICE!

#50 Posted by DannyG (3 posts) - - Show Bio

The idea is noble, as are the sane people attempting it. However, overall the people doing it generally aren't doing it right. In order to effectively play the vigilante game, a subject must be well trained in various forms of martial arts, first aid and lifesaving skills, law and weapons. Also one should be in peak physical condition and trained in acrobatics. Then they can begin to know A) what they're getting themselves into and B) exactly what they're doing and facing. Once they set themselves up, they'd need an 'in' with local police. Also, a tech support crew who can monitor police bands and other such things. Real equipment is essential as well. If they're going to go running around in a rubber suit and try and fight gang bangers with guns and knives, they're committing suicide. They'd want kevlar, a flak vest, something that can take a knife shot and hopefully stop a bullet. Of course, this is all ideology. I would NEVER reccommend you go out and do this.