Perspectives: Rock tipping in a land of overreaction; hoodoo hullabaloo in Goblin Valley

OPINION – It was a foolish act. It was impulsive and sophomoric. The excuses offered by those who did it come off sounding like so much blustery equivocation. But the over-the-top public overreaction to the individuals who toppled a rock formation in Goblin Valley is even more disturbing.

For pushing over a single hoodoo in a state park, the two Utah scout leaders have received hate mail and even death threats from all over the world. Social media and discussion boards have bristled with calls for heavy fines and imprisonment for the men.

Even state park officials and prosecutors have publicly dropped hints about potential felony charges being filed. As incredible as it sounds, these two men may have succeeded in bumping GOP leaders out of first place as America’s most hated people.

Why all the irrational hostility for pushing over a single rock?

(opinion continues below)

Stripped of the emotional grandstanding, the knee-jerk reactions, and political opportunism, the reality of what these guys did doesn’t quite fit the fury it has provoked. Let’s all take a deep breath and consider what actually occurred instead of pretending they committed a crime against humanity.

They pushed over one solitary rock in a park filled with thousands of such formations. Yes, it was bad manners. True, they sped up an act that would have taken place eventually due to erosion. Their impetuous moment of fun is reflecting badly on the organizations they represent.

But they have not robbed mankind of an irreplaceable treasure. Judging by the reactions of some, you’d think they had blazed a trail to the sea like General Sherman, leaving everything leveled in their path. A single, highly publicized incident in one park is not the same as instigating a holocaust against nature.

If the media sharks hadn’t smelled blood in the water and engaged in a feeding frenzy with the story, none of us would have lost a moment of sleep over it. What does it say about us that we’re so easily led by a sensationalized report of someone’s lapse in judgment that we’re willing to destroy mens lives over something that hasn’t actually harmed us?

We expect that kind of hysteria from the hardcore environmentalists who would hold funerals for every tree that’s cut down, but what exactly is driving our blood lust?

It’s okay to take offense at their thoughtless actions, but civilized people should strive to maintain some rational sense of proportion when calling for justice. Heavy fines would soothe the state’s hurt feelings and jail time would certainly teach these men a lesson—at the taxpayers’ expense.

Felony convictions would follow them for the rest of their lives and deny them the right to vote, to keep and bear arms, and would limit future employment opportunities. Does that really sound like justice?

If we strive to remain within the boundaries of reality, they did not destroy a sacred object; they did not destroy the works of another person’s hands. They filmed themselves tipping a rock off of a dirt pedestal and then stood laughing like idiots at what they’d done. It was wrong, but calling it a crime requires an overexcited imagination and toxic levels of self-importance.

If justice is about righting a wrong insofar as is possible, then let the men bear the cost of putting the boulder back atop its pillar. If this is not doable without causing further harm to surrounding formations, then let the rock stay where it would have eventually fallen and let the goblin-topplers find another way to rectify their wrongdoing.

Perhaps a few weekends of picking up trash at Goblin Valley State Park would serve to reinforce the need to behave oneself even in nature. The public shame they’re already enduring is something that few of us would willingly shoulder.

Those who are quick to call for the harshest measures possible might want to recall the times they’ve done something foolish or impulsive. Let those who’ve never screwed up cast the first stone, so to speak.

The thing we don’t need is to make every perceived slight a matter of legal consequence. It will be interesting to see who will be the first state legislator to propose a stronger law to deal with a rock-tipping incident that has happened just once.

If the latest emotional outrage is an indicator of what to expect, the public will likely give its roaring approval to yet another layer of unnecessary law being foisted upon us.

Ed. note: The YouTube video first included was removed from YouTube. On Dec. 10, 2013, another YouTube of the same event embedded.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Brett October 21, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with this. Why are we so intent on ruining these mens’ lives when we could instead be working to stop child abuse, domestic violence, drug use, and other more serious crimes that actually are a problem that more personally affect Utah residents. Sure, give the men a fine or community service and then let’s shut up about it.

    • jake October 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm

      fighting vandalism and fighting other things like child abuse and drug abuse are not mutually exclusive.
      Besides, if their lives are ruined, it’s as a result of their own actions. It’s called personal accountability. It’s not society’s fault that they did something bad that deserves punishment

  • Dan Lester October 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

    They broke the law. They should receive appropriate punishment. I’m not a judge. They should lose their Boy Scout positions for sure. And the idiot who did the tipping will now surely lose his recently filed lawsuit for all his pain and suffering from an accident four years ago. Anyone in permanent pain couldn’t have pushed over the rock. Regardless he’ll pay for his stupidity in various ways. Stupid to do it, video it, claim it was a good deed, put it on YouTube, and link that to FaceBook.

  • Tom Jones October 21, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Except, it IS a crime. Reduce to Malicious Mischief. Fine plus community service. Good enough.

    Sophomoric 40-year old men should not commit crimes, and then not get prosecuted.

    And then there’s the disability fraud…

  • Craig October 21, 2013 at 11:02 am

    “Their impetuous moment of fun …”
    “…the over-the-top public overreaction to the individuals who toppled a rock formation in Goblin Valley is even more disturbing.”
    Perhaps the death threats are “over the top” but being charged for destroying public property isn’t. They showed incredibly poor judgement. Their antics and the excuses that followed shows their true character. I’m surprised the BSA hasn’t taken steps YET to remove them. I certainly would not want my children anywhere near them. Would you?
    And now we find out that Glenn Taylor, the rock pusher filed a lawsuit a month ago claiming disability from an accident.
    Pain and suffering? Really? It’s probably due to the 300lb. gut that he is carrying around.

    • Brett October 21, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      You spoke too soon. They were removed from BSA today.

      • Craig October 22, 2013 at 11:21 am

        No, you arrived too late. Scroll down and check out the time stamp.

  • Captcha October 21, 2013 at 11:21 am

    …if it only saves ONE life, it’s worth it..-

  • NO_SIX October 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Hyde column and most comments have it right — felony charges absurd
    Lucky for these guys it was a state park. Based on what happened during the shutdown if it was Federal they might have gotten the death sentence.
    A fine and some community service is enough. Tack on some extra service for being stupid enough to record the act and then publicize it.

  • Mikki October 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    What if every person who visited the park did what these men did? Then there wouldn’t be a park to visit. I think they are right to press charges against these men. And like Tom said, we also have the disability fraud. This isn’t a case of someone making one dumb choice. He is obviously someone who likes to take advantage of the system, and thinks he can do whatever he wants and not have to suffer any consequences.

  • Tasha Sisneros October 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    The tone of this article is the problem with a lot of Utahan’s thinking towards our treasured land. I guess if the rock is eventually going to fall anyway, how about we just topple over all of them? Since we have boy scout leaders out there teaching our children that’s how we treat God’s creations and national treasures, while we’re at it, let’s knock down delicate arch, spray paint over the petroglyphs, and deforest the Uintahs. Let’s also spray paint the Salt Lake Temple…oh wait, that would just be blasphemy and worthy of a felony. After all, it’s a mad man structure, not something created by God. It’s sad we have to have national and state parks with all their regulations to protect us from ourselves, but I am grateful that we do and there is a consequence for stupid is as stupid does.

    • Brett October 21, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Are you an imbecile? The author never said that we should just let them go without punishment. He’s just saying that the media outrage over this rivals or exceeds the outrage over more serious topics. Let’s charge them with misdemeanor vandalism, fine them, order them to perform community service, and possibly ban them from state parks. Should we waste taxpayer money incarcerating some guys over a rock? In the grand scheme of things, a rock is fairly insignificant compared to other problems our society faces.

      And religious attacks? Really?

  • Ray October 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Let’s remember that these erring men who toppled the hoodoo are also God’s creation, and man (Adam) was given dominion over the earth. No matter how stupidly these men behaved, let’s keep a little perspective here. I agree with the author’s views of this situation. The future lives of these men is far more important than one one legged rock. They should get a fine, and community service.

    • Craig October 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Inbreeding produces some awful results.

    • philiplo October 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Would you prescribe the same punishment if these idiots were undocumented immigrants…?

    • jake October 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      I think I like the rock better..Plus, I’m pretty sure “dominion” does not mean disrespect.

  • Tyson Parsley October 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    DISIBILITY FRAUD……These guys have no credibility, they are CROOKS! I guess it’s all part of god’s plan……….lol

  • Chris October 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    These men are vandals, and should be treated as such by the law. The glee they showed after their criminal act is clear evidence of their character. This was not a momentary lapse of judgment, but rather a demonstration of the disrespect they hold for public property that we are all entitled to enjoy. You say “Let those who’ve never screwed up cast the first stone, so to speak.” Well, I have never committed an act of vandalism in my life, and I am proud to cast a stone at these lowlifes. Maybe your conscience is not as clear, Bryan.

    • Bryan Hyde October 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      By your reasoning, Chris, the only truly sinless individual whoever lived must have had the guiltiest conscience of all. After all, He said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

  • David October 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    To claim this was to prevent it spontaneously falling is laughable, it to him great effort to topple it, it wouldn’t have fallen on its own anytime soon. This is counter to everything Boy Scouts is about, the lack of judgement they ALL showed is astounding, they obviously shouldn’t be entrusted to take care of themselves, let alone children. It was deliberate destruction of something irreplaceable, they have stolen the abilities for others to seen a natural wonder. While their should be perspective, we also need to insure that their punishment is a deterrent to others.

    “calling it a crime requires an overexcited imagination and toxic levels of self-importance”, calling it a crime require recognizing they broke the law, they did, its a crime.

  • Steve October 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    This incident is a crime. We are a country of laws and established norms of behavior. A Scout leader, if anyone should be aware of rules and regulations within our park systems. He should also be a role model for the youth in his troop, does this action really support the values of Scouting? In your article you stated they did this in a “moment of fun”. This is not my idea of fun. Should they be charged with causing damage? In my opinion, yes. Will they recieve jail time for this, no. Our National, State, County and city parks deserve protection from irresponsible individuals. These are places that have been set a side for their protection and enjoyment for us today and future generations. Bad behavior, and yes even nice people sometimes deserve to be punnished. This event became a larger story because someone was foolish enough to videtape it, they are Scout leaders and one of them had recently been determined to be disabled after an insurance disability claim. If there had not been a viral video tape there would have been no national story but that still would not negate the need for charges to be filed. There have to be consequences for one’s actions. The “Bless There Heart “attitude can only go so far. Brian, you are really off base here in my opinion.

  • Randall Caldwell October 21, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    As incredible as it sounds, these two men may have succeeded in bumping GOP leaders out of first place as America’s most hated people.

    I put Bryan Hyde in the group of America’s Most Hated People. Yes, Dear Leader won the last election, but not by that much, so about half of this country does not regard Republican leaders as ‘hated.’ I love the arrogance of people who think only smart people think the way they do and everyone else is rightly hated. Bryan Hyde is the one who ought to be picking up trash on the highway as a way to actually contribute something to society other than his own arrogance.

  • jeff October 21, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    What they did was stupid and there should be consequences. Its not like serving in the scout organization isn’t public service alread (ironically). They outrage sure seems disproportion to the action (stupid as it was). I don’t see anyone saying they were justified or should not be punished.

  • walt October 21, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I believe that Utah is one of the states where after serving your time for a felony you get your right to vote back.

    When I heard they were Scouters, my heart sank. I did 23 years with my Scout Troop, 11 as Scoutmaster, and I never would have condoned of this type of behavior by the adults, or Scouts.

    They do need a stiff penalty for their actions.

  • Bree October 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    This is exactly the position I expected Bryan Hyde to take and the opinion of Utah residents. This is what’s wrong with our State and why we are such a joke to the outside world. I will now call myself Canadian.

  • Bazinga! October 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    The only thing missing from this article is a toothless kid with a banjo on a bridge. YEEEEEHAAAWWWW, I live in Utah!! Whooooo Hooooo, knockin’ over a Hoooo Doooo!

  • Matt October 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Satan . . . never owned the earth; he never made a particle of it; his labor is not to create, but to destroy.” -Brigham Young

  • Matt October 21, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    “The instructions to Adam and Eve about the garden earth … have not been rescinded. They were, and we are, to dress it-not destroy it. They were to take good care of it instead of abusing it. Our increasing interdependence on this planet makes some forms of individual selfishness the equivalent of a runaway personal bulldozer. If we have no concern for the generations to follow, the means are at hand to tear up the terrain much more than was ever possible anciently. -Neal A Maxwell

    • Bryan Hyde October 22, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Not disagreeing with you, Matt. But does God place greater value on a human soul or a boulder? The way some are carrying on here, you’d think that Jesus died on the cross for the toppled rock rather than for the fallible humans who wrongly toppled it.

      • Craig October 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

        Well, the way those jerks are behaving, I place more value on a rock than those two idiots.
        If, for one moment they believed their own tale of Boy Scouts being in danger, they would have and should have left the area and notified the proper authorities. Instead, they decided that a better idea was their own bad behavior.
        By the looks of them, maybe missing a few meals would be a form of punishment that would make a huge impact.

        • Bryan Hyde October 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm

          It’s pretty clear where your values are, but where would God’s values be? I notice you’re not eager to answer that question.

      • Matt October 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm

        The spirit constitutes the life of everything we see. Is there life in these rocks, and mountains? There is. Then there is a spirit peculiarly adapted to those rocks and mountains…” -Brigham Young

  • Matt October 21, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations.-Russel M Nielson

  • Matt October 21, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    The Lord will hold us “accountable as a steward over earthly blessings,”20 suggesting that we may face the following interrogatories at the judgment bar: “What have you done with the earth which my Father and I gave you as a home? Have you cherished and protected it? Have you dressed it and kept it, as your father Adam was commanded to do? Or have you laid waste to it, defiled its waters, destroyed its fertile lands, befouled its life-giving air?” To those questions, I fear there are many, even among those who aspire to become a Zion people, who will hang their heads in shame. The earth groans under the insults inflicted upon it. -Alexander B Morrison

  • Matt October 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Hyde said “they did not destroy the work of anothers hands” I beg to differ

    ” This earth is His creation. When we make it ugly, we offend him.” – Gordon B Hinkley

  • Maggie October 22, 2013 at 7:29 am

    I think it is horrible re death threats or any other kind of threats. I do however think these adults should be punished to the letter of the law.

    These are people who are supposed to know better . BYO their careers and education ,living in Utah(who does not now that you do not destroy these treasures?)and simple common sense. These fools
    seem to be devoid of any of these.

    Is it necessary to tell an attorney that ignorance of the law is NOT a defense?

    It is shocking because of all these factors. Not so shocking when a 10 yo does these things,but when educated adults do things like this one has to wonder about their ethics, morals and mental health.

    So call me toxic but the next time you ask what is wrong with kids ask yourself, what are the adults like in their lives, Boy Scout leaders ,coache’s and yes ,parents.

  • Molly October 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Oh sure it’s only one rock formation, and besides, nature would have done it eventually anyway right? And they were just boys having fun right? Yeah let’s just let people destroy the wonders of nature, no worries. Yeah….no.

    They don’t deserve death threats but what they did was still pretty stupid and they should be punished. But not killed or probably even serve time. But they and others do need to realize that what they did was wrong.

  • Craig October 24, 2013 at 10:07 am

    P I G Alert

    “Our lives have been totally turned upside down and destroyed,” squealed the Obese Piggy

  • Bart October 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Overreacting? Not hardly.
    This clown was a Boy Scout leader…someone who was in charge of teaching children, among other things, RESPECT…a quality which he clearly lacks. One cannot teach what one does not know himself.
    And to do this in front of his own son…not only is he unfit as a Boy Scout leader, he is unfit as a parent.

    I hope this guy gets the maximum brunt of everything that he can because of this…including fraud for his disability scam.

  • Craig November 4, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Here is a link for a petition to prosecute the two … boys who thought their stupidity was good for laughs.

    Ed. ellipsis

  • Heather November 5, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Isn’t it interesting that with all of the arguing no one has said “look it happened trust the leaders of our country that we have elected into office to allow the proper punishment to happen.” I have a very different take on rock toppling I am against it but also for it when it is done with the proper authority (park rangers etc. who have the authority to make the decision) I have a step sister whose Father was killed when a boulder rolled on top of him and crushed him to death. She was 2. She will never know her father because a loose boulder was not reported.
    So yes boulder pushing is wrong but if you see something that is a concern take it to the National parks service. I also think that Jail time is not where these men should be, But punishment should be levied and I trust that the judges will hand down judgment that befits the crime.

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