Dennis Markuze/David Mabus must have uttered a straw …

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Dennis Markuze aka David Mabus on a Television News Story … the story is inaccurate in a number of minor ways that obscures an interesting truth, but it is a moment in time worth savoring:

The story is inaccurate in the following ways:

There has not been a “recent escalation” of threats. The threats come in cycles. He’s on an average up-swing. It is true that there are a few new people are on his list, and they are making a stink about it. That, however, has happened before. Why did this cycle of threats cause the police to actually do something? See below for a guess.

It is also not accurate in that the on-line community has been trying to identify “David Mabus” for some time and just now managed to do so. That is just the epic tale forming and sucking temporal change and continuity, strive-failure-succeed sub narratives congealing within it, and all that other good stuff that happens when humans tell their silly stories.

Having said all that, this is a good thing, assuming that we are not simply backing Dennis Markuze into a corner. See more details here.

This all reminds me of a story. There once was an evil librarian, and she was the boss of all the other librarians in the library, and it was a very important library. Each and every person who worked for her had one or more stories about her, stories in which she acted inappropriately as a supervisor or colleague. She is one of the reasons that there are HR departments today. For example, after having done something really bad to every single one of her workers and many of the library’s regular patrons, she even went so far as to fire a librarian who needed to take a second afternoon off each week, unpaid, to receive her chemotherapy that was keeping her alive for several months as she suffered with terminal cancer. It went on and on.

Then one day the wife of the boss … the boss of the librarian, because yes indeed, even evil bosses have bosses sometimes … was in the library asking politely (there were many witnesses) for something and the evil librarian refused to help and was not nice about it. The wife of the boss of the boss insisted more sternly on this service being provided … something about a book or something … and the librarian still refused. So the wife of the boss gave the evil librarian a stern look, turned on her heels and walked out of the librarian.


She said it. The librarian, that is. The librarian called the wife of her boss a “bitch,” under her breath, but it was in a library where most people are quiet (out of fear) and the sound carried and everyone heard it. Patrons, fellow librarians, and most importantly, the wife of the boss of the librarian heard it.

And the boss of the librarian was not amused, and the librarian had a job in a small town in Texas by the end of the month, a significant downgrade from being the boss librarian in what was arguably the most important and prestigious library of its kind in the world.

It is funny how one word can be a straw. A straw that breaks a camels’ back.

The reason the story in the news report is inaccurate, really, is that it portrays a typical Greek Tragic plot with sudden turns of events woven in a fabric of linear change. What really happened was a lot of people getting death (and other) threats from Dave Mabus/Dennis Markuze for many years, and asking for help form the authorities again and again, and being summarily ignored the entire time, and finally some straw landed on some camel and sis-bam-boom the cops are going in.

Why now? I don’t know exactly. There is little that I know of that anyone is doing that was not done before. We’ve written blog posts. We’ve reported him. There was never a petition before and there was one this time, but petitions are notoriously ineffective and without further evidence I’m not going to assume that this one was. I’m guessing that just the right person was at the right place at the right time and somebody who mattered got indignant.

Sometimes it takes but one straw.

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33 thoughts on “Dennis Markuze/David Mabus must have uttered a straw …

  1. Err…wasn’t it simply PZ encouraging his followers to Tweet Montreal police who got fed up with it?

  2. I am aware of two things happening somewhat simultaneously:

    First, William Raillant-Clark (@wraillantclark) started receiving Mabus-tweets. He is the press attache at Universite de Montreal, so was a resident in the jurisdiction that previously had refused to act; and as a very well-wired and of course bilingual PIO in that city, got the Montreal press to listen (both English, the Gazette, and French, la Presse).

    But also, someone — I would give credit if I knew who did this, but I don’t — had the smarts to not only start a petition asking the Montreal police to pay attention, but also to code the petition so that every signature sent a tweet to the police’s Twitter address. Also, on Twitter, someone (@Bora?) suggested hand-forwarding any Mabus-tweet to that same address.

    Seems to me like fortunate synergy: a single person with the right kind of influence combined with finding the right channel to convey the outrage of all the others affected (incl. me).

  3. Update to my prior comment:

    This Montreal Gazette story says credit for the petition goes to Kyle VanderBeek in SF (@kvbeek).

    Also, here’s William Raillant-Clark’s initial Tumblrpost from Aug. 8 calling on the Montreal police to act. (I may have gotten the chronology wrong above; it appears RWC wrote this before Mabus started targeting him.)

    In addition to the Montreal papers, the story was covered by CBC TV (and the Gazette English-language report was reprinted in several other provinces, e.g. the Calgary Herald).

  4. Just goes to show the power of PZ. When he gets pissed enough to ask for help on something, things happen.

    PZ, we need to fit you for a superhero costume. Perhaps an FSM scale mythology too, to “document” your super powers. If it’s internally consistent and coherent, it should be just as believable as the myths pushed by the creatins (Creation cretins) out there.

  5. Maryn, I believe you are correct in your analysis. Underlying this has been a flurry of list-serve like chatter as well which I think helped facilitate the somewhat planned, somewhat spontaneous action.

  6. All the emails and tweets didn’t do anything. I was the ONE official complaint that mattered. Now they can use the tweets and emails as evidence.

  7. I’ll hazard a guess based on what I’ve read in the Canadian press.

    Over the years, Dennis has gone about his cyber-bullying. From time to time, he added somebody new to keep on his list to threaten. Some percentage of people take exception and try to complain, usually from far, far away from the authorities, be they police or ISP administrators, and nobody felt any particular need to do much of anything about the occasional complaint. Maybe not even the same people saw consecutive complaints.

    The Montreal police claim (somewhat conveniently, to my mind) that their hands were tied until someone with local standing filed a formal complaint. That happened this past week, according to them. Now, though, they claim that the sum total of Dennis’ online threats can be considered as contributing to the charges. This doesn’t seem to be a self-consistent stance, nor does it explain why nobody who previously complained to them was told either how to file a formal complaint or that some residency requirement was needed. It certainly doesn’t seem to apply in cases where Canadian citizens in far-flung places threaten Canadian officials; the constabulary seem somehow not to need that “local standing” rule to take action.

    Couple that with the petition begun last week, and suddenly you had not one or two complaints coming across the transom a week, but rather one email per signature being sent directly to the Montreal police. There’s no way to rationalize non-action based upon thinking that a complaint is an isolated incident when 4,000 of them come in within a week. Plus, the petition had a high profile for getting media involvement. (I agree with you about the slipshod reporting in the stories the media has generated.)

    I’m thinking that the petition was more effective than the police claim. In order to minimize its apparent effectiveness, the cover of latching onto the Montreal formal complaint allows them to portray themselves as with-it, on-the-ball people burdened by all these darned administrative rules, rather than as callous layabouts who’d happily wait until a nasty crank snaps than do anything pro-active. And given that the media was starting to take notice of the petition, one of those narratives about the Montreal police was likely to emerge in the headlines shortly. If I were a representative of the Montreal police, I know which one I’d rather go to the press with.

  8. All the emails and tweets didn’t do anything. I was the ONE official complaint that mattered. Now they can use the tweets and emails as evidence.

    AlanMac, official complaints have been made again and again for years. Yes, it may be that a particular ONE complaint worked … that is kinda the point here, that some one thing came along and worked, but the implication that there was only one complaint made should not be taken from this. There were dozens of official complaints. I personally made several.

  9. The police will never volunteer information on how to work their system, but they will answer questions on how to do it if you ask. First you will be interviewed in person by an officer, then you will probably have an interview with a Crown or Asst Crown Attorney, then you’ll have to swear out a complaint with a Justice of the Peace. At any point in that chain the case can be taken over or dismissed by the Crown depending on how strong or weak they feel the case is. But you still must be available for court.

  10. AlanMac, that is not the only way to make an official charge, but I get your point. So are you saying that that is what happened?

    That may well be but your statement still needs revision because you are comparing an event you claim happened (with the JP) against a bunch of tweets, and that is not even close to what really occurred.

  11. The other thing is that there’s a common urge to make the police out to be what we hope they always will be. But too often they aren’t the vigilant protectors of the public they should be (and often are). This is one of those times. It hurts society when news stories about them censor this fact, because the public needs to know when their police forces are letting them down.

  12. Hello,
    I think this blog article criticizes the CBC unfairly – the video to which you have linked is part of the 11pm “news roundup.” The full bulletin aired at 6pm, and did indeed talk about the fact that this has been going on for a decade. Unfortunately, I don’t have the technical skills to transfer the video to YouTube, but you can find it here:

    The Mabus segment starts around 4m 35s. I, for one, am grateful to the CBC for giving this issue airtime – the phenomenon of threats made to scientists and their colleagues need to be addressed, and we need as many allies as possible in this fight.

    Thank you,
    William Raillant-Clark

  13. Congratulations to the blogging community in pulling this off. When it first started I was skeptical that it would succeed but I am very happy to have been proven wrong.

    Excellent news 🙂

  14. William, Thanks for the video link!

    it’s a little better. Almost none of this has happened on twitter.

    It would also be good to have mentioned that there have been numerous official complaints, not just one, but they may not know about that.

    And, of course, the system is at least somewhat broken. I am required to make my complaint to the FBI. I can’t file a complaint with the Montreal Police or the RCMP. So, am I really now being told that all of my prior filings of complaints, following procedures, didn’t count? Figures…

  15. I don’t know why you all are complaining about the Montreal police. After all they got to this just as soon as they wrapped up their investigation of Zdeno Chara’s check of Max Pacioretty during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

  16. @cyberCMDR: Actually, PZ’s efforts last week had very little to do with what happened. (Oddly enough, since he’s been a major target for years). The police had already “cried uncle” (or should it be “Oncle”?) on their Twitter account by the time PZ blogged about it.

    And PZ’s entreaty for folks to retweet everything to @SPVM actually paled in comparison with what Mabus himself did – since he alway does Reply All on Twitter, and we were all discussing the case with @SPVM, he was tweeting the police himself, unbidden.

    @Wesley did analyze it correctly. It was the combination of local plaintiffs plus petition & press pressure that made it happen.

    I was quoted in several of the news stories, this is because I collected much computer forensic info about Mabus over the last 3 years including copies of the emails, IP addresses he used and so on. I have been providing those to the police.

    I have spoken with the detective on the case several times. She has asked me not to publish her info, as this case is a bit of a media circus already. But she is VERY INTERESTED in anyone who has filed police reports about Mabus in the past. She is collecting these to use as supporting material in her case.

    So, if you actually spoke to a police officer about Mabus and filed a report, regardless of where you live, contact me. You can reach me at the webmaster address for my website Thanks!

  17. Yes, he still lives with his mom; and if the Twitter not-pology Rebecca Watson got from his mom is any indication, he also got his mindless hatred of atheism from his mom. His mom certainly doesn’t seem to have given him any real skills for taking responsibility or dealing with the real world.

  18. @RagingBee: Curious, what makes you conclude that the apology to Rebecca Watson was posted by his mom? The use of “we”?

    Mabus has used “we” all along. The very first email I got from him in May 2008 was worded that way.

  19. Tim: I’m not certain about that, but when the tweet was first reported here, it was suspected that his mom was the author. Also, it just sounded to me like something his mom, not he, would have said: my boy would never hurt anyone, but you (RW, that is) should stop being such a nasty atheist.

  20. @Greg: “Almost none of this has happened on twitter.”

    Actually, the organizing and data exchange that led to Raillant-Clark’s blog post and complaint, and VanderBeek’s petition, took place almost entirely on Twitter. If Raillant-Clark hadn’t seen other people complaining about Mabus, he might not have asked for more details. Once he heard how long it had gone on and how widespread it was, he was spurred to act.

    I’m working on a blog post that shows the exact sequence of how it went down, but I’m going to embargo it until some actual result in the case occurs.

  21. Tim: “”Almost none of this has happened on twitter.”
    Actually, the organizing and data exchange that led to Raillant-Clark’s blog post and complaint, and VanderBeek’s petition, took place almost entirely on Twitter. ”

    Sorry, I was referring to the overall harassment as well as the recent events. My own personal activities have hardly involved twitter at all, and most of my communicatoins have been via email, so I’m probably underestimating the role of twitter. Thanks for the clarification on that.

    The news stories referred to him harassing people via social media such as twitter for years, and in fact, he’s been harassing people in blog comments and emails for years. (Actually, the news reports were sort of using “twitter” “social media” and “email and stuff” interchangeably).

    I’m looking forward to your blog post, please make sure to alert me to it when it comes out!

  22. Sorry, I was referring to the overall harassment as well as the recent events. My own personal activities have hardly involved twitter at all, and most of my communicatoins have been via email, so I’m probably underestimating the role of twitter. Thanks for the clarification on that.

  23. Gawd, I am so sick of these “PZ and his followers” statements. I learned of the petition from other means and signed it because Mabus/Markuze has been coming to AtBC and calling me a c*** and threatening to chop off my head. Before that, he graced my blog.

    Certainly, if I had seen a post by PZ encouraging people to light a fire under the neglectful police in Montreal, I would have heeded the call because of the harassment from Markuze, but for pity’s sake quit with the unsubstantiated ad hominems! Just because PZ is popular and his posts are timely and relevant does not make people his minions. Jayzuz!

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