By Jack Nichols & Walter Bell
Marietta College, Ohio--Tuesday's report on a basher's web site site (Murderers on Campus? December 1) had been posted on GayToday for barely four hours (complete with action-alert e-mail addresses for Marietta College authorities and the Angelfire provider that unwittingly hosted the site) before the stage had been set for "Mike Rizzo", a self-proclaimed gay-bashing expert, to affect profuse but highly suspect apologies to the gay and lesbian community.
Rizzo's "jokes" about how to murder gay men and lesbians came crashing down on his head as surely as the baseball bat he'd recommended on his site as a favorite gay-bashing murder weapon. Before noon, Marietta College's Director of Information Environment/ Technology had announced:
Marietta College e-mail addresses were used in these pages to promote these agendas. While the college cannot do anything about the Angelfire web pages, the college has suspended all e-mail addresses used to promote them since such use clearly violates the college's Internet acceptable use policy. Moreover, this matter has been referred to the appropriate student life officials for further investigation.
Marietta College does not in any way support or endorse the repugnant content of the web pages in question. The college's sexual and discriminatory policies clearly label such behavior as offensive and unacceptable in the campus community.
Prior to the receipt of the Merietta announcement, Cindy Beal, operating a Justice and Peace consulting network firstname.lastname@example.org in Northhampton, Massachusetts had publicly excused the controversial web site as a "parody" and as mere "satire" and had sent her strongly-worded opinion not only to "Rizzo", the perpetrator, but to list serves worldwide. Referring, possibly, to the recent death of Matthew Shepard and others, Ms. Beal wrote:
"He (the gay bashing 'expert') happened to post this when we are all incensed about our friends, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who are being bashed and murdered every week."
Citing Marietta concerns about "free speech rights" she gave it as her opinion that the "absurdity" the basher-expert's web site represented was not worth notice, and wrote: "His free site has taken up 30 minutes of my time this morning…I hesitate to spend any more energy than this e-mail on these sophomoric students."
Profiles and photographs of a phalanx of gay-bashing murderers can be accessed at the site of the 1997 Sundance award-winning film for Best Director, Licensed to Kill, www.filmmag.com/community/adong. The Marietta gay-basher's site, prior to its timely demise, was replete with lingo characteristic of many of the interviewees in Licensed to Kill.
The controversial page
In the immediate wake of GayToday's Tuesday expose, the "sophomore" behind The Gay Basher's Home Page, has attempted, following his receipt of Cindy Beal's e-mail, to excuse his behavior as a mere "joke", albeit a bad one. Having published instructions about how to viciously murder gay men and lesbians, he issued on the night of December 1 the following suspect apology as if from a group:
"Form (sic) all of us involved in the distasteful gay bashers web page to all those who were affected by reading. We are truly sorry for scaring you through our bad joke. The page has been removed from angelfire. We attempted to post apologies, but we were pulled shortly afterwards.
"The page was created almost a year ago all in the name of fun. We had a good time and unfortunately for most of you there were always people writing us telling us that the page was very funny and cool. We are not sure how the address of the page got out because we never published it or gave the address out to anyone we didn't know.
"Some people did respectfully disagree with us and we hope to send personal apologies to those individuals.
"The people who were rude and especially those who sent us obscene pictures we feel that you do not help the cause of your fellow homosexuals. We also feel that you are as much of the problem with this society as us punks who created this page.
"To all those who are concerned that we actually did go around beating the life out of homosexuals we never even considered it. It was all a joke and only a joke. We also did not in any way intend to include Doug Wickert or his college in this mess of hate we created.
Doug Wickert's downed Web page
"Non(e) of the information given to angelfire, hotmail or the information given in the page was anywhere near the truth. Doug Wickert was a fan of our page and we happened to have a link to his page on ours. We are not even sure that Doug is his real name or that he does attend a college.
"We also would like to say that we do deserve to be beaten for publishing the page but we feel we have learned our lesson and will try to be more tasteful with our future pranks.
"In closing we would like to say that we are sticking to our guns on one thing and that is homosexuality is a choice. If we can control our hate of you, than you can control whom you chose to have sexual relations with. If you want to differ with us on this than all 78 of you can send us more hate mail.
Please forgive us all
'mike rizzo' "
"Mike Rizzo", according to two anonymous sources at Marietta College, is apparently student Doug Wickert, "mike rizzo" being, according to those sources, his pseudonym.
Anonymous sources told GayToday that Wickert had sent an e-mail recently to a friend telling of his new site. "Rizzo" claims the site is a year old.
By Wednesday evening, "Rizzo's" agitation had increased considerably, and his "apologies" to offended readers of his site, in contrast to those of the day before, differed markedly in tone. Hot water, clearly, surrounded him as college officials and police investigated. The braggart who had recommended methods for the most viciously-styled murders, was "attempting to wade through his personal and legal safty (sic) issues" clearly fearful he may reap retribution. In reply to a polite but anonymous GayToday reporter's query, he wrote, as if still representing a group:
"The web site you are referring to was pulled off the internet on tuesday. The web site was a terrible joke on our part. We have issued an apology the (sic) the homosexual community. Hopefully you will eventually receive it. If our page is still somehow still out there plese (sic) let us know so we can put an end to the hurtful propaganda. Also we want to personally apologise (sic) to you for our distasteful joke. I (sic) was a huge mistake on our part and we are currently attempting to wade through our legal and personal safty (sic) issues. we are all sorry and hope you will forgive us. 'mike rizzo' "
According to "Rizzo's" own confession, therefore, and contrary to Northhampton, Massachusetts' Justice and Peace advocate, Cindy Beal, the behavior for which "Rizzo" was apologizing was also something he himself considered—as he says-- "hurtful propaganda."
The Heterosexual Alliance page, also hosted by Angelfire, was taken down Tuesday.
Angelfire, upon receiving the complaints of GayToday readers, was quick to sever all connections with the Hetero Sexual Alliance since it violated Angelfire's rule #2.
Although "Rizzo" had clearly written that he'd intended to write an apology for his actions on his own web page but was unable to do so prior to its being taken down—Angelfire Customer Relations told GayToday that "Rizzo" himself had removed the web site. There is, apparently, a Jay Gerber, "founding father of the Hetero Sexual Alliance" who is a student at Marietta College.
Two GayToday telephone calls and two e-mails to the President of Marietta College asking for an official statement other than that of the College's technical facilitator, failed to elicit any high level rejection of "Rizzo's" site. Marietta is obviously sensitive, and perhaps reactionary when faced with accusations of hate speech. A local newspaper told GayToday on Wednesday that no mention of the student's site had been made in town, but promised, nevertheless, to make it known. Gay and Lesbian Alliance members had made no complaints about the site, according to the Marietta police. The Washington County Sheriff's Department and the Marietta Police Department have received copies of both sites and of GayToday's December 1 news story.
Requests for information (phoned messages and an e-mail in the afternoon) from GayToday to the Marietta College Chief of Campus Public Safety, Howard Korn, elicited at 9:30 p.m. the following e-mailed reply —in spite of the fact that the officer had been notified of time constraints. Korn wrote:
"Our institutional policy provides for all inquiries of this sort to be directed to the Director of College Relations, Mr. Michael Brown. I will pass this request to him as soon as possible."
MSN Hotmail, though notified about "Rizzo's" activities, has refused to comment to GayToday. The "repentant" basher expert's e-mail account is apparently still active since his mail (as of late December 2) is not being bounced.
"Free speech issues raised on behalf of the gay bashing, 'Rizzo'," writes one GayToday reader, "are all very noble, but hardly applicable since he was spewing his hate messages against the house rules of his host. Let him do it in his own house, OK?"
"Also," said the same reader, "I'm not sure why some people would fight first for "Rizzo's" free speech rights to bash gays in locales where gays are arrested for solicitation just for asking someone to go home with them! One person promotes murder, the other asks for love. There's something amiss in this situation, is it not so?"
A "Joke" from the Gay Basher's Homepage:
"One time we played a lone queer who we had gathered evidence on a few days earlier. We took around eighteen batters with us and they all wanted a hit so we took turns. The queer was senseless on by the third batter but the whole line had to get a whack, this dragged the game out a little too long. Some people who play this version of the game like to take a silenced gun with them just in case they need to end the game quickly."
" Rubber suit, Rubber gloves, shower cap or helmut—these things provide an easy way to wash the juices off your body and they also protect you from the risk of getting AIDS from the bleeding queer."
"Mike Rizzo's" and, apparently, Doug Wickert's game has, happily, ended quickly.