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Aug 10 2011

The People Vs. Dennis Markuze

Dennis Markuze, AKA Dave Mabus, has waged a one-man war against atheists and skeptics since at least 1993. He’s demonstrated a pattern of escalating behaviour, targeting first a few people whose philosophies he disagreed with, then, as time went on, expanding his spam campaign to more and more people. He started spamming PZ Myers on USENET, and others via any e-mail addresses he could get a hold of. As technology improved, he hit his stride when he realized so many atheists and skeptics were hanging out on Twitter and that he was less easily squelched there. He’s been banned from a number of local ISPs, but cannot be banned from internet cafes or public libraries. From those sanctuaries, he found that he could easily build throwaway Twitter accounts, and target a few specific people and everyone who dared talk to those people. By doing this, he manages to send a number of big names — Michael Shermer, PZ Myers, James Randi, and others — hundreds upon hundreds of direct messages a day. And everyone that these big names dares to interact with becomes a target of opportunity, splash damage in his war, whether they agree with the celebrities or not.

Lately, he’s moved on from only targeting these celebrities — they whack his accounts too fast. He’s started collecting names of people in the “middle grounds” of popularity, the “b-list” so to speak. He’s targeted me specifically, spamming me and everyone I talk to. He’s targeted Stephanie Zvan, and everyone she talks to. He’s targeted the Skepchicks, he’s targeted Monicks, he’s targeted SomeCndnSkeptic (Steve Thoms of Skeptic North), he’s targeted some of the brightest, cheeriest, happiest individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and he’s told them that they will be exterminated.

He lives in Montreal, a major Canadian travel hub, and has on more than one occasion taken the opportunity to visit a number of atheist or skeptic conventions in order to intimidate or harass his targets in person. He’s been thrown out swiftly by security — they know him by both name and face, since one enterprising individual snapped a photo of him at a Montreal atheists convention. He has access, and drive, to physically harm people. He has not done so yet, but over the past 18+ years, he has shown a pattern of escalation that does not indicate he’s will stop.

Each of his spam tweets contains a link to his latest unhinged rant hosted at some forum that has not yet started purging his posts on sight. He has a penchant for Depeche Mode and Nostradamus. He strongly believes that those of us who believe there are probably no gods and probably no supernatural are some sort of cabal out to eliminate all those who think differently, and he’s willing to threaten anyone who he deems to be a member of this cabal with death, dismemberment, and torture. He believes Nostradamus predicted that nonbelievers would band together and rise up, and that only people like him could stop them. No other information about his life outside his delusion is present in his rants; there is nothing but the delusion in the content of his posts. And his delusion rages on.

The Montreal police once contacted Markuze. This touched off a new wave of spamming, with Markuze claiming that the police could do nothing to stop him. The Montreal police will now evidently only take complaints about Markuze from people within his district; the RCMP contacts the Montreal police where the complaints are evidently ignored. But Markuze is careful about his targets so that he’s not threatening anyone within Quebec. The local secular alliance has never heard of him. So, the police evidently won’t do anything about him. His visit to the local atheists convention is an anomaly to the pattern, and one of the big things I consider proof of escalation.

Lately, however, the Montreal police have received so many requests to take Mabus seriously that they’ve started asking people to stop tweeting them about it — evidently missing the irony. And to make the point clearer, an enterprising individual put together a petition to force the Montreal police’s hand and take his 17+ years of death threats seriously. I mean, there IS, after all, federal law against it, meaning Markuze is a criminal standing to face millions upon millions of counts of making death threats.

The petition itself is being signed repeatedly by Markuse, naturally — give him an open forum where people are looking, and he’ll flood the place with stuff like:

you want to silence me because I reveal what a BUNCH OF LYING FUCKING PIGS YOUR REALLY ARE!

@SPVM @mythbusters @snopes

what happens when God does the striking?

With, of course, a link to the latest forum post where his ever-evolving unhinged rantings have not yet been deleted.

I don’t want Markuze to go to jail. I’d prefer that he get psychiatric help. I’m not sure that he’s not already too far gone, though. Either way, it won’t happen unless you sign the petition. I already have; I was number 63. At time of writing, there are 3478 signatures. If you’ve been affected by his insanity, please, go sign. Maybe he’ll get the help he needs. One can only hope.

Update: There’s a good list of links over at Greg Laden’s, and a discussion of the actual threat level Dennis Markuze poses.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    Mike Haubrich

    I am fortunate that he has never bothered me, but yes, someone needs to take him for treatment before he hurts someone.

  2. 2
    George W.

    I signed the petition, as well as put it on my Facebook wall.
    I find it positively laughable that the Montreal Police have asked people to stop tweeting them Markuze’s death threats, since I must assume this is one of the reasons they have a twitter account in the first place- you know- to report crime. I’d actually advocate that people step up the twitter campaign- what can the Montreal Police do? Charge the tweeters for harassment? That would go over so very well in court.
    I’d also advocate faxing printouts of online threats, e-mailing of said threats, phone calls- and I would be careful to log every instance where this was done.
    My question is why hasn’t W5, or The National, or some other news show in Canada not made an effort to highlight these actions? What will eventually happen is that Markuze will hurt or kill someone, and the American 24 Hour news cycle will spend several weeks making hay of the pathetic Canadian legal system. We will watch as Montreal Police, Surite du Quebec, RCMP and provincial and federal justice officials either squirm or refuse to answer questions about how they let 15 years of compiled death threats go unpunished- how they “had no idea” it would go that far.
    Canadians should be angry. We should be doing something. We need to force our government to enforce the laws that we already have.

  3. 3
    Cath@VWXYNot?

    After seeing a news article in which the Montreal police mentioned that most of the complaints are coming from the US, I made sure to sign – maybe a few more Canadian addresses on the list will help tip the balance.

  4. 4
    George W.

    There are two articles that claim that Montreal Police have opened an investigation into the threats. A brief one I posted on FB, and this longer one that the summary article is drawn from. I translated the shorter one for those who don’t speak french:

    MONTREAL – A Montrealer who has distributed death threats through the internet for several years, has become the subject of an investigation by the police as a result of a petition signed by 3500 of his victims.

    The suspects name is Dennis Markuse but uses the pseudonym David Mabus. It appears that several of the victims are American, often scientists, writers, public figures and their friends. He generally accuses these people of being “atheists” whose end is near. His threats have become more serious according to some of the signatories of the petition, who fear that he may act on his threats.

    The Montreal police have opened an investigation in response to this petition, in addition to having received several e-mails about Dennis Markuze, stated La Presse. Markuse’s mother has confirmed that he is the author of threats while stating that it is her belief that he “would not hurt a fly”.

    One of his victims, a professor of biology from Minnesota, said he has received death threats from Markuze every day since 1993.

    I can’t say that I expect much, but it’s a start- or a ploy by Montreal Police to get people to stop bugging them on their doughnut break…..

  5. 5
    George W.

    I didn’t have time to respond to this guy, but Anything But Theist has a post about how people who sent the police after Markuze are sniveling little babies.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    Hilarious, George. He says we’re “making him a criminal”. I think him breaking the law makes him a criminal, personally. And I want him to get help, not jail time.

  7. 7
    Hexahelicene

    One news report today, quoted his mother as saying he is in Ottawa. I can find a Markuse in Nepean. Close. Same guy? Guess we need to talk to that police department.

  8. 8
    George W.

    Jason Thibeault:
    Hilarious, George. He says we’re “making him a criminal”. I think him breaking the law makes him a criminal, personally. And I want him to get help, not jail time.

    Oh no Jason, the stupid gets stronger….
    I tried to explain what was wrong with his position, and you have to read his responses…..
    That is an order.

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh my stars and garters. Crying because you linked him from here. Calling me and my readers “zealous atheists”, to boot. Fetch my fainting couch! I know he’s talking about PZ, but it did sure sound like he was talking about me. If only I had PZ’s hit count. :)

    You’re right about pretty much every point in that thread, especially in that I have no intention of actually posting there. He’s trying to get attention by being contrarian. The best way to fight him on that point is to show how he’s in an indefensible position, then ignore him. We all know he’s in a logically indefensible position since you’ve shown it, and you’re not going to pin him down, no matter how well you argue. I mean, “I’m actually a very reasonable and moderately intelligent person, I just do a spot-on impression of a raging, ignorant jackass.” — that’s a pretty large tell.

  10. 10
    Ginx

    I assure you, this was not the blog I was referring to. Not a swipe, it’s just a fact. I had more referrals from PZ Meyers’ than anywhere, and I singled his out by name, though again, I don’t blame him for what any of his hundreds of readers posts in the comments of his or my blog. No hard feelings to him, no hard feelings towards you guys, and a special “Hey” to George, who I commented with back and forth a few times.

    Have a nice day.

  11. 11
    George W.

    Ginx:
    … I had more referrals from PZ Meyers’ than anywhere, and I singled his out by name, though again, I don’t blame him for what any of his hundreds of readers posts in the comments of his or my blog.

    Just to reiterate a point I made on your blog, Ginx, you had about 40 comments on that post, and half of them were from either me or you. That does seem to take a chunk out of your theory that you are being treated as a “pariah” by a group of atheist bullies. If you are claiming that you are being bullied, then in the only logical sense that you might consider that statement true, I’m your huckleberry.
    I’m just straining to see how having a conversation rebuking your argument is “bullying”.
    You call atheists whiners for coming down on Markuze, yet the second someone disagrees with you, they are part of an organized and far reaching conspiracy to bully you into capitulation. Nice.

    Just to clarify, I checked my history on my web browser, and it indicates that I found your site from Planet Atheism, not Pharyngula. So you might want to widen your circle of conspiracy.

  12. 12
    Ginx

    This is most certainly is not a “conspiracy,” nor do I see it as such. For one thing, a conspiracy should be done in secret, if it’s a conspiracy. I did finally find the link from PZ Meyers’ blog here (comment numbers 77 and 92). I was also commenting in posts on Atheist Revolution and Blag Hag (the latter banned me from her blog for “trolling,” despite name-calling from her and other bloggers and nothing of the sort from me; I guess I was banned for persistence).

    Also, every site who referred to me during those days had an adorably hostile link to the effect of, “Look at this idiot who thinks Atheists are bullies/babies.” Not, “Here’s someone who disagrees,” or anything even mildly unbiased. But you would never sink to that, I’m sure.

    To be honest, I didn’t mind your comments, because we had a back-and-forth. What I found so irritating was the over one dozen comments (most of which were anonymous) left by people just dropping in once to fire off some insults and specious arguments (I usually get maybe 2-6 comments a post, if at all). It’s not very fulfilling to write a reply to people who you’re almost positive will not only not read it, but will probably not read my blog again. Very unfulfilling, indeed. You did, however, so I was glad for that. Thank you.

    And this incident did not in any way make me feel like a pariah. I think you have to feel like part of the community in the first place in order for that to happen.

    I think I made this point elsewhere, but since I’m in the practice this week of repeating myself: I didn’t feel bullied, I just noticed what I saw to be attempts to be bullies. Think of it like this: I felt about the atheists coming to my site similar to how I feel about DM and his comments left on my site. DM left threatening comments on my blog for years, but I don’t feel particularly threatened, just as the people sent by the dozen to comment on my site might have been trying to bully me, I just didn’t feel very bullied (I guess because I don’t see words as capable of bullying… as opposed to sending armed officers to your house to harass you, that is legitimate state-sponsored bullying, use of force and all).

    Ironically, while you may think I despise the disagreements posted as comments on my blog, I was a bit more insulted by the cowardly insults hurled in the comments of other blogs, perhaps under the hope I wouldn’t see them. This puts me in an awkward position, because I don’t want to start fights in the comments of another person’s blog, but I also find it difficult to leave criticism of my ideas unanswered. So, in some ways, I wish there had been more comments on my blog, in that I wish people had the guts to actually share their opinions where they know I would see them. Maybe I should be glad, since I seem to hate people commenting on my blog (right?), but I’m not.

    What I found so disheartening was not that people disagreed with me (I am used to that, being an atheist… I’m sure you can relate), but that people in what I perceive to be a skeptical community were trying to be malicious towards someone who disagreed with them. And I mean malicious in a petty, name-calling sort of way, not in a “I respectfully disagree” way. I’m not traumatized by this in the least (and why would I be?), but it paints for me a picture of an online atheist community that feels no shame in using government means of suppression to silence opposition (I’m not talking about me, here, I’m talking about DM), and will pile on the scorn to anyone who speaks out against such actions.

    Linking from Planet Atheism makes sense, since my feed does post there (despite threats by one lonely member of the armed forces to boycott PA unless I was removed after a post I did on why I hate the military… again, I’m used to people disagreeing with me, though I had some feedback from people in the military or related to those serving who generally agreed with me).

    And seriously, if you’re really hung-up on the label “bully,” I’ll come up with a more fitting epithet for the atheists who spammed the Montreal police over DM, or even for you personally, if you’d like. I thought “bully” was being generous, and is hardly even an insult. Maybe some combination of genitals and excrement would be appropriate, though I think not. I’d rather just call atheists “atheists” and you “George…” and me “Jane?” Or would it be “Gane…” I dunno, that would get mispronounced more than Ginx is.

    Anyway… sorry this is so long. Didn’t intend to write so much, but sometimes that happens. I hope it isn’t too much of a bother.

  13. 13
    Markita Lynda, healthcare is a damn right.

    Ginx:
    More accurate than “bullies”? How about “victims frustrated by the inactivity of the Montreal Police”? People have been reporting Markuze and his threats to the RCMP, to the local SVMP station, to their local police to report to National Security to pass to the RCMP to pass to the SVMP for literally years, and nothing has happened. PZ faxed them a 61-page document of the threats received in a single evening. Why should the people who have to waste their time and bandwidth to deal with his thousands of be considered bullies?

    If the volume of threats that you receive has stayed constant or gone down, perhaps he’s keeping busy with the people who have reported that they are receiving more, and more violent, threats.

    Also, crashing an atheist convention is an escalation in behaviour.

    I suppose if he turned out to be the next insane assassin, you’d be saying, “but nobody could have foreseen it!” in spite of the commenter on your blog who pointed out that making death threats greatly raises the chance of violently assaulting someone.

  14. 14
    Markita Lynda, healthcare is a damn right.

    Sorry, PZ gave his local police a 61-page document to pass along.

    Michael Shermer faxed (to the RCMP, I think) a complaint along with pages of sample threats.

  15. 15
    Jason Thibeault

    Markita hit it on the head. What you’re seeing, Ginx, is a group of people whose only commonality (other than having a congenial relationship with one another — not all the victims were science-boosters or atheists!) is that they are all victims of unending spam from someone who claims to speak with a divine entity that is telling him that he wants them all dead. You’re seeing pushback from people who have been punched in the nose repeatedly, because they see you as telling them to stop trying to put their arms up to cover their faces. Whether that’s right or wrong, they see you as trying to undercut their efforts at self-defense and proactive action.

    There’s a pattern of behaviour to Markuze that merits investigating and, if it turns out that Markuze needs help, he’ll actually be in a position to get that help. And if it turns out he’s a sane, rational actor, then his actions (which include death threats, which are illegal in this country!) will be held to account. The side effect is that these people will no longer get repeated death threats, and there will likely be rejoicing in the hardest hit parts of our community. There will also have to be an accounting as to why so many complaints from so many countries hit the RCMP then fizzled before making it to the Surete.

    If you think any of these motivating factors is insufficient, please explain why. If that explanation includes “I didn’t see it as a big problem” without also including “and I got the same amount of emails as PZ Myers for the same number of years” or “and I live in Canada” or “and I go to atheist conventions”, then you’re not likely to convince us that we’re blowing anything out of proportion. And if your goal is to defend Markuze’s free speech without also defending our right to call that free speech into question, then you have precious little understanding of freedom of speech to begin with.

  16. 16
    Ginx

    You don’t see the disconnect between the fact that what he’s doing that actually bothers people is legal, while they are using a technicality to have him arrested (which is what happened, by the way, if you hadn’t heard)?

    The fact that it has happened for years (to myself included) is part of why I assumed people stopped feeling threatened years ago. It’s been irritation at the volume for a while now. Maybe the first time I saw his comments, I was a little shocked. I don’t think I was, but maybe. Never felt threatened, though. I mean… the guy likes Depeche Mode… not very threatening (if someone seriously tries to dissect that joke as a real argument, I will lose respect for whoever has such little humor).

    There is no real statistic anyone has actually cited that demonstrates threats lead to violence. Some people who kill others make threats, some don’t, and the vastly overwhelming majority of threats hurled online and in person are never acted upon. I’m not interested in blaming anyone when violence happens (I leave that to the media, and they usually blame someone like Marylin Manson or Sarah Palin). If DM kills someone now, I wouldn’t dream of blaming those who had him arrested. I would think it, though. Keep in mind that suicide and murder rates of mentally ill patients go up when on many medications. Still, I’m sure the pharmaceutical industry thanks you for the new customer.

    I’ve said from the beginning: you’re free to do this, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I could resort to name-calling here on your blog, but what would that make me? I think it would make me a jerk exercising his freedom, and you would not only be free to, but perhaps even right to belittle me for doing so.

    Can anyone honestly tell me they feel threatened by him, that they see DM as a real, honest-to-goodness threat to others? Or are we just enjoying the brief respite while he is in custody, hoping when he gets out that he won’t return with a renewed vigor and a more careful wording?

  17. 17
    Stephanie Z

    If DM kills someone now, I wouldn’t dream of blaming those who had him arrested. I would think it, though. Keep in mind that suicide and murder rates of mentally ill patients go up when on many medications. Still, I’m sure the pharmaceutical industry thanks you for the new customer.

    What the fuck is this? Trying to make people feel guilty for not dismissing out of hand escalating, degenerating death threats made at an incredible volume wasn’t good enough for you? You’ve got to pile on the bullshit with irrelevant and made-up statistics?

    If Mabus is mentally ill, and not just living a life immersed in a religious belief in which his actions would be rational, he isn’t depressed. Seriously depressed people are the ones who commit suicide occasionally when they start treatment, with the current thinking being that their energy levels improve before their mood does. Mabus has plenty of energy. That’s also the only mental illness in which pharmaceutical treatments are now widely viewed to be ineffective.

    No, if Mabus is diagnosable, he’s likely schizophrenic, and most of the violence committed by schizophrenics is committed by those not on any medication. So you can take your “big meanies” schtick and shove it.

    And for the record, I don’t know for certain that Mabus is a credible threat, that the changing nature of his behavior is indicative of anything ominous. I also don’t know the reverse. His behavior is well beyond anything that I’m trained to evaluate, however, and I will not now or ever apologize for demanding he receive some attention from the people who are actually equipped to sort this all out.

  18. 18
    Jason Thibeault

    Ginx: You don’t see the disconnect between the fact that what he’s doing that actually bothers people is legal, while they are using a technicality to have him arrested (which is what happened, by the way, if you hadn’t heard)?

    No, it’s not legal. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-116.html?term=threats+threat+death#s-264.1 I posted that link in the body of this post, dude. I’d suggest you read it.

    The reason it’s illegal is so that they can investigate people like Markuze, and if they find him to be sane, punish him for harassing a group of people based only on a perception that they belong to a group that he hates. Canada does, for better or worse, have hate crime laws. They allow us to prosecute people like Markuze BEFORE they become people like Breivik.

    And as Stephanie says, nobody here wants him to go to jail for this unless he’s a rational actor. We’d rather he get checked out by a trained psychologist who might be able to diagnose a problem before it wrecks more than just people’s e-mail boxes or Twitter feeds — before it starts wrecking lives. Including his own.

  19. 19
    Markita Lynda, healthcare is a damn right.

    Ginx: as others have pointed out, threatening to kill people is illegal. What planet do you live on?

  20. 20
    DuWayne

    Keep in mind that suicide and murder rates of mentally ill patients go up when on many medications.

    Are you deliberately lying, or do you just not care about telling the truth? Because the closest to the truth that is, is to recognize that some antidepressants, in certain contexts can elevate the risk of suicide. I will even happily argue that the drugs that do so aren’t dealt with properly by many providers. But in general, psych meds don’t increase the risk of suicide or murder. Indeed in the context of people most likely to commit acts of violence due to mental illness (almost always inflicted on themselves), people with schizophrenia, the meds absolutely reduce the incidence of violence.

    As for your idiot assertion that Markuze poses no real threat, I would respectfully ask; How the hell do you know? The nature of his threats have escalated over time. He has allegedly made appearances at skeptic/atheist gatherings. And both the quantity of his threats and the quantity of his recipients have also escalated. And here’s the rub; no one I have noted seem to want him to be incarcerated – they want his mental health and the risk he poses assessed by professionals.

    I would not try to make such an assessment myself, as there is simply not enough information to even begin to narrow it down. Based solely on his rants, I would tend to assume he is far too afraid to actually act out his fantasies. The escalation is definite cause for concern, but even that wouldn’t have me terribly concerned about him. But if he has taken to actually showing up to events for the sorts of people he is threatening, there is a great deal more to be concerned about.

    Finally, I would just note that there are no technicalities involved in the legality of his behavior. His behavior isn’t just illegal in Canuckistan, it is illegal in the U.S. as well. Even in the U.S. with our very strong protections of speech, it is illegal to specifically threaten individuals with physical harm, or to convince others to engage in violent acts.

  1. 21
    Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » Dennis Markuze Arrested

    [...] It seems his mother, who supports him, is rather in denial about his rantings and possible mental illness.  She has been contacted before, including at least once by Michael Shermer of the Skeptic Society.   Unfortunately she not done much about it and refused to criticize his actions, remaining defensive e… [...]

  2. 22
    Lousy Canuck » Blog Archive » The Fate of Dennis Markuze

    [...] update on the strange case of “Dave Mabus” and his one-man crusade against atheists, scientists and journalists: The Montreal man who had been wanted by police for allegedly making online death threats against [...]

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