Take Action: Tell Montreal Police to Investigate Threats Against Atheists

If you’ve been around the atheist blogosphere for very long, you’re probably acquainted with Dennis Markuze, a notorious net kook who’s been spamming atheist blogs, forums, bulletin boards, wikis, social networking sites, and every other website he finds out about with insane, nonsensical rants about Nostradamus, 9/11 and his various other obsessions. He’s been at this literally for decades, and apparently has a limitless supply of time and sockpuppet accounts with which to do it. (However frantically he changes accounts, though, I give my word that you’ll never see him befoul Daylight Atheism. I take the integrity of my commenting community seriously.)

But in the last year or so, his cryptic messages have grown increasingly violent and threatening, and often include death threats against prominent atheist bloggers. Despite this, and despite massive, overwhelming evidence that he’s deeply disturbed and potentially dangerous, the police in Montreal, where he lives, have consistently failed to take any action.

Now there’s a petition telling the Montreal police to take Markuze’s threats seriously. Please sign it if you’ve encountered his insanity: the more signatures we get, the harder it will be for the police to ignore. We’ve been lucky in that he hasn’t actually hurt anyone so far, but it may only be a matter of time until he goes completely off the deep end. If he does snap, it’s more likely to be the people who know him personally who get hurt, and I hope it doesn’t come to that before he gets the help he badly needs.

UPDATE (8/17): With a little media attention, the petition has worked! Montreal police announce an arrest (they haven’t officially said that it’s Markuze, but I’ve heard unofficial confirmations that it is). Skeptical Software Tools has an outstandingly thorough summary of the entire affair.

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  • Valhar2000

    I’m glad that you bring up a particular point: he hasn’t been sending out death threats for decades. He started out with bizarre rants, and the death threats are a recent development. That means that we shouldn’t take the position some people are taking according to which “he hasn’t done anything in 20 years, therefore he’s harmless”.

    His rhetoric is becoming more and more violent, which probably means he already fantasizes about committing acts of violence. Who knows how long it will take for him to build up the courage to act on them?

  • Harrison

    In these days of extremism, we need to take seriously all death threats. Please look into this.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd

    While I agree that this situation’s certainly worrying, I’m not sure what you and PZ want the police to do. Go to his house and tell him to stop threatening people? Lock him up? It’s hard to imagine anything the police could do at this point that would either help him or reduce the risk of him going on a crazy rampage.

  • http://www.cgranade.com Chris Granade

    @Philboyd, #3: What the Montreal police could do is enforce the relevant federal laws (thanks to Lousy Canuck for that link). The Montreal police could arrest him for violating those laws, even, and let the courts decide if he is to be committed to a mental institution, thrown in jail, or let go.

  • Siamang

    Philboyd, it’s actually illegal to send people death threats. They could arrest him.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd

    Thanks, Chris and Siamang, I wasn’t aware of the Canadian laws pertaining to this case. Still, I feel bad for the guy – mental illness is awful and if the cops get involved his situation is going to get worse by an order of magnitude. On the other hand, if he’s likely to take physical action, I suppose it’s safer that he be locked up. Either way it’s deeply sad.

  • Brock

    Philboyd–Often getting the cops involved is the first step in getting the guy the help he so desperately needs. I signed the petition, by the way, and I’ve checked back a couple of times to see the numbers grow. It’s satisfying to take action on behalf of my fellow atheists, and also to see that others are doing so.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    As others have noted, the petition seems to have had an effect: the Montreal newspapers are reporting that the police have opened an investigation.

  • Jeff

    He should have been institutionalized years ago. I’ve been a little surprised by the Montreal Police Dept.’s unwillingness to become involved. Here in the US, one can be locked up for a few days to a few weeks (it varies by state) merely for implying that one may be contemplating suicide. Here’s a guy who’s been issuing death threats for a couple of years now, and they don’t want to be bothered.

    They even have health care system that will pay for it! I don’t get it. The Canadians are supposed to be so much more caring and community-oriented than we are.

  • Jeff

    CTV has an article on their website (http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110811/mtl_mabus_110811/20110811/?hub=MontrealHome), which includes the following:

    Montreal police have posted several messages on their own Twitter account, assuring people they are investigating and asking them to stop bombarding police with messages.

    Yeah, well, if they’d done something about it when they were first approached, they wouldn’t be getting bombarded now. I mean, it’s Canada – what, they had a serial jaywalker they had to go after first?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Several blogs and news agencies are reporting that the Montreal police have made an arrest. I’ve updated the post with links.