Barney-haters may plot their electronic revenge

March 01, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

Several computer buffs contacted me recently to pass along some ominous information.

As one of them explained it: "Those people you wrote about, the ones on the Internet who hate Barney the dinosaur, you got them very, very mad.

"They didn't like your calling them sick. And what was it you said, that they are overgrown bed-wetters? They didn't like being called bed-wetters, either."

Well, too bad about that. But as a philosopher once said: "If the diaper fits, wear it."

The computer buff went on: "I just wanted you to know about these people. They take themselves very seriously. They really hate Barney. They think he is a pedophile and that he corrupts the minds of children with all of his talk about loving families. So they sincerely believe that Barney should die.

"By insulting and ridiculing them, you have opened yourself up as a target for reprisal. And believe me, these people can be vindictive. They have already posted messages on the Internet saying that they want to faq you."

That's terrible? Faq? Are you serious?

"Yes. And they are not to be taken lightly. If they say they will faq you, they'll do it. They are spreading the word about what you said."

Well, I appreciate the warning. This is the first time I've ever been under a faq threat. And I'll surely take whatever precautions are necessary. But there's one thing I don't understand. What is faq?

"Actually, it means 'frequently asked questions.' When someone is new to the Internet -- a 'newbie' -- they ask a lot of basic questions and are referred to a list of FAQs for the answers."

So they are threatening to ask me a lot of questions?

"No, what I believe they mean is that they will spam you."

But I like fried Spam, although my doctor advises against it. Too much salt. Doctors are killjoys.

"No, this is a different spam. It means they post messages all over the Internet, turning people against you.

"Then these people flame you. Flaming is sending insulting e-mail. And they letter-bomb you. That means they send so much e-mail that your e-mail box fills up and overflows and starts devouring itself. This makes it impossible for you to keep up with your legitimate e-mail. It can be a very bad experience."

I'll say so. The thought of my e-mail cannibalizing itself is (P blood-curdling. After thanking that computer buff, and the others who called with essentially the same warning, I contacted the one person who could help me with this problem: Dr. I.M. Kookie, the world-famous expert on lots of stuff.

The first thing Dr. Kookie asked was, "What is your e-mail address?"

And I answered that I didn't have one.

"Then you don't go on the Internet?"

I did once, quite a while ago. And it sounded sort of like a giant group therapy at a booby hatch. So I got out before I caught some deranged virus, and I have never gone back.

"Then there is nothing to worry about. If you don't have an e-mail address, you can't be sent e-mail. You don't have anything to worry about."

See? Further evidence that the over-hyped Internet is populated by a bunch of high-tech ninnies. All those insulting beeps and bips that they will send to me will just bounce back at them, causing their eyes to twirl like pinwheels, and making them even crazier.

"Yes, that is true," said Dr. Kookie. "They are not only over-age bed-wetters, they are hairy-faced thumb-suckers.

"Even their legendary criminals, the hackers who break into computers and create mischief, are a modern version of the lowest of all law-breakers -- the Peeping Tom."

Lower than even The Flasher?

"Yes, say what you will about a Flasher -- at least he gives of himself. But all the Peeping Tom does is peep. This brave new world of the Internet, if you believe all that blather, is nothing more than a vast array of electronic keyholes and window slits for thousands of peeping eyes. This is probably a good thing, since it keeps them off the streets."

Well, I am relieved. But I still don't understand why they hate Barney the dinosaur so much.

"Because they envy his upper body strength."

But he's just a big, soft doll.

"So how would you feel?"

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