"This is a way for everybody in the entire world to see it," says Ryan Klar, 21, a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His Hanson hate page has elicited mail from Net surfers in Qatar and Indonesia, and the site reports more than 8,000 hits this week. "We got some e-mail from Brazil that we couldn't read."
A history of hate
Easy access isn't the only thing that attracts anti-fans.
Elliott King, an assistant professor of media studies at Loyola, has followed the development of the Internet and thinks there's something inherently vicious and critical in Internet culture. According to him, it all started with Usenet, one of the Internet's ,, first modes of communication before the Web. It emerged in the late '70s as a network of interactive bulletin boards.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
"It's such a deep part of Internet culture," says King, who has written four books about the Internet, including "The Online Student." "From the beginning, people were free to act in the most aggressive and hostile ways you could imagine."
Participants in chat groups and bulletin boards held intense, sometimes vulgar, correspondences with other code-named comrades. During the anonymous exchanges, participants "flamed" each other, taking biting pot shots at anyone with a contrary opinion.
"If you didn't like the heat, you got out of the kitchen," King says. "There was a lot of vulgarity, as if people were freed from the constraint of face-to-face social behavior."
King believes rogue Web pages are updated versions of the flaming culture, which still exists in online chat rooms and Internet newsgroups.
"You don't have to find anyone who agrees with you. They find you," he says. "It's an outlet for negative impulses, and there really aren't any consequences."
In most cases, there are no legal consequences for those maintaining rogue sites.
There have been stabs at regulating Web content. The biggest effort, the Communications Decency Act, was struck down by the Supreme Court. Other attempts at Internet censorship in Georgia and New York have failed as well.
Penalizing celebrity-bashers is difficult, according to Jim Hough, partner specializing in Internet law at Morrison and Foerster Limited Liability Partnership in New York. "Celebrities are by definition public figures, so it's difficult to do that," he says. "It's so hard to prove a defamation case here in the United States."
Sites can be shut down, however, if they use trademarked or copyrighted content without permission. Fox cracked down on "Simpsons" sites for this reason.
Moody British rock group Oasis launched a crusade to eliminate every site involving them, negative or positive. Some remain, however, including one likening a band member to a monkey.
When an organization wants to remove or modify a site, a common practice is to send a cease-and-desist letter either by mail or e-mail, giving the page's creator a deadline for removing the material, Hough says.
Monday, Baker got such a letter from "Dilbert's" syndicate, United Media. The letter, which he posted on his site (http: //www .andrew.cmu.edu/dmb/ dilbert.html), encouraged Baker to remove fabricated "pre-production" comic strips that featured Dilbert" characters spouting communist propaganda ("But I need your blood to oil the machines of my Capitalist industry").
"I just got that warning. I was kind of amused," Baker says. "What my friend suggested is that I draw my own strips, so I can keep the same things in and make it funnier."
But Dilbert's creator, Scott Adams, claims to have no problem with anti-"Dilbert" sites.
"I'm always happy to be the subject of ridicule, because at least it means people are paying attention. It always feels to me like a sign that I've made it," he says. "Parody is always protected speech, and nobody makes more money with parody than I do, so I'm happy to share the wealth."
According to Wagner, it would be counterproductive for a reviled celebrity to take action.
"Say there's an anti-Scott Baio site," Wagner says. "If Scott decides, 'I'm going to try and shoot these guys down,' the media reaction would draw more attention to it."
Maybe rogue site creators don't hear from the stars themselves that often, but you can bet they hear from fellow Net-surfers. Some sites even post the e-mails. Baker's opponents have roundly chastised him for his anti-Paul Reiser sentiments.
"The hate mail is so sub-literate," Baker says. "They have no clue about capitalization or punctuation."
But it gets even scarier than dangling participles. In addition to being told she knows absolutely nothing about music, Highland has received her share of expletive-saturated e-mails for her anti-Beatles site, and even graphic death threats.
"The first one made me really nervous. I thought people were going to start stalking me," says Highland, whose site has received 8,000 hits since July 1. "It turned out to be from a 13-year-old girl."
Scar a star