FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE INTERNET
reprinted from Deep Tech Journal, 3rd Quarter 1997
|I got into professional diving nearly thirty years ago while living in the Virgin Islands and working with a U.S. Navy team filming nuclear submarines. We were lucky to find a phone that worked and the mail took about two weeks from the mainland so “modern communications” were something that we viewed with considerable jaundice. Ironically, it was easier for us to have a conversation with the Apollo astronauts than to make a local call to Christiansted from our dock on the west end of St. Croix.
The idea that someday we could send an e-mail message over a phone line to the other side of the world for pennies or receive a fax that would be an exact replica of an engineering drawing or set of dive tables was totally beyond our wildest imagination. I remember the first fax I ever saw in 1980. I was in the local Coast Guard office and they desperately needed a part for one of their patrol cutters that we were going to fabricate and install underwater. But no one could give us the dimensions or define the radius of one metal joint accurately. Finally, one of the officers called San Juan and, like some sorcerer’s alchemy, a picture in perfect scale came over the phone line and was presented to me. I was dumbfounded. To me, this was a breakthrough that was right up there with Satellite Navigation systems and thong bikinis.
So when I came ashore from running Ocean Quest International in 1990 and began to hear about the potential of the Internet as a means of sharing information, I was definitely interested. Unfortunately, the much heralded forums of cyberspace that related to diving proved to be more of soapbox for rabid personal insult, invective and vitriolic name-calling than a useful means of accessing inspired opinion or educating one’s self on various topics.
Being an oft published author of books and articles on technical subjects I kept getting invited to “log on” to assorted “chat groups” that professed to host relevant discussions about emerging technology, procedures, dive tables, physiology, training methods etc. And I quickly found out that the level of discourse was frequently so immature, uninformed or simply unqualified that most serious professionals were conspicuous by their absence. After monitoring several exchanges where the principal mission seemed to be aimed at launching barrages of “flamed” responses at each other by persons with minimal qualifications on the subjects they so passionately embraced, I elected to take the first exit on the information highway.
From time to time, I would receive copies of postings that had the look of a more mature exchange and I would offer a perspective on whatever subject was in play. Occasionally, some new insight would be shared but mostly those offering opinions in a more traditional and dignified manner were simply attacked by those lurking in dark corners who relished the idea of insult over intellectual discussion. Finally, I gave up and went back to Seinfeld re-runs.
And I would have been quite happy to stay glued to the antics of George, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer when I got pulled back into the fray by none other than the Internet’s own Newman: George Irvine.
As co-publisher of Deep Tech I approved last issue’s interview with the controversial Mr. Irvine and almost immediately regretted that decision. I knew of his reputation as something of a nutcase on the Internet but I was perhaps blissfully unaware of exactly how low he could stoop in shoveling his insensitive remarks. Irvine had staked out a presence on the “email@example.com” forum and spread his venom among that small group of subscribers. None of us at Deep Tech realized at the time we approved Irvine’s interview how widely despised he was within the cave and tech community.
Then on May 5th, my good friend Rob Palmer was killed in an unexplained accident in the Red Sea.
I was reached in a meeting around 2:00 PM at my hotel in Hurgada, Egypt when Rob failed to return from his dive. My first reaction was that he must have drifted away during decompression and would certainly be found later as the boat searched for him. But by that evening, it was clear that Rob was gone. My gregarious companion at dinner the previous evening and frequent dive partner over the last decade was dead. Isolated in a third world country with inconsistent phones and seven hours time difference back to the U.S. east coast, his friends huddled in a hotel suite to share their loss and decide how best to notify Rob’s widow.
One of our group, John Bantin of Diver magazine in the U.K., said that he thought he should notify his editor of Rob’s disappearance. But our consensus was that every effort should be made to reach Steffi, Rob’s wife, before she had to hear it from a newspaper or other impersonal source. So we set about tracking down Steffi from halfway across the world and arranged to get a friend to her to break the news in as supportive an environment as possible. None the less, it was a gut-wrenching exercise to facilitate Tanya Burnett as the messenger who had to tell Steffi that her husband was dead.
It took about 36 hours to locate Steffi in Miami and get Tanya to her with the tragic news. She was speaking at a university conference and was away from their home in Grand Bahama. Ironically, that engagement spared her from hearing of Rob’s death by fax or phone message.
Because the news was already on the Internet and several pompous self-righteous morons couldn’t wait to be the first to sound off with an opinion. Never mind that they had no facts or any sensitivity for his widow. But they couldn’t wait to log on and flame away. One of the first was George Irvine who took the opportunity to call Rob a “dumb fuck” who deserved to die.
Irvine followed that posting with a series of other similar invective that infuriated the diving community and prompted an avalanche of protest over his behavior. When I returned to my office a week after Rob’s death, there was a stack of letters and faxes almost a foot high from all over the world mourning Rob’s passing and simultaneously calling for Irvine’s neck.
After reviewing another stack of sample down-loads of Irvine’s Internet ravings, I was stunned at the man’s behavior. It was not just his intemperate remarks about Palmer (which we will not dignify with reprinting) but a whole litany of astonishingly vicious postings that led me to write him a letter expelling him from TDI. A portion of that notice is exerpted:
“It is with considerable regret that I am compelled to write you and advise that the Board of Directors has met and decided to terminate your membership and status as an instructor with TDI. You should recall, as a condition of accepting you into this agency we made it clear that we expected a certain standard of ethical behavior from you, and your recent rantings on the Internet… has breached that promise.
George, it is of little interest to me how you choose to conduct yourself in an otherwise polite society. And your reputation as an incoherent and vulgar egomaniac may well be a badge that you wear proudly. However, your thoughtless and insensitive attacks on Rob Palmer, one of diving’s true gentlemen, is beneath contempt. Before his friends had even the chance to contact his widow, you had seen fit to weigh in with comments calling him a “dumb fuck” and other assorted demonstrations of your dubious command of language. You also viciously attacked a host of other dive professionals who merely acted to effect an Internet posting of Palmer’s disappearance.
Your irresponsible comments caused immeasurable grief to his mother, widow and other family members. And your antics provoked an outpouring of outrage from the dive community unequaled in memory.
Supposedly, you hold yourself out as a devout Christian. I wonder what your wife and members of your church would think of your callous and hurtful behavior? What would your family think if they were subjected to such a bitter and unwarranted philippic if you were killed in an accident?
Perhaps you can live with yourself. But for me, and most others in the professional community, it is far easier to live without you.
You, like any person, are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to sully the fine reputation of a dignified man whose list of accomplishments in diving and education were varied and unique. And, of course, you knew nothing of the actual circumstances of his death.
Some day you may learn that true leaders do not resort to cowardly attacks on the deceased or hide behind self-serving anonymous Internet postings. I’ve yet to ever see you have the courage to confront anyone in person with your tirades because you know they would probably beat you to a pulp. It amazes me that Tom Mount and others haven’t slapped you silly years ago.
I truly pity you and hope you can get the help you need.”
Of course, Irvine responded in a typical fashion. He posted unattributed messages attacking me and anyone else who had dared to challenge his behavior. He left threatening phone messages on others’ answering machines. And all the while kept up a running battle with other members of the cave and tech community on the Internet.
One DEMA Board member simply dismissed Irvine as “a dysfunctional head case”. Another prominent tech diver shared the opinion that “George is mentally unbalanced. As a reformed cocaine addict, he seems to want to give the impression that he is now religious. That’s a joke. Look at what he writes. This guy has no sense of decency or moral perspective. He’s like a mad dog attacking anyone who disagrees with him in some futile attempt at self-aggrandizement. He’s incoherent.”
Kevin Denlay, one of Australia’s most active technical instructors and cave divers, observed acidly, “Irvine has destroyed any worth to getting on the cave forum. It’s impossible to even ask a question or respond to an inquiry without being attacked. After his comments about Palmer, there is a waiting list of folks that would like to catch up with him and give him a bit of what he dishes out.”
Well, you readers be the judge. To follow are some of Irvine’s postings edited directly from the Internet. Be advised in advance that these quotes contain foul language, racist, masturbation and homophobic insults, as well as personal attacks and foul-mouthed comments about women… sort of an equal opportunity offender. But I think Irvine is best damned by his own words:
“Rennaker, if you think sending e-mail to the state will get you into Wakulla, you’re wrong… you are unqualified to dive Wakulla, you are unqualified to teach cave diving and you’re an obvious stroke, and a huge fat slob. Your efforts to cause me problems have failed, and now I’m going to cause you as many problems as I can. 3-2-97
‘Then (Bill) Stone comes in from DC… are you seeing the picture yet, dumb fuck? We are not interested in seeing a goober come down here to Florida and trying to make a living teaching dangerous things to unsuspecting people. Bill, if you want to dive Wakulla, go try Leon Sinks first since your fat dumb ass could not get to first base there. By the way, I’m glad to see strokes like you avoid the NACD… now go over to your drawer and get out your revolver. Point it at your head, and just pull the trigger. Do it now.” 3-2-97
“You have no clue what our scientific work is and it’s none of your business and none of the cave community’s business… Chris, it is five months until your stroke buddies are scheduled to dive in Wakulla: they have no working gear, have no divers, do no diving, and most of them have not stopped smoking, drinking or using pot. Trust me, asshole, I will be who gets called to fish out the bodies and I will make a huge scene out of it.” 4-28-97
“I straightened out DUI on EXACTLY who and what Green and Zumrick are… and gave a case history of both of these two, right down to the nitty gritty. I really have better things to do than deal with problems created by pot-smoking drunks and homosexuals.” 4-30-97
“We could use some of Jim King’s money, but not for this project, and we will not be obligated to anyone for anything. Nor could King make the cut to even put bottles in the water, the catfish might care him.” 5-1-97
“We avoid publicity when diving in case something goes wrong… We do not care about diving feats, we know we are the best, and we know how tough we are. In fact, I can show anyone out there what tough is… if you think you’re tough, come sit in the water with me for fifteen hours… while you freeze your weenie ass off… not the bullshit of Dr. Blarney (never done nothing) Stone or any of the other wannabees on his long list of strokes.” 5-1-97
“…Stone has no business running anything, is irresponsible, unscrupulous, and a lying sack of shit. You are dealing with a collection of fat, pot-smoking drunken misfits… Dealing with anything surrounding Stone is a Schraedinger’s Cat question: since anybody stupid enough to fool with this guy is already dead… the guy is a farce, a lying cheating, scamming, conniving, dishonest piece of shit…” 5-2-97
“One of King’s scumbags… went over the heads of people who declined his permit… they are stuck trying to justify kicking me out before I totally wall it out and leave nothing for these weenies to even lie about, or answering as to why these jerkoffs are in there when we have done all the work.” 5-3-97
“The USDCT and others have been claiming we are so against them that our opinion cannot be trusted, and that is true… I wish them the best, and of course, will have absolutely nothing to do with them.” 5-9-97
“I guess that means a blow job is out of the question?” 5-14-97
“Our good buddy Chris Brown, besides causing us a continuous problem whenever he can, has taken up lying about Parker Turner. …and when I see Chrissy Brown again, he will need police protection.” 5-14-97
“I can do three shots of heroin and still make it to the stereo… before passing out. I can smoke six bowls of dope and still make it to the kitchen for the cookies… I’m a real tough guy like Palmer and that whole idiot gang… 5-14-97
“We need anyone who can write articles for any magazine to do a story on what the WKKP team has done in Wakulla. Don’t worry about your dive qualifications: if you can walk and breathe you are more qualified than Stone’s team, and I will be right with you… I need anyone who can get an article in any magazine, anywhere, any time, I don’t care what it is. And I need fast action.” 5-5-97
“Despite efforts by Bill Stone and IANTD to promote lies and bullshit, the real story on American cave diving is as follows: Stone does not do any, and neither do the strokes he has accumulated in his entourage. We have listened to Stone’s bullshit for ten years; he has never done a single thing. Jim King has done nothing but weenie and screw up. This group’s worst nightmare is the WKKP… Stone is lying, and until he does his first deep cave dive with anything, the truth is that he has never done anything and never will.” 5-1-97
“Chrissy, I have to thank you for giving me the opportunity to hammer some of the biggest strokes in diving: you and the USCDT. You, my friend, are a stroke, a clueless, gutless, spineless, lying stroke. That is how bad your heroes really are: they suck, they are liars, and like you, they are hypocrites.” 4-28-97
“Bill, your whiny little complaints to Lloyd will not work. It is my prerogative to think you are a stroke, and I will be glad to detail why you are a stroke if I ever hear from or about your worthless dumb ass again. If I hear of you, Dooley, or that idiot Rennaker ever criticizing me… I will put you out of business. I promise… Don’t press your luck with me. I don’t like you, I don’t like the fact that people like you are in this business, and I don’t like pussies like you screwing with me. Take a clue and drop it, you asshole.” 4-17-97
“Complaining about me merely proves my point. You… are a bunch of venal strokes, and if you don’t like what I think, call 911 like that idiot Rennaker did, or call your mother and cry to her.” 4-15-97
“Bill Bird Ostreich is… an eggregious stroke… he can kiss my ass along with the rest of his cry baby buddies. Anybody else want to complain about me?” 4-15-97
“I understand that some of the more… stupid goobers are upset with my performance… It seems that telling the truth about equipment… is contrary to the interests of these stupid fucks. Trust me, Dooley, you moron, what you, Rennaker, and the rest of the dogshit think is rapidly becoming anachronistic.., and in case you… don’t like that, you can quit the NACD right after you blow me.” 4-14-97
“If any of you scumbags whom I have ‘slandered’ want to contest that with me, show up with a hair sample and a urine sample, and a set of kneepads.” 4-14-97
“I have a letter from these jokers, and the letterhead lists the Board of Directors of USDCT… If you can read this list… without laughing out loud, I will suck your dick.” 4-7-97
“Bob, having reviewed several deco programs, I seem to remember that Chris Parrot (Abysmal) has several options for huge fat slobs. You simply enter the degree of slobbery when the program prompts you such as ‘slob’, ‘fat slob’, huge fat slob’, or ‘typical central Florida cave diver’ (this option covers you for eggregious fat slobbery, alcoholism, cigarette and pot smoking, and extreme levels of stupidity). Give Chris a jingle and he’ll fix you right up. If you lied about your weight and are really a four hundred pounder, give John Crea a call.” 4-3-97
“For the rest of you dumb red necks, if you have not gotten the message, let me give it to you straight: you all need to get out of this sport, and get our of our hair…” 4-19-97
“Barry tells me the idiot who owns Dive Post Outlet says he is hiring a lawyer to look into our permits. The last time I went to this shop, the obviously mentally retarded ‘Jonathan’ was shit-faced drunk and one of the most ignorant, pathetic creatures I have ever seen… scary stupid and a human shit pile. He told me he is one of Bill Stone’s divers, but then every idiot in the world who can’t dive says that. Stone needs Jerry Lewis running his operation. He will need ambulances on site to handle OD’s and DT’s and a sign that reads ‘don’t shit on the floor’.” 4-6-97
“It seems that not only can you dumb red necks not organize anything, you are busy screwing each other… a real fine crowd that I am proud to have nothing to with, other than laugh at.” 4-6-97
“Bill, to quote Animal House, ‘Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.’ but that has not stopped you. Nobody but a complete idiot would go to a fat slob like you for instruction and we have all seen your fat dumb ass at Peacock, it is ridiculous.” 4-2-97
“Bill… I notice you talk about top ‘mental’ shape. Tell me what kind of shape your fat slob ass is in? If you are in the same mental shape as your physical shape, you may be too stupid to breathe.” 4-2-97
“If you are going to sneak around behind the scenes and badmouth us, I will be glad to hammer your fat slob moronic ass right here in public… You have no business teaching anything but cow milking.” 4-2-97
“I hear reports of people loaning their scooters to horrifying strokes. Anyone too stupid to rig their gear properly is too fucking stupid to use a piece of equipment like this… don’t be so fucking stupid.” 4-1-97
“Mathias, now I see you are a tough guy as well. The really interesting thing about strokes like you is that sooner or later you show your true colors, just like that dumb cunt Annette Long. All of you idiots need to go fuck yourselves.” 2-26-97
“Joel, I really have to complain about letting Annette Long write an article in UWS. She is not only an illiterate moron, she is a complete stroke… You may think these people are some kind of important… but they are not. They are dumb red necks… Groups like the WKKP make cave diving look good…” 2-26-97
“Dustin, any time you want to play in my league, come on up and give my whole team a laugh, and bring your own body bag. You are a laughing stock of the whole community. They may not like me but they laugh at you. Why don’t you go have a shot at some line arrows in Leon Sinks, tough guy. Because you suck.” 2-19-97
“Tom… let me remind you that as training director of IANTD, and as chief issuer of IT/T/T/T… ad infinitum, former training director of NACD (and that is the part of the reason we have so many complete idiots teaching cave diving), and current proprietor of the largest collection of strokes in diving, that you need to take your head out of your wallet and start thinking about the disaster you are courting by accommodating every goober, fat slob, and idiot our there. 98% is a conservative estimate of the number of worthless instructors you have created, and 99% would be the number I would attach for officiousness.” 2-14-97
“The cave community is a bunch of fat, whining losers and we have all seen that exemplified by the CDS Board of Directors heavyweights, the cry baby Training Directors, the gear sellers and the Star Wars bar scene at each workshop, and the crap posted on here.” 2-13-97
“It is my opinion that the horrifying strokery that we see out there is the fault of the instructors… and most of them suck, just plain suck. Any methods other than what I use are bullshit.” 2-12-97
“Wayne, this is the last dealings I am having with you or the CDS. If you want to get wrapped up in semantics, I don’t care. I do not care about you, Annette, or any other useless slobs in this community. We do not need you, we will not deal with you, and we (especially me) will continue to treat you like the fat dumb red necks you are. And I will continue to maintain the utmost contempt for everything you and your dumb red neck buddies stand for, practice, have failed at, and are guilty of.” 2-6-97
“Wayne, in a nutshell, fuck you, the CDS, and anyone else whom you represent. Now are you and Annette satisfied?” 2-6-97
“By the way, Wayne, I did not pick on Annette, ever. I sent private e-mail to her scumbag husband. Sankey called her a fat slob, a gross understatement, and she is the one who got her size 50 panties in a wad. What is the matter? She was not able cause me problems despite all her efforts. Tell the fat dumb asshole to stay out of my business… There is no reconciling what you worthless jerks have done to us and to me, and until we rid the community of all of you, I will not be happy. If nobody has told you this today, Wayne, go fuck yourself.” 2-5-97
These are just a representative sampling of Irvine’s routine postings. They are at once disturbing and revealing. It’s hard not to ask what motivates any individual to comport himself in such a manner. Most of the persons attacked by him in these postings are guilty of the simple offense of disagreeing with him. That’s a bit scary. It’s a safe bet that George has about as much chance being welcomed as a spokesman for cave diving as Janet Reno does of being invited to join The Spice Girls.
In Irvine’s seemingly desperate quest for credibility and recognition, he is driven to denigrate, ridicule, threaten, or malign just about everyone of any stature in the cave and tech diving community. Along the way, he has destroyed any hope of elevating the work of the WKKP team due to his confrontational antics. Indeed, many refer to them as the “WKKK” or the “Waffen KKP” after Irvine’s anti-social attacks.
Consider this quote from him:
“Like I said, I could care less how many mutants don’t like me. The project is too important to let farm animals get in my way. I will slaughter all of them. Untermeschens like these deserve the treatment they get.”
Matthias Pohl notes, “This is a mighty sick fellow who wrote that. The terminology ‘untermenschens’ dates back to the Nazi regime in Germany and was used by the campaign to justify the slaughter of six million people in concentration camps. This obviously has not escaped the author as he just threatens the same the very same to his opponents. I am curious as to whether the statements reflect general WKKP policy or the notion of its leading deranged member.”
That’s a fair question to ask. And I had the chance to talk with Scott Landon and Jarrod Jablonski of the WKKP team and inquire about their perspective. Both men professed their deep disapproval of Irvine’s behavior and hoped that the WKKP team as a whole would not be judged by Irvine’s example. Jarrod told me, “You have to understand that George is beyond our control, he has the permits to Wakulla and essentially controls access. We have all tried to talk with him about shutting up and not making such a fool of himself and it just falls on deaf ears. Please don’t leave any impression that the rest of us condone George’s stuff. He’s something of a necessary evil in order for us to dive.”
Landon stressed that he was personally horrified at Irvine’s insensitivity to Rob Palmer and others and said that he and Jarrod were attempting to get him in line. My impression was that both men were sincere in their wishes to attempt to muzzle Irvine and concerned about the damage his behavior had caused to the WKKP.
Others have not been so tolerant. We received copies of scores of letters written to the state of Florida authorities including the administrators of Wakulla Springs State Park, the Director of Recreation and Parks, and even the Governor. All letters cited Irvine’s behavior and questioned his worthiness to be a Park permit holder. Many cited examples of his Internet postings and other vulgar epistles. It remains to be seen what the State will decide with regard to Irvine’s future.
Perhaps most disturbing is a controversy that erupted after a message was sent to Bill Rennaker anonymously following a heated exchange he had with Irvine within a day of the same date. Rennaker was concerned enough to contact his local sheriff over what he perceived to be a death threat. It follows in its entire form:
Date: Tu, 04 Mar 1997 23:36:59-500
I don’t know you from Adam, and as such I am certain that I have never offended you or in anyway warranted your recent actions. Since I am a dumb shit about cave diving I only read this list in order to learn, and sometimes be amused. I recently met or had the opportunity to converse with a few of the people you seem to have trouble with, funny, I find them to be intelligent and concerned with their own advancement as well as the safety of all divers.
But now you have a major problem. This cute little stunt has cost me time and frustration. Again, I am an ignorant shit and do not know how to re-send this post to you. While you were learning cute crap like this on your little computer, your elected officials were spending lots of money sending me to every school imaginable. Schools where they teach things that you used to have nightmares about. You worthless fuck, I am going to hunt you down and give you the crash course. I know that several old pencil neck geeks get on this list and talk shit about being tough guys, talking about walking on rice paper and playing a flute.
Well, shit for brains, that’s not my style, I prefer a straight forward, linear attack. Where swift, violent action will always devastate an enemy. So listen up shit head, lock your windows, bolt your doors, and go ahead and shit your panties, it is payback time. DEATH COMES IN THE NIGHT.
Is Irvine the author? He denied it when confronted. But even the casual reader of his attributed postings will immediately notice the repetition of his favorite phrases, insults, and vulgarities. Is there a mysterious “copy cat” Irvine lurking out there in cyberspace who leaps into the fray to defend him while hiding behind the anonymity that the Internet can afford. Maybe… you draw your own conclusions.
I can offer my own perspective. Within days after Irvine received his letter of expulsion from TDI, a “re-mailed” anonymous message was placed on the Internet forum known as “firstname.lastname@example.org” that parodied Rob Palmer’s death and showcased a wealth of totally fabricated accusations of dangerous dives that I had supposedly been involved with. Of course, it was all total lies and in extremely bad taste but what was interesting was the use of the same exact language that Irvine used days earlier in another attributed posting, i.e. “tough guys”, “bone heads”, “walking parody of John Falstaff”, etc.
Later another posting, again anonymously, announced that TDI was being “sold for peanuts to NAUI” and that “the rats were leaving a sinking ship.”
(We have no intent of selling TDI to NAUI. I doubt if NAUI could afford to buy a used ’56 Buick let alone a hugely profitable company like TDI. But why not attempt to disrupt people’s business? George has threatened to do that many times to others.)
But, of course, I’d be paranoid to even think that George Irvine might be so cowardly as to hide behind an anonymous posting. Right? So, no, I can’t accuse him of lying and spreading deliberate falsehoods. What do you think, readers?
Incidentally, one of Irvine’s professed pet peeves is the practice of anyone diving compressed air mixtures below 130 feet. His most vicious tirades are directed at any diver, regardless of experience, who doesn’t employ trimix below these depths. But guess what? I met George Irvine back in 1993 on a dive boat in Pompano Beach, Florida when we dove some deep wrecks. All of us dove air that day. I limited myself to 230 feet primarily because of my cameras. But George hit the sand at 290 feet. Excuse me? Is there an inconsistency here somewhere? It’s okay for George but no one else? Go figure…
In closing, the potential of a resource like the Internet to share information is unlimited. Sadly, the level of discourse currently offered on many of its forums for divers is so partisan or outright inflammatory that most people have simply abandoned it. Can the technology and the various system operators take steps to clean up its act and discipline the subscribers into at least a modicum of decorum? Or will the information highway continue as a slug fest dominated by egomaniacal, immature, goof balls masquerading as responsible citizens?
George Irvine is not the only abuser of the system. But he has achieved a certain notoriety as the poster boy of abhorrent dysfunctional behavior. And I am the last to suggest that we censor him or deny him the right to his opinion.
Because, in my opinion, we want people like George right out in the open where we can see them and keep track of them. That way the public can know them for what they are.
Bret Giliam is co-Publisher of Deep Tech, CEO of UWATEC, and President of TDI.
A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
ON GEORGE IRVINE
Due to my experiences with him, I feel it’s important to convey my opinion of how offensive and destructive George Irvine’s behavior and attitude are. The destructiveness stems from a self-fulfilling methodology using public, globally disseminated (Internet) attacks on people who don’t even know him, to make “enemies” of them – in order to validate his own paranoia and prove to himself and his cadre of socially disenfranchised followers that they are being persecuted.
The destructive behavior includes the claim to be an environmentalist with the supposedly altruistic goal of changing diving for the better, while evidence show a poseur and a control freak who uses every form of demagogy, distraction, dissembly, deception, intimidation, divisiveness, and polarization primarily to satisfy an overwhelming ego. And doing so with the assistance from a small group of immature, imitative, blind followers – cynically cultivated and manipulated – working feverishly on the Internet to prevent the exposure of contrasting viewpoints by attempting to destroy the reputation and effectiveness of every individual, institution, and business that has the temerity to question him, do things differently, or stand up to an onslaught of unfair, untrue, and slanderous accusations.
I’ve never encountered another person who appears to have been born without scruples or had them burned off like warts by his childhood care givers and educators. If you can show me how working to destroy longtime friendships and create antagonism between people who have never met has anything to do with diving and safety, I’ll eat my wet suit hood – without salsa.To me, the attitude and modus operandi, by design, discourages and condemns a free exchange of ideas, independent thinking, innovation, cooperation/community and progress. In my opinion, George fosters the mindset, which is accepted by new divers either through ignorance or innocence, that only the extremes of behavior and diving are legitimate, thereby creating a prescription for disaster – unhealthy for diving itself, and for the people who associate and/or dive with him.
Some argue that diving benefits from George’s activities: the spotlight that he’s drawn to himself and his issues. And that this justifies or excuses his methods. But nothing useful that we’ve gotten from him is original, and all of it is available elsewhere. Sadly, all of it could have been conveyed, much more effectively and widely, with compassion and consideration, rather than vengeance and vitiation.
ON THE RECEIVING END
OF THE IRVINE MENACE
I am just your “garden variety” cave diver but there are times when I feel like I am being punished for it even though I committed no crime. My problem is with Mr. George M. Irvine, III and it all started with his abusive, pompous, and probably libelous posts made on an Internet caver’s forum. Irvine regularly and unfairly picked on fine people whom I considered to be excellent divers and respected scientists. The fiction that he printed and spread about the men and women who helped develop the sport of cave diving was very upsetting to me, and unfortunately, it just got worse.
My husband, Mark Long, attended a talk by WKKP team member Jarrod Jablonski at an NACD workshop. Following the lecture, Mark decided that a tunnel he had explored several years ago was heading straight to the 11,000+/- foot “Siphon Tunnel” that Jarrod and Todd Kincaid were pushing. Mark went to Freidman’s within the next few weeks and connected into the end of their line from the “Sewer Tunnel” in two dives. He then contacted Jarrod to let him know about the connection.
A very short time later insulting posts referencing the connection dive were sent to the Caver’s forum by Irvine. I’m not very tolerant of people attacking friends unfairly anyway, but I get downright incensed when someone attacks my husband. Irvine called him a “stroke, poacher, redneck, and a weenie”. All in good fun, right? You know, boys will be boys? Even though an important hydrogeological connection was made and then ignored…
Well, those insults weren’t good enough for good ol’ George. He sent the another e-mail to Mark threatening him if he didn’t had over his survey data. Who did he think he was? We did our own dive in a public park and paid our admission just like everyone else. Mark replied letting Irvine know that the survey wasn’t completed yet and he responded with another threatening post to the effect that “if we didn’t hand over the data, he would beat it out of us.” He followed this up with another threatening message of physical assault and added that “he was crazy enough to do it”.
That was just before the 1996 NACD workshop. I thought that this meeting would be a perfect time to speak with him and try to determine the basis of his hostility. I finally ran into him and asked him about his postings. At once, I received the full “bully” treatment: profanity, vulgarisms, implied threats, you name it. It was like arguing with a five year old petulant child. I had to keep reminding him that he was a grown man and should at least try to act like one in public. But it was impossible to reason with him and after a barrage of abuse, I walked away.
But since my exchange was witnessed by many others attending the NACD meeting, I inadvertently became something of a spokesperson for the persecuted after that confrontation. Divers of all sorts started coming up to me and patting me on the back for having the courage to face off with this horrible person. They shared their own horror stories of Irvine “flames” and personal attacks. At the DEMA show I ran into divers from all over the world that wanted shake my hand because I, a woman, had stood up to George and told him off.
The next round of abuse began after I was elected to the CDS Board of Directors. His diatribes on the Caver’s list following my election were hateful, filled with twisted hear-say, out and out lies, and shaming ridicule of my personal appearance. Since then, he has said that I cannot be trusted and that I am in some way dishonest. Since I work in Trust Banking, this is a very serious accusation and potentially can serve to disrupt my professional reputation.
I’ve now been a favorite target of his for most of the last eight months or so. Irvine has continued to post extremely insulting jeers intended to hurt my feelings since he apparently is incapable of dealing with my intellect or that I would dare to disagree with him or challenge his obnoxious behavior. At first, the insults really stung and caused me a lot of pain, but I then realized that I was in really good company. It feels kind of good in a perverse way to be included with his attacks on the heroes and legends of cave diving on his personal “slam” list. I must be doing something right.