Cyberbunk

Kevin Massey is no 'cyberstalker.' But when he tangled with another bullheaded loudmouth on the Internet, their 'flame' war spawned a great publicity stunt.

Maybe it was fate they'd meet on line.

It began in late July with a complaint about a phone call to Internet America. Someone had posted a gripe about the company in the newsgroup dfw.flame.

Massey, who was on line that day, noticed the post and piped in with a few thoughts of his own: "IA is no more than an internet version of that shitty AOL (America Online) that they always compare themselves to!!" he wrote. "I called them just for fun once and was on hold so long I hung up."

According to a service that archives each and every piece of this rot, about 191 postings were made in this "thread," the name of the stack of electronic notes posted in sequence on the same subject. This and later threads developed into the running flame war.

In computerland, there are pockets of people who enjoy irritating the big Internet providers and the software giants like Microsoft, which they accuse of threatening the rights of "netizens" everywhere. Entire newsgroups are dedicated to dissing Microsoft chief Bill Gates. One site, alt.aol-sucks, hosts nothing but flames blown toward America Online.

The object of flaming, by most accounts, is to dispatch one's adversary with a withering riposte. But there were no signs of a budding Dorothy Parker in the Internet America vs. Mackdaddy clash.

In late September, for instance, someone accidentally posted a message in dfw.flame asking if anyone could provide a good home for a Siberian Husky. "Wrong newsgroup, dumbass!" chimed in Wild Bill in his next post. "No it ain't," came the next note, from Joe Bramblett, manager of Internet America's newsgroups. "Mackdingy's been lookin' for a date."

The often-fake e-mail addresses in the postings give an idea of the general level of discussion: blowme "Mcdade Fuck You All."

John Stewart, a 37-year-old Internet America training director who took part in the flame and usually included a disclaimer that his views were his own, seemed a little disappointed in the level of debate. Rudolph Valentino had just posted: "TAKE YOUR CAPS LOCK KEY AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS." So Stewart, tongue in cheek, posted his "Twelve Commandments of Flaming." Number five counseled flamers to threaten lawsuits. Number one suggested making things up about the opposition. Number three suggested "crossposting" to as many other newsgroups as possible. And number 12 read: "Insult the dirtbag. 'Oh yeah? Well your mother does strange things with...'"

Massey and his fellow flamers would try all of them before this war was done.

Nobody needed to tutor Kevin Massey in talking trash.
He grew up tough in blue-collar Pleasant Grove in a family of military men and cops. His dad was an aircraft mechanic and his mother a devout churchgoer. They threw him out of the house, with good reason, when he was in his late teens.

In November 1985, a Dallas police officer on patrol caught Massey, then 19, in a daytime burglary. He and a juvenile accomplice had stolen several pistols, shotguns, and knives from a South Dallas home.

Massey pleaded guilty to home burglary, a first-degree felony, in return for eight years of probation.

In January 1988, Massey was at it again. Police busted him and two other men burglarizing a Pleasant Grove house at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. One of his accomplices was nabbed climbing out of the window with a fur coat in hand. Massey pleaded guilty, caught a five-year sentence, and was behind bars for about nine months, four in the Texas Department of Corrections' Hilltop Unit.

"I've been to the pen and I didn't like it. I know what I can and can't do," Massey says from his home outside Terrell. "I wouldn't step over that line again."

To get to Mackdaddy's place, you take a right when you see his dump truck, a left at the red-and-white mobile home, go straight down the dirt road...well, you get the idea.

He's not fond of revealing where he lives, and goes out of his way to show his guests his assault rifles, shotgun, and .357-caliber pistol. Plywood in a window and shotgun pellet holes inside the sash do a lot to illustrate his story about the previous person who came around uninvited.

Outside Massey's unadorned, newish frame house, cattle lounge in a tranquil meadow. Inside, it's a high-tech cave. The living room is dominated by a huge TV and a pile of children's tapes. Just as prominent is Massey's computer, which includes a scanner to capture images, a machine for manufacturing CD-ROM discs, and a minitower filled with components Massey says he installed himself.

Before Khristy, his wife of 17 months, and the couple's two young boys leave for the evening to trick-or-treat at Khristy's grandmother's church in Mesquite, Khristy describes her husband as a man engrossed with his computer.

"He's on there all day," she says, explaining that she is mostly gone in the evenings. She dances at a Dallas topless club at night and takes nursing classes during the day while hoping for a career change.

Stretching out before the computer and removing his shirt to reveal a collection of tattoos from his prison and biker days, the 30-year-old Massey crows confidently: "I'm a spoiled catman. My wife is the breadwinner. I'm Mr. Mom."

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