UA adjunct lecturer resigned after "sick joke" blog comment

2006-07-10T00:00:00Z UA adjunct lecturer resigned after "sick joke" blog commentBy Kim Smith Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 10, 2006 12:00 am  • 

An adjunct psychology lecturer at the University of Arizona resigned Saturday after writing to a conservative blogger she wouldn't care if his 2-year-old son was killed the way JonBenet Ramsey was.

Deborah Frisch's comments on the Web site www.proteinwisdom.com created such a furor she has been lambasted on countless conservative Web sites. Her boss at the University of Arizona also received irate e-mails calling for her termination, she said.

Alfred Kaszniak, head of the psychology department, said he has received close to 300 emails about the incident. "The majority were very angry and many of them were using similar kinds of language that she is alleged to have used, accusing myself and the university of all sorts of things," he said.

Frisch, 44, said she quit her $32,861-a-year part time position not only because she fears for her safety, but because she regrets the UA ended up in the middle of what was intended to be a "sick joke."

She had hoped by quitting her job, supporters of blogger Jeff Goldstein would stop their online attacks. If anything, she said, they've increased.

"These people think I should be incarcerated, that I'm mentally ill or that I should be shot," Frisch said during a telephone interview from Eugene, Ore., where she is living now. "This whole thing has been crazy to me. People have spent their whole weekend on this."

Frisch, who has a doctorate in psychology, has been using the Internet to post her political views since the 2004 presidential election. Not only does she have her own Web site, www.debfrisch.com, but she also loves to "troll."

"Trolling is a type of Internet behavior where you post inflammatory comments on blogs when you know they disagree with the blogger and their minions," Frisch said.

On July 4, Frisch found herself on Goldstein's blog, or on-line journal. Soon, she was trading barbs with Goldstein and others of his political bent. At first, Frisch said she was enjoying herself.

"I like to play with fire. I'm a left-wing Rush Limbaugh. I'm a writer and I like to fight with words. I'm a word warrior."

Suddenly though, Frisch said, the conversation degenerated into disparaging personal remarks, many of a sexual nature.

She said she asked Goldstein to tell the others to desist, but was ignored. Eventually, she grew frustrated, she said.

"I wrote something that would make him as queasy as they were making me feel," Frisch said.

According to Goldstein's blog, Frisch wrote "You live in Colorado, I see. Hope no one JonBenets your baby" and "I reiterate: If some nutcase kidnapped your child tomorrow and did to (him) what was done to your fellow Coloradan, JonBenet Ramsey, I wouldn't give a damn."

Six-year-old JonBenet was strangled to death in her Boulder City, Colo., home in December 1996. Her killer has never been caught.

Kaszniak said he was not aware of Frisch's blog or her trolling behavior before the incident. Had she not resigned, he said an investigation of her actions would have been necessary.

The UA's Handbook for Appointed Personnel includes "an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression on and off the campus,"

Goldstein, in a telephone interview from his home in Colorado, also says Frisch suggested he kiss his son inappropriately and made disparaging remarks about his wife -- something Frisch emphatically denies. She says someone must have used her name and Web address to impersonate her; Goldstein said he traced the remarks back to Frisch.

"I should have just left the blog. It was a horrible, terrible thing to say and I hope his son never finds out about it," Frisch said.

University of Arizona spokesman Johnny Cruz Monday confirmed Frisch's resignation.

Goldstein, a stay-at-home dad, freelance writer and former English professor, said he has grown used to personal attacks since he began blogging following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Debbie is unusual in that she used her actual identity," Goldstein said. "Usually I get people who hide behind anonymous names and fake e-mail addresses."

Goldstein said he never felt threatened by Frisch.

He's not sure if his blog has seen an increase in the number of visitors, but he says attackers have managed to bring it down three times within the last week.

Frisch said the number of visits to her Web site increased from 25 hits a day to 30,000 in the past week.

What saddens Goldstein is, according to him, an ever-growing number of people are coming out in support of Frisch.

"I'm seeing more and more people from the left embracing her as a heroine," Goldstein said. "Some of the liberal bloggers are apologizing on her behalf, but others sites are trying to justify what she said."

Frisch's comments were likely a calculated move to get banned from his Web site, Goldstein said.

"Being banned is a badge of honor for hard leftwing commentators," Goldstein said. "That way they can say 'They censored me. They can't handle the truth.' "

Attacking someone's beliefs is one thing; attacking someone's family is another, Goldstein said.

"I think this speaks to Debbie's character. She's someone who wants to be the victim, the martyr. She wants to be embraced by a political party," Goldstein said.

Goldstein denied urging his supporters to contact the UA. He said he simply posted her comments and the address of her Web site.

Kaszniak described the affair as "simply very sad. The comments that she is alleged to have made are highly in appropriate. I don't think that kind of language is in anybody's interest, regardless of the nature of the political debate. It's certainly not the thing the University of Arizona or my department supports in any way."

Now that she won't be teaching, Frisch said she plans to finish writing a book on decision-making.

While she still hopes to fill the need for "edgy lefties," Frisch said the entire debacle has taught her where to draw the line.

She'll continue to write inflammatory comments, but she'll stay away from personal attacks.

"I don't want to get anywhere near that line again," Frisch said. "It's been scary, overwhelming and exhausting."

Star reporter Eric Swedlund contributed to this story.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at kimsmith@azstarnet.com or 573-4241.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Most Popular

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed: