On-line privates

This column is not about Mary Kay LeTourneau. We're not here to discuss whether a 35-year-old woman with even a tenuous hold on reality should bear children by a 13-year-old boy entrusted to her care. Instead, we are here to discuss privacy, and free speech, and why this week I'd like to boil my typing fingers in penicillin.

I believe in strong protection for privacy online; neither Big Business nor Big Government has the right to know my identity when I'm Netting within the bounds of the law. I'm also a free-speech absolutist; I believe that the more hateful and repulsive an ideology, the better weapon the light of day is against it.

Give the LeTourneau rock even the mildest kick online and you'll see some surpassing nasty critters scuttle into the light. Do a search of her name and you'll find a collection of men's-rights misogynists, a guy in Kansas who's worried about the racial implications of Titanic, a page named TeacherRape.html that bears no further mention, and (my favorite) a priest in Louisiana who uses Mary Kay as an example of America's spiritual decline, just before he explains how the Challenger explosion was a sign of God's wrath because some of the astronauts used birth control.

All in all, more nutty buddies than a Southern cookie jar—and these are the people who don't support her. (Kiss My ASCII: We dive the Dumpsters of the Web so you don't have to.)

On the yeaMary Kay side we have an assortment of gentlemen of age who "would like to have been raped by a teacher who looked like her" and . . . well, that's about it; even the folks at NAMBLA (the North American Man-Boy Love Association) are staying out of this one.

Enter www.marykayletourneau.com and www.helpmary.com, which purport to present Ms. LeTourneau's side of the story.

And who is the author, since Ms. L is without Net access whilst a guest of the state? Call him Jim, a fortysomething computer professional from down Burien way. Beyond that, however, you're on your own. The addresses for the firms registering the two domains are both rented mailboxes. The phone is a pager. And on the site itself, Jim goes by "Steward," as in "steward of the site." Despite claiming near-unanimous support from Web visitors and "co-workers, my wife and kids, even strangers at the grocery store and post office" (note to self: Avoid talking to strangers in Burien), Jim's admiration for Mary Kay is the love that dare not HTML its name.

Not a problem, according to Network Solutions, the company responsible for assigning .com domains. According to company spokespersons, as long as they can catch up with Jim when the bill is due, all is well. However, other folks might like more info on Jim's whereabouts—notably, the folks who own the domain www.mkl.com. Jim claims "MKL.com" as the company registering helpmary.com. However, there's already an mkl.com, and it's registered to a small ISP in New York state. And it is not amused.

Also conceivably less than amused, though unavailable for comment, is the LeTourneau family. Steve LeTourneau moved the kids to Alaska to get away from the circus. Yet here are the children, listed by name and age and soon to be joined, Jim assures us, by info about the two youngest daughters. (Did you know that the youngest child's middle name is Kahanimoana—"where the wind (Vili) meets the sea (Mary)"? Oh, sorry—were you eating?)

Jim's playing a curious game here—fast and loose with other people's privacy, obsessively protective of his own.

The one child not represented here, in fact, is Vili Fualaau—the boy whose "old soul" allegedly led the hapless LeTourneau down the path to Purdy. Any chance we'll hear from him, Jim? "I think he's intellectually and psychologically up to [doing a page], but practically speaking it would jeopardize my [that is, Jim's] hope of seeing Mary again" while in prison.

And so the cold cruel world of the judicial system meets the world of marykayletourneau.com, which Jim is the first to admit "is not an exercise in balance," where sixth-graders seduce swooning thirtysomething heroines, where LeTourneau's assault on Fualaau was "a 'crime' that we all know never took place." Who says the Net can't take you to strange and magical lands? Don't forget to pack your penicillin!

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