April 1995 -- Just over a year ago, I wrote a thrill-a-minute story for
Toronto Computes! about "Doctor" Joe Baptista -- the government-irritant
who was mercilessly faxing them through his fax-bombing setup,
supposedly ringing up $3.5 million in paper/administrative costs.
Since then, Baptista's partner, "Doctor Robert Riley, has led the
assault on another front: Freedom Of Information requests. The
provincial government actually rewrote the FOI guidelines so that no
single person could have "an excessive number" of FOI requests at any
Recently, five police chief from larger Ontario cities asked the
government to allow them to ignore any requests from either Baptista or
Riley -- a move which immediately interested the newsmedia and civil
rights groups. The "Doctors" made the front page of the Globe and
They call themselves "The Doctors" because Baptista says that when he
uses the attribution, he gets better tables in restaurants. No member of
the Doctors is a conventional doctor. (NOTE: Ottawa netter and
programmer Chris Lewis dubbed him !Dr Baptista -- using the programming
operator !, which means "not." Thus he's Not-Doctor Baptista. The term
!Doctors is more commonly used today.)
Baptista's height of Internet notoriety came when he teamed-up with
netter Tom Evans. This dynamic duo grated on the nerves of thousands in
Ontario (and beyond). The !Doctors practically owned newsgroup
ont.general for a while. In August, Baptista was voted Kook Of The Month
in Usenet newsgroup alt.usenet.kooks .
But it all fell apart shortly. The two had a very public falling out
in Usenet. Acting as a sort of !Doctor anti-matter, Evans mercilessly
ridiculed Baptista into relative silence. To Ontario Usenetters, it was
a rather surreal site. Today, Baptista rarely posts -- and when he does,
Evans suddenly appears and roasts Baptista alive; in response, Baptista
mumbles something like "We have nothing to say to you," and the thread
Thus ended the reign of Ontario's first (and some think greatest)
net.loon. On the anniversary of that TC! article, I called up Tom Evans
for an interview. Evans is editor/publisher of a net ezine called
Net.scandal -- which chronicles the weird and wild and wacko aspects of
the net.community. Evans is hoping to finally get some dedicated
bandwidth he can use to provide free accounts to "wayward kids" -- to
let them create mayhem online, not on the streets.
* * * * *Q: I must admit,
Tom... last April or so, When I first saw you posting in ont.general, in
full !Doctor mode, I thought you were a... you know... an asshole.
Ya, that's the way I came across. The Doctor thing never
completely fit with me. I didn't know anything about netiquette. And I
didn't give care about it. I'm just an outlaw from nowhere, as far as they
knew. And I acted like an asshole. I'm the first to admit it.
Q: What drew you to Usenet?
I'd just stumbled out of the Fido world. I came to Usenet,
plodding around in hipwaders in these newsgroups bellowing "HI!" -- a
complete clueless newbie. But I watched what was going on, and some
particular people caught my interest: the big-mouths! [grins] The ones
causing the trouble. I could tell who was arguing a conservative position
and who's a radical and who's just an idiot.
Q: How did you get involved with the
I was on Magic BBS one night. It uses First Class software. As
I'd been on FidoNet, I didn't know how to parse a header to post to the
newsgroups. Plus I was using a DOS machine that I had never used before.
Since there's a chat feature in First Class, I saw 45 people on at
midnight, I thought I'd ask someone for help. What name, of all those
people, do I just happen to pick out? Robert Riley. Didn't know him from
Adam. Complete coincidence.
He says. 'Sure, what's your phone number, I'll phone you up.' He does
and we yap away, and he finally says, 'Hey, I live just down the street.
Want me to come over and show you how to work your machine?' I shrugged,
sure. Drop over.
So over he comes and sets my machine up with Q-Term and all the rest of
it. Ran smoothly. After, he's sitting in the chair, and we talk, until he
asks, 'Ever hear of Joe Baptista?' I said, 'God, that's really funny that
you mention that name because I was just busting a gut laughing today when
reading an article about this guy in Toronto Computes: "The Beast
That Stalks The Government." I had the best laugh reading that.
Rob says, 'Oh, that's us!' What'ya mean, that's us? 'We're Doctors!
We've been doing this for quite a while.' Doing what? 'Ohh, we have fun.
And we use fax machines...'
So picture it: here I am, a complete clueless newbie, without
any idea of the net, and meet these guys, who seem to be activists
and have a beef with Canada. Rob gives me Joe's number and I phone the
next day. We talk and swap addresses. Joe promises to drop over sometime.
Sure enough, he's there the same night. And we got along famously
We were pals I supported him completely
Q: You guys must have spent some nights roaring
with laughter at the reactions from the humorless conservatives on the
Oh God! I'd split my sides! Joe was one of the biggest sources
of comic relief in my life! But remember, I am a naive kid from St
Catharine's who keeps forgetting there are often darker motives behind
people's actions. I was completely bedazzled by these Doctor guys who seem
to know so much. And they really stirred up the pot. As for all these
names I kept seeing in groups like ont.general, howling about the horrible
things the Doctors (me included) were supposedly doing, to me they were
just a bunch of conservative assholes in need of a good kicking anyway.
My thing was reposting stuff I thought funny from other groups to
ont.general . I didn't know anything about how threading works -- I'm
using a First Class site, at tvo.org , right?
Q: And you thought ont.general is just some
local BBS group, where you post anything and everything...
Exactly. "Here's a funny article from alt.best.of.internet !
Read this, gang!" Naturally, people then flamed me, saying, "Look, we can
get this stuff by reading alt.best.of.internet ourselves, so stop
reposting it to ont.general . Well... That just fuelled me!
[laughs] It made me want to do it more! And Joe was saying, 'Oh, great!
Just keep bugging them. Do whatever you want.'
Q: You started calling yourself "Doctor Tom
Evans, PR director." How did that happen?
I proposed I be Joe's "PR manager". I mean, I got a few smarts
going. I worked in the advertising biz for eight years. Master of
misinformation. So I went out to Ontario newsgroups banging Joe's drum for
him. And damned if I didn't start coming up with some fans for the guy! We
were getting attention. Even from the media. Shift magazine phoned
us up for an article and wanted to meet for lunch. I choose to have it in
the cafeteria at Toronto General Hospital -- what better place for the
Doctors, right? Shift didn't do a story, though... I think they
thought we were too "out there" for them...
Q: It would certainly seem that, since your
departure from the !Doctors, Baptista's star (or anti-star) set...
Hmmm. I think the !Doctors think that to themselves. And I
warned Joe about it. Fun is fun, but I'm a man of integrity. I won't call
in the cops to harass people. I began to see that darker nature,
threatening people on a personal level. Getting them in trouble in real
life. I said, "Joe, that's just malicious." I'm not interested in
destroying things or people. I'm interested in ridiculing the piss outta
someone in Usenet, and cause them so much grief they never want to login
again, but I'm not interested in getting them into legal trouble
with the police or disrupting their personal lives or getting them fired,
or anything like that. I don't want to take this thing out of
And I don't want the police at my door. I made it clear that if
Joe was going to cause me real life grief, then I couldn't have anything
to do with the !Doctors.
The reason Joe wanted to use my name and phone number as PR man
at the bottom of his faxes and net posts is because he's living at his
Mom's house. Joe is Portuguese. With some Latin men, the most important
person in their lives is "Mom." The one thing you do not do is shame your
mother in anyway or you go straight to hell.
Problem is: what Joe loves most in life is seeing the
reaction to what he does. For him to do a fax spam, and for there
not to be a contact number for him, is just completely pointless. What's
the point if you can't hear the complaints?
Q: Hear the echo...
Ya, hear the echo. Joe tried a few faxes with no number at the
bottom -- because he couldn't use Mom's number, and his own
phone was cut for owing 800 beans to Ma Bell. So he wanted to start adding
my number, since I'm the "PR guy."
I said, "Joe, I'm- I'm- I'm not sure. I don't think so... I
don't know if I would end up liking that." Because I'm a low-profile guy.
I'm an eccentric that doesn't want to be in the public eye. Unless it's on
my own terms [like the net]. I don't want someone else's publicity dogging
me around. But I agreed to give it a shot and see.
Well, first fax-net press release he used me on was the Conservative
MPP Donald Cousens article. He had some phone spat with Cousens'
secretary. He issued a "press release" calling her a human larvae.
Q: That's the one where he says she's in
Ya, that she acted like she was a 'bitch in heat.'
Q: And that's the one that got him elected Kook
of the Month.
Right! And damned if that isn't the first one with my name and
phone number on the bottom as the PR Director! So MPP Cousens and 15 other
people -- including the Globe and Mail -- phoned me on that one! I sure
didn't like the feedback from that. The Cousen's secretary herself even
called me, insisting this was hate mongering, subject to Canada's
anti-hate laws. I got scared. That's my bottom line: I don't like cops, I
don't like jail, I've never been in jail, and I'm never gonna go. So I
replied I had nothing to do with it. Naturally, she asked why my name was
on the bottom.
I said: "Welllll, I'm the PR company..."
She said: "Then I suggest your company finds out exactly who the
heck you are PRing."
I replied: "Good point. I will. Thank you very much for calling."
I phoned Joe immediately and said, "OK, that's the end of that. I'll
let this one fly, you had fun with Cousens, fine. I don't want my name on
any more." And, indeed, Joe stopped -- for the moment.
Q: Until after the Doctor-Q... The trigger of
your public split...
Q: The Doctor-Q was a bash last summer, attended
by Gordon Domm, the net's Homolka-rumor-monger "Abdul" and various other
Right. I did all the work for that party. I paid $800 to get
that beer and food and got $725 back. In retrospect, it's real lucky that
was ALL I lost. My fault, though. I don't blame anyone else for that.
But then Joe starts bugging me for money from it, figuring I pocketed a
profit! And then he starts demanding money, and later an "accounting." He
didn't lift a finger for the bash. He didn't stay to clean up. He didn't
do a frigging thing. He's a lazy pig. He's a slug. He's a complete slug.
His excuse, of course, for being a slug is [in whining Baptista
impersonation] "Well, I have this condition, I was hit over the head,
and I can't remember anything..."
Q: He told me that once. Does he have a
Well... He did get beat up by a landlord. But let me tell
you, he sure knows how to remember if you owe him ten bucks from three
Q: He called me once saying he thought it was
Monday -- it was Friday.
I think it all started as kind of a joke. But people have the
capacity to programme themselves that they actually are brain damaged if
they work hard enough at work.
I mean, maybe I'm wrong. But there's no big scar on his head. Not that
I've seen. As I understand it, he just got a couple of good swats in the
head from his landlord. No one's ever told me about "The tragic day Joe
had to go to intensive care." I mean, the kind of memory loss we're
talking about here suggests, to me, severe head trauma.
Q: But "brain damage" aside, you were impressed
with !Dr Joe's ability to mercilessly irritate civil servants.
Oh yeah. He was a chartered accountant. That's the reason
he knows how to get at government. First thing you learn as an accountant
is that paper can cost a company more than anything else. The
administration. And that's exactly his attack. Some people think Joe is
perceptive and remarkable and all that, Joe is just doing what an
accountant does -- sends papers to places he knows have to file and
Q: Bob Allisat seems to have taken up Baptista's
mantle as Toronto's reigning net.kook. How did he fit into the
Bob was never a full Doctor, because he never really liked or
trusted Joe. When I first saw him, Bob was on all the First Class BBSs. I
saw him at Magic, ranting about Magic sysadmin "Merlin," how his stuff was
being censored, or calling Matrix child molesters or whatever. It was
vicious stuff. Bob was a true ranter and a raver.
I worked to pull all these guys together because I love ranters.
I love them! [laughs] They're my entertainment! I brought Bob into the
circle. Here I am the Net.Scandal PR man, and all these guys fit perfect
into the net.scandal. I aimed to compile rant talent and drum up such a
stink that something entertaining had to come of it! So I got Allisat on
the blower and said, "We gotta meet, Bob! I like what you've got to say."
Bob can write. If he got rid of his self-centred attitude -- and
the whiney "Ohhhh, everyone is picking on me" -- he'd be a star. Another
thing about Bob is that he never resorts to stupid threats -- like
physical violence. Not like stupid people, like this "Alexmac" at
Internex, who threaten to have Bob's knees broken. People who don't have a
higher education resort to violence.
But Bob's whole Parkdale thing makes me laugh -- he hasn't lived in
Parkdale that long. Anyway, the real energy in Parkdale right now isn't
the sad cases living on welfare, it's the booming artist community living
at Liberty and King. It's the highest concentration of art in the city. I
used to live at King and Dufferin and everybody in there is a cracker
artist of some sort. It's booming. So I told him: 'This is the what
the new Parkdale is, not this idea you have for connecting all the nuts at
[Right around this time, someone from Allisat's system uploaded an
anonymous post about a Portuguese community priest -- calling the priest a
"Nazi, thief, child molester," etc. Baptista saw it and faxed it out to
everyone adding Tom Evans' home phone number on the bottom, implying Evans
wrote it. Evans emphatically denies having anything to do with it.]
Q: Didn't Allisat delete you from his system?
Yes, he did. Bob's biggest fear is being sued. He got rid of me
at psc.org because he feared a big lawsuit was coming over the Portuguese
priest thing. And at the same time, UUNet Canada cut off Baptista's
system. It's my opinion that Allisat put two and two together and figured
I was going to get so vocal over both events that he would get sued. So he
Joe's putting my name on the bottom of that Portuguese priest story was
as dirty as you can get. He sent it out to everyone in the friggin
Portuguese world. I sure got lots of calls from Portuguese people.
People had long been warning me: you are never going to get
government/private sponsorship for your idea of putting rebel youth on the
net if you have Baptista in your ranks. You're not going to get it. They
were right. It would never happen.
Q: Two other "Doctors" -- Rob Riley and Bruce
Lloyd -- tried to convince the police to raid and shut down Interlog
Internet Services last September. It was revenge on Interlog owner Matt
Harrop, but they fooled CITY TV into thinking they were carrying citizens
worried about child porn. Turns out they wrote tons of vile material
Exactly. There's an 'honor among thieves' code in cyberspace
that cannot be broken. They broke it. And that's why Joe and Rob are not
welcome in my home anymore. They don't have that 'honor,' don't even
understand what it is. I've told them that if they could distinguish
between friends and enemies, they'd be at the top of the charts. The real
enemy isn't the grunt in the trench, like, say, Jim Mercer -- the enemy is
the overblown, overpaid, overstuffed, over-egoed politician.
Q: So you think "The Doctors" are gone for
Well, Joe has almost no support from anyone in the net.community
at all anymore. But they aren't gone. This freedom of information thing
has a lot of play in it. The !Doctors have simply regrouped and gone
quiet. That's partly why Joe's just shut his fat little mouth.
Q: Many people call you a "prankster." You call
it irritainment, I believe.
Ya, I do. And it's so easy. It doesn't have to involve technical
tricks, just knowing human nature.
For instance, I know Joe's biggest fear, almost obsessive worry, is
that his stuff is being canceled. See, Joe's only weapon in life is
Usenet. The threat that his words are going to be canceled is paramount.
So I thought, dandy, I'm going to fan those flames. I used a long dead
account of mine at Sonic Interzone to "corroborate" it. I wrote a post as
someone else saying, "Yes, I can't see posts from Joe anywhere!" And the
It's like fishing. And all these little tricks we try to write about in
Net Scandal. Sometimes you get bites and nibbles. But you are always
hoping you get the hook right down the throat so you can really haul on