Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

August 6, 2007

A Blogosphere First! A Turning Point In Blog History!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:27 am

I must admit I’m astonished by the gracious apology from commenter Irina, recently. The atmosphere in the comments section of most blogs is thick with imprecations from know-it-alls who are oh-so-proud of their poorly crafted insults.

This is the first time I know of that a commenter actually had second thoughts and was generous and open minded enough to admit them in public. it might be the first time ever! Could this be a turning point in blogospheric history?

But it’s an instance of how angry, bitter, and fractious the discourse on double-suicides Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake has become; people get carried away.

Believe me I approach this as an agnostic with no axe to grind, hadn’t even intended more than one post, but there were questions in my mind and in the mind of a lot of other people. Questions that may never be answered but seem to me to be worth asking.

Primarily this one: what happened to this talented woman that led her to a cocktail of bourbon and Tylenol PM according to most reports? Was her boyfriend’s suicide necessary? part of pact? Did he have to carry it out? Where were his friends that final day of his life when he had to call one of my sources, someone he hadn’t spoken to after angrily denouncing for nearly a year? Maybe some of those friends are feeling guilty, thus their bitterness about people asking questions.

A couple of commenters have anonymously cast aspersions about everyone inquisitive about Theresa and Jeremy’s death but them. if they know everyone else is wrong, they must know the truth, right. otherwise how can they be so sure everyone else is wrong? But they haven’t shared that with us Outsiders. Please, if you have facts share. I don’t want to encourage unfounded, uncorroborated rumors.

One apparent misunderstanding may be my fault. I thought it was obvious that my source, the person who received Jeremy’s pre-suicide advice plea wouldn’t talk to me unless I granted him confidentiality. I knew who he was, he corroborated his version of events with documents, I don’t blame him for not subjecting himself to the growing ugliness. (What is it about commenter culture in general? In a recent piece for The Atlantic June, 2007 I suggested that it had something to do with “cyber-disinhibition” the ability of the anonymous commenter to hide like a coward behind his anonymity and throw stones without fear of revealing him or herself.)

However, to return to my source on what may be Jeremy’s last words and the way the couple could turn on friends, let me repeat I knew him before this, had met him, we had people in common in our professional life, and he provided corroboration of his story in the form of e mails from Theresa and Jeremy. In other words he was not anonymous to me and if you’re skeptical of his account because he doesn’t want his name used that’s not my problem.

I’ve been careful to try to label speculations as speculations, but in the course of sifting through speculation, certain facts and patterns often emerge. I’ve said that I initially didn’t plan any follow ups, I just wanted to pay tribute to Theresa in particular since I admired her blog so much, but the controversy over their deaths and the sadness is a tribute to how much people cared for them and–thus–why people wondered what went wrong. I think an honest attempt to sort things out is something worthwhile.

So I’ll have more to come on this from my source and other sources, but keep in mind the big question which some of her friends could shed light on is: what REALLY started all this? What exactly convinced Theresa (and Jeremy) “they” were out to get her (them). And is there any real corroborating evidence for it (please be specific) or was it a delusion?

Meanwhile thank you again Irina, for your good nature and for making blogospheric history. I was really touched (and I apologize for my initial irritability). Maybe it will be the a turning point. I’m not calling for all-kumbaya all the time from commenters, but it seems like the venom is unnecessary. Life is too short to put up with it or subject others to it.



  1. One of the New York newspaper articles stated that Theresa left a ‘lengthy hand-written note’. If this is true I suspect she stated her reasons for destroying herself within its contents. That note is probably in the possession of the police but will eventually be returned to her family. Perhaps one day the family will agree to reveal the contents of Theresa’s farewell to Jeremy as a way of bringing closure to all those who feel the collective sense of loss and grief.

    So it is possible that one day we may truthfully learn the ‘why’ of this tragedy, at least from Theresa’s perspective.

    Just a thought.

    Posted from New York City, Aug. 9 2007

    Comment by Jon — August 9, 2007 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

  2. No, thank you, Ron. I felt so terrible. it was late, i had read so much stuff on the web, navigated to so many crazy sites, most of them conspiracy theorists and what not and i actually had YOUR site confused with one I was just on before that! seriously. i had several windows open on my computer…
    so embarrassing. i have been checking back daily to make sure you got the apology.
    and you are right, i was one of those people who was throwing stones behind a wall of anonymity. what the heck got into me? i was so frustrated and upset over the deaths of these two artists and all the misinformation.
    i do think something strange is going on. just not sure what exactly.

    Comment by irina good — August 9, 2007 @ 11:42 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Ron –
    Years ago I was stunned at the level of rudeness in many forums. Call me a confirmed lurker – too craven to take the verbal assaults and too impatient to process non sequitur responses. But I can’t even lurk on the rudest sites. My fight instinct is immediately engaged – I want to right the wrong and straighten that person out…to what end? To paraphrase Alien’s great ad – in cyberspace, no one can hold you accountable. Thank you and Irina for a most refreshing exchange.

    Question – I’m a Univ. of Chicago grad and when you said you taught at UofC’s “journalism school” I checked the website. I could be mistaken, but I think they still don’t have a j school or program. I’m a former investigative journalist and would have liked such a a program. In Chicago’s quirky style, the Vare Nonfiction Writer in Residence program “operates under the aegis of the Committee on Creative Writing.” Did the Committee explain to you when nonfiction became a subset of creative writing?? (I ask rhetorically, with affection and humor.) Perhaps the Lunar Society was involved.

    Yes, thank you, my title was Vare Nonfiction Writer in Residence at the U of Chi., teaching in the “Creative Non Fiction” division or whatever, although I don’t like the term “Creative Non Fiction”. I should have said I taught journalism (or non fiction writing) at three Universities, rather than at three j-schools. BTW, I think your feelings about the average unedited comments section are shared by many.

    Comment by Mary — August 10, 2007 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

  4. The note was not lengthy. The NYPD officer I spoke with read it to me over the phone.

    Irina–I never, in print or in pixels, claimed to know her well.

    LA Weeky:
    “I knew her, and I knew that much of what she wrote about her world was an elaborate tale, taken as fact by the uninitiated.”

    FBLA 7/20
    “Duncan and her partner, artist Jeremy Blake (who is missing as of this posting), were regular party guests at this FBLA editor’s home–always amusing, amazingly clad, and bearing unusual and unexpected gifts.”

    Kevin Roderick whom I know. (LA Observed 7/19)

    “And Kate Coe, who knew her, talks about Duncan at Fishbowl LA.”

    Theresa’s friends spoke to me because they knew I knew her. No one I quoted in my piece has complained to me about any aspect of my writing or reporting.

    Comment by Kate Coe — August 10, 2007 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  5. We might be farther along in our understanding of this perplexing situation if Kate Coe would tell us something about what was in Theresa Duncan’s suicide note that the police read to her.

    Comment by pj — August 10, 2007 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  6. I’d already interviewed the officer once on the record. He/She read it to me in an off the record conversation, and I’m not going to burn a source. If any family members or friends wanted to make the contents of either note public, they’ve had ample opportunity to do so.

    Lincoln Anderson, writing The Villager, says
    “Morales said he saw Xeroxed copies of notes both left, in which Blake and Duncan each expressed love for the other.”

    Comment by Kate Coe — August 11, 2007 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

  7. This happened on the ShrinkWrapped blog a few months ago, too. I was similarly surprised and cheered. Someone had left a really inappropriate comment, containing some standard political snark. They picked a terrible time, because the guest post was not even about politics, it was a heartfelt personal piece about the author’s loss of a child. We all rallied to support the author and the original commenter came back and apologized, and admitted that he hadn’t even read the original post. It was very interesting, and heartening, to realize that even someone who was trying to be a troublemaker didn’t mean to be cruel, and apologized for it.

    Comment by Sarah Rolph — August 12, 2007 @ 9:00 am | Reply

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