Seattle Ricin Gay Bar Terrorist Also a Plagiarist

Yesterday morning I posted about the threat in Seattle made by an unknown terrorist to eleven of the city’s gay bars, threatening to poison their patrons with the potentially deadly agent Ricin. There have been developments.

Ricinletter2Yesterday afternoon, Dan Savage at Slog posted the second Ricin letter, the one that was sent to the offices of The Stranger. Earlier yesterday, Dan Savage guessed the letters were written by a gay man.

Wrote Savage: “The letters strike me as having been written by a very bitter man—by someone who came out, expected that gay life would a glorious cycle of song, and was shocked to discover that gay life—just like straight life—comes with no guarantees. In the years after coming out he learned that some people, gay and straight, can be assholes; that gay men were not, despite the hype, his ‘brothers.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if this person had a meth problem and a string of failed relationships. He’s someone who has probably, through the choices he’s made, succeeded in making a complete hash of his life. But he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his choices so he blames gay people in general, and gay life, and the bars, and pins his personal failures on the ‘community.'”

DogyearsThen, a slog commenter noticed that some of the phrasing in the letters was taken directly from a poem by gay poet Mark Doty (who recently won a National Book Award) from his book Dog Years. Here’s the poem in full.

Doty wrote Slog: “This is just repellent. On the literal level, my poem is about looking at fish on ice in the grocery store, and wondering if they could be called individuals. But I wrote in ’94, in the crisis years of the epidemic, and so I was really thinking about mortality. I was trying to imagine some way to make the loss of those we love seem even temporarily bearable. So I was thinking about what it means to ‘have’ a self, to be a self, when selfhood is something we lose. I was trying to console myself and others, at least a little, for all we’d endured. So, it’s especially ugly for these words to be used against gay men. Writers have no control over what people do with their words, but this is as far from my intention as you could get.”

Doty echoes those thoughts, and adds to them, on his own blog.

Police are investigating and bar owners and patrons are showing solidarity. The pouring will go on.


  1. Mike in the Tundra says

    I guess time will tell. Dan’s argument for a gay guy is pretty good, but I found the comments about his article to be the most interesting. Many of them thought the guy would be physically unattractive. I can see the guy being all right looking or even better. Some of the bitterest guys that I have ever seen have been nice looking, they just have a personality that would repel flies.

  2. Hunter says

    Why do we care at all what Dan Savage has to say about it? I have my own theories, too. Will you publish them?

  3. Mike says

    If it indeed is a gay person this for me points to the harm that “stigma” and discrimination against gay people has caused. Yes, there are crazies out there amongst gay people also, but I could go on and on with the examples of whacked out self-hating hypocritical gays… Larry Craig, Mark Foley, J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn… just a few names which pop immediately into mind. I’m sure all the readers of this blog could add many more very quickly. We need another Harvey Milk…

  4. Mike says

    oops, typo… “crazies out there amongst gay people” should be “crazies out there amongst straight people” – I should finish my coffee before I start typing… 😉

  5. RJ says

    Well, Hunter, if you deign to post your theories in this comments section, one could consider that as being “published”. Go for it.

  6. DanInSeattle says

    The line that was plagiarized was from a poem titled “A Display of Mackerel,” from a book of poetry titled “Atlantis.” “Dog Years,” is a memoir written in prose about the two dogs that lived with Doty when his partner Wally died of AIDS in the 1990s and continued to live with him through 9/11. Doty’s poetry and his prose are beautifully written.

  7. says


    Because the letter was sent to The Stranger – where Dan Savage is the Editorial Director.

    Since Dan was the recipient of the letter I think he has every right to share his thoughts on it.

  8. Paul R says

    I respect and enjoy Dan Savage, but his comments here might do more harm than good. He gets extremely specific, and local cops might think, “Well this is a well-known gay guy—he must know about how the gay mind works.” And then focus on the type he identified.

    It could just as easily be a closeted freak, an older man rejected too often at the bars, a Christian teen with access to his father’s lab…or it could all just be a complete hoax. Given the plagiarism, it would seem that it’s someone who is gay but not close to the “community”—but there’s no way to ensure that.

    My point is, I hope that Dan’s comments don’t send police searching for a specific type, when there could be many types of maniacs, full of hate and desperate for attention, who would do this sort of thing.

  9. Reive says

    To start off with, I respect and admire the majority of Dan Savage’s work, but his analysis of the perpetrator suggests he’s been watching too many episodes of “Criminal Minds.”

    I expect Dan will be getting a call from the FBI any day now to guest lecture at Quantico…