by Albert Paschall,
Senior Commentator, Lincoln Institute
Of course I have a fan club. You can't throw your two cents into several dozen newspapers around this state every couple of weeks and not have one. I've got all kinds of fans. First there are the brilliant ones. To them every word I write is anchored in truth, justice, and the American way. Then there's the mixed bag type. They comment on everything I write. Somedays they like it, somedays they don't. Then there is what I call the "moon howlers." Generally inspired by the likes of Michael Moore and his Move-On organization, I can't write the words 'vanilla ice cream' without getting this group off their rockers. Actually I enjoy them the most. When you can't take their action it is time to get out of the game. But in the last couple of months I've developed a new type of fan I had never encountered before - the luxury of my very own stalker.
Before you think my ego is out of control and only movie stars have stalkers, I checked with experts. According to the University of Pittsburgh the most common form of obsessional stalker generally has a poor sense of self; feels powerless and insecure. He or she is frequently jealous, paranoid, socially inept and unable to maintain relationships. That's the description of my number one fan.
Now as far as I'm concerned my biggest fan can put on his tinfoil hat and try to channel Elvis' ghost in my backyard. But that's not fair to the people around me. Family, friends and co-workers are rattled by the notion of someone obsessed with me.
They have good reason to be. Stalking gained national notoriety in 1988 after actress Theresa Saldana was stabbed 10 times in front of her home by an insane fan. She survived. Even with her urgent public pleas, stalking laws weren't enacted in California until 1990 after Richard Farley gunned down 7 people in his Sunnyvale work place. Despite the fact that the object of his affection, Laura Black, had moved 4 times and had a court order banning Farley from coming near her, he packed up an arsenal one afternoon and shot his way into her office. The judge who issued the protection order the day after the massacre said: "a piece of paper can never stop a bullet." By 1993 every state in the union had some form of harassment or stalking law.
Stalking is pervasive. According to Sociologist Jennifer Dunn, 1out of every 12 women in this country will report some form of stalking in their lives and about 1 in 45 men will experience the intrusion of someone obsessed. Most stalking is committed by someone the victim knows, often an ex-lover, but 23% of stalking crimes are by delusional strangers with violent tendencies. On average 76% of women that are murdered report at least one incident of stalking in the previous twelve months.
The high tech age has made the stalker's life easier. Internet access to addresses and other personal files, computer hacking to open e-mails and digital eavesdropping have helped the sick get sicker faster.
Today my biggest fan ratcheted up his delusions. He took off ranting on a stranger. She called me to report her concerns. The police are working on it, but stalking can be tough to prove. Years ago a pal of mine, a retired police officer, suggested I buy a gun and he would teach me how to use it. I thought he was crazy. Somebody like me, with all of the talent needed to walk and chew gum at the same time, doesn't need to pack any heat. Someday though, if this joker keeps it up, I just might.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.