Back in June of this year, alleged Republican "kingmaker" Bill Kristol (the man responsible for inflicting Sarah Palin on the national dialog) was horrified at Donald Trump's march to the Republican nomination and toyed with launching an independent run to challenge Trump as the head of the party he's been manipulating behind the scenes for decades. His candidate of choice? David French, a senior fellow with the National Review and an Iraq War vet. The Trump campaign took very little time to try to intimidate him out of such a run and within a few days, French bowed out.
But Trump's alt-right minions weren't satisfied with just eliminating the potential rival candidacy. French needed to be punished for daring to consider the possibility at all and continuing to be a vocal #NeverTrump proponent. The harassment he received is not at all unfamiliar to those of us on the left who have come across these alt-righters on social media:
David French, a columnist for National Review, and his wife Nancy French, a columnist for the Washington Post, have come under what French called “an unending torrent of abuse that I wouldn’t wish on anyone” in a column published Friday. He describes how, more than a year ago, he began seeing images of his daughter’s face photoshopped into gas chambers or slave ships, and how the comment section of his wife’s blog on Patheos filled with images of extreme violence.
French’s adopted daughter is black and was called “niglet” and “dindu” by French’s online harassers, who also claimed his wife cheated on him with black men while he was deployed to Iraq. It's a common charge among far-right internet trolls who often accuse others of being cuckolded, both sexually and ideologically. French recounts how, immediately after he declined to mount an independent run for president, his wife received an email from a Trump supporter “who informed her that he knew the business end of a gun and told her directly that she should shut her mouth or he’d take action.”
That is legitimately fricking terrifying and I don't want to sound callous about it at all. NO ONE should be subjected to that kind of treatment, full stop.
But I do want to point out that the left HAS been warning people of this kind of treatment. Women have routinely spoken to how unsafe social media is to them. Ask People of Color how the right has responded to "Black Lives Matter". Ask Muslims and Hispanics how they've been treated during this primary season. Even Jewish journalists feel assaulted by Trump supporters.
But this started long before Trump came on the scene. Remember back in the early days of the Iraq invasion, liberals, like the ones here and at other progressive blogs would routinely have to deal with trolls who told us how much we hate America and how we should all die? One of my very first posts for this site (in which I opined that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove should be forced to stand before a war tribunal in The Hague) triggered an email response in which a right wing proto-Trumpian described in graphic terms how he would achieve sexual gratification from dismembering me and my children.
Trump's personal bombastic narcissism may have given permission for the alt-right to break Reagan's Eleventh Commandment, but they've been talking to the rest of us like this since the internet began. And not to get all Pastor Niemoller on Mr. French and the rest of the conservative punditry wondering what's happened to their party, but this is what happens when you don't speak up...they come after you.