June 30, 2018

Following the mass shooting at The Capital Gazette newspaper office yesterday where journalists were gunned down, Milo Yiannopoulos went on Facebook to blame journalists for whipping up hysteria about killing journalists. Two days prior Milo had texted this to New York Observer reporter Davis Richardson, "I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight."

   Yiannopoulos Encourages Vigilantes to Start ‘Gunning Journalists Down

The old, "I was joking!" bit doesn't really work when there are multiple other cases of Milo saying similar things. David Neiwert of the Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch blog wrote about Milo's history of threats.  Milo wants vigilantes to start killing journalists, and he's not being 'ironic'

But this wasn’t simply a toss-off remark. Yiannopoulos appears to be dead serious – that is, he sincerely believes that right-wing assassins should begin taking out targeted reporters. He’s been saying so on a number of forums, and it’s clear that he isn’t being simply “ironic” in the classic alt-right hall-of-mirrors fashion.

People often get caught up in the technical issue of threats as it relates to free speech. I understand this. Is it a "true threat" as defined by the court? Can we determine if this threat is going to incite people? What if someone acts on a general threat? What if the person wasn't given specific instructions about a specific person, just general comments about a category of people like journalists?

These are all good questions to have, because we know that not all cases are clear cut.  The SPLC has a piece from 2007 titled, When Are Threats Protected Speech?   They look at several cases, some in which the threats were ruled "true threats" while others where they were not.

It's important to know the distinction.

In the end, each case will turn on its own facts. But one thing is clear: Racist talk show hosts and Internet bloggers who make specific threats against individuals or call on others to do so and who intend to put their targets in fear of being attacked may indeed be held both criminally and civilly liable.

-When Are Threats Protected Speech?   SPLC Fall 2007

Based on personal experience some people know how to walk the line when it comes to threats. Others don't. Recently there was a call for "civility" during protests involving shaming and shunning.

I fully expect that the right will overreact to our protests with an out of proportion response to any protest action.

Here is their thinking:

“The libtards protested the actions of one of our people!! We need to threaten the lives of some of their people!”  (They will then think they are clever by saying something about knives and gunfights and Chicago.)

Based on past history, they will “double down” in response to our protests. Some will launch illegal and felonious responses. The good news is they are not mob bosses or the President of the United States who can get away with threats of violence. They are penny-ante operators, low-level thugs.

When they overreact here are steps to take:

1) Record the threats. (A.B. R. ALWAYS BE RECORDING. Use that video camcorder, audio recorder and electronic message collector in your pocket! Pro tip: It's good to make sure it’s legally recorded so you can use it in court in a civil suit. See this guide for laws on recording in your state.)

2) Determine the source of the threats. (There are tools to help you do this you might not be aware of, check with your hacker friends.)

3) Confirm their intent.(This is important for later actions, see my link to Elonis v. United States.)

4) Use their overreaction against them 

If their responses cross the line into ‘true threats” and you captured their comments and death threats, make them available to the appropriate authorities.

  •  Sometimes law enforcement is the place to go, especially with local threats. (See Elonis v. United States about what is a true threat in a case about Facebook threats)
  • For out of state threats, go to a private attorney who handles civil lawsuits. The people threatening you might have to pay you damages. (For example, if you were threatened with death by police proxy, SWATTING, there are lawyers who will sue the people who arranged your house to be SWATTED.)
  • If you have determined their intent and they refuse to retract it and stop, their employer may need to know what they were doing during work hours using company resources.
  • Got a death threat or suggestions of violent rape from a self proclaimed Christian? Go to the head of the church that they worship at with your evidence.
  • Is there is an important woman in their lives? That woman can be copied on the threatening letter along with evidence of their threats. It should be noted that the person who shot up The Capital Gazette had a history of domestic violence.
Some of these responses are more difficult to carry out than others, and it really depends on the willingness of the person who has been threatened if they are willing to engage further with the people doing the threatening.
Standing up to bullies and making sure that there are consequences for their threatening speech isn’t for everyone, but it is for some. The right wing conservatives have a choice in how they respond to our peaceful protests. You have a choice on how you respond to their actions, especially if their actions cross the line into threats of violence.


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