Do the threats keep coming because the RW is too cunning or we don’t have a strategy to stop them?

I was working on a long post about the recent arrest of a woman for calling in a bomb threat to Boston Children’s Hospital. I was suggesting a plan for steps BCH could take to hold people accountable for their threats. Then I saw this tweet about Tucker Carlson’s show. I got really depressed.

The right knows how to use threats with no consequences

  • The cunning ones have learned how to “just ask questions” when suggesting violence.
  • Others use mob-speak and have learned what law enforcement can and can’t use to charge them.
  • Many right wingers know to use the “I was JOKING!” line or the “I didn’t intend to actually DO anything I said!” response when questioned. Some will say, “I was just being hyperbolic! Everyone says stuff like that!”
  • Tech savvy right wingers have learned the key words not to say on Facebook or Twitter.
    (Some learn the phrases and then they use the rules against their enemies and report them. Others know how to hack accounts, use banned phrases to get an account permanently banned. This recently happened to my editor at C&L who was targeted.)
  • If they are on a social media platform that takes some steps to stop the threats, the offenders go into victim mode and cry they are being censored, “Just for saying mean things to doctors!” That was the actual line used by Tucker Carlson following the bomb threats to BCH!)
  • Many move to right wing social media sites that don’t take any action to stop threats.
    (Truth Social’s policy is, “Don’t do it. But if you do, we don’t have to take any action to stop it. If anything bad happens, we aren’t liable.” The Cincinnati FBI shooter made multiple threats on line via Truth Social. )
United States Attorney Rachael Rollins announced the arrest of Catherine Leavy for willfully making a false bomb threat towards Children’s Hospital. She was joined by Joseph R. Bonavolonta, left, FBI special agent in charge of the Boston Field Office, and Michael Cox, Boston Police Commissioner.MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

There is also a VERY savvy group in the right wing that knows how to work the legal system, the media and social media world to coordinate and attack others online. What is fascinating is how they use legal defense experts, MSM’s bias when covering speech, social media’s engagement business model and democratic politicians’ fear of passing any legislation that has anything to do with speech to successfully stop or stall any negative consequences against them for their actions. And, if we do finally figure out a way to ensure there are some negative consequences for them, they whine & cry how unfair it is.

They also have an audience that claims victimization when held accountable for the harm that they do. “I’ve been cancelled!”

On the rhetorical side they have trolls that go on the attack when anyone attempts to counter them. I’m sure you’ve all see these types of arguments :

  • “Your proposal would have a chilling effect on free speech. Aren’t you FOR the marketplace of ideas? Curious.”
  • “You say that people whose words you think causes harm should be identified, yet when we identify people who say things WE think causes harm we are wrong? Interesting.”
  • “You supported BLM protests. They turned violent. Should the activists who told people to protest be locked up for talking about the issue? Should the government identify & lock up people who tell others to protest? Should the government prosecute the BLM organizers?”

“You know what you should do…”

I’ve been thinking about what I’d tell the executives at Boston Children’s Hospital & other hospitals being targeted. First I’d ask what they are already doing, because they probably already have a plan. I’d encourage them to implement a comprehensive response to these threats of violence.
I’d tell them what to expect, and to connect to the people who have been doing great work already.
I’d say, “Learn from these people.”

But here’s the deal. Multi-million dollar organizations don’t turn to a bunch of lefty activists for advice. Even ones that have fought and won battles against the coordinated actions of the right wing. Corporations are cautious by nature. They just want the pain of the moment to stop. If that involves deleting their website that talks about gender affirming care, they will.

They go to law enforcement to pursue the people making threats. They still believe that when one woman was arrested for making a bomb threat that it will “Send a message to all the other people to stop doing this.” The message most get is, “Be more vague in your threats, and use a burner phone.”

Now if someone wanted to connect me with the BCH & Vanderbilt execs I’d tell them what I’ve learned about how threats are used in the modern world and how to fight them now. I’d talk about my COVID reporting and conversations with people in the public health field who were getting threats. I’d show them the reporting from Reuters & Washington Post about how law enforcement didn’t pursue those making them. I’d note that legislators didn’t pass laws to protect people from harassment or doxxing. I’d explain why public health commissions didn’t independently, aggressively investigate the threats. They could see how the burden was put on the victims. And they would understand why so many of them just quit.

So for the multimillion dollar health care businesses I’d show them how when they fail to do something about this it impacts their staff and patients. And since they also care about revenue I’d say “Here is how threats of violence negatively impact your bottom line.

Prepare for the Bully’s Victim Narrative

One of my biggest pieces of advice to them is to understand that ANY action they take will already have been anticipated by the right. Your actions to protect the health and safety of your staff from harassment and bomb threats will be turned into an attack on free speech.

Remember when the Association of School Boards went to the FBI and said, “We are getting death threats and threats of violence. Please investigate.” We even saw video of a woman threatening violence at a meeting. The right turned that very justified investigation into death threats into a cry of victimhood,
“The FBI is monitoring all of us! Just for our opinions!!!” And the FBI had to put out a statement that they aren’t doing that, only looking into specific credible threats.

It’s all BS, but they use their media and social media to amplify their “I’m the real victim here!” message.

If I were to present to the big cheeses in these hospitals, I’d suggest they learn what happened in other cases of people threatened with violence. I’ve followed up on several cases in tech, journalism, education, public health officials and election workers where people were threatened.

I’d explain how most threats are dismissed by law enforcement. (I’d excerpt the brilliant and shocking reporting from Reuters called Campaign of Fear. ) Yes, a few people were found and charged, but they were extreme cases where a prosecutor could easily prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” but most are dropped.

I’d describe the vicious threats that Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss got. I’d point out that the threats to them were ignored by police. It took national media coverage on the Rachel Maddow show to get criminal charges filed. Then I’d tell them about the successful multi-million dollar defamation lawsuits they won against a OAN, a cable TV media company owned by Herring Networks, Inc.

If they want to figure out how to stop Matt Walsh and Tucker Carlson from spreading lies & slander I’d direct them to talk to the people behind the various voting machine defamation lawsuits.

But first I’d tell them to look into the civil lawsuit of another hospital, St. Lukes in Idaho. The lawsuit filed in May accused Ammon Bundy and Diego Rodriguez of defamation and harassment. I talked to the lawyer working on the case to get an update. It’s still active, but Bundy is taking a page from Trump’s playbook and ignored the court order. The thing to note about that case is it “follows the money” and two political organizations — People’s Rights Network and Freedom Man PAC were also named.

Since social media plays a huge role in spreading disinformation, I’d make sure they talked to the people who tracked down the Dirty Dozen of Disinformation and got them deplatformed. The Center for Countering Digital Hate has done some especially relevant reports that the senior execs should know about. Like, Don’t Feed the Trolls A Practical Guide to Dealing With Hate on Social Media?

I talked to Imran Ahmed, the founder yesterday and he told me about a new report they did with the Human Rights Campaign, Social Media’s Role in Amplifying Dangerous Lies About LGBTQ+ People
(If you aren’t a “reading” person I suggest they listen to his amazing interview on the Matt Binder Podcast Doomed, listen here. )

I know I have a tendency to talk AT people, so if I was on a Zoom call with these execs I’d ask them if they know how the Feds busted Al Capone. They’d all say “tax evasion!” Then I’d ask them why the Feds had to use that method. Would it have been good to get him for his violent crimes? Does busting someone on tax evasion the only method that can work?

I’d ask them if they saw that Soprano’s episode where Tony tells Christopher to kill someone, but he used vague phrases like “Take care of that thing” because he knew his phone was tapped. I’d ask if they know how law enforcement classifies threats & why they don’t bring certain cases even when experts say laws were broken. (Just for fun I’d ask them if they know how to record a call on their Smartphone if they got a threat right now and where the closest pay phone is.)

The techniques used to threaten people and avoid prosecution are still around. But today the people making threats have expanded to thousands. The techniques to find them have grown but the people making them watch the Soprano’s too, and know how to use mob-speak and a burner phone.

If anyone wants to do something about those who use of threats of violence they have to prepare for the right wing to turn around and doxx and threaten those who investigate them. Because that is what they do.

The right wing “works the refs” in the media on issues of speech. When I talk about a plan to stop the threats and seek justice for the victims, it’s because I want someone with resources and power to help them. But I know that rarely happens, so sometimes all I can do is suggest how to help individuals who have personally experienced threats of violence.

I recently watched the Twitch stream of Clara Sorrenti, @keffals, the woman who stopped Kiwi Farms. She gave the timeline of the threats directed at BCH & Vanderbilt. She knows something must be done about the people harassing and threatening the people at BCH & Vanderbilt, but she hasn’t articulated a plan yet.

  • Personally I think she should be given big time funding from the hospitals for her work. But sadly, one of the things that I’ve learned is that on the left we will only rally around someone after they has been attacked, If that person goes on the offense it makes people in power on the left uncomfortable.

The thing is people on the left LOVE it when someone stands up to bullies!

There is a whole segment of our population that has been getting away with threatening us individually and collectively for years. Unlike the out of date concept of school yard bullies, these people DON’T back down when you stand up to them. They double down. They make more threats. If they are held accountable, they flip the script. They become the victim.

They avoid accountability for their actions, or attribute their motives to some noble cause. They gaslight followers and work to convince people in authority they did nothing wrong. And when it is made clear the harm they did and the intent behind their threats was deadly, they downplay the harm and claim being held to account for their actions is unfair.

Right now MSNBC is running an ad with Rachel Maddow talking about how threats of violence pushes people out of public life. She’s right. The radical right uses threats of violence to get what they want. They aren’t going to stop until they are stopped.

I was explaining the Elonis v. U.S. Supreme court case on the Scam Economy post show. I pointed out that the very savvy right wing USE this ruling to avoid prosecution for threats of violence. The case said that the prosecution needed to prove intent for a criminal charge. I looked at that and thought. “Okay, since they have made that their standard, let’s use that to our benefit.”

On the left we often give people the benefit of the doubt on things they say since sometimes we don’t make our intent clear when we say something. If we were accused we would want a chance to clarify a statement, explain hyperbole, point out when we are being sarcastic or joking. People need a chance to walk back their threatening, vicious comments. That is what we want for our people accused. Due process is good.

So what happens when we give them a chance to moderate their comments and they don’t? What if we ask if they are joking and they chose to double down on the threats? We USE that admission of intent to give us more confidence when we ensure they face the negative consequences of their actions.
“We gave you an opportunity to be better. You chose not to.”

If this whole process sounds too complex, I understand. It’s the advanced part of a broader strategy and plan. We have a plan to fight “the boots” who are threatening us, and we must also have a plan to fight “the suits.” The methods and strategies for fighting one doesn’t always work for the other.

The good news is that there are ways to successfully fight a rhetorically clever, media savvy foe, even ones who want to turn our strengths into weaknesses. If you want to see a current example of what I’m talking about look at how the J6 committee and the DOJ have been anticipating how TFG would react to any action, and then USES his over reaction against him. It’s glorious.

This is what we can do. Use their own words, actions and overreactions against them.

Cross posted at Digby’s blog, Hullabaloo

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