Good Lord.

I’m as big a fan of Dana Loesch as I am any other conservative radio talk show host, which is to say not at all. Still, there are some things in life you don’t wish even on your worst enemy, and in my book being sent sick, grisly death threats is certainly one of those things.

I tend to think of Talking Points Memo as one of the few places on the intertubes that does political news from a partisan viewpoint reasonably well. Josh Marshall  seems to have collected a group of writers who care about both nuance and the importance of proper research, and the site (usually) differentiates itself from its competitors by remaining surprisingly self-aware even as it fights hard for Team Blue. And so, I confess, I was not really expecting to see its readers react to the Loess death threats story the way they did.

The internet really is filled with terrible, terrible people.

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62 thoughts on “Good Lord.

  1. I admit to being surprised that there wasn’t a single “hey, wait a minute… this is uncool” kinda comment.

    I kinda expected at least *ONE* person to try to engage in some recreational tone policing.

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    • For that to happen, you have to be comfortable with being the guy who nobody replies to.

      Example: If people are chortling about the Condemn Kim (Davis) game where you start by throwing marriage licenses at her and then graduate to throwing stones, stools, and other blunt objects at her, it can be fun to remind them of their posts concerning the Anita Sarkeesian flash game and how they said things about violence against women is unacceptable even in a flash game.

      But you’re not going to get a whole lot of replies when you deflate the sails like that. As such, people tend to go along with the herd-speak rather than be the wet blanket.

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    • It can be both protected free speech, and totally utterly gross and wrong.

      Personally, I’m largely alright with Canada’s free speech laws – for all that when rights conflict, other rights win out over freedom of speech a bit more often here than they do in the USA.

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        • There are multiple arguments at hand. Two of them are:
          – Is the video protected speech, a criminally liable death threat, neither, or both?
          – Why is it that not a single commenter at TPM saw fit to mention that the video was really gross and wrong, but instead all went on group tirade about “stupid gun nuts” directed at a person who apparently experienced the video as a death threat, with all the terrible fear that entails?

          Declaring the video to be protected speech and therefore the argument over, is making like there’s only one question able to be asked about this whole affair. I think the one you focus on is probably the less interesting of the two above.

          On that topic though – If the FBI decline to get involved, then they presumably think it’s almost certainly protected speech. If they get involved, then they either don’t – or potentially, they may get involved to determine whether there is a real risk of someone endangering Loesch, even if the particular video that tipped them off to the danger was itself not criminal (in the same way one may get a visit from the Secret Service if one makes certain legally protected comments about the president).

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  2. Just because a site does news well doesn’t mean its commenter’s are on their best behavior or have a high quality best Internet behavior to start with.

    Death threats are always way far over the line.

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  3. I’m not sure I’d class the original doctored video as a “death threat”. It’s pretty clearly political satire, blunt and heavy-handed though it may be, little different from various intentionally-offensive South Parkian efforts.

    It’s obviously-fake: it’s “supposed” to be Loesch’s own hand, not another’s; and its implied point is “gun supporter is so stupid that they support guns that are statistically more likely to end them, than protect them.”

    Tasteless? Absolutely. Death Threat? Absent other evidence, I’d hesitate to say that.

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      • If it’s a single instance, no, IMO.

        It gets a bit grayer if it’s frequently repeated, by either one person or a large group of people.

        It also gets grayer depending on the arena…if bunches of people are posting this video to their own Facebook pages or spaces, that’s one thing; if they are posting it on Loesch’s page or otherwise in her “spaces” (or that of her family/friends) that could be another.

        It also depends on how much of a “public figure” the subject is. Loesch’s a public political figure making a public political point, she’s gonna get some public political pushback. If she were just some random nobody, the parameters would be different.

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        • Oh and also, just in case it’s not clear – I’m sketching out what my own parameters of what I might consider “cyberbullying” behavior to be. Even if all my criteria were unambiguously met to push me to answer “yes” to ‘s initial question, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can or should do anything about it legally. Just that we might want to decry/discourage such behavior.

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          • This case looks like something we’d want to discourage, if not decry, even if it doesn’t count as bullying (I don’t think it does). It’s just mean, and with no other obvious purpose than to be so. I think she and Tod overreacted to it (and I think Tod’s reaction to the TPM comments is unfair), but it’s definitely not cool. The world would be a better place without such assholery.

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            • I’m not a fan of the common “why don’t you kill yourself” mode of internet discourse, but this strikes me as a bit more than that. Like I said, I see this as explicitly satirical/political.

              To the extent that this doctored video made her fear for her life (even if I think that fear is unjustified), then it could certainly be seen as assholery.

              To the extent it strove to make a political point, however tastelessly, it might or might not be assholery (or at least, not *just* assholery); and in any case, sometimes assholery in the service of making a point is, if not called-for, at least understandable (and worthy of being protected or excused).

              Perhaps because it just got dredged up here, but I see some possible parallels to the Charlie Hebdo deal, and I think we are both holding fairly consistent to our positions, within these parallels.

              I see this situation as no more a “death threat”, than a theoretical CH cartoon showing [prominent modern radical Muslim blowing themselves up with an IED of their own symbolic making] would be.

              Both video and hypothetical cartoon would be striving for a similar point.

              And responding to these two bits of speech (“assholery” though they may arguably be) as though they ARE an existential threat to their subjects – via sending men with guns to deal with the speakers – is IMO an unjustifiable thing to do.

              Whether those men wear balaclavas, or jackets that say “FBI” on them.

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              • I agree, I think. I am quite certain that it’s assholery, I’m quite certain there are infinitely better ways to make the same point, and I think it should be decried, but I don’t think the state should have anything to do with it, and I think it’s shitty that she called the FBI.

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      • It would definitely make less sense.

        I think the video is assholery, but not a death threat. It’s that all-too-common internet response, “kill-yourself,” combined with a statement about guns and who’s likely to get shot by them. I wish someone at TPM has pointed out how awful it was, but none of them were responding to it as a death threat, because it’s clearly not one.

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      • Who do you think you are talking to? ;-). Yeah, I would be contesting that it is definitively a “death threat” (which is different, I think, from ‘pooh-poohing’ it, but that’s an aside.)

        Granted it would be slightly more ambiguous if aimed at a video game journalist doing their thing, but this here inserts a gun into an NRA supporter’s ad. Not much of a leap.

        And I mentioned South Park quite deliberately. I caught the last 2 minutes on my DVR the other day, in which “Caitlyn Jenner” ran over some random pedestrian with her car and left a mangled corpse in her wake. The animation was only slightly-less realistic than this was.

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  4. I’ve been reading TPM for at least 12 years, from a time when it was just Josh writing alone. I love him, and I love his writers. I do not love his commenters. I almost never read the comments.

    They embody a social phenomenon I think of as “the race to the extreme” that is widespread on the Internet, but in this instance tied to Team Blue. Who can say the most extreme, the most outlandish, the most hateful thing, and thus garner attention with others on the team? Whomever can make the enemy suffer the most is the winner. It’s an internet version of counting coup.

    In some sense, this is the dynamic that is driving Trump’s popularity in the primary election.

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  5. The reason death threats, or threats of violence, have salience is that they carry inherent ambiguity. If you feel you know the person making them, well, then, of course they weren’t serious, they were just expressing their displeasure. Whereas if you don’t, you have to consider the possibility that it was real. If you could be sure it wasn’t real, the violent threat wouldn’t do its job.

    I feel that thoughts are just not that far away from actions, and so I am resolved to never say something that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing. I’m not a fan of empty threats, but they are commonplace. In some places, you aren’t taken seriously unless you’re making violent threats. This is a big culture mismatch within the US, and I suspect it doesn’t really obey the Blue-Red distinction, either.

    What would an even-handed non-partisan campaign to reduce death/violent threats online look like? I kind of feel it would be doomed to failure.

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    • I think an even handed, non-partisan campaign would simply start by finding death threat and publishing them, who-what-when-where. Obviously skipping the why, as that is what drives us into My Team Right or Wrong! As they come up, they would try to shame the people doing it, but it that campaign missed to many of one side…

      Then the game is over.

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  6. TPM is a partisan organization. The Breitbart of the left. And yes, that sites fans feel the same as you about the other teams sites.

    Huffington, NRO, Reason, Red State, Mother Jones, Democratic Underground. All are so samey-samey as to be indistinguishable. Cesspools if you don’t agree with the politics to start with.

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  7. Despite my alignment with gun rights, I don’t see this as a death threat. It is, however, a common sentiment expressed by a certain subset of gun control advocates. One that others should push back on, since violent expressions like this are essentially mental masturbation & don’t serve to convince others of the rightness of the argument.

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  8. TPM is crashing the net for me so I can’t weigh in on whether this is protected speech, an actual death threat (and therefore not protected speech), or something else.

    So I will do some random asides and wonderment at the size and scope of conservative radio.

    This is the first time I have heard of Dana Losech. She seems to be going for some rock-star/goth look thing based on the photo on TPM. How many conservative talk-show hosts are there? How many are local and how many are national? Do they all make good incomes or are there a bunch with mediocre salaries? Is there really a market for someone who wears tight-black clothing and sprouts right-wing politics? Doesn’t anyone see the contradiction here or does she not preach the socially conservative stuff that would please the moral majority brigade?

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    • I find the focus on her clothing a bit…weird, here, . She’s wearing a black top with a black jacket – AKA “What Every New Yorker Wears, All The Time”. There’s nothing particularly revealing (“tight?” Whut?) about what she’s wearing, that would trigger any social-conservative buttons that I can think of here in 2015 USA.

      Her hair, makeup, and jewelry (a small gold cross!) are all well-within normal, everyday fashion parameters. Nothing about her appearance screams “edgy” to me. She just looks like a reasonably-fashionable-everyday-basic-black-wearing woman to me, not some “Goth Talk” host.

      Maybe I’m biased because she looks not-completely-unlike an ex- of mine; but what the heck are you seeing here that I’m not?

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      • Today on Goth Talk: What is the best apathetic look for you and why we don’t care!

        I am very much a Civilization and Its Discontents kind of guy:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_and_Its_Discontents

        One of the things that interests me about modern conservatism is the aspects that seem to exist as a big Fish You to upper-middle class liberal culture. AKA as The Bourgeois.
        Some of the most right-wing people I’ve known have been long-haired rocker types. Stuff that in the 1960s would have associated you with the freaky, hippy left.

        I find this kind of amusing and perplexing if conservatism is supposed to be all about tradition and morality and being God-fearing whatever. It is interesting to see conservatives hold themselves as the maintainer and destroyers of civilization at the same time.

        FWIW I identify as Bourgeois because I think Bourgeois liberalism works the best.

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        • Today on Goth Talk: What is the best apathetic look for you and why we don’t care!

          Answer (sort of).


          I am very much a Civilization and Its Discontents kind of guy:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_and_Its_Discontents

          One of the things that interests me about modern conservatism is the aspects that seem to exist as a big Fish You to upper-middle class liberal culture. AKA as The Bourgeois.
          Some of the most right-wing people I’ve known have been long-haired rocker types. Stuff that in the 1960s would have associated you with the freaky, hippy left.

          I find this kind of amusing and perplexing if conservatism is supposed to be all about tradition and morality and being God-fearing whatever. It is interesting to see conservatives hold themselves as the maintainer and destroyers of civilization at the same time.

          FWIW I identify as Bourgeois because I think Bourgeois liberalism works the best.

          Nonsequitor.

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          • I didn’t really follow the point of all that either, but I assumed it was just me.

            Seems to be some strange ideas about how Conservatives may be identified in the wild, via their fashion or entertainment choices.

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            • Or that conservatives are exposed as incoherent!! because they don’t conform to SD’s idiosyncratic conception of what “conservatism” means.

              “How can a woman wearing a tight leather skirt call herself a conservative? Think about it. QED, right?”

              Or!!

              “There are people who call themselves liberals and don’t wear tiedye all the time. THINK about it, man!”

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              • I *guess*, to a *degree*, I could see the irony in someone who really preaches a social-conservative tip, presenting themselves in a really risque or revealing or outrageous manner.

                But I don’t know enough about Loesch to say that strain of social conservatism’s her bag; AND anyway, she just looks like a normally-dressed person to me.

                Which is why I’m so confused.

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            • I think I followed it. Well, I didn’t get the Freud, but I got the dress part: he thinks conservatism is a rebellion against “bourgeois liberalism” (read: coastal urban liberal elites), which is reflected in the fact that they’ve adopted fashion once thought to be rebellious and “liberal,” such as the “rocker” look that he sees Loesch adopting because she’s wearing a black leather jacket and black shirt in the photo on TPM. Basically he tied this kerfuffle, via that photo, into his broader views about how flyover country conservatism is gunning for his liberal arts degrees, museums, and one-act plays at the theater in the little room behind the Bank of America on 5th.

              I almost finished his sentence, ” I think Bourgeois liberalism works the best…” with “for bourgeois liberals,” but figured it was implied.

              In sum, the world is made up entirely of nails (except Europe, NY, and San Fran), and Saul’s a hammer, damn it.

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              • Your last paragraph made me chuckle cuz earlier I wrote but didn’t post the following:

                Compare: I identify as Bourgeois because [being upper middle class] I think Bourgeois liberalism works the best.

                to

                I identify as a white supremacist because [being white] I think white supremacy works the best.

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  9. From Tod’s OP, I was expecting a horde of comments wishing her dead in various horrific fashions. Instead all I saw was people making fun of her. Fishing liberals can’t do anything right. A perfect chance to be bloodthirsty, and all they can manage is insensitive.

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  10. So a video that was poorly animated to show someone committing suicide is now ‘death threats’. Not just *one* death threat, which it really isn’t either, but *multiple* death threats?

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