on the normalization of political violence
i'm against it, for the record
I am in a bad habit of looking at my phone immediately after waking up. It was always ill-advised—no one really needs to be barraged with memes or work emails first thing in the morning—but it’s become worse over the last year.
Like most people who publish writing or are quoted in news articles, I have a Google Alert on my name. Since the harassment and disinformation campaign about me began when my government position was announced, it has been working double duty, telling me when interviews are published and also tipping me off to death threats. Google trawls sites like 8kun, so one morning in January I got an email notifying me that users on an anonymous gun aficionado site were writing sentiments like “That thing needs to be destroyed.” “Her chin is built to rest balls on.” “She has big dick sucking lips...mostly on their knees is how most of them get the job. Sure as shit ain’t about their ‘qualifications.’”
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Good morning to you, too.
I also get Google Alerts about the people who are filled with even more animus for me. If you’ve never been in a situation like mine—and I really hope none of you ever have been or will be—it may be hard to imagine what could be worse than writing a violent threat to a person you’ve never met. Let me tell you: it’s writing thousands of words that condone those violent threats, draped in pseudo-intellectualism to make the author’s beliefs a little more palatable. These writers—many of them with tens or hundreds of thousands of readers—are no better than the “that thing needs to be destroyed” people. They just use bigger words.
One example is an odious older man who writes columns that open with such classy lines like:
Remember that weird disinformation girl, the one who looked like your friend’s first wife and who thought that she should protect America from the threat of non-approved discourse and unlicensed narratives? She’s sort of back in the news because people treated this censorious shrew who presumed to decide what we can and cannot read like a censorious shrew who presumed to decide what we can and cannot read. Too bad.
Do you live in a country where child brides are legal, my dude? Otherwise, why are you calling me a “girl?” Last time I checked, I recently grew and birthed a human and have been keeping him alive using food my body produces, something that only grown women are able to do. But that aside, I look like your friend’s first wife? Is that meant to be... a diss? Or is it just that she divorced him because he was a piece of shit like you? And then there’s the “censorious shrew” dig; my job wasn’t about censorship, and I have stood up against censorship throughout my career, but you don’t care about the truth. You just care about hitting the all-time record for the number of gendered insults you can squeeze into a single paragraph, right?
Readers, you will not be surprised, this man responded “oh, shut up” when he first learned I was receiving violent threats while weeks away from giving birth in May. In the post above, he goes on to write: “I care exactly as much about the ‘death threats’ these people supposedly got from my allies as they care about the real death threats I got and get from their allies.” He also says that I “got off easy” having my life upended and security posture altered for the rest of my life. I’m not sure what could be harder than what I’ve dealt with for the past year beyond actual violent altercations.
But here’s the thing, Burt Schmichter*, I do care about the death threats you and your allies are getting. I do not wish what I have been through on anyone, and I certainly wouldn’t use my platform to repeatedly condone violent threats that others have endured. It is fucking sick—sorry, my Jersey comes out when I’m mad—that this is where our country is. Threats of political violence are viewed as “just part of the job” or just part of expressing your First Amendment rights. Pretty sure that’s not what the Founders had in mind.
It’s not just influencers-cum-incels who are at fault, though. Part of the blame lies with media entities like Fox News (I’m suing them, have you heard?) who monetize hatred. And a good chunk of it lies with insurrection-celebrating, fist-pumping elected officials like Senator Josh Hawley and Representative Jim Jordan. In July, I wrote a letter to Hawley asking him to denounce the threats against me. Instead, he doubled down, claiming I was trying to “shut down questions” about my former role. His tweet, of course, invited yet more threats. And since Jordan got in touch with me late last year, my counsel has repeatedly reminded him that his bogus “investigation” into the “weaponization of government” has resulted in real threats to me and my family. Not a single time in the multiple letters we have exchanged has Jordan acknowledged these threats.
This, in an environment where a former President is attempting to evade criminal charges by fomenting political violence. An environment where the Speaker of the House’s husband was attacked with a hammer in the middle of the night, and my governor joked about it. An environment where neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us” and killed a counter-protester. Where there was, lest we forget, a violent assault on the seat of legislative power. And the only country in the world where there are more guns than people.
No one should condone—overtly or implicitly—any violence or threat of violence against another person. In fact, everyone should directly condemn it, political futures be damned. Why is that such a radical statement?
* Not his real name. But also not far from it.
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