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(51,080 posts)
Thu Oct 5, 2023, 02:34 PM Oct 2023

The Slow Burn Threatening Our Democracy


A woman in Texas left a message on a federal judge’s voicemail saying, among other things, “you are in our sights, we want to kill you.” An Illinois woman sent an email to former President Donald Trump’s youngest son’s school with a message saying she “will shoot [Trump and his son] straight in the face any opportunity I get.” A man in Florida threatened a congressman, saying that he would “bash his…head in with a bat.” Then there’s the Wisconsin man who threatened a prosecutor in phone calls—300 of them. These examples, culled from the federal courts criminal docket, illustrate a bigger problem over time. By our count, over the past 10 years, more than 500 individuals have been arrested for threatening public officials. And the trendline is shooting up.

With the 2024 presidential election fast approaching, the uptick of threats against public officials may make the idea of another Jan. 6 attack or similar large-scale political violence moment loom large. But the focus on preventing another Jan. 6 may be more distracting than helpful. In practice, the threat of domestic extremism has moved into a new phase, something best referred to as a slowly growing everyday insurgency, where an unprecedented number of disparate individuals motivated by similar underlying grievances seek to intimidate and coerce public officials.

These threats coalesce together, forming a culture which helps normalize the idea of political violence. These threats are most prevalent online but are also transmitted through telephone calls, handwritten letters, videos, and face-to-face confrontations.

Over the past year, we conducted a deep dive into the world of communicated threats directed at public officials in these categories: election and elected, education, healthcare, and law enforcement, to include the judiciary. Our team retrieved and carefully reviewed all federal charges that fit these parameters between 2013 and 2022. We collected and culled thousands of court documents to understand the grievances animating the threats, the way threats were communicated, the targets of these threats, and many other characteristics. We wanted to understand as much as possible about each incident, starting from the alleged offender(s) involved, and the victim(s) targeted. Selecting federal cases with corresponding court documents, which are typically rich in detail, gave us the best chance to do so. Other options would have produced far fewer details about these issues. That said, the federal courts provide just one lens into what is a much bigger problem as the actual prevalence of threats to public officials is higher given some individuals are charged at the state level or are simply not charged at all.

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The Slow Burn Threatening Our Democracy (Original Post) Nevilledog Oct 2023 OP
An important paragraph... Hermit-The-Prog Oct 2023 #1


(33,328 posts)
1. An important paragraph...
Thu Oct 5, 2023, 04:30 PM
Oct 2023
To be sure, threats against public officials have a long history in the United States. But the data reveals something new: a concentration of threats that began to spike in 2017, corresponding with a general increase in polarization following the 2016 presidential election. Our results also follow a similar pattern found by the U.S. Capitol Police Department, which monitors threats exclusive to congressional officials. Perhaps most alarming is that we don’t believe we’ve hit the high point in the time series. The spike in threats after 2017 reflected, at least to some extent, President Trump’s role in promoting political violence both during the 2016 presidential campaign and in the four years of his administration that followed. For example, in 2020, an ABC News study found that since 2015, there were at least 41 criminal cases invoking Trump as inspiration for a violent act or threat of violence. No comparable cases could be found for Trump’s predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush (each of whom served twice as long in office).
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