Ed Driscoll

'Welcome to the Public Debate, Where Loud People Hate You'

As Jim Geraghty writes at his Campaign Spot blog, “if you express your views in public on a regular basis, chances are high that at some point you’ll get a death threat. Here are some of the folks who have received death threats in the past month or so:”

“I want to kill you” is the new “I disagree.”

I don’t want to be cynical when I hear someone complaining about getting death threats, because it’s almost always frightening and surreal to receive one. Normal people don’t express a desire to kill each other over mundane disputes. (They reserve it for appropriate occasions, such as an insult to their loved ones, someone cutting them off in traffic, or when a referee makes an awful call.) But the ubiquitousness of death threats, and the ever-lowering bar to trigger an expression of allegedly murderous rage in some numbskull with access to an e-mail account, have rapidly devalued them on the scale of the Weimar Republic’s Papiermark.

I increasingly find myself rolling my eyes when a public figure cites e-mails threatening as a claim to a particular status of victimhood, or ipso facto evidence of the extremism and rage of those who disagree with them. Your critics may indeed be extreme and enraged… but the rise of e-mail has permitted people to express a lot more extreme and enraged views. (I like Amelia Hamilton’s method of handling it all.)

Anyway, back to the “double life” of those in the public debate – like superheroes, we wear our masks and do (rhetorical) battle with our foes, and then, hopefully, we step away from the computer, the telephone, the television or web camera and resume a home life as mundane as Peter Parker’s or Clark Kent’s.

Here’s that video by Amelia Hamilton that Jim mentioned above: