We’ve recently discussed at length the subpoena and gag order issued by the Assistant US Attorney over some tasteless, but innocuous, comments made by Reason readers. Anyone who’s spent any time in comment sections would have seen these comments as nothing more than the internet being the internet — a place where hyperbole and stupidity very often outweighs thought and nuance. The comments are being treated as serious threats by the US government, seeing as they were posted below an article about a federal judge. Here are two of the more “violent” comments:
AgammamonI5.31.15 @ lO:47AMltt
Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.
AlanI5.31.15 @ 12:09PMltt
It’s judges like these that will be taken out back and shot.
croakerI6.1.15 @ 11:06AMltt
Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you
feed them in feet first.
Cloudbusterl6.l.15 @ 2:40PMIIt
Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse.
And yet, when a prominent political figure says roughly the same thing — TWICE! (possibly) — it’s not followed up by the issuing of subpoenas or government-led investigations.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s joke about shooting a political cartoonist is falling flat.
The son of Bangor Daily News cartoonist George Danby said LePage made the remark after he asked what the governor thought of his father’s cartoons Wednesday during an event at Dirigo Boys State, a youth leadership program.
The governor told a crowd of high school students he would like to “shoot” this cartoonist. This was said directly to the cartoonist’s son during a Q&A session with the governor. (Video — albeit silent — of the incident located here.) The Bangor Daily News noted the audience of teens laughed and took it as a joke. And it was, albeit a horrifically tasteless one considering cartoonists have very recently been shot for expressing their views. (That the governor’s joke about shooting someone, delivered at a school event, wasn’t immediately greeted with a swarm of police officers and strongly-worded condemnations by school officials is yet another bit of hypocrisy…)
Cartoonist George Danby — the one the governor would like to shoot — doesn’t find the joke particularly funny. But as offended as he is, he’s only asking for an apology, not an investigation. (And he still hasn’t received one.)
But this isn’t an isolated experience. It appears Governor LePage would like to kill many, many people.
A day after Gov. Paul LePage told a group of high school students that he would “like to shoot” a Bangor Daily News cartoonist, a top advocate for expanding passenger rail to Lewiston-Auburn said that LePage earlier this month said state lawmakers from Lewiston should be “rounded up and executed in the public square.”
That this alleged statement — made on government property in a government building — wasn’t greeted with police officers, arrests, etc. is also hypocritical. Given the paranoiac thinking that has passed for “caution” since 2001, someone talking about shooting people while in a government building is usually considered to be something best handled with deployments of force and zealous prosecution. Then there’s the fact that this joke Godwins itself by aligning Governor LePage with other political figures who had opponents rounded up and shot.
That LePage ever delivered this second shooting “joke” is still debatable. One person attending this meeting in the governor’s office claims to have heard it. Other attendees disagree. But either way, we have at least one confirmed instance of a political figure claiming he’d like to shoot someone he doesn’t like.
But there’s no investigation underway and no one is calling for an indictment of LePage for issuing a “threat.” Because it isn’t one. It’s simply hyperbolic speech uttered without intent or desire to actually follow through with such an act. It’s what people do when expressing displeasure with someone or something. It happens all the time. Except when it happens in a comment section and the subject is a federal judge, it suddenly becomes a threat worthy of investigation and obfuscation by the US Attorney’s Office.
When it’s a politician “targeting” a little person, no one cares, even with the recent Charlie Hebdo shooting as a backdrop — a justification for cartoonist George Danby to take this “threat” very personally indeed. But Danby doesn’t think LePage truly wants him dead and recognizes it for what it is. The “little people” who aren’t afforded the full power of their government are much more rational than those with it at their disposal.