But, from a couple of months ago, a young sports writer called Jim Pagels explained at Slate that Twitter death threats are just a joke and everybody should ignore them.
Just about every week, it seems there’s a story about a celebrity, athlete, or politician receiving death threats from morons on Twitter. The media often treat these frivolous incidents like they’re a fatwa on Salman Rushdie. The latest example: New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, for performing poorly on fantasy football teams. (Fitting there be fantasy threats for a fantasy sport.)
The stories often give the impression that this is some kind of shocking event for which we should pity the “victims,” but anyone who’s spent 10 minutes online knows that these assertions are entirely toothless.
Yes! Totally! That is so true! Except of course for the ones that aren’t, and the fact that there’s no way to tell the difference. Also except for the fact that being the target of extended obsessive hatred is itself not actually toothless. Except literally. It is literally toothless, yes, but figuratively, it’s not.
In a piece in the Atlantic last year, Jen Doll wrote: “If there’s anything to be afraid of, it’s this idea that death threats are this kind of new online norm.” They are, in fact, the norm. However, I think it’s also safe to assume that these wannabe Tony Sopranos only represent the lowest trenches of society.
Ah yes “safe to assume”…but such things are more safe to assume for some people than they are for others. Also, the fact that some guy thinks it’s safe to assume something isn’t particularly compelling as a reason to assume it yourself. Also, even if the harassers and threateners do represent only “the lowest trenches of society,” so what? That’s still a lot of people.
So how do we stop this trend of pointless reporting? There really aren’t any clear solutions. There will always be a dark corner of the Internet, so you can’t stop the source. And you can’t tell websites to stop publishing these stories, because they surely generate boatloads of mindless page views. Maybe the solution is to just let the Internet continue to be the Internet, and people will eventually grow bored of this “news.” Or perhaps we should just send death tweets to the writers who report on these occurrences. It seems like they take these threats rather seriously.