Amy Chozick, the New York Times reporter covering the Hillary Clinton campaign, probably had a busy day as it was: Clinton has a big, historic speech scheduled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard tonight. On top of that, Chozick is now also dodging threats to her physical well-being, she revealed on Twitter a few hours ago:
Chozick didn’t explain why she thinks the threats started, but presumably they are connected to an article she co-authored Monday, with Patrick Healy, in which the two reporters noted that, according to an AP survey of Democratic superdelegates, Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination last night. Sanders supporters have angrily argued that the AP and other outlets jumped the gun here, handing Clinton a victory she hasn’t yet won and potentially suppressing turnout in the primaries that still remain, most importantly today’s in California. (The Sanders campaign has fueled some of these arguments, and Jon Chait argued here yesterday that they don’t make sense in light of Clinton’s insurmountable lead by any metric.)
Death threats have been an unfortunately salient theme during this year’s election season — female supporters of Hillary Clinton have complained consistently, for months now, that they have dealt not only with obnoxiousness and condescension from Sanders supporters online, but with physical threats. Sanders supporters, perhaps most forcefully Glenn Greenwald, have argued that this idea of “Bernie Bros” sending out endless death threats is a manufactured, overstated trope.
Complicating matters is the fact that this appears to be the first election in which internet trolls have realized they can potentially affect the outcome simply by being terrible people: As the Daily Dot reported in an article headlined “How 4chan trolls plan to help Donald Trump win the White House” last month, a recent thread on that popular image board — known as a redoubt for white nationalists, Nazis, and, this election cycle, Trump supporters — pointed to a “strategy” for utilizing extreme and inflammatory rhetoric to exacerbate intra-left cleavages, paving the way for a Trump White House.
The author of that post, which was embedded in the Daily Dot article, explained (sic throughout, link added by me):
So I spend time yesterday trolling Bernie supports over the Matt Bruenig firing by using their own “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences” lines and really stirred up the pot and started a lot of fights between Hilldogs and Berniecucks.But that led me to spent a few hours going down the rabbit hole of socialist twitter and communist twitter and I found out the divisions on the left are WAY worse than I previously thought.
We need to take advantage of this. This is Trump’s gift. If we’re serious about a Trump presidency we need to start infiltrating their conversations in order to sow more divison. I’m talking systematic and long-term /mischief/, not just a hew minutes trolling dumbass SJW’s. Look at the chaos and damage I was able to make yesterday, just one person, with no real rudeness in my replies.Imagine that writ large: My account is @realJohnMilIer
This isn’t the first such endeavor — often known as “ops” — launched by 4chan and like-minded troll-hives, of course. So when it comes to anonymous threats, it is unfortunately impossible to know whether the sources are really who they say they are (not that this excuses the behavior at all, of course).
That said, one recent effort to figure out who exactly was issuing anti-Clinton threats turned up actual Sanders supporters. In the wake of last month’s debacle at the Nevada State Democratic convention, where the disqualification of a group of Sanders delegates led to widespread outrage among Sanders supporters, Jezebel’s Anna Merlan called several people who had sent threatening messages to Democratic state party chairwoman Roberta Lange. The ones she was able to get in touch with certainly sounded like bona fide Sanders fans rather than mischievous Trump-trolls.
“I’m a little bummed out,” one pro-Sanders threatener from Atlanta told Merlan. His phone number had been posted online, leading to a wave of counter-harassment harassment. “I know I said something I shouldn’t have said. Consequences are consequences. If I get phone calls all day, well, those are the consequences.”
The problem, of course, is that for the vast majority of the people who send threats — Sanders supporters, third-party trolls, whatever — there are no consequences whatsoever.