threatening conditions

One last little tiny note on what some people are calling Crackergate — the communion-wafer thief, the wrath of some Catholics, the counter-wrath of P. Z. Myers, yadda yadda yadda. (I don’t even want to insert the links any more.) Said thief says, I think, that he has been receiving death threats, and some people are truly shocked by this.

But here’s the thing: everybody who is anybody on the internet (or in media culture more generally) gets death threats, and they come from all directions. Michael Moore gets them; Michelle Malkin gets them. I know I’m a net-nonentity because I’ve never received any. (I keep telling myself that they’re probably caught in my spam filter. Makes me feel better.)

Consider this: one of my favorite movie reviewers, David Edelstein, has gotten hundreds of abusive and threatening emails over the years from people who disagree with his judgments. One guy in particular wrote, “I only wish harm to you and your family” — and why? Because Edelstein had given a bad review to The Mummy Returns. That’s right, chew on that one for a little while: somebody out there is cherishing fantasies of great suffering for the Edelstein family out of deep devotion to The Mummy Returns.

Seriously, though, it’s got to be highly upsetting to get an email like that, and worse to get one whose threats are more straightforward and explicit. But such rage has become so commonplace, especially online, that it’s impossible to take the threats seriously. In one sense that’s reassuring; in another it’s deeply, deeply sad.