I knew as soon as I picked up the phone what the caller really wanted to say about the horrific slaughter at a French satirical newspaper on Wednesday.
“Has anyone asked the Muslims at the Aurora mosque what they think of the shooting?” the woman asked.
I explained that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks much of the community, and this newspaper, has become enlightened about Islam and its role in Aurora. Just because Muslim radicals commit heinous crimes, it has no bearing on those Muslims living in Aurora and being part of the Colorado Muslim Society mosque on Parker Road.
She wasn’t happy with that. She talked about all the horrible things in the world, and now this attack on a French newspaper, being the work of Islam. She insisted we find Muslims in Aurora to comment on the French calamity.
I explained how illogical her request was. We don’t run to the nearest Jewish temple when tragic things happen in Israel and Palestine. It would have no bearing. We do not race to a spate of Christian churches for comment on the latest atrocity committed by the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas or whatever new lunatic thing Focus on the Family says to do to gays.
She was not convinced. She went on to insist that Islam is at the heart of every violent episode in the world. She wanted to hear Muslims in Aurora either renounce what their fellow Muslims were responsible for, or reinforce what she suspected, that they quietly support attacks like what happened in France.
“Violence against journalists comes from everywhere,” I said. “It comes from Americans who could never conceive of even learning about Muslims, let alone becoming one.”
She wasn’t interested.
For the last two years, more than 130 journalists have been killed, and not just in hot spots like Afghanistan and Syria. Journalists are killed all over the world, even in places like the Philippines, Europe and the United States. And for every journalist murdered, thousands more get death threats, including me and my staff.
Most of the threats are kind of laughable. Angry pet owners threaten to have their dog chew my face off for columns I’ve written in support of the city’s ban on pit bulls. Readers threaten to take me out or down or for a long ride for my options about immigrants, gays, racism or religion.
But there are threats that make me very afraid. Most of those come from columns I’ve written about gun control. Ever since the Aurora theater massacre, we, like so many Colorado media, write a lot about the issue. I talk about my opinions on local, national and international talk shows and news shows. I write serious, insistent editorials. I write snarky columns, and I write satire.
One satirical piece I wrote about a year ago had to do with members of the U.S. Senate caving into pressure by the NRA to ignore gun control legislation, even after the calamity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I essentially lauded a list of conservative newspapers across the country for lambasting the Senate and the NRA for cheating Americans out of expanded handgun registration laws.
What I got was hundreds and hundreds of emails, letters and messages, mostly denouncing me as a traitor, an idiot or an ass. But I also got dozens of letters explicitly detailing how I would or should die for my columns. For the most part, I shrugged them off. But there were several that were pointed, pervasive and unnerving. The phone calls are always the worst. Callers say they know where I live, what I’m wearing, what I drive, where I go, even where I sit in the office. These aren’t insane Muslim radicals bent on killing me because I think their adulation of Muhammad or anyone else is dangerous and misguided. These threats come from people you grew up with that claim to be “good Christians” and “good Americans.”
They make me sick and afraid mostly because they involve my family and my colleagues. They come from people who seethe and drip with the unhinged and crazy anger that I imagine propelled the monsters that murdered cartoonists, journalists and cops at Charlie Hebdo this week.
I’ve included a sound file here so you can hear for yourself what some of these non-Muslims are like.
CLICK TO HEAR A CALLER WHO CONSIDERS HIMSELF A ‘GOOD’ AMERICAN MAKE VULGAR THREATS OVER A SATIRICAL GUN CONTROL COLUMN — Warning: The message is graphically profane and uses disturbing, racist language.
This particular caller was enraged about gun control, but the hate erupts over endless topics. Be warned, the caller is vulgar, vile and prolific in his use of racist, sexual and graphic profanity.
Is this guy representative of American gun owners and members of the NRA? No. I got plenty of heat and even kudos from gun enthusiasts all over the country, most of them weren’t threatening in any way. It never occurred to me to race down to the nearest shooting range and get their take on the rant of some gun nut.
But this bully’s intent is clear. He wants to shut me up, and others like me. The menacing urge to bully people into enjoying free speech that only agrees with our own is hardly unique to radical Muslim criminals. It’s alive and well right here at home and in your own community, compliments of a wide range of radical nut cases.
Reach Editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org