Right-Wing Meme Site Fast Becoming Premier Destination For Would-Be Abortion Clinic Bombers
They say, in journalism and elsewhere, that "one is an example, two is a coincidence and three is a trend" — and once there's a trend, you can write a "trend piece." This is a trend piece! Unfortunately, this is not a trend piece about a whimsical new fad or hair accessory, but a trend piece about misogynistic murder threats. Because for the third time in a month, a young man has been arrested for threatening to shoot up an abortion clinic on iFunny, a social media meme site favored by white supremacists and the far right in general.
On August 13th, in response to something said by another commenter, 20-year-old Jacob Cooper of Clarksville, Tennessee, wrote, "Make sure you tell them about how I plan to shoot up a planned parenthood facility in Washington D.C., on August 19th at 3pm." [sic obviously] Fortunately for Planned Parenthood and unfortunately for Cooper, he now faces five years in jail for sending interstate threats, which is a federal offense.
The DOJ also reports that Cooper threatened to murder any law enforcement officials who would dare contact him about his plans to shoot up a Planned Parenthood:
"If you are a member of the FBI, CIA, whatever, and are on my profile I will trace your IP address and kill you if the opportunity arises. And I am dead serious about this. I'll do it with ricin, a bomb, or .308. Whatever it takes, then [sic] end result will be the same. I am serious about this. If I am personally contacted by any federal agents, I will do this. I will kill you. Again, I am serious. Sic semper tyrannis."
Sic semper tyrannis ("thus always to tyrants"), you may recall, is what John Wilkes Booth yelled after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
Last week, police arrested Farhan Sheikh, a 19-year-old Chicagoan, for making similar threats to an abortion clinic on the same website:
"I will proceed to slaughter and murder any doctor, patient, or visitor I see in the area and I will not back down," the iFunny user "awarded" — which the authorities linked to Mr. Sheikh — wrote on the website on Aug. 13. "Consider this a warning for anyone visiting."
In a separate post, the user issued further clarification: "To all the F.B.I. agents in this app, I am NOT a satirical account. I post what I mean, and I WILL carry out what I post."
Sheikh is also being charged with sending interstate threats and also faces up to five years in prison.
The fact that both of these threats took place on August 13th is significant, as that would be the day news broke about the arrest of 18-year-old Waco-obsessed Ohioan Justin Olsen for the threats he posted to iFunny about his plans to shoot up a Planned Parenthood and also kill multiple federal agents. In his case, federal agents raided his house and found quite the mass shooter starter pack:
Federal agents found a machete in Olsen's car, 300 rounds of ammunition near the stairs leading up to his room, and another 10,000 rounds of ammunition in his bedroom. He also had camouflage clothing, camouflage backpacks, rifle cases, and a gun vault that contained several AR-15–style rifles and shotguns.
It's also obviously significant that these men are targeting Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics, what with all of the batshit crazy lies that Donald Trump right-wing politicians and pundits are spreading about it on a daily basis. They likely see it as a place that is safe to target.
Since the El Paso and Dayton shootings, federal agents have arrested dozens of people for making mass shooting threats online. This is not by accident. FBI agency offices across the U.S. have been directed to to be on the lookout for these kind of threats, in hopes of thwarting another tragedy. Given how often mass shooters have announced their plans on social media prior to committing them, given how often we see threats of mass killings on sites like 4chan, 8chan and the various incel sites, this is a welcome development, if not a little overdue.
Most of the people who were arrested appeared to be very seriously planning to carry out a mass shooting, but at least a few of them claim that they were "only joking." Farhan Sheikh is one of them. And I will tell you — knowing what passes for "humor" on the far-right, I would not put it past a whole lot of these people to think that it is absolutely hilarious to joke about shooting up a Planned Parenthood. After all, these are the same people who think it is super adorable and whimsical to make comments about "free helicopter rides" and throwing Jewish people into ovens.
But I wouldn't put it past them to actually go through with it, either.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse