Arcadia Councilmembers targeted by what some are calling a ‘Witch Hunt’
Opinion by Terry Miller
In the aftermath of tragic shootings, such as the recent ones at Santa Fe High School in Texas and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, there is often an increase in hoax threats to schools and other public places and/or people in the public eye.
Safety is paramount, and the FBI and our state and local law enforcement partners always respond to each threat, according to a recent press alert sent out by David Bowdich, Deputy Director of the FBI.
On a local level, while not as dramatic as the terrible loss of students’ lives at the hands of an angry and crazed gunman, some social media posters have started a heinous attack on two Arcadia councilmembers, going so far as depicting one as Adolph Hitler.
Ultimately, this is nothing less than a witch hunt, aiming to belittle, berate, and bully. Using and reposting images (owned by this newspaper) and in violation of copyright, these anti-social media posters refuse to adhere to multiple requests to remove the offensive images and ultimately do the public a severe injustice. This newspaper has filed official complaints with Facebook and several investigations are now underway. Intellectual rights must be respected, no matter what the cost.
Additionally, the majority of the posters on certain social media sites appear to be anonymous. The advent of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs could be a wonderful and powerful tool of communication, but when it comes to politics, just look at Twitter and see what has transpired in the past couple of days. Racism, anti-Semitism as well as multiple cases of defamation by some of the county’s best-known personalities are proof positive that bullying is alive and well.
In recent months, the FBI and law enforcement around the country have investigated a number of hoax threats of targeted violence against schools and other public places as well as direct or indirect threats targeting individuals or groups. “These threats—often issued via text message or posted on social media—are taken very seriously. Hoax threats are not a joke, and they can have devastating consequences—both for the public and for the perpetrators,” FBI Deputy Director Bowditch, said.
“Issuing a threat—even over social media, via text message, or through e-mail—is a federal crime (threatening interstate communications). Those who post or send these threats can receive up to five years in federal prison, or they can face state or local charges.”
With a thoughtless remark on social media, young people risk starting out their adult lives in prison and forever being labeled a felon. Others just continue to be bullying victims. “The Bureau and its law enforcement partners take each threat seriously. We investigate and fully analyze each threat to determine its credibility,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. “Hoax threats disrupt school, waste limited law enforcement resources, and put first responders in unnecessary danger. We also don’t want to see a young person start out adulthood with a felony record over an impulsive social media post. It’s not a joke; always think before you post.”
In addition to consequences for individuals who issue threats, there is also a significant societal cost. Law enforcement agencies have limited resources, and responding to hoax threats diverts officers and costs taxpayers. The threats can also cause severe emotional distress to students, school personnel, and parents and anyone in the ‘line of social media fire.’