In case you were blindsided by otherwise unintelligible references to Donald Trump, his appearance at WrestleMania 23, and violence against the news media, here’s what happened over the weekend. The President of the United States of America tweeted a GIF of himself beating Vince McMahon in the “Battle of Billionaires,” except McMahon’s face was replaced with the CNN logo. Trump then retweeted his viral post from the official @POTUS account, triggering a debate about whether or not he was attempting to incite violence against members of the news media. Georgia-based reporter Jared Yates Sexton believes this has happened.
“I’d like to give a little insight into what it’s like being a journalist in 2017,” Sexton wrote in a string of tweets Monday morning, “and why Trump’s rhetoric is incredibly dangerous.” To explain why he believes this, the New York Times and New Republic contributor pointed to what happened (and is still happening) after he revealed the source of Trump’s CNN meme — a Reddit user and frequent /r/The_Donald commenter named “HanA**holeSolo.” The Washington Post and other outlets have since dug into the user’s posting history, but Sexton’s smoking gun pinpoint the meme’s “obviously racist” and anti-Semitic origins.
Hence why Sexton immediately became the target of /r/The_Donald’s regular visitors, social media trolls and the minds behind several ultra-conservative or Neo-Nazi websites. “I received numerous threats. I was told people wanted to shoot, strangle me, hang me, throw me out of a helicopter,” he began. “Some assumed I was Jewish because I spoke out against antisemitism, others said I was a race-traitor. Got it on both sides.”
Needless to say, the threats being made against Sexton in “realtime” are pretty graphic.
Considering the frequency with which this happens on the internet — even in the case of the president himself singling out certain journalists by name — it sadly isn’t surprising. Even so, Sexton switched gears in his tweet-string to indicate why such behavior online, especially when instigated by Trump himself, doesn’t bode well for journalism and the people who practice it. “When you start calling a group of people enemies of the country,” he warns, “this is what happens.”