Saturday, February 19, 2011

Death Threat Etiquette

I have recently become saddened by what I see as a decline in the quality of death threats in this country. There was once a time where highly ranking elected officials and social reformers could expect ominous late night calls from a payphone or the occasional menacing letter comprised of re-purposed newspaper clippings. Such warnings were taken seriously because they were serious, and Americans could take pride in the fact that we were on the forefront of the “implied violence movement.”
 
Unfortunately, it appears that America’s newest generation is not prepared to continue such a proud legacy. A few days ago, I ran a Google News search for “death threats” and began riffling through the results. Did I find heads of state in mortal danger? Community activists fearing for their safety? Sadly, all I could find were articles concerning Disney star Selena Gomez who has been receiving death threats (mostly via Twitter) after she was photographed spending time with Justin Bieber over the holidays on a private yacht.

If that wasn’t disheartening enough, apparently the same thing happened to Kim Kardashian after she appeared in a magazine photo-shoot with Mr. Bieber last year. And it isn’t just his fans spearheading this sad trend. During her appearance on Dancing With The Stars, Bristol Palin received multiple death threats and a mysterious envelop with white powder was mailed to the ABC studio where the show is filmed. Her success on the program angered one Wisconsin resident to the point that he fired a shotgun at his TV and entered into a tense standoff with law enforcement.

 Forgive me for being blunt, but kids today have no appreciation for a good death threat. For one thing, Twitter takes all of the effort out of it. Do you know how long it takes to piece together a coherent paragraph using headlines from the Sunday business section? Do you have any idea the dedication required to stand at a grimy pay phone at three o’ clock in the morning with a sock over the receiver just so you can inform senator Bob that his days are numbered? These new kids don’t even possess the good sense to hide their identity; much less issue a credible threat.
 
Instead, little Hannah sees a clip on Entertainment Tonight of The Bieb shaking hands with Helen Mirren, picks up her iPhone, and tweets, “I will cut you @helenmirren.” Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of this is that little Hannah has no long term emotional investment in carrying out such a proclamation because by tomorrow she will have issued so many more tweets that her homepage won’t even display her warning to Mrs. Mirren and she will have forgotten about it.

Not only are the techniques lacking, but the targets themselves are subpar. Selena Gomez? Bristol Palin? Kim Kardashian? Even Ryan Seacrest has reportedly been given an extra security detail. Once, such flattery was reserved for icons like John Lennon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy; but now it appears that we are handing out dire warnings willy nilly.
 
Soon the art of the death threat will be lost forever, buried under years of half-hearted Twitter updates and poorly punctuated text messages. This onslaught will slowly erode the credibility of the remaining proper practitioners causing the inevitable collapse of the delicate relationship between the famous and those striving to become infamous.

At least we still have Facebook status feuds…..

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