My First Internet Death Threat (Trigger Warning)

Trigger warning: Violence against women, homophobia and fat-shaming.

Friday morning I woke up to find I’d received my first internet death threat. It was in response to my blog post about accountability. I’m posting the contents of the entire message below so that others have an idea of the kind garbage others and I have to endure when we choose to speak on social justice issues.

Unfortunately, the commenter was used an IP anonymizer, so there is no way to determine their identity. Is it a colleague or a total stranger? There’s no way to know.

Here’s the comment. Consider the trigger warning above before you decide whether or not to read on.

Jesus stop whining you stupid dyke. No one gives a shit what you think, and if you keep attention whoring like this you’re going to end up with your fat throat slit if one of us can manage to find a knife deep enough to penetrate your layers of blubber.

Point is, you’re just a useless, loudmouthed lesbian. Personally, I think you should consider leaving Mozilla or better yet do the world (and your parents) a favor and kill yourself already. You’re worthless fat waste of space and posting this garbage does nothing to promote Mozilla’s image. Grab an ounce of self-worth and delete your shitty blog, cunt.

I’ve known for a long time that those who speak out about anti-oppression and other social justice issues receive death threats. I now know first-hand how unsettling it is to be on the receiving end of such threats. It’s made me re-think my habit of checking email first thing in the morning before I’m fully awake an functional. What it hasn’t done is discouraged me from talking about these issues. If anything, being the target of such speech is just a reminder about how important it is for those of us in marginalized groups to be visible and to be heard when we feel we are able to do so.

Update 8 October 12:19: A couple of people have asked me to post the email headers and IP address of the person who left the comment. Unfortunately, it was left as a comment via WordPress so I don’t have email headers. What I do have is the IP address and reverse lookup as captured by Apache and WordPress software: IP: 31.172.30.1, tor18.anonymizer.ccc.de. It’s my understanding that there is no way to track the identity of someone who has used Tor, but I’m happy to share my Apache logs with anyone who thinks they might be able to get some more info from them. Also, the person gave the email address “kelly.rutherford@gmail.com,” but I assume that is not their own because why use Tor and then give your real email?

18 comments

  1. Kronda

    People suck. I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m glad you’re continuing to expose the stupidity and hate that goes on when good people are trying to speak up for themselves and others.

  2. Brennan Novak

    This is EXTREMELY disturbing. I’m very vyer sorry to hear people in my community (technology & the open source world) can act so incredibly immature, mean, and violent.

    Thank you for speaking out on this issue publicly, Christie. Your resolve to not reveal the commenters identity is tantamount to your integrity and strength as an individual. Whomever is leaving anonymous comments like these are complete cowards. Notice most of the disenting opinions (against Christie & Tim’s thoughts) on the other posts are either anonymous or a first name with no link? Cowardly behavior.

    As to this death thread, by Coward, people do care- yes, even people like me who do not identify the same as Christie in many ways- we care immensely and on many levels. I hope you are reading my comment, Coward- and if you are, I urge you to click on the link to my website, my phone # and email are listed- let’s get in touch- allow me to take you out for some coffee (or tea perhaps?) as I’d love to look you in the eyes and try to understand, with every empathetic fiber in me, why a human being would say something so incredibly disturbing and offensive to another human being. I really hope you will do this, Coward.

  3. graydon

    This is unacceptable behavior. A person speaking this way is debasing their own humanity; they can and should be better than this.

    As a member of the associated community, I’m ashamed by this person’s behavior and fully support your right to speak and participate without such abuse.

    • Jessamyn

      Gervase, it’s hard for me to read this comment from you. I genuinely wonder that you can campaign to deny civil rights to LGBT people, without seeing that that helps legitimize seeing gay people as less than fully human.

  4. Pavel Kirkovsky

    That is horrible :(

    Even though you say they used some sort of anonymizer, please post the full headers of the email anyway. There may be some useful clues there.

  5. Mitchell Baker

    The person who wrote this message is not welcome at Mozilla in any way or in any role. If we figure out who left this message we will exile that person.  If he or she is an employee then employment will be terminated.  If he or she is registered in mozillians.org we will revoke that status.  If he or she has any other role or responsibility at Mozilla we will eliminate it.

    • Joshua Dunfield

      Thank you; that needed to be said.

      But it’s worth thinking about why it needed to be said.

      From the earlier incident, it’s evident that when a Mozilla employee threatens specific coworkers, but without making a crystal-clear threat of specific violence, Mozilla chooses to protect the employee who made the threat from any real consequences—even the relatively mild one of having to publicly apologize.

      Because of Mozilla’s past inaction, you’re now in the position of needing to say explicitly that Mozilla would be willing to fire an employee who makes an explicit death threat against another. That should be something everyone can take for granted, but it’s not, because Mozilla’s inaction has created a culture of impunity.

  6. Larissa

    Christie – this story and you have been on my mind since I learned of it. I am impressed that you spoke out and think it was the right thing to do and am relieved to see that Mozilla takes it seriously. I wish I could make some recommendation for your safety, but as it was a n anonymous comment… know this. There is no excuse, no way, no possible explanation that could ever make this in any way even remotely acceptable, of course. The only thing I can say which could be construed as “positive” from it is that when you get this horrible, crazy response, it does tend to imply you’re… making an impact. Which is a horrible yardstick. Anyway. I keep thinking of you – know that people see how brave you are and how strong.

    • Tim Chevalier

      The response isn’t really crazy at all — it’s not reflective of a person who is mentally ill. People with mental illness aren’t more likely to commit violence, but they are more likely to be *victims* of it. Rather, the response is a reflection of a culture that approves of and enables violence against women and queer people. Calling it “crazy” stigmatizes people like me, who have mental illness, without shedding any light on the situation.

      • Larissa

        Agreed actually, – thank you for calling me on my incorrect inappropriate use of that word. I actually don’t even personally associate “crazy” with actual mental illness anymore… because it’s just not useful – but I realize that our culture does… it was a slip and I regret it. I have people who struggle with serious mental illness in my most immediate dearly loved family and I try very hard to be a firm advocate for their needs and respect them deeply. And yes, people with mental illness are often targets in our culture. Anyway, I’m sincerely sorry.

        Further, I think its possible that with the cultural associations of that word, using it here actually slights the serious nature of the threat… to imply that it was anything less than fully intentional (as in, “insanity defense” etc). I did not mean to do so. What I meant, really, was that this is so far utterly outside of any acceptable realm of behavior as to be… bizzarre. That does not, in our homophobic, fat-shaming, disrespectful culture, make it *surprising*.

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  8. deepfryed

    I’m sorry this happened to you. I blame a selfish upbringing lacking empathy or morality. How else can you explain such a vile comment ?

    • Tim Chevalier

      How else can you explain such a vile comment ?

      An entire culture that rewards the kinds of behaviors (called “microaggressions”) that make it possible and comprehensible for a few people to do things like this. Not many people make death threats; many people use misogynistic, fat-shaming, and homophobic slurs. The sum total of all of those smaller slights is what makes the more shocking violations, like this one, possible.

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