If you follow gay blogger Joe My God at all, you know he’s politically opinionated, but also breezy and fun. So it may surprise you that some prominent conservatives have called the FBI on him.
Not on him, exactly — on his commenters, some of whom made what these conservatives take as menacing statements, which they think should be treated as terrorist threats.
“[Peter] LaBarbera [of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality] has attacked me intermittently over the years,” proprietor Joe Jervis told us, “but this is his most furious attempt to shut me down”…
It started when JMG encouraged his readers to book seats at the anti-gay Americans For Truth About Homosexuality annual banquet, presumably as a prank. “Homosexual Hate Site Targets AFTAH Staffer for Phone Harassment,” responded Americans for Truth.
The October 24 banquet passed without incident, though there were some protests outside: Illinois Review claimed “gay activists lined the street,” then reproduced a pictured of about seven people with P-flags. “It’s about to get just a little harder to be a Christian in America,” keynote speaker Matt Barbour of Liberty Counsel told the banqueters.
That seemed to be that until Monday, when Americans for Truth reported “Homosexual Activists on ‘Joe.My.God.’ Blog Warn of Gay ‘Domestic Terrorism’ against Pro-Family Leaders including LaBarbera, Gallagher… Gay writer says ‘well-organized terrorism’ against pro-family leaders is ‘just what we need.'”
A careless reader might think Jervis had made the remarks, but AFTAH was referring to JMG commenters, who said things like “Maybe a bit of well-organized terrorism is just what we need,” “Will someone please give me a gun?” and “There will be radicals who will begin to hunt down haters like LaBarbera and Gallagher” vis a vis anti-gay crusaders Peter LaBarbera and Maggie Gallagher.
Americans for Truth added, “The pro-family Christian defense organization Liberty Counsel has contacted the FBI regarding the threatening posts.” LaBarbera told us that Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber had indeed called the FBI.
JMG said the comments “don’t pass the laugh test as a ‘terrorist threat,'” but nonetheless removed the post and asked his readers to notify him of any comment “that you feel incites to violence,” and requested, “please don’t post anything, even in jest, that you wouldn’t mind saying in a signed letter to your local newspaper.”
The story ascended today to the popular conservative site World Net Daily, which said “‘Gay’ blogger calls church-bomb threat a ‘joke,’” quoted LaBarbera, who said “Fort Hood teaches us” that “when people are talking about violence to pro-family proponents, you have to take it seriously,” and reproduced other murderous comments from other pro-gay web sites.
When we talked to him, LaBarbera seemed more concerned with what he portrayed as gay intolerance than with physical harm.
“Do I think they’re gonna come down to my home to gun me down? No,” LaBarbera told us. “But you nip it in the bud. They’re the arbiters of tolerance? Who more than gay activists lectures everyone else about tolerance?… Doggone it, they oughta live up to their creed.”
LaBarbera has had internet run-ins with JMG before — “he says I’m a homosexual, calls me Porno Pete” — and says he wants to make people aware that “the double standard is, gays are setting themselves up as champions of tolerance” but “the more extreme activists among them, they can’t live up to their rhetoric.”
He adds that “I’ve been completely consistent” in decrying similarly objectionable speech on conservative sites as well. “For example, what’s that conservative site?… Free Republic. Some of those guys go over the line.”
JMG called the controversy “an attempt by LaBarbera to gain ‘victim cred’ amongst the Christian right after they shunned and denounced him during the final days of Maine’s Yes On 1 drive.” He also took note of “phony ‘pro-gay’ comments” which he believed were sent by opponents looking to further discredit the site. “I am recording the IP addresses for all of these as I delete them,” he added.
As for the removed post, Jervis told us, “I’m keeping that post down for a few more days, partially to thwart the wingnuts from Free Republic and World Net Daily who want to come comment on it, and partially until I decide whether to bother to take out any of the so-called ‘threatening comments.’ Which they really aren’t, of course.”
Matt Barber strongly disagrees that they’re not threatening. “Certainly in light of the events at Fort Hood, Texas,” he told us, “we have to take all apparent threats in postings on the internet as if the person making that threat is planning to do what he or she is threatening.” Regarding the Joe My God comments, and others he’s seen elsewhere, “at the very least that is inciting violence or conspiring to commit violence. You cannot go through airport security and say, ‘I have a bomb in my suitcase’ — you do not have a First Amendment right to do that.”
We asked if it would be appropriate to call out the FBI on other homicidal ravings in other comments sections. “Absolutely!” he said.”I don’t care if it’s liberal, conservative, Christian, or Muslim… any direct threat of terrorism should be investigated and taken to task.”
We suggested that the internet is rife with such comments, and that hunting down the overtly threatening ones and prosecuting them might be a fool’s errand. “I think that’s an over-generalization,” said Barber. “And I wonder if the same over-generalization was made by FBI agents about [Nidal Malik] Hasan.”
You don’t have to wait till Jervis decides to re-publish the original post to see if you agree with Barber’s assessment. Americans for Truth has found a copy and reposted the whole thing — marking in boldface “the most offensive portions” of the allegedly dangerous comments.