Threats have been in the news among atheists circles lately. DM is accused of making death threats on many atheist blogs (and really, he did not allegedly do it, he does make threats, quite regularly, including on my blog), and Fox News notoriously racked up many death threats in the comments of the story about American Atheists suing to remove the WTC cross. So, as a helpful guide to society and DM, I have compiled a simple classification for discussing death and torture fantasies.
I’ll start with the most severe. A direct threat, like, “I am going to eat your tongue,” are not legal in any jurisdiction that gets internet (see local ordinances, I am not a lawyer, but I assure you, there is the possibility for prosecution). It is highly recommended you never use these threats in writing, or speak it near any sort of recording device. Saying these things can get you in trouble if someone who is having a bad day, or has a grudge against you, sees it.
Then you have calls for violence. “Someone should kill Justin Bieber” is completely illegal. Even though every single one of us has thought it, actually writing it down in, say, the Youtube comments of his video, is technically illegal, and possibly even a terrorist act (from my understanding, he constitutes 35% of the Canadian economy). “Kill all Eskimos” is technically hate speech. Calls to incite violence against a group is, like everything else so far, totally against the law.
Finally, we reach some legally ambiguous stuff. Qualified threats, or a threat to react to a certain action, may be legal or illegal, depending upon the situation and law in your area. “Tell me to shut up again and I will rip off your balls and shove them down your throat,” is a quintessential example. This is sort of ambiguous, but is probably illegal, and it becomes more clear if the threat is over something inane, like, “Look at me again and I will skullfuck you.” That is totally out of the question in civilized conversation. “Sleep with my daughter again and I’ll shove my foot up your ass,” is generally a bit more socially acceptable, though obviously uncomfortable (by the way, the correct response to that is, “Yes, sir…” trust me…).
Then you have statements that are not really threats, so much as douchebaggery. “I wish you would keel over from a stroke” is a classic example. “I hope God gives you prostate cancer” is another. These are basically violent fantasies shared with others, like all the rest, only you remove outside human action from the equation. This is the most common loophole for avoiding the “threat” label.
For example, saying, “Someone should shoot that infant” is totally illegal, as is, “I hope that baby gets shot.” However, “I hope that baby gets SIDS” is fine.
Hopefully this has been both educational and confusing, since you may have learned something, and I’m sure it baffles you as to why such a post is even necessary. It is not, but it was something I had never seen before, so I took it upon myself to give it a whirl.