Chicago, Il — As shooters make headlines across the country, several potential criminals describe their intentions as being “misunderstood jokes.” Taking a line from disgraced conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, several apprehended suspects have claimed their violent language and intentions were merely satirical.
Both local and federal authorities have arrested several men for making mass shooting threats on social media and various other websites. The FBI arrested an 18-year-old Ohio man who allegedly threatened to shoot federal law enforcement officers in a post on iFunny. And this past Friday, federal agents arrested a 19-year-old Chicago man for threatening to kill people at a women’s reproductive health clinic in a post on iFunny.
In the past year, the online message boards Gab and 8chan, both rife with racist or anti-Semitic messages, have faced scrutiny for their roles as homes to extremists who carried out mass shootings in Pittsburgh, California, New Zealand, and El Paso.
A spokesperson for a defense lawyer organization union confirmed that threatening to shoot or shooting someone is not considered parody of satire.
“I think reasonable people do not need an explanation of free speech,” said Bethany Millbright, a spokesperson for the Public Defenders Union (PDU). “However, there are segments of our society, that when caught in wrongdoing, tend to take facetious approaches to some grave criminal accusations.”
Freedom Ain’t Free
Recently, a somewhat significant portion of the American electorate has a profound misunderstanding of the Bill of Rights. In particular, the 1st Amendment which defines and guarantees speech and assembly rights. However, for decades, the courts and lawmakers have asserted there are limits to what Unites States citizens can say or do.
“Again, these are things your parents and the schools should have taught you, but you just can’t go around shouting fire in a movie theater,” continued Ms. Millbright. “And you can’t go around threatening people or encouraging harm on others by claiming the police deserve to get shot. That’s not satire; that’s being a criminal.”