Death Threats Rock Blogosphere

There’s been much gnashing of teeth and hand-wringing over Kathy Sierra from Creating Passionate Users receiving death threats from comments on other blogs and cancelling a recent public appearance. A Photoshopped picture of her with a pair of panties over her mouth and another picture of her next to a noose have also turned up.

I do think it wasn’t the best decision to go public with the threats. I think that only gives the those that posted them more fuel for the fire. She’s gone to the Feds (presumably FBI) but we’ll see if that turns up anything. If it was me, I would have waited until an investigation had been done. But it wasn’t me so I guess I don’t know exactly what I would have done.

I don’t think I’ve ever received death threats because of my blogging. I did get harrassed in high school in college in person and via phone and once some bigots in a truck threw a (full) beer can at Ron and I on Broadway. Or getting off the Red Line Wilson stuff late at night.

Chris Pirillo shares my lack of surprise that there will always be assholes:

The outpouring of support for Kathy has been substantial – but a lot of it seems to be knee-jerk / reactionary. Kathy is *NOT* overreacting to her situation in the slightest, but I do believe that the rest of us simply aren’t putting it into perspective.

Jim follows:

I’ve been Google-bombed and called an asshole countless times and a slew of other nasty Internet encounters that I’ve since forgotten. But a death threat of the likes as mentioned above?


As we have all found out to one extent or another — whether through blog comments, or email flame wars, or blog posts about us — the anonymity of the Internet has a tendency to free people from their inhibitions, as James Robertson also notes. That can be a good thing, but it can also be a very bad thing. People will write things that they would never think of saying to someone in person, or saying if their identity could be discovered.

Scoble has decided to take the week off – in protest. Which again, I think only gives those that leave threats even more control – I just don’t understand what that’s supposed to mean… Alan Herrel, a 8 years blogging veteran shut his blog off.

Dan100 puts together a timeline, though I’m not sure how he is drawing the line between the owners of blogs and the commenters that are posting the threatening comments.


I just spotted a link posted by Michael Arrington on Twitter and when I clicked on it a part of the innocence of the blogosphere died for me.

Andy Carvin:

Bloggers have tolerated meanness in the community for far too long. What starts as tasteless name-calling and mocking all too easily escalates into vicious ad hominem attacks, humiliations and now threats against someone’s well-being. It isn’t the first time this has happened on a blog, and it’s probably not the last, but it’s first time I’ve seen it happen to someone I respect and cause them them almost paralytic fear.

A lot of the reaction to this hooks into the tendency of the male-dominated tech-sphere to be misogynistic.

Seth posits:

And the hate won’t go away, any of it, until enough people speak up. Isn’t it sad that misogyny is so common that there’s even a word for it?


We will stand up. We will look for answers. We will demand those responsible be punished. We will be united for a friend.


In this country we have to stop this abusive attacking of women. For the love of God, we all came from mothers who sacrificed greatly for our life. Even the worst of moms went through child-birth and were able to keep us alive into adulthood. So we need to stop with all this voilence against women. There is no place in society for this abuse. And there is no place in the blogosphere for this type of terror.

BBC World News has done a piece on it:

While blogging feuds are common, she believes the campaign against her is more likely to be because she is a woman in the male-dominated technology world. The police are investigating while the blogosphere has launched its own enquiry. One of the issues raised is the question of how women bloggers are treated online.


I just don’t want to be part of this any more, writes one commenter on Tim Bray’s blog. That’s an only slightly hyped-up summary of the kerfuffle since web marketing guru, Kathy Sierra, accusing web veterans such as Chris Locke of complicity in death threats against her. The irony: the blogs emerged in the first place because they forced writers to own their own words, and allowed readers to route around idiocy and vitriol.

Also they look at maybe the reaction of Kathy was authentic and justified but maybe the blogosphere’s wasn’t – especially when it comes to associating the harrassment with Chris Locke, one of the proprietors of one of the blogs where the comments were posted:

A cry of misogynism pretty much shuts off debate. … The bloggers are behaving like a lynch mob, or a US president, looking for someone to string up, or a country to invade. Sierra is upset, traumatized, even; but it’s Locke’s reputation which will be, possibly quite unfairly, soiled by her accusation.

Chris in his own words:

I found some of what was written on the meankids and unclebobism sites in extremely bad taste, yes. And as I said, I immediatetly took down the site when I saw Kathy’s understandably strong objections. I think her response, as it pertains to anything I personally wrote, was unjustified — but highly effective — character assassination. As a result, I’m sure I’ll be explaining for years to come that I’m not really an ax murderer and child molester. Nice work. [Chris Locke, in a transcript of the interview, on his own site

Jeneane Sessum, who Kathy mentions as connected to one of the offending sites (again, not a direct connection but the reaction + the indirect connection seems to be fueling fire):

There are important issues here to discuss, which shelley mentions — layers and layers of them. I hope Kathy does find the commentor who has threatened her life and takes action to feel safe. And I hope she uses the same vigor to exonerate those whom she has inaccurately linked to those acts.

Lisa Stone does some more analysis on Blogher:

For the record, I deeply disagree with the premise of sites like and others, and am surprised by the women and men who recommended and linked them from the beginning. To me, these sites are the of the blogosphere, a place where bitter cowards who don’t have the courage to own their snark hide and spit.






3 responses to “Death Threats Rock Blogosphere”

  1. Patsi M. Krakoff Avatar

    Thanks Andy for summarizing the points to be considered; this compilation is enlightening. When something happens like this (rarely of this degree of seriousness) there is always too much thrown about and it is difficult to wade through the muck to see the salient issues. Thanks for your clarity.

  2. Lyle Avatar

    Thanks also for putting this together.
    It IS difficult to know how to react to abuse — verbal, emotional, &/or psychological.
    I have couselled abused women and men. I have been abused.
    Bullies are bullies — and simultaneously cowards, when they hide behind anonymous posts.
    Misogyny or any kind of hatred is … well, hatred, mean, and needs to be dealt with.
    If you don’t like what someone is saying then disagree — I believe America stands for Freedom of Speech even if her President doesn’t practice it — so, speak out.
    People who make death threats are assholes!!

  3. Marcia Flick Avatar
    Marcia Flick

    I read Dave Winer’s entry of March 29 and was disappointed to see that he ignored the content of misogyny in these attacks on Ms. Sierra and instead, whined that as a woman, she received more press for what happened to her than he would have if he had spoken out about it.
    I posted a comment pointing this out and am not surprised that it was deleted.
    The larger issue here, which I am glad others have commented on, is the fact that there is, as you say, “the tendency of the male-dominated tech-sphere to be misogynistic.”
    There are also those who are in denial about that, Mr. Winer among them.

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