An assassination threat is a serious call to action and the owner must be held accountable. For days, hateful and vulgar comments about assassinating Rachel Notley were on Wildrose leader Brian Jean's Facebook page. By the time Jean took them down, hundreds, maybe thousands, had read comments like, "you'll be the first assassination in Alberta." This goes beyond letting off steam over Bill 6. We've seen U.S. examples of political and mass shootings after suggestions on Facebook or Twitter. Making it normal to talk about assassinating someone says we agree with the idea and it's OK to do. Do Albertans believe violent threats against Notley are OK?
Back in the days of Tory rule, such threats or intimidation would have immediately gone to the RCMP or CSIS for investigation. An environmentalist on Facebook with an angry comment or 'rant' would have had RCMP talking with the individual, accessing computer files, and investigating every inch of the person's life. Now the RCMP response is, "We have received a number of posts regarding comments posted online about public figures. Thank you for your concern."
Those who defend the posts as rants or letting off steam must realize words have consequences. These rants cross the bounds of respect and decency. They are violent, even misogynist. "We're talking about posts that say Notley should be shot, stabbed, or even thrown into a tree grinder. Some of the posts have referred to her as a b---h and other offensive terms." (CBC News, 12/14/2015) This isn't venting. It's a call to action. All it takes is one very angry, frustrated person to pick up a gun.
Canadians have seen via the United States how a hateful rant can turn into an assassination or a mass shooting. Rants about killing someone isn't a joke, neither is it OK. Will every Albertan who posted threats take responsibility if a gunman kills Notley, or guns down innocent bystanders in a massacre because someone's Facebook or Twitter vent made sense? Is Alberta's rural and urban divide that huge? Do farmers believe they are allowed to rant about shooting someone in the head and not be accountable because they're angry over a bill?
A Facebook page called 'Out the NDP in Alberta' was talking about killing Premier Notley back in October.
"Barbara Starr, moderator of one of the websites called Out the NDP in Alberta, posted, 'We can take over the government, we just need the wild to back us.'
In response a man posted, 'Or a lone gunman,' adding, 'Not condoning that. Just saying bad things happen to bad leaders.'
In another post the premier is warned to be careful or 'you'll be the first assassination in Alberta.'
Another writes: 'I'm not advocating for violence against you -- yet -- but keep talking like that and someone will take matters in their own hands.' (CBC, 10/21/2015)
Some Albertans are taking action. On Global Calgary's Facebook, someone commented, "Where's John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald when we need them?" One person replied, "I have taken a screenshot of your comment and forwarded it to the local police." The comment was quickly removed by Global Calgary.
Bill 6 is causing anger and frustration among farmers. There is backlash. Some Facebook comments suggest farmer frustration comes from needing to have things explained more often and in simpler words. I don't share that view. I believe farmers are smart, know why they are angry, and will also stand up to anyone who is using Bill 6 as an excuse to spout hatred and violence.
This includes standing up to Wildrose leader Brian Jean, who stoked farmer anger to score political points. Political points are made with heated talk and inflamed issues. Brian Jean let the violent Facebook comments stay on for days because Jean wants to unite the right. "Monday, Brian Jean acknowledged that the Wildrose will swallow up the Conservatives and are in the driver's seat." (Fletcher Kent, Global News)
The line separating a rant from a threat has been crossed. Albertans should be asking people who post violent suggestions, "Why are you threatening to kill someone?" People have to take responsibility for their words.
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