The least discussed, and probably most important issue in America today, is the prevalence of right-wing threats against people working in or with the government for the greater good. These threats are weakening cyber security, education, and election integrity with little push back from the government or the press. Violence, or at least the threat of it from the right wing, is working from the perspective of the people making the threats.
Politico has a story about how an otherwise effective public-private partnership in cyber security is being derailed by the lack of response to right wing threats.
But a growing conservative backlash to CISA’s separate work has participants in JCDC worried. A case before the Supreme Court initiated by Republican attorneys general accuses CISA of First Amendment violations for its efforts to fight disinformation largely during the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 election, when it forwarded tips about hoaxes it received from state and local election authorities to companies such as Facebook and X.
Three Stanford University researchers who helped CISA address disinformation have faced legal challenges and online harassment. In December, the CTI-League’s founders, including Rogers, received death threats after media reports claimed they helped hone CISA’s alleged censorship strategy — a charge the group denies.
CISA did not offer any support to the CTI-League in the wake of the backlash, CTI-League members say, even though the vast majority of the group’s work was focused on protecting hospitals and emergency rooms from cyberattacks — not fighting disinformation.
Right wing fever dreams and lies about censorship led to threats and harassment, and the government agency did little nothing to protect them. As a result, people are less willing to work on disinformation but also less willing to work on the partnership, period. And that lack of cooperation makes our response to cybersecurity threats less effective.
A similar story has played out with election workers. Because of the Big Lie about election theft, election workers are being threatened and driven from public service, taking years of institutional knowledge and integrity with them. Election workers all over the country are being targeted:
As the country heads into the next election, NPR obtained contact information for thousands of local election workers and reached out to them. Workers and officials across 22 different states responded and told NPR they've received threats, felt unsafe doing their jobs, feared for the safety of their families, or even their pets.
Very specific threats get attention, but more generalized ones don’t get much of a response:
The worker collecting ballots called 911 four times the day he says he was menaced by the woman in the Jeep.
"I have had somebody following me," he tells a police dispatcher in one call. "She tried to run me off the road."
The roads in this rural Oregon county wind through steep wooded hillsides, logging trucks hurtle past in the other direction. He says the woman tailgated on his bumper, driving erratically, sometimes swerving into the oncoming traffic lane next to him.
"I was terrified," he says. "I was worried that I might not make it off that road."
Teachers and librarians are also facing these kinds of threats:
NBC News identified 33 instances, starting in November 2020, when people or institutions singled out by Libs of TikTok later reported bomb threats or other violent intimidation. The threats, which on average came several days after tweets from Libs of TikTok, targeted schools, libraries, hospitals, small businesses and elected officials in 16 states, Washington, D.C., and the Canadian province of Ontario. Twenty-one of the 33 threats were bomb threats, which most commonly targeted schools and were made via email.
She continues to post the identifying details and images of her subjects. She has rarely criticized the threat-makers or urged them to stop. She told The Washington Post in September 2022, when the newspaper was reporting on threats against children’s hospitals: “We 100 % condemn any acts/threats of violence.”
Raichik has at times mocked the idea that she could influence people making threats, once joking that maybe she was also responsible for natural disasters.
We are seeing an almost invisible increase in right wing threats and intimidation, mostly based on politicians, media members, and influencers lying about reality. Very few of the instances result in prosecutions, and the people leading these charges are generally completely safe form consequences. They get away with it time and time again and will continue to lie and encourage threats through their lies and activities.
A civil society and cannot survive a violent veto. Society depends upon thousands of normal people giving their time and skills to small jobs to keep the wheels of civilization greased. By allowing these people to be intimidated and threatened, the government is allowing the right-wing threateners to erode the glue that holds the country together. We need to make stomping these threats out a national priority, or we will find that the mechanisms of society no longer work. Cybersecurity, education, and election fairness are critical to a society. The people who make those systems work fairly and fare all Americans deserve protection and accolades.
Right now, however, we are letting them be overwhelmed by threats and violence. We will wake up one day as a result of this neglect and find that the country no longer works.