Friday, January 18, 2013

Stop Criticizing Me or I'll Blow Up the Internet!

There is something strangely fascinating about the tactics that anti-vaccine cranks use. Reading their various rants and how they react to critical refutation of their arguments, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that these are angry people. Ruled by their emotions, I wonder if they ever actually take the time to distance themselves from anything to think it through before reacting. We've seen it time and time again. Some of the things they say and do, particularly when they've had at least a little time to consider their actions, just astound me.

The latest in the "And you thought that was a good idea?" line of actions comes from Hollie. Hollie has a Facebook page called Motherhood: The Truth. (I have this image of a bunch of young moms sitting around a table with cards in their hands: "I play 'Timeout', followed by 'Warrior Mommy'.") On this site, apparently after some folks posted comments taking her to task for her anti-vaccine claims, vaccine-related posts are taboo (unless, of course, they're anti-vaccine...then it's okay). At any rate, the folks on the Anti Vax Wall Of Shame (AVWOS) countered her claims, which Hollie didn't like. No, not at all. So what did she do? She targeted one of the members of AVWOS.

One of the AVWOS members, Dorit, is a law professor at a California law school. Hollie called her at work. Going through to voice mail, she then thought it would be a good idea to leave a message expressing her opinions of Dorit and other pro-vaccine individuals. But in true anti-vaccine style, she doesn't just leave it at "I don't agree with you." Nope, she had to turn the stoopid up to 11 and threaten Dorit (who, remember, is a professor of law) with potential future harassment.

Liz Ditz, over at I Speak of Dreams, has more details. She also went through the trouble of transcribing the message:
Thursday (I am not sure if the message was left on January 10, 2013 or January 17, 2013).

Hi Dorit, my name is Hollie. I was actually just calling because I wanted to let you know that I found out your address, where you live in South Bay with your husband, and I just wanted to let you know that I am going to be posting that very, very, very publicly on Facebook, if your group does not leave some of the anti-vaxxers alone. So just take this as a word of warning, Miss Professor of Law. You do know how these things work, these threats, work, right? I will be calling the police and reporting you for harassment. I will also be blowing up the internet, showing your address and all of that. I just wanted to let you know. If you don't leave us alone, we're going to be doing this to you. OK? GREAT! Have a good day.
Let's break this down a little. Hollie is demanding a service or action - that Dorit (and other pro-vaccine folks) refrain from criticizing her and her cronies. If this service or action is not done, then she threatens to post Dorit's personal information on her Facebook page with the purpose of harassing her further. Apparently, Hollie is not aware that what she is doing is extortion. Extortion is a crime.

For example, the Illinois State Laws define extortion as attempting to get someone to perform or refrain from an action through one of the following means:
  • Physically harm the person threatened or any other person or property
  • Physically confine or restrain any person
  • Commit a felony or Class A misdemeanor
  • Accuse any person of a crime
  • Expose any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule
  • Take action as a public official against anyone or anything, or withhold official action
  • Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action
Illinois classifies it as a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2-10 years confinement, with the potential for a fine. I point out the Illinois law because, apparently (see Liz's post) Hollie lives in that state.

Even if her actions didn't rise to the level of extortion, Hollie would still be committing harassment, which California law defines thusly:
(3) "Harassment" is unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the
person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner.
If Dorit were so inclined, she has ample cause to bring suit against Hollie (who now claims it wasn't her), not to mention evidence. The beauty of modern telephone systems, particularly in workplaces, is that in addition to recording digital copies of any messages left, they also record phone numbers, which can be traced back to the original caller.

In the message, Hollie said she would "blow up the internet" in response to criticism. I'm guessing she didn't quite have in mind the response she's received. Hollie, allow me to introduce you to the Streisand Effect. Seriously, you'd think that these people would learn that using threats to try to silence criticism just doesn't work.

A few others who have written about this:

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