Crime

Man charged for violent threats towards Merriam-Webster over trans-inclusive definitions

Maggie Baska May 7, 2022
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A picture of Merriam-Webster dictionary on a shelf

A man has been indicted by a federal court after threatening anti-LGBTQ+ violence towards Merriam-Webster over the publisher’s pro-trans definitions. (Getty/Tim Boyle)

A California man has been formally charged for sending threatening online messages to Merriam-Webster over its trans-inclusive definitions. 

Jeremy David Hanson, 34, was indicted on one count of interstate communication of threatening communications to commit violence against the oldest dictionary publishers in the US, according to a press release from the Department of Justice

The grand jury charged Hanson, who is from Rossmoor, California, with intentionally targeting Merriam-Webster, its staff and the publisher’s property as the objects of the threatening communication based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Hanson due in federal court again on 13 May in Springfield, Massachusetts. If found guilty, he faces up to five years in jail, three years of supervised release and a hefty $250,000 fine over the charges. 

US attorney Rachael S Rollins said authorities believed Hanson was “motivated by hate and veiled by the assumed anonymity of the internet” when he “made numerous threats of violence” in order to “instil fear in our communities”. 

“Hateful and bigoted activity, like the conduct alleged here, is destructive on so many levels and will not be tolerated,” Rollins said. “Every individual has a right to feel safe in their community.”

Hanson was arrested and charged in April after a criminal complaint linked him to a series of threats made against Merriam-Webster in October 2021. 

Authorities claimed that Hanson threatened to “hunt down and shoot” Merriam-Webster staff in messages submitted online through the company website’s “Contact Us” page and in the comments section entries such as “girl” and “woman”

The Department of Justice believed Hanson used the handle “@anonYmous” to leave rambling comments on the publisher’s website and blasted Merriam-Webster for changing the definition of certain words to be more inclusive of the trans community. 

Federal officials also claimed that Hanson wrote on Merriam-Webster’s webform on 2 October that the company’s “headquarters should be shot up and bombed”.

“It is sickening that you have caved to the cultural Marxist, anti-science t****y agenda and altered the definition of ‘female’ as part of the Left’s efforts to corrupt and degrade the English language and deny reality,” he wrote in one alleged comment.

“You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive.”

Hanson also allegedly wrote that the dictionary publisher was telling “blatant lies” and promoting “anti-science propaganda” on another page. Authorities claimed that Hanson threatened that the staff member who “wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot”.

Joseph R Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said Hanson is also accused of “repeatedly making violent threats, motivated by hate, to intimidate others”. 

Bonavolonta added the threats became so serious that it caused Merriam-Webster to shut down its offices in Springfield and New York City for approximately five days “our of fear for their employees’ safety”. 

“Threatening violent action strikes at the heart of our fundamental right as Americans to live and work without fear, and this case underscores the FBI’s commitment to ensuring that everyone’s civil rights are protected, and those who try to infringe on them are brought to justice,” Bonavolonta said. 

Investigators have identified similar threatening messages which they believed are connected to Hanson. Officials said these messages were sent to the ACLU, Amnesty International, Hasbro, IGN Entertainment, the president of the University of North Texas, two Loyola Marymount University professors and a New York City rabbi. 

 

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