A licence to bully and harass

The BBC introduces a story on online abuse directed at a BBC reporter:

While covering a Donald Trump rally, BBC reporter Rajini Vaidyanathan received a barrage of online abuse, some of it racist. Here she explains what happened, and how it sheds light on an ugly side to the US presidential race.

The abuse was sexist as well as racist, ¬†yet for some reason the BBC editor who wrote that first paragraph didn’t mention the sexism. Example # 40 billion-whatever that sexism flies under the radar for a lot of people.

As is part of my job, I was live tweeting from the event, over the course of the evening. I’d spoken to several supporters to find out why they loved their candidate, and was sharing a flavour of the rally through a range of pictures.

Note what she said there – tweeting is part of her job.

As I sat in the press pen, I took some photos of the arena. The seats were filling up, but some sections by me were empty. I took four pictures and posted them on Twitter. I thought nothing of it. I do this sort of live coverage of events all the time.

It’s part of the job.

Then her notifications exploded.

A local talk show host had shared my tweet, insinuating I’d doctored the images.

I’d done nothing of the sort, but that didn’t stop the torrent of abuse which followed.

“This is obviously an attempt to undermine Trump.”

“Go back to sleep filthy journalist,” read one of the messages.

I was accused of being a Hillary Clinton propagandist, of posting from my “ugly ass” and of being a “servant” of the mainstream media.

One person even suggested I should be arrested and tried for treason.

I carried on with my job, sharing photos and video of the speakers and supporters.

But the talk show host, and others continued to bait me online, accusing me of lying, which of course I was not.

Earlier in the night, my colleague had posted a video, also pointing out that 40 minutes from the start of the rally, the arena was “far from full”, yet he was not subjected to the same vitriol.

“Propaganda whore.” “Bitch.” The insults kept flying.

It felt like a virtual mob was hur[t]ling toward me. The language was rude, some of it was sexist, and in one case racist.

One person told her to go back to India and called her degenerate; that account was suspended.

Trump worked up the crowd by talking smack about journalists.

This sentiment has grown as the campaign has progressed. Supporters I’ve met in recent weeks have told me they are unhappy with a narrative they believe paints their candidate in an unfairly negative light.

For some, it’s become a licence to bully and harass. At a recent rally, writer Jared Yates Sexton tweeted how Trump supporters there had talked about beating up reporters.

“Guy just said he thought Trump would lock up dishonest press after election,” he wrote “‘You got to do something’ his friend says.”

Earlier this year Julia Ioffe, a reporter with GQ magazine who wrote an article about Melania Trump, received online abuse, including death threats.

The tone of the abuse was anti-Semitic. Some of the tweets directed at her included superimposed images of her at a concentration camp, with the title “CampTrump”.

At the time, Mr Trump was asked on CNN to condemn the threats. He refused to, saying he hadn’t read the piece.

Of course he refused to condemn threats. He makes them himself. He made his piles of money partly by threatening people who wanted him to pay what he owed them.

At a rally in December, Mr Trump described NBC’s Katy Tur as a “third-rate journalist.” He didn’t hold back, as over a number of days, he called her a liar, and said her tweets were “disgraceful”.

The response from his supporters online was more alarming for Tur, who at one point needed Secret Service protection.

Some of the tweets she received incited violence: “MAYBE A FEW JOURNALISTS DO NEED TO BE WHACKED,” said one.

“MAYBE THEN THEYD STOP BEI[N]G BIASED HACKS. KILL EM ALL STARTING W/ KATY TUR,” were the words in another.

Fascism on the move.

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