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Michigan Case Illustrates Rise of Twin Threats

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel revealed on Thursday she was among those allegedly targeted by a man arrested last month posting a Twitter threat to “carry out the punishment of death” against anyone Jewish in the Michigan state government. The case calls attention to a pair of intertwined threats to democracy: an alarming spike in antisemitism and escalating threats against elected officials, CNN reports. It is the latest example of a growing trend of intimidation and attacks targeting Jewish people at a time when extremists, who might once have been isolated, find affirmation and spurs to act from social media. In certain political and social media circles, sometimes fueled by celebrities, antisemitic rhetoric that was once taboo seems to be filtering into accepted discourse, alongside conspiracy theories like QAnon. Assaults, vandalism and harassment targeting Jewish communities and individuals in the United States have raced to their highest levels on record. History shows that antisemitism, which is attractive to conspiracy theorists, is often an early warning sign or a symptom of deepening threats to democracy.


In the new case in Michigan, the FBI National Threat Operations Center told the Detroit FBI office that a person with the Twitter handle “tempered_reason” said he was heading to Michigan and “threatening to carry out the punishment of death to anyone that is Jewish in the Michigan govt.” Any attempt to “subdue” him would “be met with deadly force in self-defense,” the user said. Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Thursday that the details of the alleged threats to Nessel and other officials underscored the increasing risks of political attacks motivated by antisemitism and extremism. Last month, San Francisco police arrested a man who allegedly made political statements and fired apparently blank rounds in a synagogue. Days earlier, a man allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail at a synagogue in New Jersey. More incidents failed to make national headlines but have had a corrosive and frightening impact on America’s Jewish community. The Anti-Defamation League, in the latest available annual figures, found that a total of 2,717 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021, a 34% increase on the 2,026 incidents reported the year before. “It’s happening in almost every state. It’s happening against regular people,” said Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow in the Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Who is willing to take these jobs?” she asked, before warning: “Our democracy is only as good as the people we elect, and we can only elect the people willing to run. And polling is showing that people are stepping back from running when they have to add this to a stressful job that doesn’t pay particularly well and puts them in the literal targets of their fellow citizens.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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