Man facing jail for threatening to bomb dictionary publisher over gender definitions
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Featured Image Credit: Google Maps/Merriam Webster
A California man is facing jail time after pleading guilty to bomb threats made to a dictionary publisher over its gender definitions.
"Girl: 1) a female child from birth to adulthood, 2) a person whose gender identity is female." That's the dictionary definition of the word 'girl' according to Merriam-Webster. It's not inaccurate, and there's a similar definition relating to males under the word 'boy'.
Still it was definitions such as these that Jeremy David Hanson, of Rossmoor, California, took issue with, to the point where he sent 'threatening messages' to the publisher 'demonstrating bias against specific gender identities'.
The 34-year-old pleaded guilty this week to one count of 'interstate communication of threatening communications to commit violence against the employees of Merriam-Webster', as well as another count for the same offense targeting the President of the University of North Texas.
According to a statement from the Department of Justice, his threats were made between 2 October and 8 October 2021, when Merriam-Webster received a number of messages through the comments section of its website.
In a post on 2 October, Hanson commented on the page for 'female', writing: “It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster now tells blatant lies and promotes anti-science propaganda. There is no such thing as ‘gender identity.’ The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot.”
Another message was sent to the website's Contact Us page, saying the headquarters should be 'shot up and bombed' and including transphobic language.
A third comment, also posted via the Contact Us page, read: "I am going to shoot up and bomb your offices for lying and creating fake definitions... Boys aren’t girls, and girls aren’t boys."
After receiving the messages, Merriam-Webster closed its offices in Springfield, Massachusetts and New York City for approximately five days. Authorities identified the poster to be Hanson, and arrested him in April 2022.
Hanson is set to be sentenced in January 2023 and faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 (£216,700).
As well as the threats to Merriam-Webster, Hanson also admitted to sending threats to Walt Disney Co., the Governor of California and the Mayor of New York City, a New York rabbi and professors at Loyola Marymount University.
The 34-year-old said he frequently chose the people he would target because of their gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division, encouraged other people who may be a victim or witness to threats like Hanson's to report them to the FBI so the agency 'can hold the perpetrators behind these crimes accountable for their actions'.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]