STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Death Threats to FEC Bureaucrat Show How the Internet is Changing Regard for Authority
By Daily Bell Staff - May 18, 2016

First Came the Drudge Link. Then the Death Threats. Ann Ravel was a relatively unknown government official, until her words got featured on the Drudge Report. Soon, the trolls were screaming at her to drop dead. – Center for Public Integrity

In this article, Ms. Ravel, a Commissioner on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), complains about the lack of civility that she experienced when she suggested publicly that the FEC ought to reexamine its policies toward the Internet.

Ms. Ravel believes she should be recognized for her determination to utilize her powers responsibly. It seems clear the Center for Public Integrity agrees.

Ravel makes her discomfort known in this article in part because she is shocked by the reaction she received when she suggested that she used the power she had lawfully acquired.

Those who attacked Ms. Ravel via anonymous ‘Net comments obviously believed she had in mind exercising more control over ‘Net commentary.

She even received death threats, which understandably upset her greatly.

More:

In October 2014, then-Federal Election Commission Vice Chairwoman Ann Ravel did what she often does: speak her mind about political campaign issues.

“A re-examination of the Commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue,” Ravel, a Democrat, wrote in lamenting a deadlocked commission vote over whether an Ohio-based business group must include disclaimers on political ads it posted for free on YouTube.com.

But Ravel’s statement—just finding it on the FEC’s website is no small feat—didn’t disappear into the Internet’s bowels as bureaucratic missives often do.

Instead, in a sign of how toxic American politics have become, it spawned unbridled ugliness, including death threats that have drawn the attention of law enforcement.

The article goes on to tell us that Ravel’s comments were featured on Drudge under the headline, “DEMS ON FEC MOVE TO REGULATE DRUDGE.”

It was this incendiary headline that motivated the attacks on her. She was called a fascist and urged to die. “Go fall down about ten flights of stairs,” was one comment.

Another: “Keep it up, and the pitchforks will come out and then you and your ilk will have no place to hide and the People will have their justice.”

The initial threats were issued back in October 2014 but Ravel recently voted to sanction conservative filmmaker Joel Gilbert “for alleged violations of federal election laws.”

The FEC deadlocked but her vote started the abuse again. She received one comment comparing her to Hitler.

The article goes on to point out that “such vitriol and vulgarity,” were never previously aimed at quasi-anonymous federal election regulators.

The article quotes Scott Thomas, a Democratic FEC commissioner from 1986 to 2006 and three-time chairman as saying, “It reflects a coarsening of the thinking process for some people—lack of a filter, lack of civility … A lot of people now seem to be going off the edge.”

We also learn that Ravel “received extra security protection during a public forum in 2015.”

Ravel, the article reports, joined the FEC in late 2013 and is often an advocate for stronger election rules and enforcement. She has occasionally been seen as confrontational within the context of accusing Republicans of failing to enforce certain election laws.

In response to queries from the Center for Public Integrity, Ravel has been vague about a continued commitment.

Asked again how long she planned to stay at the FEC, Ravel said she “will stay as long as I feel I can contribute.” In the meantime, she said she will attempt to take any additional threats in stride—as much as one can.

“These are an attempt to be intimidating, to make me either not speak out or to make me stop doing my job,” Ravel said. “It’s creepy, a little worrisome. I’m just going to keep doing my work.”

One must certainly be sympathetic to Ms. Ravel, especially in light of death threats. However, at the same time, there are certain blunt truths revealed by this incident. Much as the Gutenberg changed society 500 years ago, so the Internet is now actively changing the way people relate to power and authority.

We can see it in the terribly low survey numbers that government gets when it comes to “trust” and also in the current political season when Donald Trump’s skeptical rhetoric has literally turned the Republican party on its head.

Conclusion: For more than ten years we’ve tracked the evolution of the Internet from the point of view of its impact on the public. We have predicted that over time, the ‘Net will significantly undermine  sociopolitical and economic structures. Ms. Ravel has likely had a taste that process, as repugnant as it seems to be. Hopefully, her experience is anomalous. Certainly changes ought to proceed along civil and fruitful lines. Unfortunately, they may not.

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  • Praetor

    Interesting analysis! A lowly bureaucrat, who wears an armband, stating her politics loyalties.

    Civility, what civility.

    The bureaucries only purpose in the 21st seems to be, ‘nullifying’ the contract between, ‘We the People’ of the United States, ‘who’ in order to form a more perfect union established this government. (This they forget)! If we are to have a bureaucries, this bureaucy is to be impartial, non-political. The bureaucrats are the muscle of the tyrants in DC, its that simple. The one party state has created the condition, that ‘dissolution’ of this government maybe the only option.

    Civility along fruitful lines has been tried, town meeting, where the people have been told to shut-up, tea party, (taxed enough already) civil protest, voting a civil action, never seem to remove those responsible for the tyranny.

    Trust is and has been lost, and will never be restored. The government as implemented by ‘We the people’ is no more, and we all know why. The DB and others show us why!!!!

  • Jim Kluttz

    I too, wish that threats were not part of the internet discourse. Threats do not help in making a point. It is interesting, however, that it is considered “civil discourse” when a bureaucrat favors using the force of law to regulate something that doesn’t need regulating, such as a news site, and any disagreement is considered a “…coarsening of the thinking process”. Up is down and pink is purple, I guess, in this new world order.

    • Well put.

    • Gambeir Bay

      Don’t assume that the quote “threats” came from actual people since threatening a fed corp employee is already a crime. The FBI is quite capable of locating you I’m sure, and besides that, big mouth is running the FCC. Like they themselves aren’t capable of locating who said what? Give me a break.

      So it’s another false flag operation. Big mouth says something to provoke a probable response. If the response expected isn’t forthcoming then guess what?

      That’s right they create the response. Imagine that huh?

  • frankw

    I find it encouraging that even minor bureaucrats are feeling the heat of public opinion. They can no longer be anonymous when the light of the internet is shone on them. As HST said, “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen”.

  • Doski

    Soooo, Coercion by the Bureaucrat’s Storm Troopers is viewed as “Righteous” and propagandised as such BUT when it’s the perpetrated upon the Bureaucrats it becomes Offensive ?

    The winds of change are just beginning to blow thanks

    in NO Small Part to the Internet. Those Public Servants turned Public Abusers who have operated corruptly with impunity will soon discover the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted List” can’t hold a candle to the effective Exposure of “PUBLIC ENEMIES” the Internet has unleashed.

    To the Logical and Observant person(s) the combination of ‘Snap-Chat’ and ‘Flash-Mobs’ fuelled by an abundance of rapidly increasing immorality may just prove to be the Karma rightfully earned by abusive Bureaucrats.

    Stay Tuned ! Things are likely to get truly Ugly.

  • Gambeir Bay

    This;
    “Ms. Ravel, a Commissioner on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), complains about the lack of civility that she experienced when she suggested publicly that the FEC ought to reexamine its policies toward the Internet.”

    If you can’t stand the heat than get out of the kitchen. She thinks she has the right to decide what freedom of speech is now after pissing all over the American People. Gee, why would people be angry huh? Idiot.

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