I’m fortunate enough to have only received an online threats once, or rather received a couple of threats but within a very narrow space of time about the same subject.
The occasion was the death of author and professional atheist Christopher Hitchens in 2011. Being an impertinent kind of guy I wrote on my twitter account “My thoughts & prayers are with Christopher Hitchens and his family at this difficult time”, accompanied by the relevant hashtag. In an odd way I thought the departed Hitchens would probably enjoy the sneering wit, but maybe not. I actually knew very little about the man.
Regardless of what the Hitch may or may not have thought, his disciples were incensed by this quip. The comment was retweeted once, than twice, within an hour it had more than fifty retweets and as is now recorded in the classics, retweets do not necessarily translate to endorsemens.
The responses began to flow in, most of them to inform me that I was not funny (probably true) a small few to inform that I was in fact funny (probably false) and a dozen or so to inform me that I would soon to be joining the Hitch in that great kingdom in the sky.
Practically all the threats came from the United Kingdom or the United States, there were none that suggested that they would track me down or anything to that effect. They were mostly “If I ever see your fucking face you better watch out I will fuck you up.” Others would call me a piece of shit and warned me to watch my back etc.
And so it went. From the safety of Australia I found these emotional and aggressive threats from these self-anointed intellectual rationalists to be amusing and enjoyable. In fact the whole experience was tremendously fun. A perverse part of me looks forward to the day Dawkins dies to see if I can arouse the same kind of hostility. Somehow I doubt it. I think I got lucky in catching the retweet wave.