Commentary: Bomb Threats Are a Form of Terrorism, but WILL NOT Succeed

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Wednesday was already going to be a long day for me, but it wasn’t helped by the fact that we received an early morning bomb threat to the schools.  I dutifully called it in to the Davis Police and, in talking to the police officer, noted that while I figured there was nothing to it, I would never forgive myself if something, god forbid, did happen and I didn’t do my duty.

On Thursday, another long day, I was relieved to find no additional threats in my inbox.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world again, where such things are not contemplated?

So here we are—barely a month past the library event that was shut down.    The irony of it all is I still agree it shouldn’t have been shut down.  But any moral high ground that once existed has long since evaporated.

Moreover, as the police have told me, the person or people behind the threats—perhaps it is more than one—have covered their tracks fairly well.

In a world where there is no legitimate way to actually perpetrate something heinous, the best approach to this would be to simply ignore it.  No attention, no fear, no upside.

The problem is that we live in a world where there are not just empty threats.  We have a world also inhabited with Timothy McVeigh.  Eric Rudolph.  Dylann Roof.  Robert Bowers.  And too many others to name or count.

Some of the most dangerous people are those who are mentally unstable and influenced by extremist rhetoric into believing that killing tons of people is somehow god’s work.

So as much as I’d like for us to ignore it and believe it would quickly go away, we can’t do that.

That leads us to the next best alternative—defeat hate with love.

I am not advocating a passive resistance to what is really an act of terrorism.  This is not a matter of turning the other cheek.  Rather this is an active resistance to evil.

Yes, this is terrorism.  Someone is angry.  They might be angry that the event was cut off.  More likely at this point, it goes beyond that, and they want to affect the social agenda of this community and more broadly this nation.

There are places, in this country and this state, where such tactics might bear fruit.

But not in Davis.  If anything the repeated bomb threats are likely to have the opposite effect.  If the LGBTQ community feels vulnerable and isolated, they only need to know that the majority of the people in this community have their back.

When public officials make strong statements, part of the importance of that—despite scattered criticism at time—is that it sends a message that this community stands for certain values and we will not waiver on those values in the face of threats.

Strong statements.  A show of solidarity.

Mayor Will Arnold embodied that with his statement this week, “These continued terrorist threats directed at our children, teachers and public servants are absolutely unacceptable. We stand strong as a community against this hateful, extremist behavior. Hateful words can have violent consequences and we must hold ourselves accountable for our actions and their repercussions.”

He called this what it is—a “terrorist threat.”

And, most importantly, he was not alone.

Board President Lea Darrah called out the “ongoing intolerance and hate.”

Supervisor Provenza called the threats “cowardly and hateful.”

And Lucas Frerichs added that the Board of Supervisors “stands in partnership with the City of Davis and Davis Joint Unified School District to condemn these repeated terrorism threats.”

That’s a very strong united front from three different local agencies.

Let’s be clear.  This is no longer about free speech.

The message was not a threat of violence and physical harm.  And the message was not about the right to speak, but rather, anti-LGBTQ— “what you teach isn’t just garbage but its poison and we’re not going to stand idly by as you brainwash the next generation with your sick perverted fantasy and create further division in our country.”

Moreover, not only was it directed to the school district, but it was directed to two individual district employees at their homes.

The message from this community is clear—enough.  This far, no further.

But also the message should be: you are only going to make us stronger by doing this.  Not only are we not going to bow down to personal threats, but we are in fact going to make sure that we continue to back and support our LGBTQ students and community members and they need to remember that they are surrounded by and live in a community that loves and supports them.

That’s how you defeat hate… with love and support.

And those who continue to sow this dissension need to recognize and understand the hate they are unleashing.  This is not the way to achieve your goals.  This is only going to polarize the community and will isolate you from it.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 Comments

  1. beth bourne

    Hi David, I appreciate all the reporting you’ve done on the topic of gender identity and culture wars in the last year.
    I would like to hear your suggestions on how I could be more effective in communicating with Davis parents my concerns with our public schools promoting gender ideology in K-12th grades. This includes telling girls they don’t have the right to fair and safe sports, nor should they be able to voice their concerns. And teaching kids if they have preferences and hobbies that don’t match their “assigned sex at birth” (and regressive stereotypical masculinity & femininity), they may have been “born in the wrong body”. 
    As you know, I believe this is the biggest social and medical scandal of our times. As a lifelong democrat, I have tried teaming up with various civic groups and community leaders in Davis, but everyone is scared to speak to out in public.

     SHAPE  \* MERGEFORMAT

    Please share with me your advice. What would you do if you were in my shoes?  SHAPE  \* MERGEFORMAT

    1. David Greenwald

      The first problem is that you associated with a very far right group that is tapping into Trumpism and so by its nature it’s creating a volatile mix that is not likely to resonate with a progressive community like Davis. So unless you can find a way to create a more moderate mix, I think your efforts will continue to create this kind of response and achieve the opposite result than what you may want.

    2. Richard McCann

      Beth

      First the issue of how gender identity impacts girls’ sports is completely separable from all of the other gender identity issues. The sports issue is driven by the intent of Title IX and biological reality of differences in athletic capabilities endowed by ones genetics. Those differences are not relevant in any way in the rest of our culture.

      In a group conversation I’ve refuted the many factual misperceptions upon which your position is based. So of course your message is failing to be successful–it’s not backed up by the facts. As I’ve pointed out in that forum, your personal situation should be blamed on a different institution than the schools. Your focus should be there instead.

      Finally, as a local leader in Moms for Liberty you must come out and condemn these terrorist threats as unacceptable. These obvious attempts to coerce the District or the library into changing its policies. Those threats in fact make it much less likely that they will change their positions. Our democratic institutions can NEVER be seen as giving into threats of violence.

      1. David Greenwald

        Beth issued a statement after the first bomb threat. Honestly, I’m not sure that’s going to do much. The bigger issue would be disassociating with Moms for Liberty and finding ways to deescalate the current situation. Once everyone has dug in, there is not going to be much movement and in fact positions will be hardened.

        Is there a middle ground? That would be the area to explore.

        1. Kendra Smith

          What, precisely, is the middle ground between decency and those who want to eradicate LGBTQ+ people from public life?

          Because that appears to be the goal for extremist right wing groups like Moms for Liberty and those they are aligned with (despite the M4L howls to the contrary).

        2. Walter Shwe

          Two former commenters are unquestionably aligned with the radical and extremist hate group the infamous Moms for Liberty. They not only want to eliminate LGBTQ+ people, but also seek to erase the American history of African American slavery and racism.
          When you deal with hate organizations like the M4L and the KKK, there is no place for any sort of compromise whatsoever. Haters intimidate and threaten to obtain everything they desire. That’s why they are considered authoritarian.

        3. Kendra Smith

          And the other relevant issue with engaging with people like her and her group is their bad faith.

          Look at how extreme she is stating the positions. I don’t think any teacher/counselor/etc. is teaching “children” that just b/c they don’t fit in the stereotype of the sex with which they were born, that they were “born in the wrong body.”

          From what I understand, they are merely saying if people feel that way (like they are born in the wrong body) it is OK.

          And they keep talking about “children” (under 18) having “perfectly good organs” and “breasts” cut off, which is just not happening.

          She was apparently screaming at Back to School Night about girls having their breasts cut off by some shadowy “they.” *eyeroll*

          How do you engage in good faith with people who are right out of the gate zealots and make it clear they will not engage in good faith and merely want to stir up their base and engage in continued culture wars?

          Some positions and people can’t be reasoned with and should instead be laughed out of the room. Or in other ways trounced and sent packing.

  2. David Greenwald

    Posting this for someone else…

     

    When you forward information on gender topics to a well-known Twitter
    figure with 2.5 million followers, an individual who is known for
    virulent anti-trans attacks and who routinely whips her followers up
    to attack others online, you know what you’re doing. You’re inviting
    those attacks. You’re bringing them here to this community.

    https://www.dictionary.com/e/what-is-stochastic-terrorism/

    It’s too late to ask these disingenuous questions about how you could
    go about doing things better. You’ve cast your lot with fringe
    elements and the whole community is reaping what you’ve sown.

    Having radicalized the whole conversation and having invited violent
    rhetoric and action into our community, the only suggestions to “go
    about this better” would be to delete your Facebook account, remove
    yourself from the Moms 4 Liberty group, stop making public statements
    on this topic, stay off campus, apologize to your former friends and
    the broader community, and let your kid have a semblance of a normal
    high school experience.

    1. Ron Glick

      Its never too late to do the right thing even if you have failed to do so in the past.

      As the Harvard professors and authors of the new book “Tyranny of the Minority” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have pointed out democracies fail when political violence is not vigorously opposed and condemned. It took less than one day for many local leaders to once again speak out but where was the repudiation from advocates like my old friend Beth?

      As long as this community and our kids are being subjected to these kinds of threats, and, there is no condemnation from those seeking a different path on trans issues, nobody is going to listen to anything else they have to say. If every threat was denounced by the people opposed to present policies there would be more opportunity to have a community discussion. By not speaking out against threats of political violence those that remain silent cede the public discourse to those whose positions they oppose.

  3. r bulman

    Beth has asked this question several times to different people in different forums. She always gets good advice, but never takes it. The reason is that she and the movement she represents are zealots. They don’t believe in pluralism. They don’t believe that any other view of the subject is legitimate. Therefore, they see no need for meaningful dialogue or compromise.  They aren’t playing by the rules of normal politics. Those with reasonable alternative political views (such as believing that teachers who support LGBT students are good people) are frequently called groomers and pedophiles by Beth’s allies and Beth has refused to condemn that tactic on her very public facebook page. Beth frequently doxes teachers, administrators, and counselors who offer support to marginalized communities in school. She has also not yet condemned the latest bomb threat incidents. Any movement that is interested in being “more effective in communicating with Davis parents…” would, at the least, condemn public slander, doxing, and threats of violence.

    1. Kendra Smith

      What you point out makes it clear that the chair of the local M4L is only asking disingenuous, empty questions to make her seem more reasonable and willing to compromise. Watch what they *do* and not what they *say*. She claims she’s a lifelong Democrat, but no lifelong Democrat would engage in the actions in which she is engaging, including refusing to denounce children in our community being terrorized by threats of violence that she, her allies, and their agitation have invited into Davis.

      “Zealots” is absolutely apt here.

      The M4L organization (and those they align with openly and make common cause with) is a neo-fascist, authoritarian movement bent on making the rest of us follow their narrow (informed by a particular flavor of religion) views. 

      And aside from the bomb threats that have been indirectly or directly caused by her and her hateful organization, she herself has made veiled threats of violence against the transgender community.

      At one of the August WJUSD School Board meetings, she said something along the lines (after reading from a book of which the foreword was written by another right wing zealot–I think it was Jordan Peterson and she bragged about being thanked in the acknowledgements of that book) of: all you parents, teachers, librarians, and therapists who indoctrinate “children” into gender ideology, you are the true criminals and your time is coming.

      This is not an exact quote but very, very close. And the evidence is up on the WJUSD website (they have previous school board meetings posted) for all to see.

      They skate right up to the edge of what they can legally get away with with plausible deniability.

      And they absolutely (the M4L and the right wing zealot organizations they align with, including white nationalist *violent* groups like the Proud Boys and the 3%ers) have as their end goal the eradication of LGBTQ+ humans (especially transgender people) from American public life and society.

      Just look at the slippery slope they have skated down with their demands here in Davis (and nationwide) since the pandemic: first it was masks; then it was social-emotional learning (can’t have children learning to empathize with or have compassion for those different from them, now can we?); then it was the sex ed curriculum (primarily the LGBTQ+ part of it); then transgender people; and then books in the library.

      Authoritarian neo-fascists is the proper designation for them, and I don’t give two rotten figs if it hurts their feelings b/c they regard themselves as the “good guys” and moral crusaders.

      They have no place in a pluralistic, multi-cultural, diverse democracy and need to be sent packing by all decent human beings who want to preserve our democracy.

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