Patrick Dollard, a conservative filmmaker and former Breitbart contributor, is Twitter’s public enemy du jour following a tweet in which he called on Americans to “start slaughtering Muslims in the streets.” But the professional rabble-rouser insists that his blood-thirsty tweet shoudn't be taken seriously.
If there is even one more act of Muslim terrorism, it is then time for Americans to start slaughtering Muslims in the streets, all of them.
â€” Patrick Dollard (@PatDollard) April 2, 2014
Sent late Wednesday afternoon, the tweet was an apparent knee-jerk response to the deadly shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, which left four people dead, including the gunman, and 16 others wounded. The gunman has been identified as Spc. Ivan Lopez, who is not believed to have ties to terrorism. A motive is not yet known, but reports suggest that Lopez was being treated for mental illness. The Fort Hood massacre of 2009, however, was committed by a Muslim U.S. Army officer, Nidal Hasan.
As of Thursday morning, Dollard’s tweet was still up, despite the expected blowback from hundreds of fellow Twitter users.
â€” Nate Granzow (@NateGranzow) April 3, 2014
@PatDollard you are a very sick person and you need help. Just make sure the doctor helping you isn't Muslim (some of us are doctors).
â€” Omnia Hegazy (@OmniaTweets) April 2, 2014
No conservatives should support @PatDollard in anything other than getting proper mental health treatment.
â€” Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) April 3, 2014
Yes, this guy, @PatDollard, is a petty, miserable, sad creature and an imbecile one at that.
â€” Gayskeptic (@Gayskeptic) April 3, 2014
@PatDollard You might think, a tweet like this one makes you very civilised and mature. THINK AGAIN (if you can, that is)!
â€” Jagbir Singh Khalsa (@basicsnddetails) April 3, 2014
Rather than flinch, however, Dollard appeared to enjoy the fireworks, responding to his critics with an occasional jab and later characterizing the offending tweet as a joke. “Anybody who takes that tweet seriously enough to respond, looks like the idiot you'd have to be to do so,” Dollard tweeted.
The offending tweet tests both the limits of Twitter’s policy on abusive behavior and the increasingly common “I Didn’t Mean It” defense of inflammatory users. Twitter does not ban offensive speech, but it does claim to prohibit users from making “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” The company’s approach to policing content is notoriously hands-off. Twitter says users who believe they are in danger should contact the authorities. At the same time, users who are bullied or harassed on the site often express frustration over what they perceive as Twitter’s unwillingness to interfere.
It’s unclear if Dollard’s tweet would qualify as a direct threat. A rep for Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR) did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Updates will be posted here. The tweet comes at a time when social networks like Twitter and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) are coming under increasing pressure to crack down on hate speech. While “hate speech” is an admittedly difficult term to define, it’s hard to see how a call to slaughter a specific group of people wouldn’t qualify.
As for Dollard’s conceit that the tweet shouldn’t be taken seriously, the fact that he hasn’t deleted it might suggest that he truly believes that, but could any reasonable user could find humor or irony in the comment given the context of a mass shooting? Then again, Twitter isn't exactly famous for its reasonable users.