Man accused of threatening Merriam-Webster over gender definitions

A California man was arrested this week for sending messages to Merriam-Webster in which he threatened to shoot and bomb its offices because he did not like the company’s dictionary definitions of the identity of gender, authorities said.

The man, Jeremy David Hanson of Rossmoor, Calif., who was arrested in California on Tuesday, threatened to kill all employees of the Massachusetts-based company, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement. communicated. statement Friday.

He was charged with an interstate communications count of threatening to commit acts of violence and released on conditions in California, the statement said. He is due to appear in US District Court in Massachusetts on April 29.

From October 2 to 8, 2021, Mr Hanson, 34, sent anonymous comments and messages to Merriam-Webster, which publishes a widely used online dictionary, condemning the company for changing definitions of words such as ” boy girl”. and “trans woman, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent this month.

“There is no such thing as ‘gender identity‘,” he wrote in a comment on the definition of ‘woman’. “The fool who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot.”

One of the Merriam-Websters definitions of feminine it is “having a gender identity that is the opposite of masculine”.

Mr Hanson escalated his threats from there, sending messages saying the company’s headquarters should be “shot down and bombed”, the statement said. He wrote that by changing some definitions based on gender, the company was aiding efforts to “degrade the English language and deny reality.”

In October, Merriam-Webster reported the threats to the FBI, which tracked Mr. Hanson through his IP address, according to the bureau’s affidavit. Due to the threats, the company closed its offices in Springfield, Mass., and New York for five days, prosecutors said.

It was unclear whether Mr Hanson had a lawyer. Messages left at a phone number listed under his name on Friday evening were not immediately returned.

His mother told investigators that her son had autism and was “obsessed with transgender issues,” according to the affidavit.

In recent years, Merriam-Webster, the nation’s oldest dictionary publisher, has update certain definitions be more inclusive in changing attitudes around gender.

Company representatives did not immediately respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment Friday evening.

“Hateful threats and intimidation have no place in our society,” Rachael S. Rollins, U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts, said in the statement.

Prosecutors said while investigating Mr. Hanson’s posts, they uncovered threats they believed he had made against the American Civil Liberties Union, Hasbro, Land O’Lakes, a rabbi of New York and others. He repeatedly used the word “Marxist,” they said.

In the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, said Mr Hanson’s threats “crossed a line”.

“Everyone has the right to express their opinion,” Mr. Bonavolonta said. “But repeatedly threatening to kill people, as has been alleged, takes this to a new level.”

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