Bloodlust: Viral News and Calls for the Death of the President

  • For Law Enforcement

Download the whole report: Bloodlust: Viral News and Calls for the Death of the President (PDF).

Even in the final months of the Obama presidency, an ADL investigation has uncovered, calls on social media for the assassination or execution of President Barack Obama are commonplace.  On a regular basis, angry Americans post sentiments such as "If Obama is captured, I will gladly get the noose ready and pull the lever" to social media websites.

These calls for bloody violence are dominated by a conviction that President Obama is a Muslim in league with the enemies of the United States and that he is actively working towards America's demise.  Anti-Muslim and anti-black bigotry are commonly found in these calls for death.  Death by shooting and death by hanging or lynching are among the most popular methods suggested, but some even suggest methods such as impalement or dismemberment.

Remarkably, many of these disturbing cries for violence even call for a military coup to overthrow the government and execute President Obama. The mere fact that Americans would call for the military to unseat the President of the United States is extremely unsettling.

These calls for death are not limited to President Obama.  Many posters also include others as targets alongside the president.  Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton are also frequently targeted along with President Obama.  Should Clinton win the presidency, it is highly likely that she will supplant President Obama as the primary target of such calls for deadly violence.

Facebook in particular has become a repository for such calls for deadly violence, thanks in part to the rise of a pernicious new form of media, hyperpartisan viral news websites, which exploit Facebook as part of their business model. 

This report examines the calls for extreme violence against President Barack Obama that are regularly posted to Facebook, concentrating on those that have appeared within the past year or so.

One would think that, with Obama having only months remaining in his second term of office, such calls for violence might diminish—but they have not. Indeed, the controversial and inflammatory nature of the 2016 presidential election seems, if anything, to have increased their frequency and their virulence.  The selected examples that appear in this report represent hundreds or perhaps even thousands of other posts with similar sentiments.

The report also lays bare the nature of the viral news sites that are responsible for inciting so many of these calls for violence and thereby contributing to the toxicity of the Internet. 

Viral news sites, which have grown considerably in recent years, post deliberately inflammatory articles, many of them partially or wholly false in nature, with headlines designed to outrage and to spawn viral sharing—eventually bringing in advertising revenues to the owners of the sites. It is a vicious and ugly cycle, essentially the monetizing of digital mobs.

Many of the calls for violence against the president documented in this report were posted in response to a viral news headline or article, illustrating the power of incitement that such sites have and demonstrating their danger.

On a regular basis, angry Americans post sentiments such as "If Obama is captured, I will gladly get the noose ready and pull the lever" to social media websites. Share via Twitter Share via Facebook

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