I get email threats

February 18, 2018 • 11:30 am
This is the first email I read when I got up this morning. The name and email address are surely fake, and the title of the email, oddly enough, was “Interesting paper about hybrid speciation”. I reproduce the email exactly as I got it:
Anonymous Anonymous <anonymous596268@gmail.com>

I’m sick of religious fanatics like you trying to shove gOD down my fucking throat. I don’t even need to read your blog to figure out you’re just another Kurt Wise preaching creationism while raping innocent nigger children hypocritically. I’m hacking into the mainframe to find your address right now and when I do don’t be surprised when you wake up with a dick in your mouth and your eyes gouged out. That’s what you get when you mess with Antifa and side yourself with DRUMPF supporters you goddamned motherniggering kike.

James Affleck

Now this person is clearly deranged, if for no other reason than they have no clue about my stand on creationism or my religiosity. Still, this is one of the few nasty emails that I consider a threat, though I’m not really scared.

I have the full email headers, and am inclined to report this to the authorities. But to whom? The local police? The FBI? And are there cybersleuths among the readers who might be able to track this person down from the full email header?

74 thoughts on “I get email threats

  1. I consider it fakery fake. It contains language that annoys both the red and the blue tribe simultaneously, but tries to make it seem as if this was Pro Antifa. That makes it look like a random Right Wing troll job.

    Could be Russian. 😉

      1. Yep agree. But report it to the FBI, because they may be able to use information on the pattern of who got in and when to deduce something. You also never know in isolation if this is ‘iteration N’ if some troll spam that’s been circulating for weeks/months/years.

    1. I agree. Report it to the FBI. This is seriously threatening, even though he’s got a lot of stuff about you wrong. Also, the spelling etc is better than the average nutter. That makes it more threatening.

      Also let campus security know you’ve had another threat. This is extremely violent.

      1. Don’t wait! You should have reported it today to the local, federal, and campus authorities. Tomorrow could be too late. Yes, clearly, the person is deranged; but he or she may still be dangerous. Lock your doors, too.

  2. Could also report it to Google, since they’re using gmail and to your university’s IT department, assuming you’re still using their email system. They’ll know to whom to report it.

  3. If you have the headers, you can forward to the email service provider, Is abuse@yahoo.com or abuse@gmail.com, etc, and they can determine if the sender violated terms of service and have their account suspended.

    Campus police also, you could contact them for a forwarding address.

  4. I assume this came to your UC email address and it makes me wonder if universities offer any help with this kind of thing.

  5. These comments sound like good advice to me. I would report it to the police or whomever the IT people recommend. Nobody should have to put up with this unhinged rubbish.

        1. Sure but it can be time-consuming. I was thinking of minimizing his time for something that is likely to result in nothing. After all, the person who sent this email didn’t know anything about Jerry’s intellectual positions. It is likely to be some stupid spam sent to many people as determined by words on a web page that included his email address.

  6. The comments are vacuous, just looking to inspire fear in someone, but that doesn’t mean there is no true threat. I used to have a personal tormentor who sent messages like this almost daily. He knew where I lived, knew where my parents lived, introduced himself to people I knew, tried to initiate frivolous lawsuits among other things. He eventually moved on to other people, and finally I read that he died in a hostage/suicide situation. I guess the moral is that empty threatening nonsense can come from genuinely dangerous people.

  7. Glad to see you have plenty of good advice to assist with this. People like this need to be removed from all activity on line. If the jerk is here in America, think of all the access to weapons.

  8. Local police (Campus, maybe, as well as Chicago), national police (FBI, and any other), and the “abuse” address for wherever the email actually came from. Just because it gives an email address of BLAH@gmail.com doesn’t mean that is where it came from. Your email service provider (university?) will have log entry detailing the mail server that it was received from.
    It’s part of the design of email that mail servers can forward mail for other servers. It’s part of the resilience design, so that if the obvious link from A to B goes down, then a route A-D-E-B can be tried.

    1. Ha! Indeed! What next, will this dip$hit hack into the military’s supercomputers looking for new video games and accidentally set off WWIII?

      1. Ha ha. I actually saw a mainframe in real life working when I first started at my current job only 3 years ago. They were decommissioning most of them but I was surprised anyone still used them. I believe a lot of places (banks) still do use them.

        1. Banks, insurance, hospitals, financial services, government, travel, the law keep legacy equipment running – the risk & expense of replacing is too high. The managers in charge are rightly afraid of the likely, career ending screw ups involved in migrating systems & data.

          And IT departments are top of the list for budget cuts & rarely are they represented at board level. Slaves.

          1. I know – it’s funny to think the backbone of our society (health, government, finance, education) runs on legacy systems.

        2. Then there’s rules: The Law Society in the UK are obliged by some statute or other to have all records on paper as well as digital. The paper had to be acid free with long life printer ink. Includes dead ‘accounts’. I used to sell them & related law orgs special toner by the pallet & replacement printers. The rules may be different today 🙂

          Other orgs have other rules re data preservation – often stored on old hard drives or tape that need legacy hardware/software for them to be readable.

  9. I say leave it to professionals. Don’t try detective work yourself – you could be making yourself more conspicuous where you don’t want to be.

    Do report. Police, mail hosts, University if relevant. Could be dangerous. May help trace.

    I know who Kurt Wise is, but is he really a household name? (Nor am I sure why he should be the object of such vituperation)

    I suspect a native American English speaker; but is “kike” still current?

  10. The unfortunate problem is the uneven response from the public AND the authorities. From the public, the lack of motivation to report which can compounded by the lack of initiative from authorities because of lack of resources from even higher authorities (read elected bodies). A multidimensional problem that is systemically generated.

    My point is report, but expect nothing except possibly more emails. Actions without consequences equals acceptance in the preparator’s perception. Bonne chance.

      1. Agreed. Now I’m angry about it, but you do realize that there are so many agents and those are swamped by so many threats it would be almost an impossibility to run down every single one?

        Not making excuses, just pointing out one of the factors of the immense problem that electronic communication and the internet as a whole can represent. Then ply our rights into that as well. It’s bewildering.

        Fund our intuitions intelligently, don’t shirk our own personal responsibilities, realize that no system is perfect, care for our sick and wounded, and empathize with those in need, protect our planet, and if needed fight for any one that can’t.

        1. Yes, you’re right of course. But assuming they prioritize, one would think potential school shooters would be top of the list or pretty damned near.

          Your last paragraph requires a populace/government united enough to actually move the needle. All excellent recommendations, though.

  11. Pardon my ignorance, I live a sheltered life, but what exactly is “motherniggering” and how would one go about doing or perhaps being such a thing? 🤔

      1. That was my first thought. Looks very juvenile (teenagers do a lot of the Russian bot stuff) – almost like prank phone call stuff.

      2. Yes, Russian bot is a good guess as the email seems to language in weird ways. Usually those bots are a bit more sophisticated though.

    1. Another example of why it almost looks machine generated. Great, there is a racist AI out there somewhere who still thinks we use mainframes.

  12. I think you should report it, but I have little doubt it’s less than serious. He (I assume not she) recognises that the phrase ‘hybrid speciation’ refers to evolution, yet accuses you of being a creationist, so he’s being deliberately perverse. His comment about ‘hacking the mainframe’ strongly suggests that he is purposely trying to rile you, though I have no idea as to motive.

  13. Yes, I would report it too, despite it making little sense. I think you got some good advice.
    I would not worry much about the threat (a mainframe??? to find the address of a well known emeritus professor?), but it is still vile and unnerving.

  14. An even chance that this was the work of Russian troll farms. They’re seeking to sow more discord and confrontation into our society, and to make people feel unsafe and distrustful.

    Not that you shouldn’t report it anyway.

    1. The reason I suspect that is that the language is all over the place, as if generated by a badly written algorithm that just strings together random threats.

  15. I’ve gotten emails like this before as well, and I just shrug it off. In this case, Jerry, it wasn’t even targeted at you (at least the person didn’t even know who you are apparently, or what you stand for).

    Anyway, you can report it, but nothing will happen. There are thousands of emails sent like this every day… far too many to track down.

    If the guy (assuming it’s a guy) knows what he’s doing, he will be impossible to track down. But given the content, this is probably a 20-something right-winger with no hacking skills and likely doesn’t know how to properly hide himself. That said, once again… no one is going to track him down just based on this email.

  16. I remember P.Z. Myers had a harasser active for quite a while. He reported it and it was traced to a guy living in his mothers basement in Canada. Apparently he had a history of mental problems and was eventually taken off line.

    1. PCC[E] had the same serial cyberstalker from Montréal, Québec, as did James Randi – guy named Dennis Marcuze [AKA David Mabus].

      He started harassing Myers in ’93. In June 2015, he was sentenced to three years probation + mandatory psychiatric treatment. I doubt he’s curable & if he’s out in the world he’ll still be up to his tricks today.

  17. agree – report, even though nothing may be done. Names on a list might be of use some day and even statistically important ….

  18. I also think reporting it was the right thing to do. If the loon has been doing it to others as well, it will be one more lead for authorities to use to find him.

  19. This is just nonsense… Anonymous?

    and ends:
    James Affleck! a lie no doubt but still just garbage.
    Hello & sincerely?
    very polite i must say for a try hard nasty.
    When i was a kid prankster we would call people (random from the phone book) using a red telephone box at the street corner.
    Random person: hello?
    Hello, is your fridge running?
    Random person: yes.
    then you’d better try and catch it.
    Click. heh heh ha ha!
    this seems like a modern day internet version with all the malevolent bravado the internet culture encourages.
    I am not saying that it is, who knows or cares as to the stupidity of this, what looks like a childish shotgun tactic.
    However, words cannot injure your person and into the rubbish it goes and that said, caution is advisable and well to report.

    1. You rascal ,i used to ring up the village shop from the red phone box outside and let it ring all night .

      As Oscar Wilde said ,it is easy to be good in the countryside there is nothing to do there .

  20. Like most people I’m sure, I get spam emails and some would start off with “Hello big boy” but recently I received one that just said “Hello Big” and was wondering how they know. He he.

    1. A few months after the last time we visited America i got an email claiming to be from the FBI .
      My first thought was what did i do wrong over there .
      Anyway reading through it the guy claimed to be the director of the FBI ,turns out to have been just another Nigerian scam.

      I was going to forward it to the FBI director saying someone was taking his name in vain.

  21. Have you tried searching any word strings to see if anyone else has reported the same, somewhere. I just tried “Kurt Wise preaching creationism” and only got two hits back to this, but some others might yield something more and reveal something to boot.

    1. There’s nothing significant that I’ve found other than “motherniggering” appearing in the usual laddish corners of the net such as 4Chan, Reddit & the gaming world. It’s used because “motherfucker” has lost shock value through familiarity/overuse.

  22. I don’t want to be someone who says ‘don’t worry, it’s nothing’. Reporting it won’t do any harm but not reporting it is chancy. That said, it sounds like a bit of a scam. Anyone who has spent 5 minutes reading articles on this site would know what you are about. It reads like a ploy to stir up a reaction against Antifa, which I think is an awful organization BTW, and the like. All threats should be treated like they are valid, but I suspect grain of salt with this one.

  23. The only headers in an email that can’t be faked are the “received” headers. Everything else is easily faked.

    Each mail relay that forwards the message adds a “received” header that gives the IP address of the mail server from whence the mail relay got it. Using these, and starting with your own mail server you can trace the chain backwards until you come to the attacker’s PC (unlikely unless they are stupid), a mail server that has been compromised in some way, or possibly Google if that’s a genuine gmail account.

    1. Email headers can certainly be faked. There was a virus or spambot going around a couple of decades ago that faked the ‘from’ address. I once got 18,000 email messages in a couple of days (!) consisting of automated ‘bounce’ messages (‘the recipient is out of the office’) in response to some spambot on somebody else’s computer that had sent out, presumably, millions of spams ‘from’ me.


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