Online opinions: When humor leads to threats in real life

Everyone has an opinion, and everyone has a right to express any opinion they have. Comedians, singers, artists, actors, authors and every other form of artist tend to express their opinions through their work, like we explored a few weeks ago with the anti-Islam video that led to protests in the Middle East. When they do this, they open themselves and their opinions up to critiques and criticisms.

What they do not open themselves up to is death threats, even if it’s a YouTube spoof of Ann Romney.

Braden “Mimi Imfurst” Chapman, a drag queen who has been on television shows such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and has performed across the country (including in Anchorage) recently dressed up as Ann Romney and whined in front of a poor-quality camera about how Mitt Romney was going to lose the election and that they “only” had millions of dollars to support themselves with. The video, called “Ann Romney: Stop It! You People Leave Mitt Alone!” has been shared all over YouTube and Facebook, and it has garnered the performer a first: a death threat.

A screenshot of the entire short email, which Mimi posted to her Facebook page, shows the message, written entirely in capital letters.


That’s the final line of the three-line message. The beginning of the message berates Mimi for attacking Mrs. Romney, and claims that it proves Mimi lives a life without morals. Her homosexuality is also brought up, and the sender declares that he or she hopes that Mimi’s flesh rots off her bones in hell, and suggests that she probably has AIDS because of her “abomination lifestyle.”

That’s some fairly strong language over a YouTube video spoof.

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Sure, the sender may never find out Mimi’s real name (unless they do a 30-second Google search or read this piece) and home address — and it could be an empty threat — but the fact that it was even made is extreme enough.

Mimi is an entertainer. She is a comedian, a singer and an actor. Her routines are snarky and pointed. This particular video is in line with a current trend started by a spoof video by Chris Crocker in 2003 called “Leave Britney Alone,” which features Chris sobbing under a blanket and yelling at the camera about how terrible people are for making fun of Britney Spears. There are countless other videos like it.

Here’s the deal: Mimi, and every other person who spoofs a public official or celebrity, is a person with an opinion and a sense of humor. Many find her videos hilarious, as well as the other countless anti-Romney and anti-Obama videos on the web. Most people who dislike the videos say cruel things in the comments, but most also realize that wishing death on, or claiming that you will kill, someone is more than a little excessive.

The person who wrote the email to Mimi also clearly disagrees with her sexual orientation and choice to perform as a female impersonator. This is also no reason to wish death on someone.

If you disagree with the idea of drag queens so much, why watch one’s YouTube Channel? If you support Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, why watch spoofs involving a negative impersonation of his wife? Whoever wrote this message chose to do these things, and then send a hateful message (and there is no debate that the message is hateful) to Mimi’s fan account.

Negative feedback is fine, but hateful threats are not. Saying, “I don’t like your topic choice, and found it offensive,” is a more professional method of getting the point across. Vowing to kill someone is not, nor is it an acceptable behavior in any environment — no matter what political beliefs the people involved may have.

Mimi blacked out the email address of the sender when she shared the message on Facebook, preventing her fans from sending hate mail back to the individual. Many have publicly asked for it, but she has refused. Someone threatened her life, and instead of spreading hate back to that person, she chooses to protect him or her from it.

Which example do you support?