Much has been made of a crude threat sent to state Republican senators on March 9, which urged them in part to put "things in order because you will be killed and your families also will be killed."
It was read aloud to the state Assembly, and used to justify restricted access and weapons screening at the state Capitol. And it prompted conservative commentators to gleefully paint the overwhelmingly peaceful protests as insidious and violent (see David Blaska's post on TheDailyPage.com, "This is what mob rule looks like.")
But how serious a threat was it? William Cosh, a spokesman from the Department of Justice, says the email originated in Dane County and the suspect is female. The case was referred to Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne last Friday, but Ozanne says he hasn't had time to look at it yet.
Cosh says his office has been aware of 86 incidents of caustic or threatening communications, with this being the only one referred for charges so far. He doesn't know how many are against Republicans and how many against Democrats.
What's clear is that intemperate emails don't respect political lines any more than they do logical ones. Here are some of the emails received by state Sen. Fred Risser, one of the 14 Democratic senators who left the state to stall passage of Walker's "budget-repair bill":
"You're a chickenshit freaking, worthless Dimocrap," declared one correspondent. "Go on and go suck up to your damn Union tit, you damned Union ass kisser."
"Accusare," meanwhile, wrote (in all caps): "Were you to extract your head from treasonous Marxist Nigger Hussein Obama's rectum, your brain would still function at its present much diminished level but at least the nigger shit smell would eventually dissipate." The email added (in italics): "Death to all Marxists! Foreign and Domestic!"
Risser, unlike the Republicans, seems to have taken his death threat in stride. He says he's gotten about 50,000 emails since the budget standoff began, with only about six nasty ones. He calls that "a pretty good record."