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California man angered by gender definitions threatened to bomb Merriam-Webster's offices, federal prosecutors say

Exploring gender identification
Exploring the intricacies of gender identification 07:16

A California man was arrested for making violent threats against the Merriam-Webster over the dictionary company's gender definitions, the Department of Justice announced Friday. Jeremy David Hanson, 34, from Rossmoor, California could face prison time if convicted for anonymously sending what authorities described as violent, "despicable" and "hate-filled" messages. 

Between October 2 and October 8, 2021, Merriam-Webster received a series of "threatening messages and comments demonstrating bias against specific gender identities" on its website and submitted through its "Contact Us" page, according to a criminal complaint. After the threats, Merriam-Webster closed its offices in Springfield, Massachusetts and New York City, New York for five business days.

Under the dictionary's website definition for the word "female," Hanson allegedly wrote: "There is no such thing as 'gender identity.' The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot."

Through the website's "Contact Us" page, Hanson allegedly submitted the following message: "You [sic] headquarters should be shot up and bombed. It is sickening that you have caved to the cultural Marxist, anti-science tranny [sic] agenda and altered the definition of 'female' as part of the Left's efforts to corrupt and degrade the English language and deny reality. You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive."

Authorities said Hanson used the handle "@anonYmous" to allegedly send the threats. 

He is also accused of sending another message later to Merriam-Webster threatening to "bomb your offices for lying...."

Hanson also allegedly threatened other institutions and individuals, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O' Lakes, Hasbro, Inc., IGN Entertainment, the President of the University of North Texas, two professors at Loyola Marymount University and a New York City rabbi, the DOJ said. 

Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said Hanson's alleged threats "crossed a line."

"Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but repeatedly threatening to kill people, as has been alleged, takes it to a new level," Bonavolonta said in a statement Friday. "Threats to life are most certainly not protected speech and they cause real fear in victims."

Hanson now faces a charge for one count of interstate communication of threats to commit violence, which could land him in prison for up to five years with three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 if convicted, according to the DOJ. He was released on conditions before his first federal court appearance, scheduled for April 29. 

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