Editorial: Threats aren’t pranks
It’s not funny.
You can call it a prank or a practical joke. You can say it was all in good fun or that no harm was meant. You can say whatever you want but it doesn’t make it true.
The fact is that there is nothing amusing about telling people someone is going to die.
That is what happened when a threat to “commit a hate crime” at a Pittsburgh hospital was made online Tuesday.
It would be.
Our hospitals are filled with doctors, nurses, surgeons, technicians, pharmacists, phlebotomists, therapists, cleaning staff, food service workers, business office employees and volunteers. That’s an incredibly incomplete list, and it doesn’t touch on the people who are there to have a kid’s broken leg treated or to get help for chest pains or to have a baby or any of the uncountable slices of life that could end up bringing someone to the hospital.
It could be anyone on any day.
So yes, it is disruptive. It unmoors us from a fixed point of safety.
Police said Wednesday that they had tracked the threat to Beaver County and found the perpetrator — a male teenager. He used a cheeky screen name. There was no intention of committing the promised attack, authorities reported.
The unnamed boy is not the first to cry wolf to see who comes running, to pull a fire alarm to see what happens. But this “joke” wasn’t practical. It terrified people in a city still not healed from the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October. It came on the heels of shootings in Ohio and California and three in Texas and that’s just within the last month.
He won’t be the last. There will be others who will think of a new way to yell “fire!” in a crowd. He is not unique and he isn’t edgy.
It wasn’t a prank. It was a threat. It wasn’t a joke. It was intimidation. It was not good fun, and maybe harm wasn’t meant, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t felt.
Because causing fear isn’t funny.