What’s the scam with death threats – are they out of fashion?

by Michael West | Mar 15, 2024 | What's the scam?

Back in the day we used to get death threats. They were invariably anonymous and mostly delivered over the telephone in husky tones, but alas we only get lawyers’ threats these days – ‘take down the story, apologise and pay our fees or we’ll take you to the cleaners’ style threats. These abound.

So you can imagine my delight at being notified of this rather ham-fisted threat (on the assumption that I am the “Mr MW” referred to). Ham-fisted because the purveyor of the threat must have been offended to such a degree that they actually walked to the Post Office and bought a stamp. Two stamps! And the envelop was handwritten.

Yes, quaintly, it arrived by Australia Post. Sadly there is not return address, so we had to write this story to thank the person for their valour. Very retro.

What was puzzling however was the use of the word Chickenhawk. What was a chickenhawk? We sallied forth therefore to Google to find out:

  1. Chickenhawk or chicken hawk is slang used in American and British gay culture to denote older males who prefer younger males for partners, 
  2. Chickenhawk (chicken hawk or chicken-hawk) is a political term used in the United States to describe a person who is a war hawk yet actively avoids or avoided military service when of age,
  3. Chickenhawk or chicken hawk is an unofficial designation for three species of North American hawks in the family Accipitridae.

Unless, in a previous life, reincarnated in human form from a previous life in the family Accipitridae, we remain stumped – having only been referred to historically as chickenshit. And we vigorously deny this vile and scurrilous imputation.

In any case, it’s not even a decent old-fashioned death threat, explicitly at least. “Only warning” or what? Are we talking knee-caps here? The Rack, the Judas Cradle, the Pear of Anguish, the Spanish Donkey?

The matter is now in the hands of the local constabulary Northern Beaches Area Command but we are not expecting much because, let’s face it, if you can plant a bomb on somebody’s car and only attract a charge of “Send article to cause alarm”, then you are pretty darned safe sending a letter – even if via AusPost.

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Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.

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