Last weekend, all the drama was online, as a parody piece we’d written for the October 30 issue exploded on right-wing blogs and death threats poured in by the dozens.
The story, "Hell Houses," was a parody of the old newspaper tradition of printing maps around Halloween and Christmas, pointing people toward the most extravagantly decorated houses in town. Because we normally publish Halloween articles about things we actually find scary—like the li'l Abu Ghraib children's costume from a few years ago—we published a map to houses decked out in McCain and Palin and Rossi yard signs. The accompanying text was goofy: "Without a doubt, this is no home to man, but a monolithic holding cell packed floor-to-ceiling with bubbling black goo."
When we thought up "Hell Houses," we had a brief discussion about whether publishing the addresses would be interpreted as incitement to vandalize. No way, we decided, you'd have to be crazy to read it that way.
The world, it turns out, is packed with crazy people. Crazy people who loooooove the internet.
On Thursday and Friday, angry commenters accused us of trying to intimidate Republicans and posted Stranger staffers' home addresses—sometimes years-old addresses—online. That was fine. Turnabout is fair play. We left them up.
On Saturday, the story was linked on the Drudge Report and the threats started flying: "Pay them a visit, and bring your big sticks" and "I'm posting your address to every gun forum I can think of" and [sic throughout] "I hereby request White racist Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, members of Aryan Nation, the Aryan Brotherhood, and the Ku Klux Klan to [go get those] left-wing commie, pinko, fags and show them what real intimidation is. In case any of you really want to heat things up, here's a link to wikipedia that shows how to make a Molotov Cocktail." Now that's incitement.
The parody, obviously, was written for you all, our readers, and it was a little scary to see these knuckle-draggers swarming our site—like throwing a party and having a bunch of thugs show up. So we did what any responsible host would: We stopped the party and pulled the piece, more out of fear for the safety of innocent bystanders living at our former addresses and the people whose addresses were listed in the original piece (it was starting to seem possible that some right-wing freaks might go after these homes to make it look like some left-wing freaks had—like that lady who carved that backward "B" on her face).
By the time KIRO, KOMO, and the Post-Intelligencer were calling, things had simmered down. We decided to reinstate the piece without a comments thread and with all addresses redacted.
Notably, every threat in this whole saga came from the right. As of this writing, the homes listed in the original piece have neither been vandalized nor threatened with vandalism.