Professor Jared Sexton faced death threats after writing about Trump rallies

Blakeley Bartee

Jared Sexton, assistant professor of creative writing, received death threats after live-tweeting at political rallies for Donald Trump and writing pieces for The New York Times and other publications.

Sexton began writing about politics for the Atticus Review last year to keep himself interested in the 2016 election.

“About a year and a half ago, I decided that I was going to start writing about this year’s election,” Sexton said. “I was a little bored with what it looked like. It looked like a very predictable election. It looked like it was going to be Hillary Clinton versus Jeb Bush, and so to keep myself interested, I started writing [weekly posts].”

An active Twitter user, Sexton live-tweeted at several rallies and debates throughout the 2016 election season.

“I decided I was probably going to try to go.. to a rally here and there,” Sexton said. “I ended up traveling to Iowa to go for these events before the Iowa Caucus, and then I ended up going to somewhere in the area of eight or nine Donald Trump rallies, and I got myself into a little bit of a mess.”

In an article for the New Republic, Sexton wrote about the harassment and death threats he received after his tweets from a Trump rally in Greensboro, North Carolina and his piece about the rally titled “American Horror Story” went viral.

When Sexton’s writing gained attention, several people began harassing him online.

“Everything started out with a lot of harassment. I had a lot of people calling into question my integrity, calling into question my biasedness, and I had other people who wanted to get me fired from my job, who were trying to somehow or another interfere with my professional matters,” Sexton said.

Sexton said he dealt with negative attention from Neo-Nazi groups who started sending him specific threats.

“I actually had somebody pulling into my driveway at night and started going to my house. I had to put in this really big security system. It was a really frightening time there for a while, and I think that’s obviously what people are trying to make happen when they do those things. They’re trying to get people to shut up,” Sexton said.

Because of the harassment, stalking and death threats, he said, he changed his lifestyle drastically.

“It made me make conscious choices about myself, where I lived, how I traveled, how I communicated to people where I was going, whether or not I left the light on, whether or not I turned the security system on, things like that,” Sexton said.

Ultimately, Sexton responded to online harassment by reaching out to the harassers themselves.

Sexton said he would start email conversations or direct messages and try to find common ground with them. While some of the cyberbullies did not respond well to his interaction, he said, others became acquaintances with him.

“You forget when you’re talking about politics that that’s not the whole sum of a person. I think that we forget that. We’re basically told now that we, ourselves, are our politics. We are walking, talking politics,” Sexton said. “And so if my politics and your politics don’t match, then we are enemies. But the thing that I’ve found was that I can basically talk to anyone about something having to do with where they come from, what their beliefs are, what their interests are.”

While Sexton struggled against a tide of harassment and threats, he found comfort and support from the Georgia Southern University community.

“My students have been unbelievably supportive. And I’ve spent so long in classrooms trying to hide my politics from them. I had this rule that I didn’t want students even having an inkling of where I stood on the political spectrum. They responded amazingly,” Sexton said. “Then, all of a sudden, my colleagues, they all sent me these supportive emails and messages and asked me what they can do, how they could help, then all of a sudden, people that I never met before around the community, around the University, they reached out to me, and it was pretty amazing. It was definitely a relief.”