The two things that never seem to fail at bringing out the worst in people are social media and politics. Combine the two and you have a proverbial battleground where ideological opponents will stoop to disparaging levels to get the upper hand in an argument. While in most cases these situations end with either one or both parties feeling embarrassed about their behavior, there are those who need to go the extra mile to get their point across.
We’ve talked a lot about social media killers in the past and how something as simple as a tweet or a Facebook post could lead a person to kill another, but this is the first case we’ve ever come across where someone has been accused of using a social media platform as a weapon.
Since announcing the candidates for the Presidential election last year, tensions between political parties have been at an all-time high. Though these tensions have brought out some thoughtful and engaging debate, all corners of the political spectrum have done their share of mudslinging.
Senior Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald had been very vocal about his opposition to the current administration. Some agreed with his viewpoints without question, while those who disagreed were equally as vocal on their opposition to his views. After weeks of tweeting about his disdain for then candidate Donald Trump, someone took their anger over Eichenwald’s views a little too far.
In the past, Eichenwald has spoken candidly about his epilepsy. Back in 1987, Eichenwald had even penned an article speaking of the trials of being diagnosed with the disorder and the potential impact it may have had on his career. In the piece titled “Braving Epilepsy’s Storm“, originally published in the New York Times, Eichenwald writes:
“The doctor warned me – and so did members of my family soon afterward – that if I did not keep my epilepsy a secret, people would fear me and I would be subject to discrimination. Even now, seven years after that scene in the dining hall, it is difficult for me to say that I have epilepsy. Back then, it was impossible. In the years since, I have had hundreds of various types of seizures. I have experienced the mental, physical and emotional side effects caused by changes in the anticonvulsant drugs I take each day. Yet, for the first two years, I refused to learn about epilepsy. My fears of being found out were my real concern”
At the time, breaking through the shame he felt to come forward and educate others about his medical condition was most likely a monumental feat for Eichenwald to overcome. Little did he know that nearly three decades later, this act of courage would be used against him.
29-year-old John Rayne Rivello of Salisbury, Maryland had been outraged over some of Eichenwald’s tweets in which he blasted the then presidential hopeful Donald Trump. After a number of heated tweets directed towards Eichenwald, Rivello decided to take the Twitter feud a step further.
Under the nickname @jew_goldstein, Rivello allegedly sent Eichenwald a private message. Knowing of Eichenwald’s epilepsy, this message contained only a strobing image, along with the message “You deserve a seizure for your post.” Rivello was hopeful that the image would trigger Eichenwald’s epilepsy and possibly even lead to his death.
Fortunately, Eichenwald did not die, but the rapidly flashing image did trigger his epilepsy as the sender had intended. Later, Eichenwald threatened to pursue legal action against the user. After several months of investigating, Rivello was arrested on March 18, 2017.
The Grand Jury has indicted Rivello on the grounds that he used a “ deadly weapon” in the form of a gif in order to assault Eichewald with extreme malice and the intent to cause Eichenwald’s death. Rivello has since apologized to Eichenwald and claims he is seeking counseling. Rivello is currently facing federal interstate domestic violence charges and could be charged with a hate crime.