Death threats for true crime authors and journalists

By Burl Barer

I haven't had a death threat lately, but there are deranged folks out there who will kill or cripple talk show hosts and/or journalist because they disagree with the author’s viewpoint, lifestyle, sexuality, political affiliation or personal spiritual path.  

David Berg in Denver was gunned down by right wing extremists because he was a Jewish liberal who spoke up against racists and anti-Semites. Our friend Steven Singular writes excellent books with a powerful subtext of tolerance for just about every kind of thought except, perhaps intolerance.

Yeah, it can be dangerous to host a talk show. It can be equally dangerous these days to be a guest.

In the more than a decade that we've had "True Crime Uncensored" on Matt Alan's Outlaw Radio, I’ve had no threats on my life, and neither did the show's co-founder, Don Woldman or my recently deceased co-host, Howard Lapides.  

Four of our guests, however, have been directly threatened with deadly reprisals if they come on my show.  One guest had two attempts on his life prior to showing up for the show; both attempts failed.

In 2019 (so far) 35 media workers and journalists have been killed while on assignment – some were murdered for certain, others were killed in alleged crossfires, but all died because they were in the pursuit of truth, not opinion.  They died in true service to humanity. 

Come to think of it, the only direct threat to my life, health and well being while investigating a true crime case came from a corrupt cop who thought I might expose him. I never knew he was corrupt until he tipped his hand.  Sometimes the cops and the crooks are interchangeable. Fellow journalist and radio host George Anastasia tells the following story:

I once interviewed a woman who had divorced her mob hitman husband, testified against him in a racketeering trial and then married an FBI agent assigned to guard her while she was living in hiding. One of the things I asked was what was the difference between the cops and the wiseguys? Without missing a beat, she replied, “The cops have badges.”

Once again, threats are coming in against one of our guests known for his life of crime, a stand-up guy who considers himself a career criminal, not a gangster.  I guess old associates are afraid that, released from prison he will spill beans best left in the can.  

 Dishonesty is so rampant in 2019 that being a criminal isn't the career choice it used to be, honor among thieves is an illusion worthy of David Copperfield and someone who doesn't wear snowshoes when stepping on product is rarer than a pre-1945 Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey reunion concert. 

I don't know if other true crime authors get death threats, or if it is just my winning personality.  It may be safer to write fiction, but the saving grace of true crime books is that the author is seldom distressed over how to end the story. Take your pick: conviction, conviction plus execution or the rare tale of exoneration. An added bonus of a true story is that you, the author, doesn’t get bombarded with accusations that the events portrayed are too far-fetched and the primary characters are nothing but predictable stereotypes or are unbelievable odd-balls unlike anyone the reader is liable to meet in real life despite the book’s well established setting of real life with real people perpetrating real crimes against other real people. Unlike fiction novels that may somehow engender fanatic fan arguments over various minutia of an imaginary universe, disagreements over the presentation of a true story can and have turned deadly. 

Writers should never read reviews of their work, but we do.  We never know who is simply rude and who is sincerely psychotic and dangerous.  A recent response to my blog post, A Burning in Joshua Tree, ended with these four little words:

 “You make me sick!”  

Think about the possibilities, the odds and the danger, real, imagined or both.  

David Berg thought he was doing an entertaining and thought-provoking radio talk show – it is, after all, only a radio show, just as this is only a true crime blog.  Berg was murdered because he was a Jewish liberal talk show host critical of Neo-Nazis and the old-fashioned fascists and white supremacists who, instead of taking his positive comments on unity in diversity to heart, took guns to his driveway.

If you desire your true crime commentary predictable and perfectly in line with your personal opinions, be they formed on the basis of factual information or the result of your amazing intuitive insights into people and situations that you have never met nor encountered, you are no doubt dismayed by those who don’t see things your way.  I prefer talking to people who don’t see things my way, and by openly sharing perspectives, we see things differently or at least understand why and how others may see things differently. Of course, those who disagree with you are brainwashed idiots perverted by education, fact checking, and an unfettered search for truth. 

Oh, one more important thing:

Fascists, if you are reading this, don’t bother looking for my driveway. I don’t have a driveway. I don’t drive, no way. Well, except for my brother’s Maserati

Copyright 2019 by Burl Barer. All Rights Reserved.

Burl Barer is an Edgar-award winning and Anthony-award nominated true crime writer.

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