The Political Drug
November 8, 2016/by: Caitlyn Oliver
Jared Sexton is a creative writing assistant professor at Georgia Southern University and has been receiving death threats for his campaign coverage.
Sexton started writing about the 2016 elections and live tweeting Trump campaign rallies over a year ago. This started as a way to keep himself engaged in the campaign and went further than he expected.
“I really wanted to dive deep into an election. I really wanted to throw my mind into it and, instead of being a passive bystander watching it on cable news, I wanted to be there while it happened,” Sexton said.
The rally Trump held in Greensboro, North Carolina in June was a turning point. Seven people were arrested at the event and two days after Sexton’s coverage of Trump’s message is when the harassment and threats started rolling in.
Sexton’s published articles discuss the state of politics now, political correctness in society, his observations at rallies, “toxic masculinity,” and other topics raised by the campaign process over the last year.
“It’s addictive. Hunter S. Thompson, he’s a writer and wrote one of the most famous political books of all time called Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72. He always wrote about drugs and an altered state of conscious. He said there’s no drug like politics and he’s absolutely right,” Sexton said.
Starting out his project, Sexton had roughly 1,400 followers on Twitter. At the last count he amassed over 32,000.
“I’m just a teacher and I look up and I have 32,000 followers. All of a sudden I have a voice in conversations and it’s very, very odd. It was actually so overwhelming there for awhile that I didn’t think I was going to be capable of handling it. Eventually one day I just kind of looked up and was like ‘Well I’m either going to do this or I’m not.’ Since then, with all the threats and whatnot, I was just like I’m going to keep my head down and I’m going to do this,” Sexton said.
After intimidators started showing up in the driveway of his home, Sexton has installed a security system and changed his habits to be more aware of the choices he makes to preserve his safety.
Despite the intimidation and personal changes, he does not plan to stop his coverage even after the election.
“Once you do anything long enough it just becomes life. It’s just something I deal with. I am deeply, deeply opposed to what Donald Trump represents. I’ve seen the ugliness he brings out in people and the ugliness that he is and I’m not going to stop,” Sexton said.
Sexton also believes that “journalists need to continue opposing him” because it would be tough for the country to survive if they did not.
Far from deterring him, the experience with covering Trump’s campaign has placed Sexton in a place where he couldn’t walk away even if he wanted to.
Sexton said, “I don’t think I could look at myself in the mirror. I think walking away at this point, it feels cowardly. There’s a necessary job there so I assume I’m going to be doing this as long as there is a Donald Trump.”