I give separate consideration to the email describing a participant's behaviour and comments at the off-campus event which the ANU regarded as threatening. In my view, the exchange as described in the email could be regarded as intimidating and at its highest perhaps alluding to a threat. In its reasons for decision, the ANU stated that it did not report this incident to the AFP because the incident occurred off-campus and it is incumbent upon people who are directly involved in an incident to make a first person report to the police. The ANU advised that University security encouraged the staff member to report the incident to police. I consider the danger to life or physical safety in this case to be only a possibility, not a real chance.(Emphasis mine.)
For some reason that is difficult for me to understand, people like Anthony Watts find this a reason to gloat.
An "intimidating" email "perhaps alluding to a threat" with a "possibility" of danger to life or physical safety hardly sounds innocent or something worth cheering about -- particularly if you're the one who received it. It sounds to me exactly like how it was taken -- as a death threat. Is the recipient supposed to wait until the Privacy Commissioner moves the email from the category of "possibility" to the category of "real chance" before being frightened?
Given the climate surrounding the Australian carbon tax debate last year, and the death threat captured on video against Hans Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (the one scrubbed by Anthony Watts), and knowing of the death threats against US scientists (reported on by ABC News), one could hardly blame Australian scientists for being jumpy and requesting protection when suspect emails start coming in. The recipient of an email is the one who decides if it's a threat, and they can't wait months for a ruling.
But that's the state of some in the blogosphere these days, where many like Watts have no hesitation about using such threats, including death threats, as more ammunition for whatever they think their cause is.
These years -- and unfortunately, I doubt they are finished -- will be viewed as an extremely ugly period in the history of science. People like Watts and Morano will not fare well in the judgement of the future, and it won't be their arguments they're remembered for, or even their denial of science, but their willingness to distort, contort, and bully people who are simply trying to do the best science they can. Their best hope is probably that, like most computer formats, HTML fades into obscurity and will be unreadable by whatever chips, goggles, and implants serve up the reading material of the future.
Unless this era gets labeled something like the Watts-Morano Thermal Maximum (WMTM), in which case they will be remembered for millions of years.