Hate Mail for Dummies

A while back I wrote a post that some readers found disputable and felt compelled to discharge a barrage of nasty comments—my official initiation into the world of public hate mail. It wasn’t my first experience with it, but it was the first on my own blog.

I appreciate passion—without it we’d still be living in the stone age. Passionate people create great art and literature and build cities and save lives. And even if they accomplish none of these great things, passionate people are at the heart of the small things that make a difference in the daily lives of creatures everywhere.

Which is why I want to hear from them. I don’t expect every reader to agree with me—blogging isn’t about accumulating a thousand “friends.” But even if you disagree so fervently that it causes you to feel abusive, there are still guidelines to observe in order to be taken seriously. These basic rules are stated on almost every comment section of online news sources, message boards, discussion groups, and chat rooms. A few simple golden rules that many people, obsessive about their own views, choose to completely ignore.

Some of the mail I received was unprintable, and caused me to switch to moderating all comments instead of only those I have not previously approved.

The comments were passionate, yes. But civil, tactful, or even coherent—no. The unmistakable outcome can only be the exact opposite of what the raging, sarcastic commenter wants me to embrace. I read a wide assortment of news and blogs every day (no TV) because it’s important to consider all sides and remain open to changing my mind. In fact, sometimes I want to be swayed—I’m just seeking good reasons why I should. But hostility is the last tactic on earth that’s going to magically transform anybody’s thinking.

How easy it would be to edit nasty comments and print them! Some came from bloggers who fancy themselves respectable. But once you catapult that condemnation into cyberspace, you no longer have control of it. I could take that comment, now fully in my possession, and twist it to make the sender appear to be a criminal, comically deranged, or a pervert. Or worse yet, I could make the commenter agree with me.

I don’t do those things because I believe you reap what you sow, and I want better than that. There is a time to attack. You attack to protect yourself or somebody you love from harm.

Reckless comments can plague a person forever. And if you truly believe in your passions, your aim should be to persuade me–with logic and reason–that you’re right and I’m wrong. Use your passion to influence, impress, seduce. It’s why presidents have speechwriters—so they don’t make jackasses out of themselves on videotape. Before you go public with your passion, consider the most effective way to convey your view. You might feel brief satisfaction after a furious offensive, but it’s a hollow victory because you haven’t accomplished a thing except to expose your own intolerance. And that’s not going to convince anybody.

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14 responses to “Hate Mail for Dummies

  1. That’s terrible. Was this your post about the New Atheism?

  2. Some will always answer with threatening remarks or a batch of mumbo jumbo showing to every one the fact that peace of spirit is unknown to them. Most will try to justify themselves in their answers for being just what you described negatively in your article, and if they are sure you will not agree with their ideas they will just attack with a sense of righteousness reminiscent of a slaughterhouse atmosphere.
    Keep on being yourself 8)

    • Thanks Francis. Perhaps they are so inured to hostility that they’ve lost any sense of productive interaction. It’s sad because no one can know for sure that someone won’t agree with their ideas, but we can be certain that nothing alienates us faster than antagonism.

  3. That post was actually one of the reasons I subscribed to you. I am a Christian, and even though our opinions differ, you’ve earned my respect for being willing to see both sides of the story. You don’t blindly follow along with what everyone around you is saying. You have your own opinion – therefore yours is a voice worth listening to.

    • Thank you hon. Our opinions get us into trouble sometimes, but at least they’re our own. If it’s one thing I can’t stand it’s slavish devotion to any party platform—try to ask a question and either get preached a manifesto or bitch-slapped—either way both sides lose.

  4. I was always amused how that the ones who write the most hate mail, have the least education on the subject and the lowest IQ level.

  5. That is especially true in comments sections of various online news stories. Because those commenters are allowed to hide behind a cloak of anonymity, make up fake names, etc., many discussions quickly disintegrate into screaming matches, personal taunts, and bullying. It’s extremely counterproductive but I guess people are venting their anger at feeling helpless. I don’t know. It’s like giving barbarians computers—they don’t know what to do with them except throw them at each other.

  6. Enough said. Keep writing!

    • Thanks. I keep trying to stay tame and not write controversial posts, but it never lasts! I don’t know how people who get batches of hate mail every day deal with it emotionally.

  7. Off topic: My reply from your Death’s Mementos
    question must be in your spam filter.
    Hate mail says more about them than you—for that reason I always leave it up.

  8. Explanatory e-mail sent to you about that Mary.

    Re leaving hate mail up—I considered it and still might post it. It’s so sarcastic and antisocial that it just might make a good post sometime, used as an example of what not to do!

  9. I’m so sorry that you had to endure this. Written comments can be the supreme act of cowardice. By this I mean people write what they would not say to your face.

    One of the lessons that I have had to learn in life is to listen. When I REALLY listen to someone I can usually appreciate their point of view, even though I may not agree with it. We all come from different places.

    Our nation has become increasingly intolerant of opposing points of view. The art of compromise and consensus is rapidly being lost. That’s the precise reason we are becoming a nation that is no longer great. Enough said.

    • I want so much to listen but I can’t stand bullying of any kind. You are so right about us being very polarized here, more and more, it’s insane. (Probably more global than we know, too.)

      Sometimes I have questions which I try to word carefully so as not to offend—in reply I get fanatic acid thrown in my face. Both sides do this. This is the worst possible approach to winning allies.

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