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Article > Hate mail?
Description :: Taking a look at how people respond to sarcasm
Linked to this article, you'll find a reference to "propaganda remix." On that website, you'll find, here, a page containing the "hate mail" the site's owner has received. I propose that we take a look at this potentially statistically flawed cross-section of the population who disagrees with the owner, and see what kind of responses we find.

- "You're gay." This seems to be a popular response. Your guess is as good as mine on this one. There's also a reference to "cranium-colon inversion disorder." I think this is the most obvious "ad-hominem" attack you'll find here. Unless, of course, you're one of the many who don't find being "gay" offensive ... at which point it's just an insult to homosexuals. Good going.
- "Go away." "Move to France." "Move to Iraq and befriend Saddam." It seems to be a prevalent idea among the people posting their comments that anyone who doesn't like the current state of affairs should just "go away" to a less freedom-loving country than this one. Obviously, if you disagree with our government, you are un-american and don't deserve to live here.
- "Damn commie." "Damn jew." "Damn nazi." Knowing nothing about the author of the website, people feel free to attribute to him (or her?) anything they already dislike, furthering their association between one issue (war in Iraq) and others they already feel strongly about. Obviously, we live in a politically polarized society, in which no good republican would be caught dead disagreeing with the president. Perhaps this stems from this country's love of sports: you root for your home team, no matter the situation. Once sides have been chosen, we stop thinking.
- "If you've got nothing to hide, you won't fear Ashcroft." If intrusion on your privacy were more annoying than hidden cameras, would these people mind more? Would they actually be comfortable with little robots hovering over their shoulders, listening to their speech and possibly their thoughts? I didn't think anyone could have been so convinced to follow the crowd that they wouldn't even have a pinch of rebellion left in them.
- "You don't support our troops." This has been an easy pot-shot: it seems that doubting the intent and reasons for the current presidential policies is absolutely equated with defaming our troops. I hope these people aren't also the ones preaching "love the person, hate the sin" -- the message was clearly about our government's use of the troops, not the troops themselves. This is a red herring.
- "Someone should kill you." "Don't like it? We've got nukes." Use of force seems to be a common dream: that we can make dissent go away by brute force. Wouldn't that undermine the very principles of democracy for which we want to stand? I have trouble imagining what would lead an american citizen to suggest such actions, as a response to a disagreement. Maybe we should outlaw football -- it's making us too violent.
- "You're a minority; be quiet." Aren't we the greatest freedom-loving country in the world, the melting-pot of cultures and differences? We easily forget that the minorities are what make us strong as a nation. We have elections specifically because the tides of opinion change constantly, and we're free to express those changes. Minorities, even the smallest, are important to who we are.
- "You're uncreative." "You're not useful." Apparently, we don't recognize the value of criticism. One of the points usually brought up when talking about countries we find "closed" is that they often disallow parodies (especially as a form of social or political critique.) We don't need to be creative to make a point, but it is helpful to present the message in a way that will have a lasting effect. Using old posters is such a method. As to being useful, we won't move forward without change; we won't have change without unrest. (We call these "disruptive" influences in the full sense of the phrase: they disrupt the current status-quo, uproot current views, and move us forward, good or bad.) Social critique is useful.
- "If you don't like it, at least don't get in the way." Doesn't anyone understand how this works? We are driven to change the winds of time. Just as the United States feels pressured to change Iraq, the citizens of the U.S. often feel compelled to change their country.
- "Do you have any better ideas?" These are difficult issues, granted. Not everyone, however, is called to find a solution. Obviously not: very few members of our population actually make any decisions in the political process, apart from voting into office a few people they think they agree with. That does not mean, however, that there is no place for critique: we must identify the problems before we can solve them. We're all talented in different ways ... and I would expect that the people asking this question have just as little clue about alternative solutions as the author, but have made up their minds not to try to find them anymore.
- "You're biting the hand that feeds you." Perhaps once you've gained the freedom of speech (and disagreement) you're expected to be polite and not use it? What good, exactly, is freedom of speech (and thought, and press, and association, and worship...) if they can only be used to promote the status-quo? We regained these freedoms (at much cost, yes) in order to cherish them. You're welcome to bite the hand that feeds you, especially if, in the end, it's your own hand. We, the citizens of this nation, have every right to ask to redefine the government of the people, for the people, by the people, that rules our everyday lives to fit our needs, views, hopes, and visions. Once elected, a government is still accountable to its constituency.

Go ahead. Disagree. It's okay. I won't tell you that you're a homosexual nazi pansy with no respect for our wonderful rulers. Nor will I talk about your brutish stupidity as you march forward at the command of those who rule your every thought. Nor will I call you a spineless fence-sitter, just waiting for the wind to blow you into a pile of dung.

This isn't about whether or not we invaded Iraq for the oil, or for the sake of imperialism, or for any other controversial reason: this is about defending our right to find fault in even the most noble-sounding cause. We're not natural saints. We have no magical ability to do the "right" thing in every situation. It's by disagreeing, by fighting for our points of view, by standing up for what we (each of us) thinks is right, that we have a chance of finding a good path. We cannot let go of the freedoms our men and women have died for, and continue to die for.

I encourage you to speak out, even against the owner of the "propaganda remix" website. I urge you to be frank when you're offended by something. But I beg you to do it with respect for each other's humanity and freedoms.

I'm feeling free to respond (thanks to my freedom of speech) to Ensis' article (you'll find it linked below.) I believe we agree that we'd prefer reasonable, thought-out discourse to vague, baseless accusations. Will such methods work? Is it okay to "fight fire with fire"? Is it alright to kill your enemy in order to "win" the argument over the bar tab or ownership of vast tracts of land? I think what I appreciate about "propaganda remix" is specifically that the "hate mail" is listed alongside the main content, without any intent or attempt at censorship. This is more like political rivals standing up on the same podium, both shouting at the crowd: neither message is presented tastefully, but at least one of them isn't actively attacking the other. Is that not worth something?

I still think it'd be funnier to rename the page "fan mail" while keeping the same content. Come to think of it ... does nobody send any letters of support, or does the author simply feel it more important to list the opposition's messages rather than more supporting content?

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Owned by Unordained - Created on 07/28/2003 - Last edited on 07/29/2003

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