My column on values in the media that appears regularly in the Deseret News includes online links both to this blog and to my personal email account. Up until recently, all of the emails I had received as a result of my column have been pleasant and respectful, even if the person writing them disagrees with me. One guy, for instance, took the time to drop me a note to let me know that I was mistaken in claiming that Christopher Walken’s portrayal of mad industrialist Zorin from the movie A View to a Kill was the worst Bond villain of all time. Okay, fair enough. Generally, I dig Christopher Walken. He’s got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.
Last night, I received the following missive from one Nick Smith, who was at least courageous enough to attach his own name to his staggering rudeness.
Here it is.
“You disgusting cult Mormon. I’m glad the media makes fun of you idiots. And stop commenting on the arts; your cult is too stupid to know anything about the arts.”
Merciful Tehlu, how does one respond to such a thing?
The mature, grown-up reaction would be to ignore it, which, of course, is what I did not do. Instead, I fired back with a clever little bit of snark about hoping to someday be as enlightened as Nick Smith is, employing a tenet from the intellectual tradition of “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I.”
A very silly thing to do, especially since I was flattered, not offended, by Mr. Smith’s attentions. After all, I made him mad enough to send him to his keyboard to unleash his virtual fury. That’s not nothing. It’s very close to nothing, mind you, but it’s a step up from indifference.
This morning, after enjoying quite a few chuckles from my Facebook friends at Nick Smith’s expense, I took a different approach. Here’s my latest response to him:
“For curiosity’s sake, I wonder if you could tell me what you hoped to accomplish with your message. Did you think, upon receipt of your vehement demands, that I would, in fact, stop writing? Or that I would abandon my faith? Have you ever gotten positive results through opprobrium and name calling?
I’m genuinely interested to know the answers to these questions.”
As of this writing, he has not replied. Anyone care to wager as to when I should expect his reply? I’d only take that bet if “doomsday” were an option.
I think those are good questions, though. At every level of our society, ad hominem attacks seem to be at the core of almost all public disagreements. Barack Obama is a narcissist; John Boehner is a troll; and Harry Reid is a disgusting cult Mormon. (Wait, scratch that. Nobody calls attention to Harry Reid’s heretical faith, even as they mock Mormons collectively and not individually.) To summarize, my side is virtuous; your side is stupid, evil, and unhygienic.
How’s that working out for everybody?
Unfortunately, it worked all too well during campaign season. Romney had “Romnesia” and made his millions by throwing half of America out onto the street and giving the other half cancer. It was the pettiest campaign in our collective memory, and yet it succeeded. So now, here we are.
Anyone besides me wish we were someplace else?