"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Hating" hate mail--questions and guidelines

  • Why are they so angry?
  • Why are they so unhappy?
  • Why do they hate?
  • Why can't they abide different opinions?
  • Why can't they respond in a civil manner?
  • Why can't they respond without profanity? Without using trite labels devoid of thought? 
  • Have they ever read Jesus' words about love and judgment and kindness?
  • Didn't their mothers teach them any manners?
These are some of the questions that ran through my mind after being subjected to "hate mail" this week.

A better question--How do you respond?

National news about Enid
My comments in the New York Times article about the negative reaction to the Enid News & Eagle's endorsement of Clinton have drawn a deluge of  positive comments on "social" media.
That's because I posted the article and bragged about being quoted, proud of contributing to recognition of the importance of community journalism. 
Here's the link to the story online: Oklahoma newspaper
Then there were a few very angry comments in twitter and Facebook, throwing labels and judgments about me, the newspaper, media, and professors.
One I immediately blocked, and reported for abuse--not even responding.
Another, I wrote some facts, no opinions, in response to some of the inaccurate statements, and then blocked the person.
I'm proud of myself for not responding in my usual snarky, sarcastic style.
I wasn't exactly surprised at negative reactions, except for their vitriol. I was afraid someone would take my comments as critical of Enid. I would have apologized for that, because Enid is a great community. In the context of the article however, I meant all small towns and their newspapers.
Those comments came from  my personal journalism experience and more than 30 years working with community journalists.
So how should I have responded?
Perhaps I should have responded with "Thank you for your opinion. Have a great day."
That, or any other comment, would have provoked more negative comments.
I also slept on the situation, before acting, and slept again, before writing this.
Here are some of the thoughts I had on how to react to "hate mail."
The comment from one of my twitter for media class speakers, and I'm not sure which one, was one of my first thoughts, "You don't have to join every fight you're invited to."
Then I thought about Jill Castilla, the dynamo leader of Citizens Bank in Edmond, who just spoke to my students last week. She's used social media to rebuild that bank into a national model, and her methods ooze positivity: "Elevate where you're at," she says. Her social media framework is "GAP--Genuine, Authentic, Positive."
Another teacher of mine also had advice:
  •  "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."  Matt. 5:39.
  •  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
  • "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." Matt 5. 
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So the best response to hate mail, is no response. Don't feed the fire. I don't want nor need more negativity in my life, and I'm not going to change anyone with those attitudes. They are not worth my time or words or mental health.
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More than the actual personal attacks, two issues really bother me. The first is the hate-mongers' virtual ignorance about American government and the roles of the news media (That's a separate story).
Underlying it all  is the absolute disregard for civility and respect for others' opinions in today's America.
My former student from OSU, Roy Lee Lindsey from Cordell who now leads the Oklahoma Pork Council put it best: "This story is about everything that is wrong with our society today. When I refuse to do business with someone or stop talking to someone just because they have a difference of opinion than I do, I limit my ability to learn. Exposure to differing opinions and ideas is how we challenge ourselves and grow."

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My mother taught me manners--be polite, don't criticize people, be respectful. The people we looked up to, including our country's leaders, were those kind of people.
My mother would take a bar of soap and wash out the mouths of  people who spout hate mail, including our so-called leaders.

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But then, I thought of the words of Jesus again, which explains all the actions of the hatemongers, which is another reason to just turn away and not join them:
"But the words you speak come from the heart--that's what defiles you." Matt. 15:18.

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P.S. Another note--my attackers are so blinded by anger and hate that they missed the point, taking it as a political comment. It is only perspective about what it takes to be a courageous newspaper in a small city. I would have said the same thing if the politics and situation had been reversed.
Here were my words that sparked all of this, accurately reported by Manny Fernandez, Houston bureau chief of The New York Times: 
  • "There used to be a saying that the editorial page was the soul of a newspaper, and if that’s the case, we’ve got a lot of weak-souled newspapers in the country because they’re afraid to offend anybody,” said Terry M. Clark, the director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and a professor of journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. “This is an excellent example of the way American journalism ought to be — standing for something — and, man, it takes guts to do that in Enid, Okla.” 
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I'm very aware that many other people have been subjected to, been more than upset, and survived  a lot more "hate mail" in this past year than I. My experience is minuscule. The perspective, as with the article, is the point.



2 comments:

  1. Hate mail, hate fb posts, and twitter posts are unnerving and upsetting. Like you say, the best response is no response plus selective blocking and reporting. I had to take my twitter account private for a while after I received threats from a very few of the people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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  2. I haven't seen too many of these, but I have such a knee-jerk, hair-trigger temper sometimes, it is probably a good thing I don't.
    I do want to make one comment though- I agree that the young people today do not know basic US/World history...and that is sad. It seems to me that we as a society do not learn lessons...we just wash, rinse, repeat.

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