Reader Mail

Cyber-Decorum

It’s not pretty out there among the hackers and spammers and other closeted individualists. Also: Sugar imperialism. McNabb’s heroics. Hamilton’s location. Albanians fight back. Plus much more.

2.9.05

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SCREEN SAVERS
Re: Shawn Macomber's Internet Cowards:

This article sums up so well the way people act on the Internet. Even years ago on the newsgroups it was that way. Eight years ago at work, one of my co-workers was boasting about how well he could flame people on the newsgroups he participated in. So I challenged him to a "flaming" contest to be judged by our other co-workers. He lost big time because, as you have noted in your article, he almost immediately descended into just swearing and cursing whereas I used wit and sarcasm to make him look like a fool (not that he needed much help). But most people believe like he did, the more crude you are, the more curse words you use, the better. I would NOT want to get into such a contest with someone like Bill Buckley. If more people studied and used language like Mr. Buckley they could quit their jobs with a resignation letter that would leave the old boss saying, "Did he compliment me or insult me?"
-- Jeff Cook
Powell, Ohio

Unabashedly you have a polluted inbox. Surely a sign of an occupational hazard. But the observations work the other way as well. From personal experience, many people have to send their notice of leave as the boss has not been in their office for 6 weeks. Many more work remote from the head man and have no choice. But a good deal of the time I chalk the degrading of the personal experience to Corporate America. Case in point -- Oracle in their last round of layoffs sent the termination notices via FedEx next day air. No face to face with the HR person, just send your badge back in the provided return mailer. Your severance is in the mail.

Shawn, by the way email is such a retro way to do things these days. Internet Messenger is the way to go.
--John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

Don't forget, editors edit. As a letter writer, I've seen some of my less collegial screeds accepted for publication but trimmed. That doesn't mean I don't have a less-than-collegial style. This provides a ruse that letter writers are polite.

What the Internet seems to have done is allow individuals to be their own editors and everything is permissible (though not beneficial -- I can't remember the Scripture reference).
--Stu Margrey
Denton, Maryland

At the risk of being invited to duel, some of what Shawn Macomber says about the manners of the Internet is undoubtedly true, but not all of it.

The critical difference between the Internet and other media is that it is directly personal. Unlike the costs involved in setting up a newspaper or magazine, an Internet account is not prohibitively expensive. As Patrick Hynes recently reported in your pages, the blog is now recognized by political strategists as being a very powerful campaigning tool. Think of how short a period of time it's taken for that state of affairs to evolve, for individual citizens to become so empowered. Many of his correspondents will be feeling liberated by the fact that there now exists a medium of communication where their views are important and, yes, they will be heard.

The Dan Rather Experience has been one of the very few occasions when private individuals have brought a public figure to account, unprompted and entirely of their own accord. This would not have been possible if blogs and e-mail did not exist. Shawn might ask himself the question whether or not the negative e-mails he receives are not counterbalanced by the greater public accountability that the Internet seems to be able to deliver.

Of course, there's no excuse for bad manners. I work with hundreds of e-mails every day. A relatively reliable mechanism for determining whether or not the sender is going to be difficult to deal with is to read the e-mail address first. An individual's choice of e-mail address has become one of the most personal forms of self-expression, the truest statement of what its owner perceives himself to be -- it's like DNA. If the sender has a puckish or weird e-mail address, just don't open it. And a Dear John's a Dear John, whether it's e-mailed (an E-John?) or not.

His own experience of floods of negative e-mails reflects what other commentators like Paul Craig Roberts have reported, after he put forward the proposition that the Iraq War was "a strategic blunder" in Townhall.com. Dr. Roberts reported that he received a mass of e-mail accusing him of every crime under the sun up to and including treason. But what Shawn might notice is how the e-mails he receives are generally reflective of other positions floating about the Net, whether from left or right. It's a giant echo chamber -- the trick is to find the truly original thought.

Lastly, the Internet, like its users, is a child of its time. In a world where every appetite must be immediately satisfied, a world of MTV, 24 hour news, all-night stores, microwave ovens, 3G cellphones, outsourcing and, yes, high-speed Internet access, perhaps it's not surprising that a few ill-mannered, aggressive individuals slip through the Net. Any bad manners on the Net is reflective of how coarse the common culture has become across the English-speaking world. It's confronting and changing that that's the real challenge.

Now where did I put my epee? Or was it my latte?.....
-- Martin Kelly
Glasgow, Scotland

In the 19th century, the pistol was known as the Great Equalizer, because it allowed anyone, no matter how puny, to defeat the best-prepared opponent.

In the 20th century, the bomber allowed the destruction of men, women, and children one would never kill in face-to-face combat.

Now, in the 21st century, the Internet and the WWW allow anyone, no matter how marginally literate, to insult others in the most hostile and derogatory fashion. In fact, by surreptitiously gaining control over thousands of easily infected PCs, one is able to deny a web presence to anyone.

The power that the web affords Joe and Jane Ordinary is unprecedented and is limited only by one's imagination and persistence.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

The other thing about e-mail snubs and flames is that they never go away. A rather unbalanced colleague of mine never caught on to this until he was eventually removed from the partnership -- he'd always lived on delivering personal bluff and bluster, threats and intimidations, and then denying he had done so. With the power of the "send" button (not to mention voice mail) his professional coffin was soon nailed shut as the person insulted, demeaned, snubbed or otherwise taken to the cleaners now had irrefutable proof.

The other side of the coin, of course, being that some people learned to send scurrilous messages disguised as being from other people. It was considered in some quarters hugely funny to send a profession of undying love, for example, "from" a colleague to someone high up the organization. For some reason these jokers didn't know that a trail would lead back to them.

The one thing that people seem slow to learn is that one is not anonymous on the Internet. Someone can always find out who you are.
-- Kate Shaw
Toronto, Ontario

Shawn Macomber's perception of a sudden explosion of bad manners apparently brought on by Internet communication ("Internet Cowards", 2/9/05) makes me wonder if he has ever driven a car.
-- Kevin O'Neill
London, England

SWEET TALK
Re: Doug Bandow's Sugarland Excess:

In addition to the many excellent points you make in this article, I believe that if you look south of the border into Mexico, you will find subsidized American sugar flooding the market and putting poor Mexican sugar growers out of business.
-- Stephen Goth

Never being able to stomach artificial sweeteners, I've always been told by people who consume them, "after a while you get use to it." Ironically, I never sweeten my coffee or tea (hot or cold), but I take offense at the implication that artificial sweeteners should be tolerated to avoid the sins of natural sugar in the same way people gag on tofu to avoid the dreaded red meat. More people need to watch Alton Brown on "Good Eats." Anyway, as a real Conservative, I also cannot stomach Federal subsidies of any kind. This President of ours continues to show real leadership by supporting what's right and not what's politically expedient. Considering that significant portions of the subsidies probably go to his brother's home state, the President is once again championing a cause that is just, but not necessarily popular.
-- Anthony Mastroserio

Dear Sirs -- Yep.
-- John Kachel

SIMON DEAN
Re: George Neumayr's Dean Aborts Roemer:

Mr. Neumayr showed great restraint in his essay about Dr. Dean. Howard Dean has proven himself fit to be the host of a Saturday morning cartoon show featuring Looney Toons and Merrie Melodies. My question to Dr. Dean would be: What ever happened to "First, do no harm?" Doctor Demento has uttered so many idiocies that I would have thought him long disqualified from a high position in the Democratic Party. But no! That hasn't happened. Instead, he is lionized. Hell's bells, he ought to be simonized!

I spent the first half of my life as a Democrat. Of course, that was when the party had a workable morality, cared about the country, and elevated deserving people to positions of leadership. My God, how did things go so wrong?
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

MIGHTY McNABB
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Philly Fails and "McNabbed in the Act" letters in Reader Mail's Left Defenseless:

I just finished viewing some of the reader mail in today's online Spectator edition. I was a little disturbed by the continued discounting of McNabb's talent and ability by some of your readers. It was later reported at ESPN.com that McNabb was barely able to function towards the end of the game due to sickness. But he persevered and he continued fighting, even throwing a touchdown near the end of the game. I think it's well worth noting that one play had to be called by Freddy Mitchell, since McNabb didn't have the strength to clearly recite the play. Yes, his 3 interceptions were horrible (and should've been 4 or 5), but I didn't hear anyone complain about Ben Roethlisberger's horrible interceptions against the same Patriot defense, or Peyton Manning's horrible day in the Divisional round of the playoffs. On those two occasions, the credit was given to the Patriot's defense (and rightly so). But for some reason, McNabb was to blame for his similar problems against a creative defense.

After the game, you didn't hear a peep from him regarding his well being or his lack of complete concentration. His illness was mentioned by his center, Hank Fraley, or we may have never known. The class McNabb continues to show in the face of bigots and ignorant people makes me respect him even more. He has never angrily reacted to all the naysayers out there, and has continued to be a true professional despite a lack of belief in his abilities by many.

Rush was not right.…
-- Todd Cox

LOW ACADEMIC STANDARDS
Re: James Bowman's Your Right To Say What?:

Your publication always carries interesting articles and Mr. Bowman's was no exception.

After reading his article, I read Mr. Cohen's column in the Washington Post (thanks for providing the link). After cleaning the coffee off of my computer screen after reading that he receives $87,436 for a single speaking engagement (the President should do so well) I read through to the end. My conclusion, it seems that Mr. Cohen does not like or agree with Mr. Churchill, but he apparently likes and agrees with Bill O'Reilly even less.

Now I am sure that there are any number of thinking Americans who often disagree with Mr. O'Reilly, but come on. Mr. Churchill's rants are just that. And anyone with any academic credentials should have run a Google search and taken a quick peek at who they were inviting to speak at their institution. But because Mr. Churchill is described as a Native American activist and the Head of the Department of Ethics Studies at the University of Colorado, that was enough for Hamilton College.

On the larger matter of whether Hamilton should have reversed itself on inviting Mr. Churchill in the first place, does a university and its student body have a right to change its mind upon the presentation of new information concerning a speaker? Would we even be having this discussion if it had turned out that Mr. Churchill was a wife beating child molester? Well, maybe. The answer to the first question is simply, yes. If a campus group wishes to listen to Mr. Churchill speak, there are plenty of off campus venues to hold them. As to whether Mr. Churchill will be retained as a tenured professor at the University of Colorado, the answer is yes. The administration obviously loves the man. There are very few tenured professors at major universities in this country who do not hold a Ph.D. and I doubt that there are any department heads without at least one Ph.D. Mr. Churchill reportedly holds only an M.A. So, I would venture to say that he is a favorite of the university administration there. Also, given the administrative action taken in recent scandals at that university, I would say that he is secure in Colorado.

There is a place for all of us in this country of ours. For Mr. O'Reilly it is Fox News and for Mr. Churchill, it is apparently UofC.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

It brings a smile every time I try to envision a howling mob making its way to the gates of Hamilton College in the middle of winter. Have any of the writers ever been to the village of Clinton, N.Y.?

Anyway, Hamilton College is a private institution and can do whatever it pleases. Although I know little about running a college, I would say it is a bad sign when one can google "Hamilton College" and "terrorist" and get 121,000 hits.

The people connected with the college have a major problem, though. My guess (admittedly a somewhat uneducated guess as I did not go to such an elite school as Hamilton) is that the "howling mob" that really worried the trustees is made up of alumni and parents (at least those parents that actually pay anything close to the "sticker price" of $40,000/yr.) This is the second incident within a couple months that has put Hamilton in the news as a place that seems to be extremely friendly to terrorists and terrorist wannabes.

The first invitation was to an actual convicted terrorist (Susan Rosenberg) and in that case, Hamilton was offering academic employment and daily contact with the students. Maybe, the Churchill invitation was viewed as an act of moderation by administrators. After all, Churchill has not committed any terrorist acts that we know of (he only tries to incite others to do violence and may have some plagiarism problems) and he apparently was going to take his check and leave quickly.

As a parent of high school senior that actually looked at Hamilton, the administration's actions have made it easy to eliminate another school from any consideration. Parents and students have a lot more control then they exercise.
-- Chris Harley
Piedmont, California

I find it very distressing that Mr. Bowman and others on BOTH sides of the Churchill/free speech debate seem loath to address the point that I find totally conclusive. While Mr. Churchill has every right to espouse distasteful, idiotic, anti-American views, he does NOT have a right to have my tax money subsidize those views.

He teaches at a state public institution of higher learning. The university is supported by and his salary paid by, among other sources, Colorado state taxes and also Federal grants from my taxes.

Now you may say that his salary comes from this or that private funding source, etc. I would tell you that all monetary funds within any organization are fungible. If, and it is a big if, his salary is paid by private sources, that nevertheless frees up the same number of dollars to be used elsewhere.

Let Mr. Churchill resign from Univ. of Colorado and seek a position on the faculty of a private college or university that receives NO FEDERAL MONEY. He can also pursue a living on the lecture circuit speaking for dollars, again as long as NO PUBLIC MONIES from taxes are involved.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

WASTE MANAGEMENT
Re: Charles V. Peña's Surface-to-Air Security:

I am having a little trouble following Mr. Peña's logic on this one. If we are wasting money somewhere else in the budget, should this fact justify more waste somewhere else? Could it be that the government is taking a calculated risk? I think that is what they are supposed to do, even if it makes some people uncomfortable. It seems that $11 billion plus another $2 billion per year would eventually end up costing the $70 billion that Mr. Peña wants to avoid. Without firing a single missile, the terrorist would cost us about $25 billion in the first 8 years.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

KOSOVAR BACKLASH
Re: Julia Gorin's Found in Translation:

Today I stumbled across "Found in Translation" by Julia Gorin on your website.

I must admit that I was shocked and puzzled by what I read. I tried to read a bit more about the author on the web and I was even more shocked to see her other works on other publications. I was surprised that you have given publishing room to such an author on your website.

Dear Sir, in her latest piece the author claims/implies that the Kosovar Albanians are Islamic fundamentalists in the heart of Europe, that they are still fighting a religious war and that they work for Bin Laden. This is utterly untrue, this is pure and deliberate misinformation.

How is it possible for the author to ignore the fact that the Kosovar Albanians are the most pro-American group in the Balkans, and most likely in Europe! Does the author know that the American forces were welcomed with American flags throughout Kosova, does she know that after 9/11 the Kosovar Albanian members of the Kosova Protection Force lined up voluntarily to donate blod for the victims of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Does she know that many of these soldiers/policemen were former members of the KLA. How does she reconcile that with her article(s)?

Ms. Gorin claims that the Albanians are still burning Serb houses and killing Serbs. I would never justify my countrymen for what they did last March. However keep in mind that the Serbs had been doing that to the Albanians from 1912 to 1999. Hate and anger while never forgivable are understandable in this case. Nonetheless it was the Albanian led government of Kosova that immediately condemned these actions and appropriated funds for the repair and rebuilding of Serbian houses and institutions.

I could go on further but your time is precious and I don't want to waste it. I'd appreciate if you passed these points across to Ms. Gorin and required of her to write the truth in the future. We are not perfect as a people, nobody is, but we do not like being demonized by people who I am guessing have never even been in our part of the world.
-- Llukan Tako
Illinois

I appreciate your concern with questions outside of the Middle East crisis, but Gorin's article can give the reader wrong impressions about Albanians. Some facts might help you. Albanians in Kosovo are not all Muslims, there are also Orthodox Christians as well as Catholics. Serbia under Milosevic was not exactly a democracy: there was a huge protest in Belgrade to unseat him, remember? The March "rioting" was not ethnic cleansing or genocide. The history of the last 100 years shows in fact that the exact opposite is the case. Let's not fool the American public outright...Yugoslavia was no democratic heaven, nor a ethnically tolerant state (at least not under Milosevic). Serbian massacres are well-documented, whether in Kosovo or Bosnia. I understand Gorin's piece is commentary, but the distortion of the truth is just plainly appalling.
-- Penar Musaraj
Peterborough, Canada

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