Thursday, July 07, 2005

FLASHBACK: Columnist fires back at a piece of hate mail

Each Thursday, I will post "flashbacks," articles written when I was in college and actually funny. The following unaltered column was originally published April 29, 1998 in The Red & Black in Athens, GA.

One of the more interesting things about my job is the feedback from readers. Not that most of you apathetic jerks ever stop drinking long enough to write or call, but there is a vocal minority.

Last week, my column about conformity started a small fire burning. A small fire the size of Nigeria. I wrote a list of "hip" things to do that were, in fact, no longer hip (playing golf, watching "South Park," listening to Marilyn Manson, etc.).

Oh, and I made a joke about Linda McCartney.

A cascading tidal wave of letters (about 15, actually) came my way, some nice, some mean. Most mean.

One such letter arrived in my mailbox, overflowing with hate. And as much as I enjoy nice mail, bile-filled letters are more fun to read. As most students don't get mail reading "I wish you dead" on a regular basis, I thought it might be interesting to dissect an average example of what journalists like to call "hate mail."

The following (in italics) is an e-mail I got last week. The letter was signed, though I've decided to leave it anonymous here. So here goes:

Where does Josh Massey get off?

OK, I wrote an answer to this, but decided to edit it out. Even I have some good taste somewhere. I'll just say it involved my bedroom and boxing gloves.

I realize that as an entertainment "critic," part of his job is to write what he thinks of movies, but this is starting to get ridiculous. I used to like to read his columns because I thought he gave some interesting perspectives. I read his reviews and thought they were the work of someone who really knew his stuff.

Well gee, thanks.

Now I read both the column and the reviews as one would view a car crash at the roadside - hoping everyone's OK and hating yourself for being so voyeuristic.

Oh, never mind. Ouch.

His column on conformity was the last straw. Who made you God, Mr. Massey?

My mom said I could grow up and be anything I wanted. I chose God.

I doubt very much that people who may fall into your categories appreciated some of the observations you had.

That was the point, genius.

Granted, the idea that originality is passé is one that I hadn't thought of much before, but, honestly, Josh.

Honesty is good.

Tacky jokes at the expense of Linda McCartney and her admirers? She was an amazing woman and a good role model for animal lovers worldwide.

For God's sake, the woman played a keyboard and not even very well! I love animals too, but when I've taken my dog to the vet, she never once offered to foot the bill. I hope Paul and Linda had a wonderful life together, but I doubt he was torn up over what was in a small Athens, Ga., newspaper. And has anyone ever considered themselves a Linda McCartney "fan"?

Oh, and please spare me all of your rhetoric on how uncool you think "Titanic" is now. If my memory serves me correctly (is it conformist to forget stuff?) you gave it a pretty good grade in your original review.

Yes, I gave it an A and named it one of the best films of 1997, something I still agree with. However, brainiac, I never insulted "Titanic," just people who are proud they are among the few who've never seen it.

Oh, one more thing? The one person who hasn't seen "Titanic?" You're reading a letter from her now.

Did I strike a nerve? Guess so.

I am not planning to see it simply because I have no desire to.

You go girl.

My friends don't understand why not, but they do not make jokes.

Well, they should start.

My life is nothing but special effects. Observe how I poof out of your life now by ending this letter.


But you are really sexy.

OK, she didn't write that last thing, but I know deep-down she believes it. Anyway, she spent another long paragraph explaining how she was going to end the letter, but I'll skip that and end right here.

– Josh Massey is a staff writer for The Red and Black. His column appears each Wednesday.

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