One of the fringe benefits of writing a column is that it’s possible to come to understand that most peculiar of characters we call the “newspaper letter writer.”
After all, it is no small task to sit down and write a letter. We’re all busy people, now aren’t we? Thus, if a columnist has “moved” you to the degree that you make time in your oh-so-hectic schedule, take pen (sorry … mouse) in hand, and compose a missive in response to something you’ve read, well, this is an act worthy of consideration (at least in my not-so-humble opinion). Anyhow, that’s the topic of this week’s column, so if you don’t wanna hear about it, and you’re gonna get all bugged that I didn’t write about something “important,” then STOP reading this RIGHT NOW, and quit wasting your precious time (and mine). And for God’s sake, please don’t send me any e-mail (e-mails and letters are synonymous in this column, for all you nit-pickers). I’ve got enough already!
Allright, now let’s get down to business.
Frankly, having never written to a publication (or for that matter, called into a radio talk show) in order to voice my opinion, I can’t really understand the motivation of the writers/callers. I mean, who are these people? Whenever I’m stuck on the freeway, and I flip on the radio and find myself being yelled at by one of those noxious talk-show hosts (they all have that same repugnant “radio” voice), and some guy calls in and says “Yeah, Joe … I’m calling from my car phone. … Wow, great to get through to you … I’ve been on hold here for 20 minutes now.” … all I can think is … WHY? I mean, what the hell is that guy’s phone bill gonna look like?
As you know, this column has, even though it’s still in its infancy, drawn a great deal of mail, which (praise God!) seems to be growing each week. And even though I’ve carped about it, you can bet your sweet bippy that if I didn’t get any mail, I’d feel truly rejected (despite my ah … somewhat “harsh” exterior, I’m actually a sensitive kind of guy). So, notwithstanding the time it takes to read … let alone reply to the weekly onslaught, I’ve opted to turn this challenge into an anthropological study, if you will, of the people who write letters to the editor/columnist.
For those of you reading this column for the first time, I’ve previously stated that I get a lot of what one might call “hate” mail. We’ll deal with that in a moment. Frankly, (and I’ve written for just about every publication in existence) writing for WND has evoked some the of the nicest, warmest, not to mention most intelligent commentaries I’ve ever received … which is, well … nice. I’ve even made a few of what I’d consider to be “friends” (as far as I’m concerned, people needn’t be physically close in order for a friendship to exist).
Still and all, the hard, cold fact-of-the-matter is that the bulk of the letters I receive are from the “Goldman Haters.” (That’s not really a fair label, as the missives from angered readers come in varying degrees of, let us say, vehemence. Nonetheless, some of the replies certainly fall into the category of “hate mail” like the one I got recently from some guy who offered to give me a sex-change operation, minus the anesthesia).
Let’s be straight. You’re all smart enough to recognize that, to some degree, I openly cultivate this sort of response. Some years back (before I “matured”), I had a period when I wrote a weekly column for a local paper … wherein I did sort of a Howard Stern (before Stern was ever around) kind of column. Which means, basically, that I simply trashed anything and everything in sight (actually my inspiration for that “persona” was a wonderfully villainous old television talk-show host named Joe Pyne — the true originator of the whole Howard Stern/Morton Downey school of insult-journalism).
During that period, I got tons of hate mail. I’m talking boxes of the stuff. They’re all still sitting out in my garage … I figured it might make a fun book someday. But there was a downside (always is). When I first began getting death threats I found it amusing. Then that radio talk-show host (I think his name was Alan Berg) got murdered by an irate caller. Shortly thereafter I wrote a column in which I stated that the Grateful Dead were, without a doubt, the worst band in all of history. In response to that column, I received a barrage of hate mail, which included several death threats. But there was one piece in particular that … well, it spooked me. I dunno. It just had a “vibe” about it. For the first time in my life, I considered the possibility that one of these whackos might actually decide to try to carry out his mission. The idea began to haunt me. Some nameless hippie out there had promised to put my lights out. And suddenly, it wasn’t funny anymore
Thus, I was forced — during a series of spoken-word engagements — to hire two bodyguards, who stood on either side of the stage while I went through my shtick. Now certainly part of this was for show, but the truth was, I really was pretty nervous. After all, a gun is such an easy thing to carry undetected on your person.
And sure enough, somewhere in the middle of one performance, some jackass (who’d been shouting at me through a megaphone all evening) finally resorted to throwing pieces of fruit (I think I recall that they were pomegranates). After failing to get a rise out of me, the guy tried to jump onstage — at which point he was promptly knocked unconscious by a very nasty left hook from the smaller of my two bodyguards (both of whom were professional fighters). Oh, it was a great moment of theater, but the fact is … it caused me to contemplate a life of being “the most hated man in LA” (which is how I was referred to in an article in Los Angeles magazine).
So, having said that, let’s have a look at the people who write angry letters. Who are these people? Why are they so mad? After all, sticks and stones and all that. …
It’s really not a tremendously difficult question to answer. Look … people want to be stroked. They want to be told what lovely, wonderful human beings they are. They want to be told that with a little “positive thinking” all their hopes and dreams will be realized. Most of all — people want to be “right.”
Thus, when you point out the fact that they are, in actuality, vain, stupid, bullying ignorant, cowardly, narcissistic, humorless, constipated, pompous buffoons — sniveling little sacs of fear and anxiety who will someday expire not only tragically but ridiculously, without so much as a missed beat from the rest of the world … well, they tend to get a bit upset. (I know it’s a drag, but … hey … I didn’t make the rules.)
Angry letters writers tend to write from one (or a combination of) three emotions: jealousy, fear, and insecurity. Inevitably, these are people with a low sense of self-esteem. People who spend their days wondering why they can’t sell their script, why they don’t get to write a column … why nobody cares what they have to say. To these people, the columnist — especially an incredibly bright, supremely talented truth-bearer like myself — presents a real and imminent threat. Because I’m someone who is not only unwilling to bolster their sense of pride and vanity, but also because I happen to enjoy sticking the knife in the wound and twisting it around real good.
The prototypical angry letter writer is extremely thin-skinned. They can be easily wounded — because they identify so strongly with their ideas and beliefs. They ARE their ideas … so when their ideas are attacked, they feel they’re being attacked personally. And bingo! — like magic — comes the “reaction.” (For a good example, see the “http://angelfire.com/oh/grudgereport/loser.html“>Loser Letter” section of my web page. Which brings us to our first category of angry letter writer: People who are shocked, appalled or offended.
You simply can’t imagine how many letters I get which begin thusly: “I can’t tell you how shocked/appalled/offended I was I was at … blah blah blah.” Moreover, this particular breed of letter writer wants to be very sure that you understand just how deeply they’ve been wounded.
Personally, I wonder about people who talk about being deeply offended, or deeply in love … or deeply anything, for that matter. How is this qualitatively different from being “superficially” offended? Wherein does this “depth” actually lie? How many inches into the skin? Unfortunately, this leads to questions far too, er … deep to consider here.
Shocked, appalled and offended people will generally blather on from several sentences to several paragraphs about the pain you’ve inflicted upon them. They’ve been “victimized.” (Don’t these folks ever consider simply not reading the offending material?). Inevitably, though, they’ll get around to getting their licks in. This will come either in the form of a piece of advice (“just ignore Goldman and he’ll go away”), a threat (“if you don’t fire this guy, I’ll never read WND again”), or an insult. Now here is where things could become really interesting. But unfortunately, nine-tenths of the time, when a “victimized” letter writer attempts to insult you, they strike out. I’m not quite sure why — but most of these folks seem to lack the imagination to get in any first-rate licks.
The least interesting attacks attempt to assault my writing skills (“Goldman oughta take a course in Writing 101″), or suggest that I am nothing but a poor imitation of some other writer (“Goldman’s nothing but warmed over Hunter Thompson. …”).
Since the onset of becoming a columnist, I have been referred to as a bigot, a fascist, a neo-Nazi, a yutz, a sicko, a racist, a poseur, a chauvinist, a lowlife pervert, a plagiarist, a cockroach, a pantywaist, a glib windbag, a sexist pervert, a yellow journalist (I prefer to think of it as a “urine journalist”), a dingleberry, an ignatz, a schmendrick, a negative-minded paranoid (what, pray tell, is a positive-minded paranoid?), a fundamentalist swine, a whore of Satan … and (get this one) a worthless but insightful piece of bat guano! (Not to mention a whole lot of other things that WND’s editorial policy won’t allow me to print).
Interestingly, many of those who accuse me of bigotry often resort to taking cracks at my Judaism (as if I identified with it). Hence, I have been called a filthy kike, a quasi-sensitive Jewboy, a Jewie, a YidYup, a sheeny, a shonky, a matzoh-head, a Hebe-hack, a kosher butcher, and a piece of Hebrew excrement.
A few of the adjectives used to describe me include depraved, tasteless, sensationalistic, jejune, homophobic, misanthropic, pitiful, arrogant, egotistical, vicious, obscene, uncompassionate, slimey (sic), paranoid, boring, hypocritical, attention-seeking, sensationalistic, contradictory, redundant, self-centered, and … (oh my!) conceited.
Another category of letter writer is the amateur psychologist. These fifth-rate Freuds love to explain my work in terms of repressed Oedipal tendencies, introjections, transferences, et al. The most common analysis is that I am projecting my “negative attitudes” out into the world. (Yawn.) As tiresome as these notions are, this last is interesting, inasmuch as “projection” happens to be the defense mechanism that is most common to the outraged letter writer.
It doesn’t take a great deal of insight to realize that the things which anger people are generally qualities in themselves which they hate (or, more precisely, which they refuse to acknowledge). The degree of vehemence on the part of the letter writer is always proportionate to his lack of willingness to examine the areas of his psyche which cause him pain. Somehow, Jeffrey Dahmer comes to mind (though I don’t think he wrote letters). Dahmer hated homosexuals. Yet he had intercourse with them, ultimately killed them, and then “ate” them (so that he could have some “company”… at least that’s what he told the cops.) Of course, Mr. Dahmer was queer as a three-dollar bill.
Last but not least are the fanatical letter writers. This group comes in varying forms, so let’s take them from the amusing to the potentially dangerous (stalkers, etc.).
I am much less concerned with the fanatic who tells me that I am about to be cast into the Lake Of Fire unless I repent, or even people who send death threats, than I am of the “closet fanatic.” This particular breed of whacko comes in a variety of forms. They range from the person who wants to impart some great universal truth, to people who feel that we are “destined” to meet one another. Almost to a man, these sicko’s letters evolve into a lecture on some idiotic cause or ideology which they believe contains the answers to the mystery of life. People who are fanatical about ideologies, or who “demand” that you respond to them are potentially the most dangerous breed. One more telling sign: typically, the longer the letter, the more fanatical (hence potentially dangerous) the letter writer is.
Whenever I receive letters from someone I sense may fall into this category, I find that the best tactic is simply to ignore them. Eventually, they get tired of jousting at windmills, and go off in search of new prey. If they refuse to lay off, I sic my big, badass lawyer on them.
But let’s close on an “up” note, shall we? I regularly get letters from one individual who consistently corrects my grammar. To this particular fellow, I truly say “thank you.” I have another couple who tell me they are constantly praying for me. To these good people, I am also grateful (I need all the prayers I can get!). And I am truly humbled whenever I get a letter from someone who says I’ve made them think, or that something I’ve said has moved them.
Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the spot closest to my heart is held by those good people who want to step up to the plate and take their best shots at me. For without these courageous Americans, I’d never have been able to keep the fires burning. Without them, I’d never have been driven to write written such glorious, inspired prose these past months.
So my friends, despite the many cruel iniquities you’ve inflicted upon me, I bear you no ill will. As for that particular group of cowards and tattle-tales who refuse to confront me directly, but opt instead to write my editor (essentially these are not-very-well couched “threat” letters) telling him that he’d better fire me immediately — or else … for you good folks, I tell you truly that there is no malice in my heart. I love you one and all! For after all, are we not all brethren under the skin? Even the Jew-haters, the Christian baiters, the hate-mongers … those who do their level best to slur, slander and libel me with their teeny-weenie little poison pens … I have nothing but an ever-present, shimmering love in my heart.
In closing, I’d simply like to say this: to all of you Goldman haters, I’d like to thank you from the very bottom of my heart. Thank you for sharing! Thank you for being you! Thank you, dear people … and may God’s great mercy shine down upon your souls and keep you safe and well during all your earthly days.
Oh … one more little thing:
YOU CAN ALL BEND OVER AND KISS MY TALENTED YIDDISH TUCHUS, YOU WITLESS, HALF-BRIGHT BUNCH OF FIFTH-RATE IGNORAMUSES!!
Ah, sorry — I haven’t quite gotten the hang of that forgiveness bit just yet.
POISON PEN SECRETS REVEALED! I’d like to take a moment here to openly and blatantly pitch my wares. Those of you who are truly serious about wanting to step into the ring with me … or who simply want to improve their skills at debate, argument, rhetoric, I am offering a one-time-only, special discount on my book: “Poison Penmanship: The Art Of Verbal Self-Defense.” The book will not only teach you techniques that it took me years to master, it’s chock full of samples of some of my “nastiest” writing — including hatchet jobs on various and sundry celebrities, personal letters (one of my favorites is the one I sent to a neighbor with a foul, little barking dog that kept me up nightly — a copy of which went to the animal regulation center — the poor beast was hauled away several days later). The book features one particular letter that had the recipient in such a state of angst, that I wound up with the FBI at my front doorstep! “Poison Penmanship” also includes chapters on the value (or lack thereof) of swear words, a list of my favorite “poisonous” words — words you can use right now to spice up your very own hate letters — as well as a chapter on how to trash, degrade and embarrass people while avoiding any possibility of a libel or slander suit. Yes folks, for the lowly price of $12.95 (plus $3.50 postage and handling), you can now have a copy of this rare treasure for your very own. If you’re wondering why the price is so cheap, it ain’t because I’m a nice guy. The reason is that “Poison Penmanship” was originally part two of a much larger tome entitled “With Malice For All” (a collection of some of my most noxious columns). Alas, the original publishing company went out of business, and since I was too cheap to buy back the remaindered copies from the publisher, what I’ll be sending you is a homemade version (straight from the old computer and printed on dazzling 8 1/2 by 11 20-lb. paper, three-hole punched and stuck together between two hideous bright red heavy card-stock covers (in the style of a film script). What I’m saying is, it ain’t a real book! (However, if you carry it around with you when you go to Starbuck’s, you’ll fit right in with all the other people talking about their forthcoming film deals.) Seriously though folks, one thing I guarantee is that if you absorb the material in this small-but-mighty tome you will — I promise — be able to KO (or at the very least inflict serious damage) on the next wisenheimer who kicks verbal sand in your face. Thus, you will instantly become more popular, get rid of unsightly blemishes, and have a bevy of luscious, long-legged beauties chasing after you! (Women love being insulted.) So hurry! Simply send your checks and/or money orders (made out to Harsh Reality Productions) to “Poison Pen,” P.O. Box 8268, Calabasas, CA, 91372 and I’ll rush your freshly stapled copy of this highly toxic little document out to you … pronto!
THE TONGUE IS COMING! Yes gang, my new web site (which will NOT be a ripoff of the DrudgeReport) is nearing completion, ready to be launched into the vast wasteland of cyberspace. The Tongue (as in “life and death are in the power of the tongue”) is truly the first digital muckraking journal — harkening back to the no-holds-barred style of H.L. Menckenesque criticism of the late ’30s and ’40s. Nobody, no celebrity, no politician, no cow — no matter how sacred — will be spared the wrath of The Tongue’s staff of vicious, frothing-at the-mouth critics. The paper will feature not only my work, but columns, essays and critiques from some of the funniest, most insightful (not to mention cruelest) curmudgeons on the planet (don’t you hate that phrase?) Sorry, I meant … in the world. In your neighborhood … at theaters and drive-ins everywhere. Whatever! Keep your eyes peeled. …