Some days here are harder/more hilarious than others, reminding me of the old writer’s maxim, “I’m responsible only for what I write, not what you read.”
Whether it’s not getting a joke or not getting a letter in because of that evil, evil fact-checking we do at the paper, there’s an awful lot of misunderstanding going on. Hence, another installment of the things I shouldn’t say.
Disgruntled Reader, I’m so happy you were able to get your hometown paper to run your letter complaining about me—such an honor! I’m thinking of pinning it to the newsroom bulletin board for all to see. And of course there’s no difference at all between a statewide daily and a twice-a-week local paper … oh, wait, there’s a lot of difference, just as there is between a statewide daily and a national daily. It’s like comparing apples, orangutans and a dog named Boo.
I’m thrilled beyond belief that I’ve been outed as an ultra-liberal—apparently because of that fact-checking thing—which will come as a big surprise to a lot of people, as will your narrative without the context of reality (I’m big on that sort of stuff, remember), and absent the facts of the situation.
I cannot help that the sequence of events in one letter you sent was turned around (unless you’re Superman, Doctor Who—preferably the David Tennant version, Marty McFly and/or have a time machine, you can’t re-order events). I also can’t help that you couldn’t or wouldn’t produce documentation when asked after we were unable to track down what you made reference to in another letter.
I might have mentioned this, but because we’re a statewide daily and receive so much mail, we can neither print every letter nor spend hours researching every statement that needs to be fact-checked and running every edit by letter-writers. That’s one of the reasons that letters that are pure opinion or easily checked statements of fact tend to be fast-tracked. If we can’t find something, we’ll ask you about it if we want to run the letter—if we don’t want to use it, we won’t call at all. Whether I agree with a letter (which I quite often don’t) is not a factor, nor should it be.
Sometimes a sly reader like you will try to pull a fast one by sending something in that’s the opposite of what he usually writes, either as a joke or to try to provide a “gotcha,” never realizing that it was our not having to fact-check something so well-established that got it printed quickly … or that I knew what was going on. Once upon a time I would have held those letters to save you from yourself and us from bad satire, but if you guys insist on writing them, I’ll run them when I can. I can always use a laugh.
Just don’t blame me when your friends drub you for such a drastic switch in your politics, ya darned ultra-liberal.
Oh, and by the way, that letter to your hometown paper could be considered libelous. Just something someone who says he used to write columns should know, I’d think …
Thank you very much for your kind words, Dear Reader, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to use your latest letter/campaign press release.
When we get something that puts Tom Cotton’s or Mark Pryor’s voice in my head because it came straight from a campaign ad, we tend to do what Nancy Reagan told us: We just say no. Not just because it’s parroting a political ad, but also because the other voices in my head just want those guys—and all the other politicians—to shut up unless they’re not running each other down.
And then there’s that thing about the passing resemblance of political commercials to the truth. There’s a reason a lot of those claims have been determined to be pants-on-fire lies, and it’s not because those fact-checkers are ultra-liberals/neo-cons with a bone to pick with good, honest cherry-picking politicians.
Thanks for writing, though, and please try again! In the meantime, perhaps check out this fake ad from the Whitest Kids U Know for pretty much every heinous political personality trait to watch out for.
Explain, please, Anonymous: Cow 1 is not cow 2.
Huh? Did I really just read that?
Thank you, Mr. Right, for your query about why some letter-writers appear more often. No one gets every letter published, but those who are published more often tend to have some things in common, such as fact-checking and re-reading before they even mail a letter. Even more, they tend to be polite and accommodating if we have questions, understand that everyone is edited, and see having a letter published as a privilege rather than a right.
A little sweetness goes a long way. Vinegar only makes us sour and cranky.
My dear Mr. Absolute, thank you so much for your lengthy letter proclaiming, essentially, that the Bill of Rights is absolute and those individual rights cannot be infringed for any reason whatsoever.
It’s nice to know that you don’t believe everything you’re told, such as the word limit for letters, or the opinions of multitudes of constitutional scholars who have determined that some limits on the Bill of Rights are necessary and perfectly reasonable. Libel and slander, for example, limit freedom of the press and speech; you can’t say absolutely anything you want anytime you want (in public, anyway), especially if it happens to be false (this is a litigious society, ya know).
As Michael Tomasky argues:
Imagine what conservatives would think of a group of liberals who insisted, while threatening an insurrection, on a pure and absolute interpretation of the Fourth or Sixth Amendment—and imagine how ridiculous they would look to average Americans. Hunters, sportsmen, collectors, and even defenders of their homes (misguided as they may be, according to the statistics) certainly do have rights to keep and bear arms that are reasonable and should not be trampled. But the idea that any right is unrestricted is totally at odds with history, the law, and reality. And the idea that a group of Americans possesses an absolute “right” to own and keep weapons that can—and in practice do—kill numerous innocent people in seconds, destroying families and communities and tearing at the nation’s collective soul, is barbaric and psychotic. As the old saying goes: if you want to shoot an assault weapon, go enlist.
So, no, I have to assert my right to save you from yourself. Plus, I just can’t let you state something as a fact when it’s not. Yeah, I’m mean.
Gosh, thanks, He-Who-Changes-His-Screen-Name-A-Lot, for the “compliments” and constant references to me on the newspaper’s website. I’m not sure how you find the time, what with having to make up new identities all the time. So how many times have you been banned so far?
Perhaps if you were willing to sign your real name to a letter in the print edition … ah, who am I kidding? That won’t happen.
It’s much easier to make fun of people when they don’t know who you are.
And standing behind something you wrote and citing/actually using trusted sources? That’s soooo 20th Century.
The lesson here is that nothing is cut and dried: Few issues are black and white, not everyone has an agenda, and not everyone gets the joke, either mine or those of letter-writers.
Take letters with a grain of salt and don’t take everything so seriously. If a letter makes you spout, “What the—” perhaps you should read it again before firing off an angry missive; it might not have said what you thought it did. If it did, that extra time to think will result in a more effective letter. I often counsel readers to sleep on it before they say something they might regret.
In a world torn by war and hatred, life is just too short to be so consumed with petty politics that you lose all perspective. People dying at the hands of terrorists is a tragedy; not getting a letter in, not so much.