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What We Learned from Yesterday

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What We Learned from Yesterday

So I wrote a blog post yesterday, breaking down some creepy hate mail I received, and it quickly vaulted to the top of my most popular pieces, with almost 500 readers in one day.  Since I am in the business of shilling myself, I will attempt to break down what made "Hate Mail" such a hit.

  • A List.  People like the lists.  Text presented in easily digested chunks makes everyone feel comfortable.  Most of us (even those who claim otherwise) sorta hate to read.  We might really get into it once we really get into it, but approaching reading harkens back to when we were in grade school and mean Mrs. Tosco loomed over us and our spellers (in the little farmhouse high on the knoll above the prairie), thwapping us with a ruler if we didn't recite our vocab lessons fast enough.

  • Snarky/Being Mean.  This one is tricky.  I was bitten by this one earlier (see Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens).  I guess this one goes back to Jesus and "righteous anger."  You remember, that part in the Bible... Oh, well, never-mind.  Let's talk politics instead.  Basically, you can be mean to people who deserve it.  Magazines with goofy names who reject your work = undeserving.  Creepy stalker types who send hate mail to 85-year-old grandmas = very deserving.  

         Fucking '80s.  No wonder I grew up so fucked up.

  • Nothing Beats a Well-Place "Fuck."  Without a doubt, the most powerful word in the English language.  What makes it special is its versatility.  What other word can transition so effortlessly from noun to verb to adjective and gerund? (see "Fuck you, you fucking fuck.") More importantly, "fuck" is a surprise, even when it isn't.  There is something so harsh about hearing it, no matter how desensitized we think we are, yet it still comes with a certain... giddiness?  Maybe it echoes Mrs. Tosco, only here we are the "cool kids" in the back of the bus with the torn jean jackets, feeling pretty good about being bad.  

  • Good Writing Trumps Bad Writing.  Kinda obvious, I know.  But when you have you have two people insulting one another, the better writer, with the more logically grounded argument, is going to win. Misspellings, poor grammar, etc., implies (exposes?) an underlying character flaw.  Or at least it comes across that way, fair or not. Authoritative writing is convincing.  Dangling your participle (especially in public, where kids might be around) is not.

  • Nobody Likes a Stalker.  Cutting out letters and pasting them on scraps of paper makes you a weirdo.  Sending said letter to old ladies makes you a creep.  Really, there is nothing you can say in that instance that is going to engender feelings of warmth and acceptance.  No one is opening that envelope and saying, "Sure is an interesting presentation, but he makes some really good points."  You don't picture handsome men with strong jawlines who smell nice holding a quill.  You think of dudes with mullets and bad skin who smell like Cheetos and keep a collection of dead cats dressed up like dolls in jars of formaldehyde in their basement.  And nobody likes to think of that.


At April 19, 2011 at 9:00 AM , Blogger JCase said...

Should we tape said letters instead of pasting them? I'm not sure of the correct protocol.

At April 19, 2011 at 11:25 AM , Blogger tom said...

Uh, I think the word HATE in the title can't be underestimated. In order for you to get a hit, it's the title that must lure them. Beyond that, I'm guessing it's the curious empathy, and the communal joy we felt when it came time for someone to say something negative. Why do you think Mr. Blackwell's column is so widely read. Finding out that he was an illiterate psycho, well that's just icing, baby.


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