Thanks to fans and foes


One of the consequences of having

written for publications for 25 years is that I have a 25-year-old pile of hate

mail dating back to my college days at IU, when I was apparently disrespectful

to President Reagan in a column in the Indiana Daily Student.

Along with other forms of

expression, hate mail has been transformed by the Internet.

It's one thing to talk smack in an email or forum message. It's quite another

to take pen to paper, write a letter about how much I suck, put it in an

envelope, attach postage and send it through the U.S. Postal Service. I admire

the determination shown by such an act.

Hitting "reply" on a news

website and spewing venomous words is one thing, but the overt acts of writing

a letter and mailing it show true dedication to the task of expressing

displeasure at me. I've always been honored and humbled by it.

While I, myself, have grown older

and grayer, my hate mail stays the same as it was in the 1990s. It never

changes: I suck as a writer and as a human being and my opinions are stupid.

Reviewing a stack of several dozen pieces of hate mail sent to me in the 1990s

the other day brought back some memories. This letter I got in response to my

first website in 1994 is still one of my favorites:

"Think of me as a person who

wandered by the "snake boy" freak show just to creep myself out. It

worked. I sincerely hope that I don't wind up like you, the ignorant king of a

steaming compost pile of tired prose. Your works in progress or any random

article from your give-away rag have cultural value roughly equivalent to a wedgie. NUVO and your contributions therein have impressed

me with a new record — most consistent parallels drawn between mildly

annoying people/events and Nazis/the holocaust. While you must be quite proud

of your clever style, your broken record experiences-of-the- week

have yet to register on any scale of significance."

For weeks afterward I prided myself

for being "the ignorant king of a steaming compost pile of tired

prose." I like the term and I'm still proud of it. It's MY steaming

compost pile and I am the king of it.

There's also the direct approach, as

seen by this 1996 email:

"I stumbled across your page

and read a bunch of your columns.

"You're just a terrible writer.

Obviously, you have the freedom to embarrass yourself, and you seem to enjoy

doing so on a weekly basis.

"Please stop, for your own

sake; it's awful. There must be something you can to better than this. It would

be hard to do any worse."

Personal attacks work as well when

nothing else does, as this one did in 1998:

"This is the single stupidest

web page I have ever seen. You need to spend a little more time on maybe

finding women that you can see without kneeling or have to look through prison

bars to see. What you really need to work on is your prose style. Work on that

and spend a little less time on your inane, cutesy topics. I really can't work

up enough venom to really let loose on you, since you are really so


"Fuck you, Hammer, find another

hobby aside from writing your lame columns and even worse HTML. Stay off the

net and leave it to someone with something to say."

How quaint it

seems to urge someone to stay off the Internet; what a '90s thing to do.

Here's another '90s classic hate

mail sent to me, with a bonus non sequitur at the end:

"You pompous, corduroy-wearing,

middle-income-earning, time-wasting turd! Who do you

think you are? You are showing to everyone that, YES, you are a simple moron. É

I could sell my wristwatch and most probably buy your house with the proceeds

— and I drink Blue Ribbon beer."

Short but sweet also works, as in

this email from August, 1997: "alot of what your saying is true but you have a lot of hate in you too

try to get over it and live happy." I wish I'd heeded that person's advice

more throughout my life.

The problem one has as a recipient

of hate mail regularly for 20 years is that you never quite know when they're

right. Valid, verbose criticism of a column is one thing but how does one

respond to an email that says you suck?

The same way I always do, I suppose.

I thank them for expressing their views and for reading my words. I was

thankful for my detractors then and I'm thankful for them now because they give

me energy to continue to maintain my steaming compost pile of tired prose.

Thanks for reading.


Recommended for you