Bloggers are pretty much at the mercy of threatening and demeaning comments from readers.  But I recently hit on a new strategy for responding to personal attacks.

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, February 4, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Die, Peele, Die!

I sometimes don't feel the love in comments on my blogs. But, recently, when I published an article in the Wall Street Journal about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which state that there is good evidence that moderate drinking prolongs life and also evidence that it curtail dementia, several readers found my personal e-mail address at which to write me. (Note: I made no factual assertions aside from the government's findings about the state of the data in the field - haters, attack the United States, not me.)

Of course, plenty of people wrote into the Journal itself to say that the "study" authors were bought and sold by the alcohol industry (the Guidelines are issued by the Department of Agriculture and the alcohol section was headed by Eric Rimm, of the Harvard Health Professionals Study); that the findings represent only survivors and so are self-fulfilling (the scores - hundreds - of studies with such findings represent prospective research in which subject populations are traced for years and decades, and there are now national general population studies with the same results); the research doesn't take into account other health behaviors that actually account for the results (any reasonable study controls for diet, weight, smoking, exercise etc. and prior health condition).

But this post isn't about what these data say.  Not content to send their reactions to the Journal, several individuals found my personal e-mail address in order to write me.

Here is what Alex Wilson had to say:

YOU ARE A FUCK WIT!

HOPE YOU DRINK YOURSELF TO DEATH SOON!!!

(emphases in original).

Marginally milder, but still aggressively and personally insulting, was Timothy Jameson 's:

You are a pro alcohol moron!

Do the country a favour- and stop writing articles!

So you can see why these worthies had to send their comments to me, rather than submitting them to the Journal. But the authors were so proud of their efforts that they signed off with their own e-mail addresses.  Taking them up on their invitations, and responding the way my mother taught me to people who threaten me, I wrote each of them back with questions such as:

Do you write many e-mails like this?

Did you show your comment to your family and friends?

Do you have family and friends?

How do you spend your days?

Is there any place I can go to see and comment on your writings?

Plus I sent them both links to my HuffPo article, "Perhaps Charlie Sheen should try a different approach " to show them that I'm not all about pro-alcohol.

But neither wrote back.

So I came up with the idea of introducing them to one another:

Subject: Tim, meet Alex

Tim,

You never got back to me. Don't you want to communicate privately, after sending me a personal e-mail?

You know, one other guy, Alex Wilson, also wrote me back channel, rather than writing directly to the Wall Street Journal.

He too has refused to return my e-mails.

Here is his mail (Alex - you can read Tim's below).

I have to admit, Alex's mail is better than yours - it's all caps and bold, he calls me a FUCK WIT (you only call me a moron) and he says I should die (you only say I should stop writing).

I want you two guys to meet, since you seem to have so much in common. Perhaps you could write some e-mails together (I realize writing these can be a very solitary activity).

I'm going to put this all together into a post at my blogs for Psychology Today and my Web site, with your guys' names and e-mails. Then you can point them out to your families and friends with the pride you have earned.

Best,
Stanton

I'm sending this post to Tim and Alex (they feel like old friends by now). I'll get back to you with their responses. In the meantime, feel free to write them directly.