Mac Musings

Hatemail

Dan Knight - 2002.10.30

Some days you'd just as soon you hadn't read your email. Tuesday was one of them.

When you publish on the Web, you expect feedback, and the people most likely to write are those who disagree with you. Or, in the case of a publisher, sometimes they write because they disagree with someone who writes for your site.

Most writers respectfully disagree, but some are so full of anger, hate, and malice that you wonder what issues the writer is dealing with that so set him off.

These emails sometimes ask me to fire a writer, tell me I shouldn't publish such material on my site, and then threaten to never visit Low End Mac again. It's pretty standard fare, and I usually respond with an explanation that we try to think different, promote dialog, present unique viewpoints, etc.

There's more to life than Macs, so we give our writers the freedom to write on non-Mac topics, encourage dialogue, and never coerce anyone to come back to Low End Mac if they don't want to be exposed to our content.

However, one reader has taken it upon himself to begin a crusade against Low End Mac. Following are four emails we received from Rick Bauer:

Just in case you think I am not seriously offended by the one-sided blasphemies you publish by Chas. W. Moore, I assure you I am.

Religion is personal. If you want to conduct a forum of that nature, then do it.

But do not publish these one-sided, self-important articles and think you're doing the mac community a service.

This is very, very offensive material you are printing.

Stop it.

Rick Bauer

This is pretty inflammatory - seriously offended, blasphemies, one-sided, self-important, offensive material. Using such incendiary terms is not a good way to win people to your viewpoint, or even have them take you seriously. Suggestion: Appeal to reason unless your goal is to create offense.

Our response: Religion may be personal, but it impacts all areas of life. We encourage those who disagree with our writers to discuss the issue with them, not call them names or go behind their back and try to get them fired.

Offense is in the eye of the beholder, and if anyone finds being exposed to ideas they disagree with offensive . . . well, we haven't forced anyone to read anything. In fact, we try to make it very clear when articles are dealing with non-Mac issues such as terrorism, Islam, and snipers (or Microsoft, rights, Web standards, etc.).

Really, Dan,

If you wish to be taken seriously, there is no place for these kind of ramblings.

Mr. Moore's first articled offended me, and I chose to overlook it. The second article is taken as throwing stuff down my throat. Moore's diatribe is very narrow and intolerant. I don't see anything to balance that point of view.

The content offends me as a reader, but more so as a devout Christian and member of the Presbyterian church.

Let me be clear. By publishing Chas. Moore's second article, you offended my faith. I don't

If you want to be a religious kook site that is your business. If you wan't to stir religious discussion, the pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Des Moines is better qualified.

However, your advertisers will know about what you have done. I will spend some time forwarding the two articles to your advertisers, and Apple, along with a note of my dissatisfactions. Don't cry to the readers you have left if Apple can't see past this garbage to give you press credentials.

As an advertising executive, I can assure you that few mainstream advertisers enjoy being associated with religious discussions this extreme.

Rick Bauer

Yes, Mr. Bauer, we do wish to be taken seriously. Terrorism, snipers, and the decline of Western civilization are serious issues. If that weren't the case, we wouldn't deal with them on what is at heart a Macintosh site.

As always, nothing is being thrown down anyone's throat. Mr. Bauer chose to follow the link, which was clearly marked The Beltway Sniper, Moral Anarchy Letters. And then he chose to read the article. If anything went down his throat, it was because he decided to chew and swallow it. There was no coercion on our part.

Bauer claims to be a devout Christian, but he apparently skips the place where Jesus says, "If you call your brother a fool, you are in danger of the fires of Hell." He shows his lack of charity by calling Moore "a religious kook" and implies that he is less than qualified to speak from a Christian perspective.

Then he gets downright vindictive, promising to contact those who advertise on Low End Mac to make sure they see the kind of material we publish - which is exactly the same kind of material we've been publishing for years. Although Low End Mac is not a "Christian" website, several of our writers write from a specifically Christian perspective. (For the record, atheism and other religions inform the writings of other Low End Mac columnists.)

We don't promise a balanced perspective, whether it's on Apple Computer, Mac OS X, Microsoft, or non-computer issues. We recognize that we are all human beings with personal biases. Rather than try to hide that, we affirm it. We advocate; we don't simply report.

And for allowing one of our writers to publish opinions Mr. Bauer vehemently disagrees with, he is attempting to destroy Low End Mac by removing our advertiser support. He's also trying to pull our Apple press credentials - but we have none.

Here's one of the letters he emailed to a business that supports Low End Mac with its ad dollars (thanks for cc'ing it, Rick):

I'm writing this e-mail to inform you that your advertising is appearing on a website that has recently decided to publish articles of a inflammatory religious nature; mixing hate with fringe religious beliefs.

While I support the freedom of the press and religion, I also recognize that your association with these hateful beliefs does affect my perception of your company and the values of those who manage it.

The web-site is as follows: http://www.lowendmac.com/.

If you'll read the articles by Charles W. Moore, you will see that he targets minority beliefs as the cause of recent problems like child pornography, the Washington DC sniper road rage, etc.. These kinds of tirades are dangerous, and are often the catalyst to violence by elements on the fringe.

I hope your company is not among those who use religious hatreds to promote their business.

The support of hate groups, either foreign or domestic is a serious issue all of us must confront. I urge you to spend your advertising dollars more wisely.

Sincerely,

Rick Bauer

I'm sorry that Mr. Bauer views historical Christianity as a fringe religion (most would assume the Presbyterian church is part of that tradition), because most surveys find Christianity the dominant religion among Western nations. The views that Moore and I and many other thinking Christians hold may not be in the politically correct mainstream, but they are not uncommon among those who adhere to traditional Christian teachings.

Instead of seeing a wide ranging discussion of Christianity, Western culture, the Enlightenment, relativism, and moral anarchy from not only Moore's perspective but also that of several correspondents, Bauer sees hate speech and believes it will somehow foment some of the few hundred people who read this article toward violent action.

Puh-lease.

We are pointing out the dangers of ethical relativism and moral anarchy, the very kind of worldview which finds absolutes dangerous and claims those who believe in absolutes are thereby guilty of hate speech. Speaking the truth in an age of relativism is not hate speech, whether we say 1 + 1 = 2 or that the world is a created thing and we are responsible to its creator.

Does the tolerance of political correctness absolutely deny the rights of those who believe in absolutes?

America's founding fathers safeguarded our right to choose our faith - and speak and publish from a faith-informed perspective - when they added the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Our views do not need to be politically correct, at least today, at least in the United States. (Some nations deny free expression of certain viewpoints. Thankfully this is not one of them.)

Dan,

By now you have received e-mail copies of some of the missives I have sent to your advertisers.

This has happened because you have chosen to print inflammatory religious tracts in what I believed to be a site for computer information.

I feel it is necessary to inform your advertisers of this deceitful practice. I also plan to contact the account executives at the advertising agencies of your larger clients. I do this as a service to them; as an advertising executive we work hard to steer our advertising away from "rogue" sites which claim one purpose while practicing a different agenda.

I will also notify Apple Computers of your "outside-the-mainstream" editorial choices. I'm sure the people at Apple do not want to associate themselves with the kind of outlandish diatribes you are choosing to publish.

The railing against "liberals" by your writer is extremely offensive. I'm not going to argue the qualifications and "weasel words" your writer used - either with you or him - the language is typical of what the religious right uses to demonize individuals who are less conservative either in their faith or their political choices.

Tracts of this type have fueled abortion snipers, lynch mobs, Timothy McVeigh, and other "liberal haters".

As a publisher, and as an adult, you knew full well that the publication of religious tracts can be incendiary. To publish an article that exploits a horrible tragedy for religious and political gain is inexcusable.

My friend, the former Senator Paul Wellstone, is not cold in his grave, and you publish articles attacking liberalism?

You should be ashamed.

Rick Bauer
Des Moines, Iowa

This is Bauer's final nail in the coffin, as it were. He accuses of deceiving advertisers, but doesn't specify how. Is it deceit when we write about culture, but not when we write about Mac OS X? Is it deceit when be bemoan the terrorism of 9-11, but not when we advocate upgrading your beige G3? Is it deceit when we write about Microsoft instead of Apple? Where do we have to draw the line to keep reactionaries like Rick Bauer happy?

We draw no such line, nor do we hide the fact that we discuss election reform, daylight saving time, racism, and terrorists. We allow our writers to defend their position in print in response to reader feedback, exactly as I am doing in this instance. We do not insist that our writers only advocate popular positions, only that they advocate sincerely held ones.

I find it interesting that Bauer seems more concerned with the well-being of ad agencies than of the Mac community. Then again, that is the area where he chooses to live every day, so his priorities are not that surprising.

The broad brushstrokes people like Bauer use to paint all who disagree with them would be amusing if they weren't so typical. Abortion snipers? Lynch mobs? Talk about using "weasel words" - Bauer evidently believes that he's entitled to do exactly what he accuses Moore of doing.

What goes around comes around. Or, in the words of Jesus, "You will be judged by the same standard you use to judge others." Then again, the teachings of Jesus (turn the other cheek, forgive your enemy, love your neighbor) don't seem to be informing his actions.

This is the kind of response I'd expect from someone who preaches choice while acting to undermine free speech for those who hold different views. True liberalism doesn't take away our rights; today's politically correct neo-liberalism desires nothing less than restricting freedom of thought to those who hold the right views. That is the brave new world the thought police wish to create.

My understanding is that Senator Wellstone was a champion of the rights we uphold and Bauer attacks, but I can't see what his recent death has to do with this discussion. A diversionary tactic to win sympathy? It certainly speaks to the weakness of Bauer's position.

It's a shame when someone can't respectfully disagree while allowing the other party to carry on. Instead, Bauer seems intent on the destruction of Low End Mac by removing our ad income. Thus we come face-to-face with intolerance from someone who probably thinks he is a very tolerant individual.

If you can't defend the rights of those who disagree with you, just how tolerant are you?

Following is a much better way of expressing disagreement:

I don't know how much you hear from other people on this, and I'm sure there are some who have notified you otherwise. However, I, for one, would like join my voice with those who support the idea that Low End Mac should be about macs, not about moral absolutism, or moral relativism, or anything else political, moral, or philosophical, except as it may bear on macs.

Just because you can publish a piece about a mac-divergent topic doesn't mean you should. If I want politics, I'll go to a political site. If I want philosophy, I'll go to a philosophy site. If I want morality or religion, I'll go to church. I, for one, come here because I want macs, and only macs. I urge and encourage you to keep the content mac-specific.

Matt Zehe

Moore and I have been talking about such a project for several months, and in the future we intend to publish this kind of material on another site. However, that's still in the planning stages, and the sniper is news now.

We will continue to link to religious and political commentary from Low End Mac, because we believe that there are important issues that aren't Mac related but should be of concern to Mac users.

We won't keep the site Mac only, but we will publish new articles about religion and politics elsewhere.

And thanks, Matt, for a thoughtful email.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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