I like to say that I’m my own harshest critic. But that is not true.
That distinction might go to “Ted,” who recently emailed to say: “The dumbest decision was your whore mother giving you life you son of a thousand fathers. She should have aborted your weak d––– self!”
Or to “Michael,” who wrote to say “I pray every day now that the worst could happen to you” and “if only Hitler were alive you would be dead.”
When I started out in journalism, I made it a point to reply to each letter I received. In the era of social media, comment sections and email campaigns, that’s not possible. Sometimes I wade into the comments and, if my blood pressure doesn’t spike, respond to a few. Mostly, I’m just glad to see that people are commenting: Positive or negative, a vigorous response is (generally) a good sign.
Hate mail generally come in five categories:
Ad hominem: Reader does not like my work because I am Jewish, or ugly, or gay (I am the first, plead no contest to the second and am not the third but would not regard that as pejorative).
Ideological: Reader probably did not read anything but the headline but does not like anything I write because I am a “libtard,” godless or engage in sexual acts with Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros and the like.
Disingenuous: Reader begins by saying “I’m not a Trump supporter but …” and then makes a criticism that indicates the reader is very much a Trump supporter.
Stylistic: Reader says I am not as funny, as smart or as insightful as others. In fact, these readers write, they cannot understand how an august publication such as The Post would employ me. These are the most painful critiques because they often have the virtue of being true.
Parody-missing: Some readers worry that my (attempts at) satire don’t work because Trump supporters will actually believe it as real. I suspect that those who believe such things are already lost anyway, but it’s true that satire is tricky business in the age of Trump. It’s difficult to parody a parody. Hence my mixture of approaches: sometimes satirical, sometimes with a cocked eyebrow and sometimes in dead earnest.
My video colleagues who produced the embedded “Hate Mail” video were a bit gentle with me on this one. (They edited out the Hitler bit.) But there is enough variety and malice in here that, hopefully, many of my critics will be placated — nay, satisfied. It’s an experience all journalists should have to undergo — though not too often. After taping, I had to drink an entire fifth of rye to regain my self-esteem. Enjoy!