David Sirota

David Sirota
Denver, Colorado,
November 02
David Sirota is a political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He is a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future , the founder of the Progressive States Network and a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. He also blogs for Credo Action. and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. His two books, Hostile Takeover (2006) and The Uprising (2008) were both New York Times bestsellers. In the years before becoming a full-time writer, Sirota worked as the press secretary for Vermont Independent Congressman Bernard Sanders, the chief spokesman for Democrats on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, the Director of Strategic Communications for the Center for American Progress, a campaign consultant for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and a media strategist for Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont. He also previously contributed writing to the website of the California Democratic Party. For more on Sirota, see these profiles of him in Newsweek or the Rocky Mountain News. Feel free to email him at lists [at] davidsirota.com

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SEPTEMBER 3, 2009 6:06PM

On Being Hated In a Nation of Assholes

Rate: 79 Flag
Had the distinct displeasure of seeing your drivel printed in my local paper recently. Although I recognize that all liberals are drooling buffoons, I must say you are one of the more bone-stupid liberals I've ever run across. How is it, I often wonder, that all liberals are so incredibly stupid? Is it in your DNA? Or do you just absorb all this stupidity naturally, while attending government run indoctrination centers (public schools).

In any case, I hope that with newspapers going broke all over, in record time, that you soon find yourself living in a cardboard box under the nearest overpass.


That is one of the scores of typical hate letters I receive after one of my newspaper columns is published. In a normal week, I get about 40 such letters (plus a good deal of positive ones), and on top of that, the comments section of my columns - where posted online - are filled with stuff that's very similar. And, of course, there are the hateful - and very personal - comments left by people on some of my blog posts (although, not much here).*

All of it is, inevitably, anonymous - people will say stuff in letters and as anonymous commenters that they never would say in person, much less on a telephone. Some of it is from ideological opponents who hate progressives in general, other batches are from the self-loathers - those who say they are progressives, but angrily lash out at any progressives who are higher profile or more active than them because that somehow makes them feel small. And believe me - I have all kinds, many of them stalker-style in their volume/intensity of email/comments. It's kinda crazy, actually.

I'm a sensitive guy, so all the vitriol does not easily roll off my back - it has a kind of cumulative effect, which gets to be kind of depressing (which I'm sure makes the haters happy). You end up finding yourself hating right back - and then, I fear, after years of absorbing it all, you wake up one day and look at yourself in the mirror and see some awful person like Joe Klein staring back at you.

I go back and forth on how to avoid this future - and how to preserve some semblance of humanity in myself. Some days, I try to respond to the anger, but that only makes things worse, as the hate gets more intense. Other days, I think hard about how to extricate myself from blogging, writing and the media world in general and find a new career. Most days, though, it's just in the middle - I absorb it as an occupational hazard, remembering that you tend to hear more from (and, sadly, listen more to) your opponents than your friends/allies.

I write this not to complain, nor to Broder-ish case for "comity" and "bipartisanship," but to simply point out that I think there is some truth to the idea that the political discourse in this country has gotten toxically coarse to the point where we're not having any kind of discussion about substance at all.

Most often, the haters have succeeded in turning political discourse into a war of attrition against their personal demons -a war won by those who can go nuclear the fastest.

That's clearly been the story of the summer on health care - and it continues to be the story on most major issues. I mean, conservatives are quite literally calling the president's plan to promote the value of education to the nation's schoolchildren a secret socialist plot. All of it has convinced me we are living through one of the darkest periods in the last 50 years - one in which intense hatred has now become an accepted - even celebrated - part of our democracy.

For me personally, if I had to predict, I'd guess that this escalation will ultimately get me out of the writing/blogging/activism game at some point in the future. Ultimately, enough gray hair, chest pain, and hurt feelings just gets tiresome - and dangerous to one's health. But my personal decisions are not really important to anyone other than me and my family. What's significant in the broader sense, I think, is the overall trend and what it means for our country.

I'll put it bluntly: We are becoming a nation of haters - a nation, really, of assholes, or at least dominated by assholes. And sure, maybe we've always been that way - but what's different is that it's become almost impossible to pretend otherwise. There's no more delusions, no more fantasies. Despising one another and ignoring the substance of issues has become the defining mark of Americanness in the 21st century - and that's a tragedy.

* Just to be clear, when I refer to "hate," I'm not referring to disagreements on principle/substance. We have a lot of those here at OpenLeft - and those are healthy and constructive and important. When I refer to "hate," I'm referring to the kind of impulses epitomized in that one rather typical piece of hate mail. Hate is easy to spot - it's like obscenity: you know it when you see it.

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Absolutely spot on.

I had to tune out of TV Network News during the Bush/Gore election cycle for my own sanity and I can't even watch The Daily Show without getting depressed.

The lowest common denominator is victorious.

I find myself wondering some days whether Rome in its dying days had its own versions of Limbaugh and Coulter, merrily dragging the empire down into the cesspool.
good post & I sympathize with what you're talking about. It seems to be only exacerbated by the fact that we no longer "converse" with eachother, we "comment" and thus we don't so much ask others to elucidate their opinions as we leap on the opportunity to to pondificate about our own....(hmm...am I doing this now?)


I hope you don't quit though. Among other things, it would only give the haters the satisfaction of having taken somebody down.
Just wanted to say that I love your column and your take on the bailout was the most sensible I have read. Yes, the hate is growing to unimagineable proportions and it scares me. I cannot imagine how I would handle it if the hate were directed specifically toward me as it is to you. It is so difficult not to hate, even members of our own families, and then to see these people fanning the flames trying so hard to incite violence and hatred that it is just so disheartening. Wow. I wanted to encourage you. I love your column and your blog; sorry for what you/we are all going through. I shall try to be the bigger person.
Baseless comments on someone you don't know are really just a commentary on yourself. The truth is like a mirror and when presented, people will speak to what they see. They only pretend to be talking about the presenter of truth, using him as a vehicle to provide cover for their own self-expression.

One day, this madness will be revealed for what it is and the time of illusion will be gone forever.
I see it but I don't understand it.

"We are becoming a nation of haters - a nation, really, of assholes, or at least dominated by assholes."

I will agree with the "dominated by assholes part" of this statement. I grew up in the sixties and I've seen a lot, but I don't think I've seen anything like this. I don't hate the other side and I don't believe you do either. I also don't believe most on the other side are hateful, but the haters scream the loudest and the meek do nothing to silence them. We have been dominated by bullies that understand nothing but bullying. I can scream louder than you can, so I must be right. Utter Bullshit is what I call it.
my question is whether writers on the "right" receive as much hate mail from "liberals" or are we nice?
I wrote a much less erudite and slightly more personal post on this topic a few days ago, after a rash of negative comments had gotten me down:


I'm not sure the States has a monopoly on, or even a majority of, the haters. I guest posted on a British education blog this summer, and although my posts received only occasional nasty responses, other posts were slathered with vitriol like blood thrown at fur coats. People feel entitled to be assholes on blogs, as though the people they're castigating are not people at all. (At the same time, I suspect that, even though the protection of anonymity may spur them on, a lot of these people are also assholes to the living, breathing people around them, at least those they're close to. Blogs also give a false sense of intimacy.)

And this problem is certainly not confined to conservatives. I wrote a post on Change.org a few weeks ago and was set upon by a pack of progressives who were outraged by the suggestion that students should turn their cell phones off in the classroom. It got really nasty. These people certainly think of themselves as liberals; in fact, one of them dogged me to explain what a troglodyte like me could possibly have seen in Obama, even after it was explained to him a couple of times that Change.org is not Change.com, and has no affiliation with Obama. (And that I am Canadian.)

Like you, I wonder if this will eventually lead me to stop blogging/writing online altogether. The difference between getting a bad review for a book you've just published and getting a rash of hateful comments on a blog is remarkable - the latter hits much closer to home, and it makes you really, really stressed; you watch the stats counter rise with ever greater anxiety. A bad review is a one-shot deal; a slew of nasty comments makes you feel like you're caught in the middle of a screaming mob and you can't escape.

I think this is now a reality for writers, and the more you are read, the more hatred you will receive. One of my favorite bloggers is Yarn Harlot, a Toronto woman who keeps a popular blog about knitting. Every year she writes a post on Canada Day about how much she loves Canada (she's Canadian). A few weeks ago she wrote a long, heart-wrenching post about she now has a reader writing her threatening emails and stalking her online, shrieking that she is anti-American. This is on a KNITTING BLOG.

Forgive me the extremely long comment. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately.
Scary as hell. Keep fighting the good fight.
very eloquently said, which, unfortunately will be lost on the ears of the more debased population who spews such vitriol. It's easy, after all, to string together a bunch of statements that kind of sound like one of those great Far Side cartoons: "blah blah blah FIDO blah blah blah;" but it's much harder to discuss and engage with conviction and intelligence

please keep doing what you do; we need more smart discourse in this country. Maybe plug Pepto Bismol or Rolaids in one of your next pieces and get yourself a lifetime supply :)
I feel you.
I am so sorry people seem to have lost the art of civil discourse. And yeah--worse--become such.... as*&()^%s
(I took a vow of Non-Violence, so I'm not using any profanity at all).
On my Facebook wall, when I posted the article reporting that President Obama would be giving a speech geared to children... OMG! the "haters" came out in full force.
Please know we care what you have to say. I consider myself a proud Progressive(left of plain ol' Liberal), but I'm moderate on many issues(for example, I support the Second Amendment), and enjoy real discussion.
If you quit, the "haters" win.
I have wondered about this- when reading columns on Salon and other places and seeing how much negativity can be spewed- I wondered if it all just rolls off the author's back or if they ignored the comments? I can absolutely see how it would affect your outlook and even health. It's disheartening. The hate affects me and it's not even directed at me. It makes me not want to engage in political debate. It's ugly out there. I wonder what can be done to bring civility back? I had hoped this administration was a step in that direction.
Hate letters are a validation. Validation you're being read, that you're effective enough to energize those who stand against you, that you struck a chord.

And yes, I concur with your overarching point: we are losing our respect for others in what is becoming a society of echo chambers and alienation.
Thank you for fighting the good fight. Too many of us don't have the stomach for it.
I use to go to political and social rallies but just cannot take the emotional stress. I once had pro life mother of several kids say to me that she wished my mother had obtained an abortion for me. This was because I did not share her views. It also seems that most of the deadly violence comes from conservatives towards liberals. Anyway, we are a nation full of mean spirited people and we pay for it on a daily bases.
you are apparently making a living by reporting blemishes on the face of american society. since you only see, or report, the sins of the 'right', it is little wonder that you inspire rage.

if you were more even-handed, or just had something useful to say about fixing america's problems, perhaps you would get less flak. in any event, get on with making your living, you're not totally useless.
Many years ago, before there were computers, I wrote a letter to the editor about something, I forget what, and got a hate letter in the mail. What struck me about it was that it was done in nice, controlled handwriting, quite attractive calligraphy actually. I would have expected the sentiments to be expressed in a wildly chaotic hand, ink blots, whatever. Anyway, now hate mail comes neatly typed in a standard typeface - it's kinda eerie in the same way. (Tho there are the occasional ALL CAPS illiterate screamers who do their best to produce ink splotches.)

There is a simmering magma of hate and insanity bubbling just below the surface of humankind. And it erupts in people with psychic weak spots, especially when anonymity and the privacy of your basement hideaway are involved (tho town halls and Fox News brings some of it out into the open). I know I have many hate-mail drafts blurbing and bubbling away, but I am sane (inhibited?) enough to keep from erupting.

Praise, appreciation, general niceness - they don't, unfortunately, have the same urgency to get out.
Please hang in there! We are desperate for civil discourse in this country - we need more of it, not the less we would have if you quit writing. Keep up the good work.
Amen. (rated)

It seems that screaming the loudest without substance is winning out. I love emotion in pieces, in fact, I find it missing in a lot of political pieces that have substance. And those that have emotion, have hate, and no substance (and are usually coming from the right).

I've found, the hate is the cover for fear. Kudos for the good fight!

I'm a newbie hear, would be honored by your thoughts on my latest piece - You, Mr. Smith, Lincoln. Ciao!
David, I once dated an intern psychologist who was earning her hours toward certification working in a clinic for abused women and children.

After each day of dealing with evil she came home charged like a lightning rod, ready to unload on me or anyone available. It was difficult. I can imagine the experience is the same.

One thing she taught me: in America, nearly half of all female children are abused, physically and/or emotionally; and at least 25 percent or likely more male children are similarly hurt. These children grow up to be the very angry adult children who generate most of the screaming in society, in person and online.

Note, however, that the numbers are not incidental; they're huge! America, it turns out, is a Nation of Battered Children. The hate and anger felt by these adult children has been repressed by euphoria as the economy grew, as wars occupied emotions, and in general by rules of comity. All of that has evaporated and ours is now a metal to metal society rubbing raw and sparking.

Everyone is down on sex offenders but abuse in the home, where the vast majority occurs, is hardly dealt with at all. It continues to blight young people who grow into adults incapable of compassion or love. The result is as we experience it. The Big Lie of family values needs debunking, but soon it may be too late as the masses of damaged human beings finally overwhelm the rest of us who had either sterling childhoods or at least okay ones.

Think of the Night of the Living Dead. That's America in the 21st Century. Who would have imagined that George Romero's fantasy nightmare would become an allegory and our daily existence?
PS To Verbal Remedy's post above, "I find myself wondering some days whether Rome in its dying days had its own versions of Limbaugh and Coulter, merrily dragging the empire down into the cesspool": indeed, there was. It was called "the Roman mob." The mob was manipulated by the powerful to wage war on each others and to maintain their overall hegemony, though often it would go out of control and binge on destruction and depredation. You can find a good discussion of this social phenomenon, so much like our own today (and the Nazi Brownshirts, the SA, in the early 1930s), here: http://americaandthefalloftheromanempire.blogspot.com/2009/01/america-and-fall-of-roman-empire-part_2788.html/. Unfortunately, we have no provinces to which you can escape to live a sparse but safe life. We're all Romans now. -- Bob Jacobson
Mr. R.W. Conservative here. I am tired of the same thing you are. I wish there was a party of people both liberal/wacko and conservative/neanderthal that could get together, find some common ground (I think that would be a great name for a political party) and through both parties out in cold on their keisters! Why don't we start a new party? You have my vote! Hey, I'll be your VP!

Eisenhower said: "Anger cannot win, it cannot even think clearly". Proof that at least one Republican had his head on straight. (Plus his comment about the MI complex. Plus he led us to victory against fascism.).

I think he is apt for you, too, David. This heartfelt post is another turn of the prism, another look at the core phenomena that Craig Ferguson has distilled as a generation thinking it "cool to be young and stoopid". That is, a national wallow in froth, blather, and intellectual parfait, syrup'd over with hate.

The last thing we need is you gone. I can only approximate what it is like to endure this. In your admirably compact way you confess to a sensitivity to this on the personal level, one I share, so I don't know that I could follow this advice personally, in your shoes, but I give it nonetheless:

STAY. Write. Think.

We need you. The global fight against ignorance and oppression goes on. They are tireless. If it helps -- and it helps me -- here are some things:

-- Almost no one LIVES inside this hate, tho it appears they do. They indulge it. Sooner or later, most of them get up from the illusory safety of digital, stretch, and pet the dog. Remember that guy, respond back to that guy.

-- Almost all anger is fear. There certainly are some rageful sadists out there, but not as many as it seems. I know because i was that fear/anger guy at times; I have in the not-quite-dim-enough past indulged in vitriol, got stuck in a days-long online exchange I HAD to win, thrashed in the flesh-pot of self-satisfaction -- but lived long enough, wisely enough, to finally set it aside as a Way. Respond to that guy, hiding behind his wall of words.

-- Trust you are doing it right. I wrote a post recently that called for "retreating gracefully", but AFTER one has made simple attempts. Effective efforts, artful assertions. You do this already. The right people are reading you, and getting it. If their noise drowns out our appreciation lately, take away this: Your posts are coherent, direct, thoughtful. Informative. You have a real gift: the application of honed writing skills to the ever-evolving processes of a fine mind, turned toward justice. A rare gift. We need you.

-- A moan escapes this piece: that this is an original development, growing, destroying us, a unique historical mob. It isn't. One example: Alcibiades, Athens, 5th century BCE. Endless reversals of policy against the Spartans, led by raging know-nothingism, a populace so fearful they hastened to their own destruction again and again, in sometimes opposite directions with short years. So weird that General Acibiades led the Athenians, then the Spartans, then the Athenians again. At his return to Athens he wasn't sure if he was marching into Athens to be torn apart or lauded. The point is: his brilliant words, his command of reality, saved him -- and, historically, us & democracy -- and the venal inciters were cowed.

Cow the venal, David. Plant feet, speak. Brilliant words must command reality, especially now, when reality is rabid and good men & women flee.

We hear you. The rest is fear and fury, signifying biology and incompleteness. The wind will swirl it away.
Hi David,

Do you think that this vitriolic method of communication is coming about because prior to the internet and the popularity of blogging, people mostly kept to like-minded folks? I'm thinking that coming into direct contact with people of wildly divergent views is something we don't know how to do, which is curious considering that we call ourselves a Democracy.
In the famous words of Clayton Bigsby: "If you've got hate in your heart let it out!"
This is absolutely right on the mark. We are becoming a nation of haters and it sometimes scares me to death just to think about where this road leads.

The hate is not just on one side either, no I see it on both sides...Right and Left. There seems to be little middle ground left anymore.

Highly Rated!
First, I think liberals who got intimidated from Reagan on about BEING a liberal and started calling themselves "progressives" are basically cowards. Stop it. You're just waving the white feather. Say it loud and say it proud, goddammit, I'M A LIBERAL!

And, if your feelings get hurt by the haters, it really is time for you to quit. It's nice you don't actually have to face people shooting at you like our kids in Afghanistan, a war liberals are starting to realize is just another quagmire.

Second, the haters are not really that many, it just seems that way because they are active and vocal out of proportion to their numbers. Take heart that your number of hate letters means you're reaching a whole lot of other people.

I think it's very important to distinguish between the true haters and the people who say a lot of angry things because they are confused, like the Tea Party people and the old Ross Perot crowd, most of whom are really clueless about how government and politics work in America. For those people, it's all about Future Shock. Remember that insightful book? Change disorients them. And as a recent study showed, conservatives just are not wired to adapt to change as readily as liberals. They get upset and sometimes angry. But they're not the real haters.

The real haters are the ones who understand plenty about our government and politics, but believe it should be in their power and administered ruthlessly in extreme right-wing fashion. Winning is the only important thing to them. Some policies are important to them, but mostly they are just tools to power. They don't believe half the things they say. They lie routinely, communicate by vicious rumors and unsourced emails, passed hand to hand among their gullible followers, and sometimes they create Big Lies and fight ruthlessly to have them seen as truth -- like "Global warming is a fraud." They will risk the future of the planet for their own ends.

They are fascists. It is long past the time when we should have understood clearly what that word means, and that people upholding it have a better foothold in this country than at any time in our history.
And, if your feelings get hurt by the haters, it really is time for you to quit.

It's not really personal, and my feelings aren't hurt, but yeah, the general atmosphere of anger, ignorance, stupidity, and short-sightedness in our political discourse gets me down. I've lost almost all interest in commenting on our political situation; I don't have the mental and emotional resources to spare. Not that I'm anyone special, of course.
David -- thank you for stating what so many of us experience but hesitate to express. Somehow it's not OK to admit that we are hurt by the attacks on us. It is and we are.

Over the many years I have been involved in progressive politics, I have found that it's easiest to turn the hurt into righteous anger. It should only make us stronger.

Hang in there. This, too, shall pass -- along with a good health care bill, I continue to hope.
David, I feel for you and, while I enjoy your writing, couldn't really blame you if you finally called it quits. I've stopped following politics as intensely as I used to and I no longer will discuss politics with conservatives. After far too many political debates (with friends!) devolved into nasty, mean-spirited insult-fests and realizing I got no satisfaction from these episodes and they just left me feeling miserable, angry and crappy, I decided it's just not worth it. I've largely tuned out. I know politics are important and I realize it is the duty of every citizen in any democracy to keep a close eye on their elected officials, but my mental health is important, too, and politics, at least as they've evolved in this country, are just not healthy for me.
I used to be a frequent guest on one of Detroit's right-wing radio stations, as an expert on community policing, a progressive police reform. I would call in to the show from my home hear Lansing, back in the woods. At first, I was simply surprised at the host's incivility. Then I would find myself shocked at the hatred in the voices of the callers. Then I began getting threats on my answering machine. Finally, a caller said he had a gun on the front seat of his car as he was calling in, and that he knew where I lived. That's when I finally realized I was not contributing to free speech but feeding the hate machine. We need to confront these folks in an organized way, not whip them into a frenzy as these radio hosts - and Republican leaders - are doing. They will get people killed.
What's amazing--and heartening--is that in a country that must be among the most ill-educated and anti-intellectual in the history of the world, there are still millions upon millions of people who do not fear to seek truth and tell it as they find it. Concentrate on the feedback you get from them.
As for the loons, pity them. Remember how frightened you were when you were small and powerless and knew nothing. I'm just a lonesome Jewboy, but I like to ask my Christer brethren who would Jesus (Yeshua) hate? Who would Jesus kill?
Who would Jesus blog for?
If you aren't getting angry letters from the loons, and I mean the ones that are just insults with no facts or even the slimmest attempt to dispute what you printed, then you aren't doing your job.

Keep up the good work.
Asshole-ism can't be healed until it comes into the light of day. When you look at it that way, the healing has begin.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of assholes is for good men to do nothing.” (with apologies to Burke)
David, I had the same problem in my newspaper column-writing days — and I felt like there was something wrong with me for being bothered by it. Even after years of working as a newspaper reporter, I remained a basically sensitive person. I know journalists have to have a thick skin, but being exposed to this kind of toxic, mean-spirited (and in my case, often racist) commentary on a regular basis sucked. Many of my friends who are still in the business handle it just fine, but, well I'm not them. Best of luck to you as you sort this out.
I agreed there is increasing toxicity in our nation's political discourse. In fact, you can't really call it a discourse because that means your having a rational converstaion or argument. What we have is more like one side trying to have a discussion, while the other is off ranting about the bogeyman. Sure there are rational and irrational people on both sides, but, it seems, only the irrational rantings get reported. Is the any group or organization out there which is trying to bring rational thinking back into the political debate? Is there anyway to fight back against the ranters - maybe hold them accountable for their claims and accusations?
David, your conclusion is painfully - and frighteningly - true. We are in an era of profound, pervasive and dangerous hate. As we have all come to know, it's the most vocal, viuolent voices who are likely to not only be heard but who have the opportunity to 'set policy' - meaning, they eventually penetrate the world consciousness to a devastating effect.

I hesitate to ask given your courageous admission of how this affects you - but - ask I must.

Please keep writing.

Joyce K. Reynolds
You've struck a few nerves, thanx for that mon. If this Health Scare bash isn't bad enough, wait till education reform steps to center stage. When the insurance industry doles out over 1 million daily to perpetrate this hatred, and a Capitalist owned media reinforces the vitriol, you gotta watch your back. But thanx again, from the people who see past this madness! rated
Yes and it frightens the hell out of me. That the Right Wing can whip such people up into a frenzy with lies, that there are actually wingnuts who believe Obama's speech to schoolchildren is propaganda...... WHERE did all this come from? How angry people must be, how helpless they must feel. Why not channel their hatred and anger into something constructive and do good work instead of sitting at their computer mouthing off under the guise of anonymity. I DO feel that if people had to sign their hate notes with real names.... then there would be less of it. It is the hating without responsibility that scares me. The guys on tv are just corrupt and doing it for money. The others? WHY spend that much time hating a virtual stranger? Great job.
Right, David. We're a nation of assholes. With very limited intelligence. Never mind that most college professors and people with high intelligence are liberals, but anybody who would support a guy like George Bush, the King of all morons, has to have some DNA missing wherewhere. If being selfish and narrow minded is being a conservative, then conservatism is getting a bad rap. There are many bright conservatives, just as there were many bright Germans who were Nazis. But being an asshole is not a GOP exclusive. There are asshole liberals too. Many Christians are assholes, yet the church cherishes them dearly. After all, where would the church be, if it wasn't for their assholes? But I diverge.
Eisenhower said: "Anger cannot win, it cannot even think clearly"

I beg to differ. I am at my best when purely angry. Then I speak clearly, concisely, certainly and, most of all, quietly. Perhaps that is "righteous" anger as opposed to fearful, hurt rage. In that latter state, yes, I cannot think.

The political rage we see today isn't new. Remember Father Coughlin? There were more of his ilk in his time but I don't remember their names. In the central Minnesota German community where my mother grew up there were "bund" meetings between the world wars. (They may have been actually called Nazi but I don't remember.) The race riots and lynching in Duluth, MN; the KKK was active in southern MN. (I focus on MN because I'm here but mostly to illustrate that kind of racial rage wasn't purely a product of the Deep South.) Remember the reaction of the working class to "long-haired hippies" in the sixties and the resultant election of Nixon. The rise of labor unions in the last century.

Stupidity, ignorance, rudeness and rage, as another commenter described so much better, have always been a part of human discourse. It's just so much easier to spread it wider now. I wouldn't take it personally. A professional political writer, especially, shouldn't. You're really just a convenient target. If it wasn't you it would be someone else.

p.s. @ Greg Correll: on a nicer note, when I was a kid we had a dog named Sherman Alcibiades. :)
Sorry, but I think we have always been a nation of assholes, especially when it comes to public comment. One only has to look at some of the political campaigns of the past to realize it. It is a good thing some of the politicians of the day were good shots or else history would have been much more boring. Think of Andrew Jackson and the tirades against him, and how personal they were.

The problem today, in my humble opinion, is the very thing that we applaud and that you mentioned - the anonymity of the postings. Having said that it makes me wonder if I should walk the walk and sign my real name from now on. And if I were a better speller, I might do that.
Things don't change very much -- have you reviewed the sort of comments that were posted during the GFB years? Be fair, both sides contain vitriolic a-holes.

The representative note you quote I think is pretty revealing of the person who wrote it, and the types of people you refer to overall. There is not one iota of policy debate in it, it's just all personal spew.
Any number of ancient Greeks wondered, and the debate then carried over to our Founding Fathers (with a nod to Abagail Adams and other women like her of the time) whether to limit participation to people having a certain level of education or investment by virtue of property ownership. While I do not support these concepts, the fact that the only thing it takes these days to influence public discourse is to show up with a gun at a health care rally is perhaps a reason to rethink who gets to play. But of course, as long as United HealthCare or Exxon or WalMart get to influence the debate, it hardly matters what indiviuals do and say.
David, the loss of your voice on these subjects would be a major loss indeed. Do not give in to the dark side. Cheney lives there.
We can't focus on everything at once. We necessarily censor the material we allow into our consciousness. What we CHOOSE to focus upon defines us and affects our perceptions and our emotions.

The hate is background noise, nothing more. It's a series of obstacles to be negotiated but not dwelled upon. Avoid it like you would other cars on the road. Just as you choose to focus on getting to your destination rather than the hair color of all the other drivers on the road, ignore the white noise of right wing haters.

And to shamelessly mix metaphors focus on the wheat, not the chaff, and you'll be thrilled with the wealth of healthy sustenance you are receiving.

Writing in 2009 requires the development of effective filters. And a highly honed sense of the absurd doesn't hurt, either. Hang in there, David.
"I'm a sensitive guy, so all the vitriol does not easily roll off my back - it has a kind of cumulative effect, which gets to be kind of depressing (which I'm sure makes the haters happy)."

Then don't write about politics. You say that you don't write this post to complain, but what is the above if not just that? When attacks have nothing to do with logic or the substance of a debate, there's no reason to pay any attention. As you say, "Hate is easy to spot"--usually in the first sentence--and thus it is easy to ignore.

"the self-loathers - those who say they are progressives, but angrily lash out at any progressives who are higher profile or more active than them because that somehow makes them feel small"

Man, if that doesn't sound gratingly self-important, I don't know what does.

Your main point that there's a lot of hatred in letters and internet comments is far from new. Anyone who follows comments knows this to be the case. Some insight into *why* the level of hate seems to be escalating could have been interesting. But this is just a rehash of pretty much any liberal, non-troll's complaints.
Imagine what may be going on at that other node. It's a recession, people are scared and depressed, and they're self-medicating. Imagine all the unemployed out there, the traumatized, brain-injured veterans, the homeless and nearly homeless and the householders who have had to move in with their parents, the people suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's...

There's a lot of mental illness out there, and very little treatment available, even for people self-aware enough to seek it out. An even smaller subset can afford the pills or whatever. I think a lot of the hate is coming from people are crazy, drunk, off their meds, on drugs.

If the craziness is effecting your work, you should hire a temp to read your letters for you. Tell him or her to give you an executive summary of anything of value, and archive the rest. Put on some nice, loud music, take a vigorous walk, hug a kid or a dog or whatever will love you back, and find your happiness. We need you out here.
Didn't Einstein say something about stupidity being the most powerful force in the universe? Got to agree with him there.

Someone else said something like:
"The stupid are confident in their stupidity, the intelligent are unsure in their knowledge".
I hope that my writing becomes successful enough to attract the haters.

I mean, even the haters buy your books. Look how many people on the left tune into Rush, Bill and Beck so they can get their daily dose of outrage.

If anyone is interested, David Brin writes about these haters, except he calls them indignation junkies.
I liked "Hello," she lied's comment so much that I am reproducing it exactly:

"Thank you for fighting the good fight. Too many of us don't have the stomach for it."
IMO what has created the hate mail and rampant spread of public hate discourse are the comments appended to every blog and many media articles around the world. Anonymity encourages the worst in people. That is why I remain: anonymous.
Dump comment sections and the whole useless and destructive discourse will vanish at least in respectable media. Letters to editors are different--they have to be signed with a bona fide name and address.
Just dump this comment section, period! Way to go!
I am so sorry you've had to endure such meanness. Chin up, David. No need to be disheartened. The rest of the world needs voices like yours to let us know that not all of America has slipped into the abyss of crazy. As long as we know there are some sane voices left, there is hope for your country. You and others with a voice from the Left give the rest of the world hope that your nation can still be reached. (If you think the Right Wing looks crazy from within your borders, you should see how they appear from outside. Jaw-dropping, eye-popping unbelievable.) It may help you to recognize that those nasty letters you receive come from scared, broken people. They are not healthy. Don't let them sap your energy.
Set your email filter to scan the body of your emails for the word stupid and have it redirect your mail to the stupid folder, that way, if you do decide to read it, at least you are prepared for the hate.
It's not confined to politics or blogs--the very same rudeness, vitriol and supreme selfishness are displayed at the office, in traffic, at schools.

The culture (for lack of a better word for it) has always had an underbelly of fierce competition, if not overt violence; what should be the mitigating institutions are part of the problem. Add social anomie and material desperation, as in these times, and it makes civility or simple human decency an act of heroism.
Not me, sweetheart! I just love your essays. You rock (for the good guys). The people on the other side don't need anyone to make their arguments for them. They are their best defenders when they leave positive counterarguments, etc., which should be the norm in a decent society.

Thanks so much for all you do to uplift us!

Your fan,


My husband and I watched a movie about the Civil War and wondered about the poor guys who got the assignment of marching in the front of the lines, into the battle first, exposed to all the enemy fire.

I think you're that guy. There are a lot of soldiers marching in back, quietly choosing battles we can win. For instance, I was sickened by all the letters we got as a school board threatening revolt if our teachers showed the "indoctrinating" video of President Obama encouraging our children to value knowledge and education.

Now I could pick a fight with the lead mom stirring up the anger, but I can tell you with perfect confidence that I would be off the school board in May. So I'm here in back, fighting in the smaller skirmishes - arts funding over astroturf, real science in science class, Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird in the English curriculum.

I think these are important battles, too, but can't tell you how grateful I am for writers like you, smart and eloquent enough to give a voice to civility and reason. Hoping the support here will give you enough encouragement to keep marching.
To Al Loomis:

I'm sorry, but I have to step up to defend Sirota here.

Take a look at just the titles of his pieces:

"The rich have never had it so good"
"Ready or not, here comes China"
"Dream big, Obama"
"Waiting for Obama"
"Obama's trail of broken promises"
"Democracy needs a bailout"
"The house that taxpayers built"
"Obama, the healthcare Riddler"

He's taken the left (particularly Obama) to task recently, time and again. It's amusing to me when people project their own behavior onto others.

How much more even-handed must a left-wing commentator be before he is immune to vitriol in YOUR opinion, Al?
I think we've always been a nation of haters.
Growing up in a Republican household I recall clearly the day I bluntly repeated back what I thought my father had been saying – “So it had been a good thing Kennedy was assassinated otherwise he would have destroyed America, right?” I think my father was a bit taken a back when I said that but he didn't disagree with me. As a kid I thought all Democrats were evil...just like Ohio State fans. Why? Because that's how I imaged my dad felt. I surprised him by growing up and becoming one of those hated liberals. So I don't think we've become a nation of haters, I just think we've always been one from the beginning and it gets passed down generation to generation if we let it and now it's very easy to pass the hate around electronically.
Bravo! Thanks for stating your point so clearly and so well. More than that, thanks for addressing this increasing problem:

"All of it has convinced me we are living through one of the darkest periods in the last 50 years - one in which intense hatred has now become an accepted - even celebrated - part of our democracy."

In such agreement with you. Unfort, even if you dropped off the journalistic radar, you'd still feel it, I do believe. It's in the air. It's tangible and real, even if you move to Newfoundland. Especially if you're a empath or sensitive type.

With that said, my only two-bit advice is to remember that when you are really tapping into something important, it tends to hit a nerve. In other words, perhaps the negativity can be seen as validation that you are getting to the truth amidst this hateful atmosphere. You're waking the monster. There's a price you pay for that but it's a noble price. You're fighting the good fight.

Also, a little new agey words of wisdom: imagine a glass shield dropping around you, sci-fi style, when you open your email or even when you're writing a piece. This technique has worked for me in countless ways. It's like a magical bulletproof body cover. I truly believe you need spiritual techniques in place the more you put your ass out there - a spiritual "guard" of sorts.

Whenever you feel drained, you can guarantee that it's not just the bastards, it's a disconnect from your own spiritual side.
Mr. Sirota, you need a buffer. You need to hire me to handle your correspondence. I can make it so you never read or contemplate a baseless, vitriolic letter or email again. I can wash that mess right out of your hair.

I've spent the better part of five years writing letters and emails to clients and associates in the name of my two bosses. I'm good at this, and I'm frustratingly kind to those who have complaints.

I'll answer every email and letter with over-the-top kindness while simultaneously restating the pertinent political point that spawned the email or letter in the first place. When I'm not smoothing out misunderstandings and quelling irate clients at my firm, I spend the rest of my time reading about policy and politics. In such, I'm your perfect shield.

Trust me Mr. Sirota, I'm good at this. Please don't stop writing, just hire me, a literal tackling dummy, to take the shrapnel for you. Our public discourse needs thoughtful and constructive minds like yours, so please don't let the chattering class force you from doing what you are so good at doing.

Best of luck, and please, keep writing.
You rock, David. You rock.

My girlfriend is a professor of communication in Spain. Communication. The study of the use of words. A lifetime of studying the way people argue. She spent the summer here in Colorado and I spent three months trying to explain to her how things are done here politically. What counts as an argument and how decisions get made. It did not make sense to her until I described daily life at all levels in the US as plays in a giant sporting event. It's a football game. There is no exchange of reason, only strategy and cheering.
I hardly know what to say to this. You're completely correct, of course. to the detriment of us all. I'm starting to believe that it's no longer possible for us lift ourselves out of the abyss but I continue to hope otherwise.
I don't know David. When I read the letter at the beginning of your post, I actually thought it was pretty funny. I don't know what article or subject he was responding to, but that's the point. I imagine this shmuck[sp?] having two or three letter templates and just picking one and sending it off. Wash and repeat, several times a day. Only then can s/he belch and get some sleep.

I'm sure I would feel differently after seeing untold numbers of letters like that, but I still think I would maintain my attitude that they are pretty funny.

Actually, the trend I worry about is not so much hate, as hysterical whining and crying about just everything. I cringed when I saw those oldsters at the town meetings, mostly women, screaming and crying about how scared they were and the government wanted to kill them, and on and on and on. All I could think was, "Get a grip, lady." Mean, maybe, but don't parents say the same thing to actual 2-year-olds all the time?
This post contains the nugget of a book -- I'd read it. Rated.
I know the feeling but we are in dangerous waters here. We need reasoned voices more than ever. I just got finished asking my local paper to please respond to the fear mongers. They had a letter to the editor about how horrifying it is for the President to talk to our children. They choose not to print my rebuttal. Let's be clear, this is about racism. The last time the hatred rang this loud in this counrty we lost a President, his brother, and Dr. King. Toss and turn, Mr. Sirota, but please keep talking.
What irony that the man who aspires to be remembered as the great conciliator has had such a polarizing effect on our nation. Never in our nation’s history has one leader caused this much upheaval in such a short period of time. Are we really this far apart on matters of politics, matters of race or both?
Duaneart - "Indignation junkies" - right! They get an adrenalin rush and a righteousness rush ... we lefties get it too, everyone does it (or feels it) some. But most of us are to inhibited to indulge...
“You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”- Churchill. You know, the socialist who spent his later life taking credit for the nationalization of British health care.

It is very, very difficult for the scrupled to triumph over the unscrupulous. Those of us who don't believe that the ends justify the means cannot whip up public rage with blatant lies and distortions, and with veiled appeals to our worst nature - fear of change, fear of "the other". We can only deploy the weapons of truth, and of a stiff-necked refusal to back down. Oh yeah, and sarcasm.

Our best hope is to call them on their lies, over and over again, and make them look foolish, over and over again, and to keep teaching our friends and our children that other people matter, regardless of who they are and how they live their lives. That belief, of the worth of every person (yes, even Glenn Beck), and the compassion it fosters, is what drives the whole progressive/liberal ideology. We're all in this together. The "other" is us.
Politics have always stirred up emotions. It is important to reserve your anger for the policy rather than the party espousing it. That however is extremely difficult especially when a party such as the former president espouses and puts into effect a policy that kills and destroys. Because of his position when he kills he is doing it in your name, he is making you complicit in all the war and destruction he created. That's where you would have to be a saint to not hate the man as well as his policy.
This may seem callous - it's not meant to. But I have to say, ithe example you offered doesn't really strike me as "hate mail" per se. Sure, it's nasty and stupid. But I don't think you can really comprehend what mail whose sole purpose is the purveyance of real hatred is like until you start receiving death threats or mail suggesting the world would be better if you died, etc.
One more comment, and one we need our President to employ as well as you David
"They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred." - FDR
I really relate to what you've written here. I have a like-minded friend with whom I discuss this topic regularly. I think much of the frustration is due to trying to speak reason to madness. I found a quote which gives some comfort:

"One cannot use reason to argue somebody out of a position they did not use reason to get into"
The first time I ever ran across this virulent hatred was shortly after John Lennon was killed. I was on my way to Chicago and stopped outside of Ft. Wayne Indiana to eat breakfast. I bought the local newspapers because I like to know what people think.

The letters to the editor were uniformly about how great it was that someone shut up that jerk Lennon and how life in America will be ever so much better with him gone. I was amazed. I still am.

The first time I got a death threat in the mail becaus eI made fun of the Promise Keepers, I was doubly flabbergasted. Of course the brave writer forgot to sign the letter and supply a return address.
Dear Mr. Sirota, I'm glad you were able to share your thoughts and feelings about this on an open blog. I don't have a whole lot to add except I understand what you are talking about , have experienced these kinds of attacks on a personal basis and I know what it is like to have to "sit" and mull these feelings and questions about the people and culture we live in. One of the previous writers said not to take it "personally" and though as adults ,we do have to learn to stand back and be objective about what happens in the world, it DOES have a cumulative affect difficult to describe and far reaching in it's consequences to our physical, emotional , and spiritual lives.
For fifteen years I worked at a independent free -standing non-profit Health clinic that provided 'well woman" gynecology , HIV & STD counseling and testing and first -trimester abortion services.
Before I joined the clinic as staff I volunteered to escort women(and men ) to the Health Center. At the time in the early 80's the clinic was heavily picketed by anti-abortion demonstrators. By heavily I mean , three times or more a week, with pcketers numbering 35 or more .the clinic was located on a busy corner of a four way intersection a block form a municip[al parking lot. Picketers would station themselves on all four coursners, stop cars and approch the drives holding pictures of bloody fetuses up to the windows , regardless of who was in them (yes children), they would walk backwards in front us as we escorted people ,in our faces close enough to have their spittle spray on us , and they were angry , red faced and mostly out of control . If you 'escorted " long enough , they found out your name , and followed you to your car when you left. this kind of behaviour has been documented at other clinics and far worse . When I began working as a staff meber I cannot conveey to you how many people over the years, media , clients, city managers , police, lawyers, family said "Why don't you just sit down with them and talk , have a dialogue and surely this can all be worked out. " You cannot have a dialogue with someone who doesn't listen , doesn't respond to what you are saying can never admit to any validaty of your position or of you even as a person.
I beleive I tried to the very best of my ability , on a group and individual basis to make this happen . i changed but none of them did or wanted to ,not even when they ened up being our clients.
i share this with you becasue it wasn't just about abortion. In fact I beleive now very little of it had to do with abortion. It has to do with fear . I feel the accountability lies with the peole who fanned the flames of their multiple fears for twenty years. WE have a firmly established "corporate culture " for which fear and fear mongering is SOP. The people speaking out at thse town meeting behave just like those picketers I encountered face to face they may in fact be the same people, and they have had 20 years to refine and hone their scare tactics. The media has been co-opted by this corporate sensibility and so they give the most energy and attention to these people acting out and ignore they truly deperate plight of many of their fellow americans. I suggest to you that you Not read all of the crap sent to you , but sample from time to time and then realize that you are NOT going to be defined by this person cowering in the darkness. It's difficult , but a rigourous self -examination is good for the soul and it is the very thing lacking in most of these people's character. For all their vaunted 'christian " sesnibilities I did not see much christian behavior on the street , or in front of my house or following me in my car, or harassing my children.
I don't have an answer here except to say it's our respeonsibility to live our lives in the most compassionate , thoghtful , , honest and connected way we can. As SARK says so wisely "we are all in the soup together". We have to keep reminfing people of this and lving like we mean it. The Dems and Obama won in Nov. , so we ARE in charge now and we better start acting like it. Just like I couldn't have a dialogue by myself. , we can't have "bi-partisanship " with only one party. Screw that , and lets get something done!
I don't like the tenor of the "national conversation" either, especially as it burbles up in the vitriol of nasty comments. It's evident that people do feel free to vent spleen especially when they are cloaked by anonymity or are speaking (posting) to people they don't know.

This is one reason I am not really a fan of the ubiquitous Comments columns everywhere. They are, as someone here noted, a "talk at you" place, not (usually) an "engage in dialog with you" place. I miss engrossing conversations in years past on Usenet, because the nature of forum postings is conducive to the back and forth of dialog, and if someone was spewing idiocy a certain amount of social control and peer pressure usually operated to talk them down off the ceiling and get them to actually engage in real discourse (either that, or they self-selected out of the process entirely).

I am wondering if one solution might not simply be something structural: rather than propagate comments fields everywhere (so easy with today's blogging sfw), instead, point comments to forums where people have to log in and have verified addresses. It is much easier to foster back and forth dialog in a forum-type setting.

True this is just one 'fix it' kind of thought, when I know you are lamenting a very real and toxic phenomenon. I've been subject to similar slings and arrows myself so I empathize with the problem. But to my way of thinking, there should be a way to re-organize our public discourse in a way that is more inclined to connect us as real people, not anonymized caricatures that seize upon every opportunity to vent.

Now, *that* would be the next Killer Ap on the net. Sigh.
I think doloresflores was right when she said that we no longer "converse" but "comment". And maybe that's what I'm doing now, because I don't have anything significant to add. I think anonymous haters are perhaps the same people who have road rage--powerless in their own lives, they take their frustration out where they can create depersonalized, oversimplified adversaries. Or something.

I just wanted to add that it means a lot to me that someone of your stature can also be sensitive and affected by the hate. I'm very sensitive, which is why I assumed a few years ago that I could never be a writer. It's true that national discourse sucks right now, and it's dominated by the assholes who scream the loudest. Just know that everything I've read from you has been articulate and well-reasoned, which unfortunately is far more than can be said about the dominating discourse.
Posting a headline like "On Being Hated In a Nation of Assholes" sure doesn't help your cause.
Okay, so what do YOU call someone who tells you they hope "you soon find yourself living in a cardboard box under the nearest overpass"?
Liberals have such short memories. The hate of Geo Bush was unprecedented. I'm sure this article wouldn't have been written when Pres. Bush was in office. There seemed to be no shortage of Liberal Assholes then, actually still aren't. Hypocrisy it's the mascot of liberalism.
I hope you don't quit, as I feel you're helping to raise the level of discourse, but you have to do what's best for you. Good luck with it, and in the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy your material.
It's not hate, it's fear.
@Alan Nothnagle, I usually ignore idiots.
@ Alan Nothnagle, I usually ignore idiots.
Right on, or should I say, left onward! I look forward to your columns and certainly agree that we are becoming a nation of idiots. Former classmates and friends now send me ridiculous lies about Obama and health care. But we can't give up. Keep posting!
Well, David, looks like you came to the right place! No need to worry about hate--everyone apparently loves you here. However, there are 56 thumbs and dozens of comments, yet not a single comment from you. Are you so busy reading your hate mail that you can't take the time to respond to any of the people on here?

The whole point of OS is for people to communicate and not talk *at* each other. By not responding to a single comment, you are essentially rejecting the importance of conversation and expecting the reader to just listen to you without you interacting. Why bitch about comments if you don't respond to any?
I agree that this is just everywhere today, so you might as well just keep writing for those of us that listen and think. Would be nice if there was a safe place to retreat to, but, there isn't. Maybe hire that guy that is willing to be a buffer, and, don't read the comments. I don't. I chose to turn my attention to what is good, and away from that which is not constructive. Reading the comments on this post has been refreshing and sustaining. Thanks to all who posted thoughtful supportive and insightful comments here. David, you can do this, and we are doing it along with you. You aren't alone. Be well.
One such republican congressman's posting on the "socialist plot" had my normally calm husband so incensed yesterday that he fired a nasty response back to the good congressman's site. I never thought I'd see that day - things really are very, very, bad.
"Hypocrisy it's the mascot of liberalism."

A la:

WMD, "keep the government's hands off my Medicare," No Child Left Behind, welfare CEOs (er, queens), Morning in America, Un-American Activities, Clinton impeachers, chicken hawks.
Sirota: In general I am a big fan f your work. However you really, really need to grow a thicker skin. If you can't even handle the little bit of all-in-the-family infighting on DailyKos- you really are way too sensitive to criticism.
You are an earnest guy. What you need to do is adopt an asshole persona to deal with the asshole critic. For example- all those hate mail you get- you shold devote a section on your blog where you publish selected hate mail just so you can make fun of and insult these brain dead haters. Don't just take it like a punching bag. You need to fight back. Firing back against right wing loons is like shooting fish in a barrel anyways.
And start answering your comments. Here and on Daily KOS if you ever go back there again.
Oh, the discourse has progressed far beyond the merely toxic to the utterly insane. It does not bode well.
This phenomenon is only a few years old. 'Letters to the Editor' used to be just that, real, on paper letters. You had to write it, seal it, put a stamp on it and go somewhere to mail it. Today it's as easy as a few keystrokes. Little thought is required (obviously). Add to this technology right-wing radio stirring the hatred pot and you have a volatile combination, which keeps getting stronger. One wonders just how far it can go. Will there be a backlash? God I hope so.
I don't envy you going into battle post after post. But at least they hate you. I wrote one mildly snarky column about Tim Geithner a few months back. It got linked to some raging right wing blog. It remains the most read post I've blogged. Now that's depressing.
Re: Bill E

The backlash will come when this country has finally impoverished itself to the point that consumption, gadgetry, and efficiency for their own sakes are all recognized as pathologies.
Thank you. I avoid hate talk where possible. I rarely watch Fox News any more because, like you, I find it easy to hate in return and I don't want to be a hater. Sadly for me, a lot of this hate comes from fellow Christians, fellow evangelicals, who either haven't read the Bible or disregard the clear teaching of our Savior. One man demanded proof that Reagan and Bush had provided Saddam Hussein with agents necessary for producing biological and chemical weapons. When I sent him the volume and pages from the Congressional Record, he refused to go to the library to look it up. That kind of intellectual dishonesty, of putting one's hands before one's eyes and declaring that one can't see it, passes for political dialog in the present environment.
Fear not David, for the assholes are only the ones who scream the loudest with nothing to say. I have found when confronted with them, is to just laugh in their face and walk away. They discover relatively fast that's it's no fun to scream and rant when no one is listening.
Keep writing. Hire or get a volunteer to screen what comes at you.

DON'T read that crap. Ever. It will make you nuts and ruin your health. And it might make you stop writing.

And then they've won.
Take a look at Joe Klein's piece in the Aug. 31 Time. He suggests the same thing you do. Not so "awful".
When the good guys finally win, the bad guys start feeling like they have to get nastier. I'll admit it; I do hate the haters. They're the bad guys. They're the ones who want to abandon the hungry, homeless and sick to their fates. They're the ones who want to deny basic human rights to everyone except themselves and people exactly like them. They're the mean ones. That doesn't mean they aren't human. That doesn't mean they can't be forgiven if they decide to stop being mean. But they are, indeed, the bad guys. And they're getting meaner every day. I'm sorry they're targeting you. Sorry, but, unfortunately, not surprised.
Oy, I'm wondering if you even read these comments, but figured I'd "converse" with you anyway.

I haven't read your column before--I have read some of your stuff online, though. And didn't I see you on Real Time or something like that? I liked what you had to say, especially in a piece you did on why nobody in Washington is even talking about Single Payer.

I agree with what you say about this becoming a nation of (largely) assholes. I have been utterly disgusted with the greed and the stupidity (there's no nice word for this type of bullshit). You must get sick of being vilified for your liberal views--after all, you're in the public eye and more exposed. But truly, every reform supporter with any passion at all is taking at least some of the same hate that you get. I know I am. But I'm at a disadvantage. When I hear a coworker repeating things like death panels or age limits on life-saving procedures or other lies, I do not have the freedom to pipe in and refute them. My reply would only incite ill will in my workplace (even though she started it), and I could lose my job over this stuff. My own mother and father haven't really spoken to me in months over this same crap. (I had the nerve to request they not send me any more bullshit anti-reform, anti-Obama emails, and I had the poor judgement to point out the fallacies in the last one they sent. I was called rude and disrespectful even though I was anything but.) So I do sympathize with you, but I envy your ability to have an outlet for your views that actually gets read and commented on without threatening your livelihood.
Great post! I watched this kind of thing get out of hand in Yugoslavia, 1989. Milosevic had reopened the old and mostly-forgotten wounds of his fellow Serbs and was pouring salt in them. The bitterness and hate that was released seemed to take even the haters by surprise. I saw my Croatian friends, all highly educated, cultured and liberal-minded, suddenly on the defensive, closing ranks, circling the wagons. Beginning to hate, even as they recognized the insanity of what was happening. Once unleashed, the madness took on a life of its own and violence became inevitable. The mob had won.

The remarkable thing was how quickly it happened. And it started with the same kind of invective that you point to. It seems like we've crossed a line here at home and we're now on the far side of actual discourse -- in the territory of the assholes.
Dude, I'm a died-in-the-wool liberal, and I don't like your columns either. It's less that I disagree with you (though I do, when I think you're being impractical), it's that I find your tone arrogant and superior.
I agree with Chris K. - not responding to any of these comments is rude given the content of your essay.
Read this: it will give you hope:
I'm going to pull a "Bush" and develop a lack of curiosity about what the lying, stupid extremists have to say. It seems to be the only healthy way to deal with the nonsense. Don't read those letters, and carry on.
I imagine Limbaugh, Steele, Beck, Palin, and Bachmann in strategy session in a dark, smoke filled room brainstorming tactics to defeat the health care reform bill.

Steele: "No one will bother to read any of these bills themselves - let's make up a list of the scariest things that could possibly be there. Doesn't matter it if true because no one fact checks on Fox News."

Palin: "A good segment of the Bible belt is opposed to abortion. Tell them this bill requires payments."

Beck: "I'm not saying he's a communist, but did you see his arm looks like a sickle when he bends it? I'm not saying he is, but isn't that a symbol of Russia? Let's use that - a lot of the population remembers McCarthy."

Bachmann: "I already suggested that congressmen should be investigated for patriotism. That was my idea. Come up with your own."

Limbaugh: "Seniors are afraid of losing Medicare. Let's attack the public option, but not tell them they already have it. Yuk, yuk."

Palin: "Stop jumpin’, Rush. There’s no camera in here. I read the bill - a couple of sentences – wasn;t there something about end of life counseling? My witch doctor friend said it sounded like death panels. How about that? That'll scare 'em, you betcha. "

Bachmann: "Okay, now let's take a blood oath and get this plan moving. Sarah and I need to kick him out of office so one of use can be President."

Palin: "You betcha! But I think that will be a Palin-Bachmann ticket, Michelle. (wink)

Don't you kind of miss the peace, love, and folk music of the 70's?
I've written elsewhere that the blogosphere, with the misama of hatred and scurrility it engenders, has come to resemble the world of the 18th-century pamphleteer, whose stock-in-trade was abuse laid on with a heavy hand. Not for the faint of heart nor the tender of soul, I'm afraid.

Since you can't tailor a reply to every hate-mail, yet to leave it unanswered is depressing, may I suggest you come up with a short, impertinent passe-partout message to send to all of them? Speaking of the 18th century, how about Dr. Johnson's immortal zinger: "Your wife, Sir, under the pretence of keeping a bawdy-house, is a receiver of stolen goods."
And the '70s weren't all so bad economically, either--consider what has come after.
Inflation, compared to depression and "jobless recovery"? Compared to a second Gilded Age?
How maligned those times were. But the Right was appalled, the Middle duped (as usual), and so we got the Great Obfuscator.
Don't give up. We need all the help we can get.
Nation of assholes, indeed. Not just the raw hatred and rage freely spewed, though that's plenty disturbing, but the veneration of stupidity, the disparagement of kowledge, the inability to do anything in one's free time except "consume" in some form, the use of the innovative new communications miracles for nothing other than just plain communicating, content-free.... god, i'm turning into a bitter old fart.
The Rabid Right has ruled this country by fear for the last sixty years. The right has defined itself for all that time by what it is against. Without their 'Evil Empire' communist fear devil, they're lost. They have to keep ratcheting up their rhetoric in order to keep the fear stimulus going. The fever swamp lunatics are revealing themselves to all the world for what they really are. Right on!
Will Moore
Valley Springs, California
I want to stay informed and involved, especially since I keep preaching to anyone within earshot that we all must make an effort participate in what is threatening to become an obsolete democracy. But my angry bitter country of the new millennium is so scary that I have to take breaks from news and commentary, despite having a blog of my own.

I am a person stuck on public assistance and living in poverty because I have a serious chronic illness, diagnosed right when I got off of my parents' health insurance at a young age, and life in poverty is the only way I can get health care and stay alive here in the US. Had I been born in certain other countries (which are smart enough to not let me in now though), I might have a job/career... and/or... even marriage/children now. But I don't know any man wealthy enough to feel comfortable taking on my potential medical liabilities...and the same went for employers, some of whom would have lost their own precarious insurance status if they had taken on a worker like me. I'm not really well enough to have taken on more than part-time work anyway, but I would have liked to have tried a home business. Just to know I tried...

I've been waiting the 23 years since I myself was 23 for meaningful health care reform, and in all this time the stress of the poverty and of watching my productive years be wasted has finally made me sicker than I think I had to be. And the death threats and other special comments I have received from radical right haters on a regular basis have not only shocked me (I am after all a former Republican and I assure you I never behaved like this) now sometimes tip me over the edge into a true major depression, at which point it becomes doctor's orders to avoid a lot of people I would otherwise be happy to be friendly with, and to avoid the media as well!

I am now walking around with a bull's-eye and the words "user of entitlements" tattooed somewhere where only Freepers can see...and oh, do they take aim.

Since I'm now wondering if I'm going to make it much longer, what with living in California, the new "no welfare if we can help it" state, when I do show up in the public arena now it's to fight back. I've got nothing left to lose any more.

The smooth operators who hijacked the GOP c. 1980 and turned it into a proto-libertarian, chronically angry, permanently embittered, armed and dangerous mass of haters, most of whom are passionately fighting against their own self-interest, are the people I really want to talk to one of these days. They ruined my life and the lives of many others and I very much wish I could look them in their cold eyes and tell them just how much I appreciated this.

To their followers I can only say a few things, and those over and over again, in the near-futile hope something will stick.

1. Reaganomics may or may not have been worth a try...in the 1980s. That point is debatable. What is no longer debatable is that sopping up to the wealthiest 1% over and over again did not work, does not work, is not working, is not going to work. Been there. Done that. Ugly t-shirt.

Giving to the rich, and taking from the poor, did indeed kill some of us poor. Don't let anyone lie to you about that. It will kill more. I could easily be next. Ok, you may not miss me. But do not call yourselves followers of Jesus Christ. You've chosen that other master. Which is your right since at least some of us still believe in religious freedom in this country. It's the hypocrisy and lying parts that bring on derision, not your choice of Rush Limbaugh or the dollar sign as your idol.

They came for the poor first, but since at least last autumn if not before, they're now coming for the middle class. Go ahead, give the richest corporations more tax breaks and tell the wealthiest they don't have to pay even as much as they did under most of the REAGAN years. And then scream about how bad your schools are and the infrastructure and resource management (check out our wildfires in CA! as California goes, so goes the nation. Apocalypse soon.)

Kissing the round behinds of Big Business will not solve our problems with climate change. Nor will hiding your head in the sand, or blaming Al Gore for lying to you. And I'm not so sure the rest of the world is going to sit back and watch us ruin the planet because we are too stupid to do anything else. Just sayin'

Responsible adults eat their veggies, brush their teeth, shower regularly, and pay their taxes. As for those who are yelling out the contrary as you drive by their demonstrations in what little time you have after your longest work hours than any other workers in the nation...that is NOT tea they're drinking.

The huge drop in quality of life you are sensing does in fact have something to do with failed economic policies that for some reason just never seem to go away. Like swatting a fly and then, just at the moment of victory, another fly. Well those flies carry germs. And our government, starved of both funds and the respect and proud positive involvement of its citizens, now has to try to cope with swine flu. But just keep voting for those wingnuts. You won't pay any more taxes on your way to the complete breakdown of civilization as you once knew it.
We need your voice more than ever. There is a branch of America that has come unhinged. They cannot acknowledge reality and are bitter about oh so many things. it is not your job to appease them.

You need to speak your truth and know that you are onto something and touch a very real nerve that these people are simply locked down and incapable of taking in new information, and always fear and loathe those whose voice is clearer and is unafraid of calling out bullshit.

As for the hate mail... scan a few and put the rest aside... but please keep on keeping on! We believe in you!

I have young children and I want their future to include voices and ideas like ours and to be able to call out bullshit without cowing to bullies and sycophants.

Thank you!

Thank you for your work thus far. I realize you put yourself on the firing line in an extremely bitter time for our country. Hope it's worth something to you to know your efforts are appreciated. And that your work has made a difference. The majority of this country still believes in reason over rage.
Dearest David:
Couldn't Agree More.
Excellent article....'bout sums it up.
What astute and remarkable comments (for the most part) you've had here. I particularly agree with those who identify the fear running amok and equate it with the hysteria rising.
If I took the time to quote exactly (my obsessive compulsive order/perfectionist complex), I'd never post this comment, so please be kind with my paraphrasing efforts:

"They drew a circle that cast me out.
Heretic! Rebel! A thing to flout!
But Love and I had the Wit to Win....
We cast a circle that drew them In!
(any smart person out there know who first said this?)

"Never doubt that a small band of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

E.L. Beck also mentioned this one: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." E Burke

The song that keeps going through my head (a universal 24/7 jukebox) as i read all of this is: "DON'T GIVE UP" by Kate Bush/Peter Gabriel(?) (a black and white music video i saw in the .......... 80's?????)
please some smart person out there in blogoland, teach me how to imbed!

Take care of yourself and your loved ones!
I hope you don't quit, though I would understand. But, we need you! Especially here in Oklahoma, where I live.
True and true. Now I hope you stop whining Dave and get back to work. We love you and.. won't let you live in in a box.

..Actually.. um, I'm sorry, I disagree a bit.. more than ever now, people are experiencing the creativity of expressive communication on a grand scale... it may be ugly, but it's always been there in peoples heads, waiting to come out. Sorry if it hurts.. I truly am.

90% of the people are not courageous/talented enough to take those hits anyway..

Is it evil to say what's on their minds? I don't know. but I do BELIEVE that it all evens out anyway.

Maybe you would have turned into Joe Klein anyway.
Please! Do not be disheartened. Remember, you are writing to, and for, those of us Who have a brain and know how to use it and who relish your thoughts and the informative content of your missives.
The subjects of your discourse are self-serving cowards, untrained and stupid (My definition of stupid: self imposed ignorance...for whatever reason) - treat them as you would "spam"...for their vitriolic utterances add nothing to the positive progress of our daily lives.

The "clan mentality" of these individuals does not allow them to think "outside the box" which, I believe, keeps them from being influenced bydiffering, or objective, input. I pity their situation...but they should notbe allowed to undermine intelligent discourse.

Keep up the good fight...the "tilting at windmills" can have a positive
Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire,
"Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."

One can only wish that "the brood" were imaginary....
Still nary a comment from Sirota. Asshole.
Well said...the advent of talk radio and Fox News have given the right the perfect circle of insular information, where they really believe anyone that doesn't agree with them is an unfair and unbalanced far leftist. There is no such thing as presenting and debating ideas based on merit...if you don't agree with Boss Limbaugh...you're a commie liberal pinko...it's like the ghost of Spiro Agnew has risen from the dead. I never knew there were so many "commies" in the world before health care reform. This is the thinking (or lack thereof) that Ronald Reagan sowed the seeds of in claiming "government is the problem", and America is reaping his ugly harvest.
I haven't felt this demoralized in years.

btw, Can you imagine how Obama feels? Jon Stewart joked recently that we used to feel apologetic to the rest of the world for our president. And now it's our president who must apologize for us. One could understand if the man is just disappointed beyond belief at the country he leads.
David, You are one of the best at synthesizing all the information out there and then explaining it to us so we can understand. "Kill the messenger" remains our the typical human response. If you don't point out the facts, it does not mean the facts do not remain. I am hoping you keep going, knowing that there are so many of us who look forward to your ability to cut to the chase in your columns. Besides, I know you are not that gray...yet.
It is our great sickness made visible. I mostly try not to look -- at suppurating wounds, pustules, venom-swollen madness. all made visible for our delectation -- and so inexpensively through the miracle of the Internet! It offends one's innocence. I try not to look. It's there and always has been. it is now public. We go on, speaking to those we are speaking to.
A good rule of thumb for expressing disagreement on Internet forums is, "Would you say that in a forum that was being broadcast on a television show that your mother or father was watching?" If the answer is negative, then what you plan on saying is probably ill-considered and inappropriate, perhaps even downright abusive. Find another way to say it or don't say it at all.
"but to simply point out that I think there is some truth to the idea that the political discourse in this country has gotten toxically coarse to the point where we're not having any kind of discussion about substance at all."

I was profoundly confronted with this realization just yesterday, reading about people hating the president for supporting education, and it literally broke my heart. I became overwhelmed by the hatred and anger in the fight for "control" that the leadership of persons who have such thoughts and send such letters are willing to mislead, miseducation and lie to their constituency, with the only goal being that to obtain control. It's tragic that more Americans do not thing today about what they read and write, but more tragic still that their are persons in position of power who will happily exploit that for their own ends. And it's why we can't give it. It takes an incredible amount of strength and vision and belief in the moral high road to continue the fight in the face of such horrendous and personally inflicted victriol. But we have to be a little bit "more" than ever before, and we have to see... just the fact that they will stoop to these methods confirms that we are winning. that they are desperate. that their path is only growing more and more wrong. and it IS coming more and more clear as so.

My prayer for you is that you learn how not to "receive" it. You choose what you take into your heart and own. And if you choose not to take it into your heart and own it, if you say: HELLS NO THANK YOU! You will learn to laugh a tiny laugh when you see these, set up your own powerful boundary, and leave it lying in the dirt where it was conceived rather than tote it around on your own powerful back. Just leave it there. It's not easy, but it's a lesson I've worked 43 years to learn. And it is absolutely learnable!

Please, please, please don't own their crap - make them tote it around. And don't let this happen: "I'd guess that this escalation will ultimately get me out of the writing/blogging/activism game at some point in the future."

Yours in left-ism :)
One thing I have learned on this site is that liberals are capable of their own albeit anonymous profane explitives. I aggree people should own up to their remarks. Just because you do does not excuse your shameless bias. As a journalist you should be more responsible to the truth. As a test of your character why don't you try posting on a conservative blogsight.
Verbal Remedy Rome was dragged down by oligarchs extending their empire beyound what could reasonably be governed. Those advocating a strong central influence hastened the fall of Rome. Doesn't that mirror the liberal movement in America today.

Of course, you're right.

Here's a suggestion: when you get letters like that, read your own bio. You're highly respected by millions, have several NYT bestsellers to your credit, national syndication, and many fans.

Plus, you have loved ones who really love you.

The people who "hate" you don't even know you. They also don't think you are stupid, really. They would say that to anyone who disagreed with them.

So remember who you are and what you have done, and think (but don't say) "Screw you, haters!"
The crazies are out there. There could be one cleaning its gun with malice aforethought. so all who dare to argue with their perceived vision need to be alert. On the other hand, it's not like being the manager of the Yankees or the Red Sox.
Sorry men but conservatism is not the only safe haven for the profane. Convenient isn't it to attribute the extremism that offends in particular to the entire movement in general. I do know some liberals however that have been downright polite. By the way an impressive cv does not elevate your opinion above the rest.
Better to be hated than ignored.
We'll all do a lot better when Rush Limbaugh OD's on pain killers, Bill O'Reilly is stabbed through the heart with a wooden stake (go Sookie), and Glenn Beck is locked up in the looney bin. Unless this all happens simultaneously, however, we can pretty much count on the right staying stirred up 24/7 via the never-ending news cycle of vitriol.

That is the game -- inflame the ignorant masses so that nothing requiring reason and social responsibility can be easily accomplished. That way, the rich stay rich, no one has to share, and American remains the nation of estranged individuals grabbing as much as they can for no other reason that the fact that society and the economy allow for it.

I feel exactly as you do. The haters are turning me into a hater. Add Ann Coulter, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin to the mix and it inflames me beyond the ability to maintain reason. We are a nation divided but I truly believe we can thank Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for that. If the right wing base didn't hear it or see it, they would not read enough or absorb enough to know much of anything about the economy or politics.

So, in my own fit of hatefulness, after arguing all afternoon about keeping kids homes from school on Tuesday I say:

May their ends be as painful as they have made us through their lifetimes...Oh, I hate to be a hater but today, I am letting it all fly from my fingertips....Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better and happier day? Only if I don't read, think or listen...;)
Lalucas--your level of tolerance is very inspiring. Stabbing O'Reilly with a wooden stake seems a bit harsh. However it seems the real issue is that you much more than the country are polarized. I hope you are not a Dallas Cowboy fan--if you are as an Eagle fan my fate is sealed. Many of my friends are liberal and I can only hope that you reside on an opposite but equal fringe as Rush et als.
Yep, it's rough out there. If someone writes an article about how cute kittens are some jerk will show up spouting vitriol about how stupid kittens are and how only morons like kittens.

Would it help if you got more love letters? To maybe balance it out some?
At least the hater who wrote to you did one good thing, they made me laugh.
"Rome was dragged down by oligarchs extending their empire beyound what could reasonably be governed. Those advocating a strong central influence hastened the fall of Rome. Doesn't that mirror the liberal movement in America today."

Uh, sorry, no.

"oligarchs extending their empire" Ought to refer to the neo-con
grab of Iraq and the Constitution, or the reign of the corporate dogs on Wall Street and Capitol Hill.

"advocating a strong central influence"? As in lobbyist money, or do you mean Homeland Security? Then there's that pesky perennial military-industrial complex.

"the liberal movement" Is there any such a thing? Both the Dims and the Repugs are bought, and in their turn have sold out We the People.
David, I truly respect yourwork and enjoy it. We need more clear, intelligent voices out there. And I agree w/ you that it's like being in a household where everyone is shouting at each other and no one is listening.

However, calling this period one of the darkest times in the past 50 years is just another bit of hyperbole but this time it comes from the liberal side of the political spectrum.

I would certainly put 9/11/01 and the aftermath of arrests and violation of civil rights ahead of this tempest in a teapot. Also, I'd put the whole Vietnam and Civil Rights era ahead of this. JFK, King, Malcolm X and RFK all being killed within a five year span, race riots in major cities, and countless other faceless, nameless men and women had been victimized by racists. That ranks above this exercise in free speech.

I was born a month before King died. I didn't experience the 60s nor do I pine for that period. Some people know are being led in a demagoguery-Father Coughlin type manner and will eventually tire of this issue and move on to something else to be pissed off about. FDR went through this kind of hatred with the rich calling him a "traitor to his class".

Have liberals forgotten how much vitriol was heaped upon President Clinton during his 2 terms? From the moment he entered office, he endured charges that he was a Communist (from a visit to Moscow during his Rhodes Scholar studies), and that he was an upper-crust, Hollywood-type and out of touch w/ common people (remember the haircut on LAX's runway that locked up the airport for a couple of hours?). This was just at the beginning of FOX News' dominance of the airwaves back in the early 90s.

But, was it o.k. for the conservatives to bash him b/c he couldn't keep his Willy in his pants and swung too much to the Center for the liberals and progressives?

Unfortunately, this is the price we pay for the 24 hour news cycle. It's a monster, and it must be fed.
I got up late and have just read your column. It is civility in motion. I am very concerned about the lack of civility amongst us. Even more concerned am I about the vast pathology of behavior we find. The American home, the schools, and the religious institutions bear some culpability in creating a nation of neurotics. I mean this specifically. As a retired psychotherapist, I have watched with alarm the shredding of decency. It all starts with the child, as has been mentioned above. The innocent life is assaulted AND neglected both physically and spiritually every day of existence. Another important problem for the growing child is the lack of closeness to the earth - little exposure to nature, to good nutrition, to respect for other living creatures. All this misshapes and deforms what is essentially a wondrous creation. Fear and perception of lack of personal security begin to dominate over confidence and peaceof mind. The costs of a populace who are personally frightened and insecure is enormous. These are the shouters, non-listeners, abusers and uninformed. They are growing in number.

What is my response to your eloquent, personal statement, David? To use a somewhat vulgar, but apt, expression is "Don't let the bastards get you!"

This will take much self awareness and self esteem on your (and our) parts but is the measure of our quality, intelligence and heart.

As an older citizen, brought up in a civil home and community in the west, this breaks my heart. In the twilight of my life nothing could have wounded me more. I suspect that you, David, as well as all the extraordinary responses you have received feel this chagrin also. Few of these responses were trite, blasphemous or mean.

I shall take a degree of comfort not only in your splendid, personal article, but in the community of thought that it has brought forth.
Hey spindoctor,

"What irony that the man who aspires to be remembered as the great conciliator has had such a polarizing effect on our nation. Never in our nation’s history has one leader caused this much upheaval in such a short period of time. Are we really this far apart on matters of politics, matters of race or both?"

I can think of a guy (but don't take this as a comparison, just a response to your inquiry): Abraham Lincoln.

Even before he took office, 7 states had left the Union and 4 more left soon after.

It isn't just in writing. It's any profession that deals with the public. There is virtually no job where the public cannot act as you described.

Keep your spirits up, we need you, a voice of clarity (at least to us bone stupid, drooling buffoon liberals) and compassion (uh oh, sissy lib word) out of the midst of this howling wilderness. (Wait a bit and I'll start quoting Allen Ginsberg...) I do want to add to others here that times before have been as scary, we just didn't have the internet to spread the hate around at lightening speed. Reading about the days before JFK's assassination: the crazy, murderous anti-commie plots going on in Dallas; reading a biography of Jefferson, just as much muckraking, scandal mongering and attempts to destroy others political lives with total lies. So hang in, be one of the sane voices, please.
PLEASE please please do not stop the good work, the HARD work, baby! Please try to keep in mind that there are millions of us out here that support you and that NEED you.

If nothing else, try to keep in mind that the more hate that you receive in response to your work means that you are hitting home with them! You are making inroads, and therein is the beauty of the work......albeit painful.

Chin up good strong soldier. You are loved and respected by the masses that DO support you, and that wish we were as strong and as articulate as you are.

Onwards, ever onwards! It is truly worth the fight honey....
And oh yeah, here's a big FUCK YOU to "Chris K" and "Aim." Chris, dunno where you got your 'rules' about the protocol about responding to an Open Salon post. Excuse me? Do you know something that the rest of us do not? And also to "aim." If you have nothing cogent to add, back off. Complaining that there is something inherently wrong with the message because the messenger doesn't feel the need to expand on a well-written post seems like......crap.....it feels like the same ignorant people that elected and then re-elected George Bush, and still make excuses for him.

Address the ISSUES baby, step up and offer solutions to real problems or step the fuck off. Attacking someone's clearly stated ideas without offering real alternatives is so stupid and immature that you sound like........Sarah Palin?
When Andrew Jackson became president, he had a long list of enemies, and he blamed them for the death of his beloved wife. The campaign, as you probably know, was so bitter, so meanly contested, that Jackson's opponents accused Rachel Jackson of adultery in a previous marriage.

Imagine the kind of uproar we'd have in the White House if the right accused Michelle Obama of being an adulterer. Thankfully, that hasn't happened!

But this brings me to my theory which is not that we have become a meaner nation, but that the left has come to believe that offensiveness and hurt feelings are more important than standing up for what is right. We, the American public, need you to stand up for what is right. So the right has become rabid in their desperation to retain control. So what? Leave them to their tantrums. Name-calling is what children revert to when they have no rational argument. Why should we let that deter us?
Stop reading it. Hire someone else, somewhere, but no one in your family or close to you, maybe elance.com, have them report to you what is necessary. And keep doing your work. It is essential, but not to the point of making yourself as sick as it already has. I've driven long trips through the south recently and have been shocked at the level of hatred on the radio and I am a 7th generation southerner. Not even during integration did I hear the things I am hearing now. If hate wins, where are we? Start a discussion on how to move away from the hate. Call on all your readers, religious leaders, political leaders with dignity, everyone should begin to focus on countering hatred with understanding and compassion and working towards the common good. And we need to understand why the technology of the internet has facilitated a movement towards hatred and how to counter that. I'm supporting you. Your voice is extremely important.

I agree with Layne Redmond. I've been thinking a lot about this very subject this weekend, and I'm glad that you've written about it, David. What I'm beginning to see is that the hate is more than "spontaneous" -- it seems to be a deliberate tactic, a kind of cyber-bullying. The haters, the bullies, the screamers are deliberately trying to increase their power by shouting loud and terrible lies, knowing that the way the media is now structured, their lies and hatred will get legitimized by being broadcast.

There are people who deliberately get up early in the morning to be the first to post some barely literate attack-rant on every liberal article on Salon or on the liberal opinion pieces in the Washington Post. The purpose isn't to share an opinion; it's to pee in the pool. When a few of them do it, it makes it unpleasant for others to go there.

I'm happy to say that I think Salon may have cracked down on this phenomenon recently. I was nauseated by the comments following Ted Kennedy's death. I wish that someone had put in a filter to flag all references to "Mary Jo," "Kopechne," "Chappaquiddick" or "rot in hell," to look at them, see if the posting had a modicum of reason, and throw out the rest. (Please, right-winger, don't tell me for a second that you give one r**'s a** about that girl. If it had been a Republican senator instead of Ted, you would have been calling her a slut every time someone mentioned her name.) It seems that I can go to Salon's letters and read them again without having to take a shower.

We need to start calling this game out. We need to make a big, big stink about it to the advertisers on all of these shows. Otherwise, where will it end? Do we need another Oklahoma City bombing? How long can we just stand by and allow people to make millions by deliberately whipping impressionable people into a frenzy?
The hate level is clearly in the red zone, no question. This weekend's craziness in Washington did nothing to alleviate that, nor do I expect it to end any time soon. Health care reform is only the tip of the iceberg. When energy initiatives and reform of the financial system take center stage, prepare for even worse. I saw it in the days of the Clinton impeachment when I worked in the CNN communities. Then, it was limited to a handful of Freepers and paid disrupters. In the ensuing eight years, their ranks have grown, and there are more than enough willing to be jerks for free that I doubt anyone gets paid for it anymore.

And yet, with all of that, you didn't seem to feel much hesitation before covering me with the same kind of nasty, hyperbolic, insulting language that you (rightly) object to here. One wrong doesn't excuse another. When people feel free to insult the messenger instead of the message, nothing is really accomplished other than stirring even more anger and resentment.

As I said in my open letter to you today, I hope you will choose not to become what you decry.

Peace to you.
I completely agree. I have to tune out otherwise my head would explode when I see all of the stupendously stupid behavior from the chief assholes Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Wilson and their ilk.
If these so-called people hate you, then you are on the right side of history! Take heart!
You are spot on. But unfortunately, you hardly need to be writing about anything as meaty as politics to get in the haters' crosshairs. People will take the opportunity to spew venom about anything. You're blogging about the death of your 16 month old daughter? Someone will flame you. Oh yes, they will.

Too funny that I commented on this this morning and this afternoon dooce posts this:


She's on to something.
Chris K isn't a very pleasant person to read, but as a matter of cold fact, Sirota never yet has responded to OS comment streams, that I've seen. I guess OS isn't something David attaches a lot of importance to.
I would think that as a political journalist you somehow would have been able to deal with this much better than me at any rate. But I guess what you mean is senseless hate the kind that is a bit nerve wracking because it also is somewhat threatening. One never really knows when and where someone takes things so seriously or themselves so seriously that they forget they live in a society. That is why I think one needs a healthy dose of humor. Otherwise what is different between normal passionate citizen and a terrorist/ They both have a cause and they both have zeal. The thing that separates them is humor.
You are in a line that needs much resilience. All good luck!
Yeats saw it, too: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

I posted a little commentary on this issue here the other day:

"But my personal decisions are not really important to anyone other than me and my family."
I have to disagree, Mr. Sirota. The decisions you make regarding your work are very important to everyone in this country. We need people who are brave enough to speak out. We need you.

The collective angst of America has become a very negative force, and you are feeling that negativity. I am truly sorry about the haters, but please don't give them what they want -- and you know what they want. They want you to shut up. They want to take away your right to free speech because what you say makes them uncomfortable.

Thank you for all that you do. ~M. Roller, Tallahassee FL
From an evolutionary psychological standpoint - we have always and forever been 'haters'. Its inherent in each and every one of us to 'be right' and its our duty to 'inform others'. Think about those two statements. Do not take it personally. My hometown newspaper's comments section is full of vitriol - mostly against another poster - usually not against the story. And believe me - yes the 'liberals' (I am one) are just as 'hateful' as the 'other side'