I have been starting a site at the Guardian, and just too busy to post here, or even to think. I have never in my life had anything like the quantity and virulence of hatemail that I’m getting there. I think the most egregious example was this, sent to me personally at my graun address.:
your book on Sweden and (allegedly) fly fishing.
What a depressing piece of badly written rubbish! Were you not a journo, you would never have had it published. I’m pleased to say I read it AFTER a delightful few weeks in that happy, cheerful country – it went in the bin of course, and I almost feel sorry for you in your clearly depressive state.
This is not much compared to the hatred poured out on that site at Christians, or women. It’s not just upsetting, but really odd. Where does all this bile and self-righteousness come from? (in the quoted case, it comes from a vanity domain, icwilson.com) After a long day reading that kind of crap I feel as some people did after the 7/7 bombings, as if complete strangers might explode beside me in the tube; except instead of semtex, they would just burst from the force of their own corrosive intestinal festerings. It’s probably related to the Ross/ Brand kind of bullying, too.
Ah well, tomorrow I am in Oxford for most of the day, and working on trains when I am not lecturing. But I will try to keep this site going. I like the comments here, for one thing.
On the bright side, these people are delivering an enormous amount of material for some future project (could be anything from a darkly comic novel to a searing analysis of online culture to an inverted Henry Root. Maybe all three at once).
It may seem like someone just unloaded a dumper truck full of manure in your driveway, mind.
I think you should seriously consider not doing this.
First time posting here. I found your blog after reading the Sweden book and had meant to write earlier, but this seems like an opportune moment.
I’m English, living in Sweden for research purposes, and found your book very insightful especially regarding the disciplines of poverty. Your descriptions of the winter, of silence, and the countryside were spot on. I agree with you about Avenyn in Göteborg, but my wife doesn’t. We both have you to thank for turning us on to Café Mauritz. Please write more about Sweden.
I just thought I would drop a line to say don’t get discouraged.
When I often read the hectoring responses to columnists who dare to suggest we have an informed religious discussion, it can seem like a disappointing example of whoever shouts the loudest, wins.
But when I see such blatant bullying, my mind veers towards a passage from the novel Q by Luther Blisset. A revolutionary in early reformation Europe asks his colleague how they will convert people to their way of thinking – they are so few and the church and state are so many. The reply: “We shall seduce them”.
It is a point, I find, so obvious and yet so little observed. The manner in which you deliver an argument can matter as much as the content of the argument itself. Insults have never won converts. Have we forgotten how to seduce?
The semi-anonymity of the Internet does seem to bring out the bullies, especially on the big newspaper sites. All I can do is urge you not to be afraid, and suggest that you imagine them drowning in their own bile (very likely, given the quantity they must produce).