People are weird.
I know you know that – everyone knows that, even the weirdoes – but I’m talking here about one specific area of weirdness. Allow me to explain: I do a weekly radio column for the Irish Independent. You’d imagine something like that wouldn’t incite a very strong response. It’s just someone giving their opinion on what they’ve heard over the last week, with the odd digression into broader themes. And my style is not bland or milquetoast, but neither is it especially inflammatory or ‘controversial’. It’s reasonably well-balanced. Definitely not the sort of thing to get someone all riled up.
And you’d be wrong. Some of the emails I get are so bizarrely aggressive and histrionic, they almost come across like a pastiche of “angry reader”. Bear in mind what’s being discussed here – then read on… (Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.)
First, this letter in response to a piece praising Miriam O’Callaghan, and saying how likeable she was:
“you puffing up miriam ocallaghan made me feel sick… she is a talentless heap of shite! her front line interviews are stupidly embarrassing… her taking herself not seriously is a huge problem…. in her tv chat show ( the worst that i have ever seen) she enters a show biz world..that she has no part in…she like ryan tubberty should be in the audience and not on the stage…. Please spare us the CRAP about this brain less woman… she makes clare byrne look like einstien… give us a break… you must enjoy girly vacous shite”
This was about some reference I made to abortion – a serious issue, admittedly, but the presumptions this writer makes about me, based on one expressed opinion, are hilariously and depressingly ironic, given his opening words:
“You presume a lot if you think the views that you (and your clique of journalists in Dublin and on the net) have are the same views of the majority in the country and that David Quinn’s views are strange and unpopular. Honestly I think you hacks live in an alternative reality and think that you speak for all. Watch the two HUGE pro-life rallies next month and the month after and see whether David Quinn’s view is a minority view. You are as out of touch as the politicians,the vastly overpaid RTE celebrities and your other media colleagues. Get out more and talk to the ordinary people in the country and not just your little narrow-minded, liberal, pro-abortion, pro-anything-that’s-PC-of-the-times friends. I read articles like your articles several times a week all over the place and your smugness and condescending superiority is annoying.”
More abortion, I’m guessing. And more clichés, stereotypes and assumptions:
“Hi Darragh, you’re just what Ireland needs now- another liberal, pro-abortion journalist. Ye all must feel very cosy, preaching from your modern pulpits. By all means let’s have hard questioning. Could I offer a few suggestions? What should be done with the aborted remains? Incineration? Burial with suitable words or prayers? Recycling- not so far fetched as it seems as cannibalism is still practised? Let’s ask about abortion methods. Saline injection? Partial birth abortion? Dismemberment? Time limits could also be debated. Does 24 weeks suit or maybe 23 weeks and 6 days. Let’s subtract another day or 2 just to make the foul deed more reasonable. At least be honest. Abortion kills a developing human life. Thou shalt not kill seems a good guide to me and I hope it stays that way or no one is safe. “
This genius didn’t understand the point of an opinion column, complaining that mine was too concerned with, eh, giving an opinion.
“Rarely am I moved to write in response to an article but yours takes the biscuit. Is it possible that somebody can become a journalist in Ireland and get away with writing this kind of meaningless tripe. Who gives a shite whether you feel awful or not, whether you find OGorman boring or whether you think he’s an institution, or uninteresting or commendable. I don’t hear him very often but give me a real journalist like Paddy anyday to somebody writing this kind of boring twaddle. Just reread your first two paragraphs and ask yourself ‘Was I put on earth to write this stuff?’”
This was after one of my periodic digs at Irish people slavishly following UK soccer teams, instead of their own local team. And that’s almost as weird as the tone of these letters…
“Gosh Darragh, what an interesting and original article in yesterday’s Irish independent…why do those silly Irish men support English football?! What a rip tickler. And why has no one thought of it before? I must say it down the pub and watch the place erupt like its 1993 when a debate like this was last considered interesting or worth discussing. But then of course you wouldn’t just be using your column to rip on something you personally dislike by any chance? Heaven forbid men in Ireland are allowed some distraction from their unemployment, rising mortgages and reduced standing in society. Maybe they should start writing radio review columns for a national broadsheet? All it seems to require is a few personal prejudices and some archaic arguments to see you on your way to a nice paycheck.”
This one’s about Marty Whelan! How the hell can anyone get angry when thinking about Marty Whelan! You wouldn’t mind but I was very complimentary to him. Best of all, they demand an apology!
“It was with great surprise to note the contents of your article in the Irish Independent review date Saturday 4th June, in which you criticised Marty Whelan’s ability to present his early morning slot on Lyric FM. I was really angered with your comments and your suggestion that Mr. Whelan has a place but not on Lyric ? What rubbish!! I throughly enjoy Lyric Fm and that includes Mr. Whelan’s programme. His light banter brings a smile not just to me but to many of my colleagues. I am a music teacher by profession and have been teaching piano for the last 21 years and I think Lyric Fm has it just right including Mr. Whelan. You suggest that Marty does not know his place – I suggest that you do not know yours? I await your comments in next week’s edition and an apology for your narrowmindedness would not go astray.”
And this is Marty too!
“In reference to your article on Marty on Lyric radio. Hands Off!!!! so WHAT? he may play lounge music as you call it but I and my friends love him. You have 21 other hours left to listen to your high brow classical music. I was a patient in the Galway Clinic recently for a month and for 3 hours he kept me sane, including some other patients who loved him too. As you said he’s a veteran, a trouper.and one of the good guys, I can only hope You last as long in your profession Believe me he knows his stuff and is allways cheery and full of bits of news.So no more nasty words about him. Name another station where we can get that kind of a good programme.”
And this came after I made some jocose reference to sports fans and their tiresome ‘banter’:
“Hi, Just read your piece on banter and just wanted to say that the fact that this inane piece of tat was actually published and you got paid for it makes me sick. How much do you get paid as a matter of interest? Do you have free rein to write what you like or has somebody as unimaginative as yourself instructed you to inflict such twaddle upon us? I am genuinely curious. Kind regards, XX”
A lot of people feeling ‘sick’ reading innocuous little radio review columns.
PS Normally I don’t respond to crank emails – it surely only encourages them – but I did, once, to that last one, and this can pretty much stand as a stock reply to them all:
You ask a lot of questions, so here are a few questions back.
Do you normally write abusive screeds to people you don’t know, for no real reason whatsoever? Do you normally ask people you don’t know what their salary is? Can I ask what job you do, and how much you get paid? Do you welcome professional criticism and personalised attacks from complete strangers? Is all your correspondence this hysterical and violently over-the-top? Are you this rude to family members and friends, or just to people you don’t know?
Actually I should thank you, because your vicious little poison-pen letter – I notice you don’t sign your full name – has given me an idea for a piece. Who knows, I may even quote some of it. Lucky you, you’ll be immortalised in ‘an inane piece of tat’ by someone ‘as unimaginative as me’.
Good luck to you,