An open letter to posters

IN THE SPIRIT of the season, the following is an open letter to readers of the Drudge Report:

Gee, gang, why so angry? Every time a column or article of mine gets posted on the site, I invariably wake up to a torrent of hostile emails. For awhile, it was like a perverse “Where’s Waldo?” game — “Oh, that one’s rage-filled and anti-Semitic — I must have made Drudge!”

Frankly, all this vitriol seems slightly misplaced, given that there are so many outlets now for people who would write such things. Starting with prison.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s concede you’re correct in your suspicions that the traditional media — you know, the one largely controlled by General Electric, Disney, Time Warner and News Corp. — are completely under the thumb of left-wing anarchists. On the bright side, there’s the Internet and talkradio, and you (that is, Drudge readers) clearly have access to the web, which puts you way ahead of your shoeless forebears or toothless cousins. So cheer up!

Of course, you have every right to express your views, but leading with “You make me sick” or “Get cancer and die” is seldom the way to initiate a productive conversation. So at the risk of being presumptuous, consider this friendly advice to help you get your messages read as opposed to instantly deleted.

FOR STARTERS, it’s a good idea to actually read links before responding. Not to say that Drudge plays fast and loose with accuracy, but sometimes the pithy headlines aren’t entirely indicative of a story’s actual content. (Even experienced copy editors occasionally make this mistake.)

In addition, dismissing anybody living within 100 miles of Hollywood as “pinheads,” “stoopid liberals” or “anti-American friends of the terrorists” isn’t particularly original or, for that matter, accurate. Although I might be a godless sodomite that hates America, I’m confident not everybody west of Nevada is, despite what Bill O’Reilly says.

Also, you don’t have to be a condescending elitist ensconced in Manhattan lofts or Beverly Hills mansions to embrace the First Amendment. We were just discussing this, by the way, during our last secret meeting of media bigwigs at Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon’s house. (Sean Penn brought dessert — you should have been there!)

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of you aren’t really that bad once you get past the first barrage of rhetoric. Oftentimes, sending a polite response — no matter how despicable the opening message — yields a sincere “thank you” for writing back. This dialogue is helpful, and nobody likes to be ignored, but you have to meet us media folks halfway. By toning down the initial attacks, it’s easier to engage in a conversation. No journalist wants to go down in history as the idiot who became email pals with the next Unabomber.

Admittedly, given the dire financial state many newspapers face, it’s nice being reminded that people are reading at all out there — even when the reaction comes in the electronic equivalent of crayon.

JUST TO BE FAIR, there are cranks of all political stripes, and Sean Hannity’s mailbag is surely no picnic either. The strangeness of Drudge, though, is how the site elicits venomous tirades to even such relatively benign material, as if many readers are so frustrated and irascible that they’re just waiting (even eager) to see something that pisses them off. They then pounce on faraway reporters and columnists, accusing people they’ve never read before (much less met) of being in bed with Al Qaeda — including scribes in major population centers like New York and L.A., which are more likely targets of terrorism, frankly, than correspondents weighing in from Ocala, Fla., or Valdosta, Ga.

So let’s see if we can coexist peacefully. Disagreement is welcome, but it’s possible to be civil about it. That’s certainly my goal when interacting with Drudge diehards, in part because I’m betting a lot of you are armed to the teeth.

And not to consciously antagonize those of you who recognize no other celebration except Christmas and are convinced an atheist minority has taken over America, but Happy Holidays!

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