June 23rd, 2024

Thoughts on letters to the editor and anonymous posts


By Lethbridge Herald on January 19, 2022.

Editor:

When I was wondering what I should do after retirement, I thought of writing. I asked a friend for advice. He was a managing editor of a national magazine. He nixed the idea of a book.

He said: publishing a ‘book’ may be good for your ego but it’s not easy to attract readers when you are unknown and it is your first publication. The “letter to the editor” is better. It will enjoy a much bigger audience. It costs you nothing: he said.

 “Do you want people to know what you are thinking or spend money to produce a book few people read?” People read letters because they are short. 

Letters come right after horoscopes, comic strips, and sports. If a book, the first print of a novice writer is usually one thousand copies. It takes years to sell all of them. Hundreds may stay on a shelf collecting dust. 

I started to write letters. ‘Letter to the Editor’ enjoys readerships of thousands instantly even in a small city like Lethbridge. A Chinese saying has it, “It’s better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of a cow.” 

We love to see our words in print: they flatter our ego. When the readership of print media is declining, I wonder if more space should be given to public participation to retain readership of those who still read printed words on paper. 

You never know: some great talent may emerge and change things, like Junius of 18th century England. He was a letter writer and a fearless critic. He targeted movers and shakers of society lashing out at aristocracy, clergy, monarchy, and political leadership. 

He wrote 78 letters to the publisher of the “Public Advertiser” between 1769 until 1772. If Junius was indeed Thomas Paine as some people suspected, a letter writer can change history. Paine drafted the “Declaration of Independence” of the United States of America after he left England. A leather-bound copy of the collection of all the “Letters of Junius” is my prized possession. It was published in 1826.

Speaking of public participation, though it is apparently popular, the ”Roasted and Toasted” page of the Lethbridge Herald often infuriates me. There are gems among them to be sure. 

But hiding behind anonymity, there is so much partisan tribalism, unabashed lies and misinformations. I admit that, however, “Roasted and Toasted” represent the reality of Lethbridge: good, bad, and ugly. I should pay more attention to them, especially the generation who submit those ranting votes more than those who don’t read print media.

 I wish at least there was an option to attach signatures to their ranting, especially when referring to individuals. If you want to attack a person, you must be decent enough to identify yourself. Hiding behind anonymity is cowardly, irresponsible, and unfair.

Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui

Lethbridge

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TonyPargeter

I appreciate the overview Tad. I agree about the cowardice of anonymity and don’t pay much attention to the “roasts and toasts” for that reason, but also because they are a depressing reminder of JUST how “tribal” this place is, as you said. Tribal CONSERVATIVE i.e., the very definition of tribal as in blindly clinging to a long-standing affiliation even when it has clearly “gone south.” That has happened as a result of a concerted right-wing effort, starting with the media, to “flood that zone with bullshit” as Steve Bannon put it. People are easy to lead down rabbit holes it turns out, so the strategy of stoking divisions shamelessly and lowering the tone of discourse dramatically has worked depressingly well. The anonymity of social media has been a huge part of that, along with all the wholly unscrupulous “misinformation.”
But thankfully there are also quite a few progressive people here (which there certainly should be with a university and a college) so there are also many open minds to create some hope.
I agree about the letters being an example of the best vehicle for some of these actual “conversations” I keep hearing that we’re all supposed to be having, but most of the comments are also anonymous. I found that odd when I started reading this paper and writing letters to the editor, so I mentioned it several times, wondering why more people didn’t write more letters themselves and/or identify themselves. Only a few replied to my query but the answer was the same–that anything other than the conservative take was met with hostility and even open threats. This was in past years I gather, so before the openly deep divisions we now have. In light of that, it seems that conservatism is not just cheap and a bit nasty when it comes to money, but that can be seen as an endemic trait of that “philosophy.”

DougCameron

Well said Tony

buckwheat

So you’re for censure of a little harmless fun.

prairiebreze

While you may not like anonymity what it provides is a snapshot of how people really feel about various issues. After reading a number of your letters I pretty much bypass those that have your name attached because what’s coming is another predictable sanctimonious sermon that I find tedious.

TonyPargeter

We can all see how well that’s worked out to empower a group of people not exactly known for the basic reading and/or writing skills that provide the necessary perspective for actual critical thinking, people who have always resented being excluded but not enough to bother actually educating themselves more. Easier to disrespect education, period, and identify as one of the anti-intellectual, anti-expertise types when you can find your people on the internet. The level of vitriol is obviously pent-up, and the usual safety in numbers now plagues us all, spilling over into accosting public figures.
I share your impatience with sanctimony and the mindless corporate repetition of key messages blah blahing in the media, and really long for more “fresh” language and more honesty, even more general venting at such an extremely frustrating time, but all this rude, ignorant aggression is just stupid.

DougCameron

You rest your case Tony. buckwheat and prairebreze hiding under the bed instead of using their real names. I assume prairebreze meant to call him/herself, prairebreeze but messed that up as well. We are all entitled to our opinions though, I suppose.

prairiebreze

Couldn’t resist getting your little barb in there could you? It’s definitely not a typo; it’s about creativity.

DougCameron

LOL!

DougCameron

As usual, I agree with you totally Tad.

biff

pseudonyms are worthy, save for when an anonymous enters into derogatory accusations and personal attacks. they help create a healthy separation between the message and the messenger such that the message is more the focus (alas, i concede there is no longer such separation with the likes of biff). they also allow for a freer sharing of thoughts – and no, we do not need to “control” and otherwise shut down fee exchange with the likes of adherence to official narrative and political correctness (whereas, decorum and respect are essential). simply dismissing those expressing divergent and original thought as “paranoid” and “conspiratorial” further undermines openness and undermines the shedding of light on truths. in this day and age of belittled privacy, and ultra pressure to conform to the official way – you gotta love autocracy to love the path we are on – the pseudonym protects those (including their safety and careers) that offer perspectives that deviate from the herd mentality and bullying bunch into which much of society has once again sunk.