I Guess I Pissed Him Off….

A couple of years ago, after receiving a particularly nasty (unsigned) letter presumably triggered by one of my columns in the Indianapolis Star, I posted a rebuttal of sorts. In it, I noted my frustration with people who respond to ideas with which they disagree by calling names rather than specifying the nature of the disagreement.

Today, I received the following message from the IPhone of one Steve Hunsicker:

It’s a crime to think people like you are at our university’s teaching. Look in the mirror, it’s professors like yourself that are dangerous to our kids.

I have no idea what set this person off. Since the email came to me through the IBJ, I assume he found my most recent column for that publication objectionable; of course, from the message, it is impossible to know what he disagreed with or why.

This is the sort of behavior that baffles and depresses me. I understand disagreeing with someone’s opinion. I understand getting angry about it. What I don’t understand is firing off an insult rather than initiating a conversation–or even an argument–about the substance of the disagreement.

When I read or hear something I find ridiculous, mendacious or just plain wrong, I consider the source. If the author is someone who seems amenable to reason, I may engage that person through correspondence or conversation. If, however, the author of the statement is one of the ideologues or yahoos that increasingly populate our political universe, I turn off the television or leave the website. It would never occur to me to respond with an ad hominem attack–why bother? What possible good would it do? And who has the time to tilt at the ever-proliferating windmills?

I guess that’s what I find so puzzling. What did Mr. Hunsicker think he was accomplishing? Did he think a hateful message bereft of any substance would make me reconsider my policy positions?  I have much the same question about all those people who spend hours posting angry, incoherent diatribes on newspaper websites. (Where do they get the time?? Don’t they have lives? Maybe not.)

Oh, well. As Kingsley Amis once said,  “If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.”


  1. It’s an emotional outburst. He knows he is right – perhaps even righteous – and you are wrong. And that makes him unhappy. Even if he can explain to himself precisely why he is unhappy, he certainly is not going to explain it to you and risk mucking up that delicious indignation with a bunch of words.

  2. He’s right, however, you are dangerous – to him. You teach your students to think. Critical thinking skills are anathema to people like Steve.

  3. I find people like this to be cowards, willing to throw stones when knowone is looking, back stabbing unwilling to face there victoms, rumor makers and lie believers when in a crowd of like minded people. They are shaped by there fears, and find themselves surrounded by fearful things, and a whole industry making money and egos, willing to stoke there fears moment to moment. Cowards can only deal with so much before they strike out, always from dark places where they can’t be seen. Cowards just Cowards.

  4. I just read your rebuttal to the original commenter. THAT is what pissed your most recent commenter off? A well-thought-out, perfectly rational response to a hateful comment? That is somehow is a shameful act? Honestly, WTF! People really do disgust me sometimes.

  5. I think the point he was very poorly trying to make is (no offense) oftentimes there isn’t a lot of objectivity in many of the posts here. It’s still entertaining, hence my being a regular reader, but I think that even the outliers of society tend to hold academia to higher standards. In politics moreso than anything else, we truly do have three fingers looking us in the eyes when we point at somebody.

    I’m not sure how many other blogs you folks read, but half the political ones that don’t have comment moderation descend into Mad magazine-style, well, madness pretty quickly. Perhaps without that occasional purge valve people have to keep their heads from exploding, who knows…

  6. Have him talk to me. As a former student of yours, I have the highest regard for the way in which you teach. You are objective, and want people to think and learn. From the libertarian to socialist point of view. This person – and people like him- are afraid of thought and reason. I disagreed with you ( and still do on many points), but I was never forced to accept your beliefs to get a good grade, just have a well thought out and reasoned explanation for what I posited. Keep doing what you are doing and teaching students to think, disagree and act civilly.

  7. Where did you go, Sheila? I am no longer receiving your posts. I miss them. Please keep me on your list. As to this Steve Hunsicker person, it must be very dark where he is….

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