Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Civility Lesson for Young Gentlemen: The Art of Courteous Correspondence

Technology advances, but the requirements of courtesy endure. As print journalism has given way to online, and as the e-mail has supplanted the written letter, it is unfortunate that civility has suffered.

Once upon a time, the "poison pen" letter -- through which defamation was carried on by secret correspondence -- could lead to bloody duels, if ever the identity of the author could be discovered by the target of his falsehoods.

So when some vile creature with a Hotmail account sought to attack me by sending an e-mail to my editor -- in response to an AmSpecBlog post, and specifically demanding that I never be published in the print edition of the American Spectator -- he perhaps little suspected that his malicious missive would be forwarded to me by my dear friend Wlady Pleszczynski.

How should a gentleman respond to such an attack? With the utmost possible civility, to wit:
Dear Mr. D----:
You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. To say that my "blogs provide nothing but red meat for people that could really use a bit less red meat" is contrary to fact, as I have repeatedly used AmSpecBlog to REPORT NEWS of which the readers might otherwise have been unaware, to wit: As for my inclusion in the print edition, if you'll turn to page 46 of the September issue, you'll find my article, "The War on Watchdogs," about the brewing Inspectors General scandal. At 3,000 words, it is the most extensive print article written on this topic to date, and is now available online in its entirety.
If you were actually a reader of the magazine, you would have already known this, just as, had you been a regular reader of AmSpecBlog, you would have known how much exclusive news reporting I have done there.
The discrepancy between your opinion and the demonstrable facts prompts me to ponder your motive in writing to my editor (whom I CC with BCC to others, including my personal attorney). It would be a matter for a jury to decide whether, as a matter of law, you have endeavored by libelous assertions, transmitted in such manner to my supervisors, to deprive me of gainful employment. Yet I will content myself to have been vindicated by the facts, and will ask only that you cease further efforts to disseminate these unjust and defamatory falsehoods against me, as I desire only to remain
Your most humble and obedient servant,
Robert Stacy McCain
Co-author (with Lynn Vincent) of DONKEY CONS: Sex, Crime & Corruption in the Democratic Party
Honesty, courtesy and courage will always triumph against a lying coward.

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