Saturday, March 25, 2006

ehate, elove, and public criminology

i've been getting lots of research-related correspondence lately and have fallen way behind in answering it. hate mail messages are hard to ignore, though. i don't get much real jackie robinson-style hate mail, such as that shown at left. dislikemail better describes most of my stuff. still, i'm led to ask: will internet-age attempts at public sociology and public criminology engender ever-greater hate mail?

sometimes friends forward me stuff they encounter in the blogosphere. this week i got word of something posted on a local CraigsList with the subject line: "Most Rapists Vote DEMOCRAT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!." it gets much uglier thereafter. i'll spare you the details, but this one was a clumsy political statement rather than a personal attack.

nevertheless, folks are also upping the ante on personal attacks. in particular, some have made sure to tell me they know where i live by referencing my home address, my family, my car, and other personal details. my friends and colleagues are getting more of this sort of thing too. have you gotten any lately?

i don't hear much talk about hate mail in discussions of public sociology, but it seems like an inevitable byproduct of the enterprise. often the mail references controversial statements or stories. for example, i got some very colorful email following my appearance in an associated press story viewed as sympathetic to sex offenders. just as often, however, the ehate stems from statements that could hardly be considered controversial (e.g., "the likelihood of recidivism declines sharply with age").

i haven't saved this stuff, but i think i'll start archiving it. i'd share it online, but it is usually crude -- not crude in an interesting or revealing way, just crude. i'm not shocked to be called a race-traitor, for example, but such phrases are usually preceded by a string of unimaginative obscenities that i'd rather not repeat. it would sort of defeat the purpose to edit or censor the hate mail and then post it, right?

of course, sometimes people write or say very nice things (love mail?) that leave the academic feeling a little sheepish or shamefaced. i've been called a "distinguished political scientist," for example, and was once introduced as a "civil rights leader from minneapolis." to make matters worse, there were actual civil rights leaders in the audience that day.

i know that the number of people who read this blog is pretty small, but i'm still shocked that i've never seen any hate mail or personal attacks show up as comments -- not one! this seems impressive since anyone can leave an anonymous message. so far, the only comments i've deleted have been advertisements (hey, you've got a cool blog. get cheap viagra here!). when people disagree with posts, they have always -- without exception -- commented in a constructive and civil way. so far, so good...

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