Eric D. Snider

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Fun with crackpots and lunatics

For fun, sometimes I like to read the letters to the editor published in the Deseret News (in Salt Lake City) and the Daily Herald (in Provo, Utah). These papers have a lot of readers who are uptight, self-righteous, and/or insane, and like most uptight, self-righteous, and/or insane people, they are eager to broadcast it. Here are a few letters from recent days.

Deseret News, May 31:

I’m sure I won’t be the only reader responding to your article on profanity. I couldn’t believe the first sentence about “beating the crap out of …”

Perhaps you don’t think this word qualifies as profanity. That is inexcusable. Especially considering the subject of the article. If this word was used to shock those who read the piece, it is no different than screenwriters who put such words into movie and television scripts.

Barbara A. Lyman
American Fork

Barb employs two of the hallmarks of the self-righteous letter. First, she says she’s sure she won’t be the only one to complain — in other words, “Surely my opinion is widely held! Surely I am not in the fringe!” Then she says that if you don’t think “crap” is profanity, that’s “inexcusable” — in other words, “If you disagree with me, YOU are the wrong one, because this is a black-and-white issue with a clear-cut right answer, and I’m right.”

Deseret News, May 29:

The article on the front page of the Deseret News (May 27) written by Aaron Falk regarding Proposition 8 should have been deep in the paper. It was very disturbing to my wife and myself.

Was this the most important information for your readers? We think not. We feel the editor who chose this item for the front page is doing an injustice to the readers of your good paper.

Stan Walker
Farmington

The article in question was published the day after the California Supreme Court upheld the passing of Proposition 8, and it focused on various groups’ reactions to the decision: gay-marriage advocates, the LDS Church, legal experts, etc. Another article, a straightforward news story about the decision, ran alongside it. It is standard practice to run multiple stories covering different angles of major news stories. But since this one pertains to the gayz, Stan Walker figures no one reading the Deseret News has any interest in it. (Notice, again, that he assumes the way HE feels is the way MOST readers feel.)

The Daily Herald, May 27:

Ladies and gentlemen, whether you want to believe it or not, we are witnessing the undermining of our wonderful, inspired Constitution by the Obama administration. All you have to do is contemplate the outrageous things he has pushed on the nation since taking the oath of office.

We are witnessing, literally, the destruction of the Constitution of the United States of America, which is supposed to be the law of the land. How sad that we have allowed this kind of behavior to take place.

Russell Bender
Nephi

Hey, Russell (and this applies to everyone across the political spectrum): People are less inclined to think you’re a ranting crackpot if you’ll include an example of what you’re talking about. Even one example would be enough! I believe you may have learned this while writing essays in your seventh-grade English class. What is the intended reaction to this letter? “Wow, honey, did you know the Constitution is literally being destroyed by Obama? I had no idea, but this person we’ve never met who lives in a town called ‘Nephi’ says it is, and even though he didn’t mention any specifics, I’m inclined to believe him!”?

30 Responses to “Fun with crackpots and lunatics”

  1. Smash Says:

    I like how Russell Bender misused the word “literally,” as so many do. I’m imagining President Obama running into the National Archives, pile-driving the protective glass, and ripping the Constitution into shreds, in full view of bewildered, fanny-packed tourists. It makes me chuckle.

  2. Thomas Kane (Provo) Says:

    Eric,

    While you may feel that such righteous people as Russell and Barbara are “on the fringe” I’m sure a majority of your readers would agree with me that YOU are the one who is out there. Your seemingly random endorsement or disapproval of movies (even if you do coincide with Rotten Tomatoes between 90 and 100 percent of the time) clearly does not fall within mainstream norms.

    Recently you gave your stamp of approval to two movies on the same day: Up and Drag Me to Hell. I forgot what each movie was about, only that you approved of them both. Then, on family movie night, I took my wife to Up and sent my kids to Drag Me to Hell! Shame on you for promoting movies that my children have no business seeing as appropriate. It’s a good thing I didn’t bring my kids to Up with the wife. They would have been scared out of their minds (who wouldn’t?) at the sight of a flying house and demonic murderous hounds. My kids dodged a bullet this time, but next time we may not be so lucky. All of your readers and I would appreciate it if you would be a bit more discerning in your film reviews.

    TK

  3. Matt Says:

    If it’s a literal destruction, then my guess is that he’s using laser vision to burn it up. Though it’s apparently a pretty slow process if it can be described in a letter to the editor as an ongoing event that we are witnessing. Also, if we are witnessing it, why write a letter? Maybe Obama has disguised the Constitution as something we don’t care as much about like an Archie comic or the Magna Carta?

  4. Jonathon Says:

    Best of all is when the crazies save you the trouble of having to trawl letters to the editor and bring the craziness to you.

  5. Carina Says:

    The literal destruction one just warms my soul.

    I wonder if I should show up with my Lenin pictures and a red-diaper baby to his place in Nephi?

  6. Jeff Says:

    It may not be entirely fair to make fun of these letters, since the Deseret News (and probably the Herald, although I don’t know that for sure) usually edits the letters for length and content. It’s pretty likely that the original writers either wrote more than was published or used different words.

    Doesn’t keep it from being funny, though. Especially the thought of Obama literally destroying the constitution.

  7. ian Cook Says:

    Shouldn’t these newspapers be more discerning about what they print? Are there not more intelligent letters they can publish, or is this the best they could come up with?

  8. GP Says:

    Barbara A. Lyman’s tirade becomes more amusing when she indicates that words like “crap” are examples of profanity. Profanity means to profane sacred things, or at least things that others hold as sacred.

    If she believes that invoking the name of a bodily excretion is profaning it, then we may infer that she holds such excretions as sacred.

  9. GP Says:

    Ian,

    Printing crazy stuff is probably the only source of joy in the lives of those opinion editors. If people are so intent on airing their foolishness, why not indulge them?

  10. GP Says:

    (By the way, Barbara might have better served her argument by calling the word “crap” an example of vulgarity. Profanity and vulgarity are, in my book, very different things.)

  11. EBG Says:

    Thomas Kane you are ridiculous. Eric never recommended Drag me to Hell for children. I can’t believe that you are so naive to blame your poor parenting choice on him! Do your research man! Up is rated G, Drag Me To Hell is rated PG-13.Gee I wonder which would be more appropriate for children. If you are truly that concerned about what your children watch, and judging by your total lack of thought you put in to your comment I’m guessing you aren’t, http://www.kids-in-mind.com is a wonderful resource to make INFORMED decisions. Use your brain next time and don’t blame someone else!
    PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!

  12. GP Says:

    EBG,

    You obviously don’t realize that Eric is infinitely accountable for any way that people interpret his words.

  13. Eric D. Snider Says:

    I’m pretty sure Thomas Kane was joking, since he said he’s glad he sent his kids to see “Drag Me to Hell” rather than the terrifying “Up.” He also said my opinions clearly are not the mainstream, while also saying they match 90% of other critics’ opinions. I believe his comment was intended as satire.

  14. Laurie S. Says:

    I was really hoping for a “purveyors of smut.” Or a “shame on you.” Two of my all-time BYU favorites.

  15. Portia Says:

    EBG: Sarcasm. Satire. Both can be found under the “s” section of any dictionary.

    EDS: Having written for The Daily Universe, and living in Portland, I’m sure you can also appreciate opinion-letter-related hijinks from both. Some recent examples:

    DU, from here: http://newnewsnet.byu.edu/pdf/du20090604.pdf

    ” . . . There probably aren’t any people at BYU who disagree with me, but if there are, I remind them that modest is the hottest.” (That phrase again!)

    ” . . . Is this the message The Daily Universe wants to portray about hoodie lovers? Hoodies are soft and comfortable, and they provide protection from the elements. There are entire Web sites dedicated to hoodie love! The next thing you know, people will be accusing others of being unprofessional for wearing flip flops to school.” (Why yes, people HAVE in fact accused others of exactly that.)

    ” . . . On the other hand, traditional marriage gives immeasurable benefits to society.
    Natural family structures provide better opportunities for education, better emotional
    and physical health, less substance abuse and lower chances of adolescent sexual activity and delinquency. In contrast, any research that has stated that homosexual parenting has no effect on children has been found to have errors in sample size and selection and intervening variables. No one should feel protecting our future children is bigotry.” (I would be quite surprised if research condemning same-sex marriage wasn’t also subject to issues of confirmation bias and sample size. Pair that with some misrepresentation, as pointed out by the original author in today’s paper, and you’ve got the basic formula for a Prop 8 DU Form Letter.)

    Further west (http://blog.oregonlive.com/myoregon/):

    “If Mr. Duin had clearly stated the truth then he could not have used Senator Burdick has no ownership or leased interest in the Metolius there is no way he could have used her to promote this self-serving, political corruption implication in his article.” (I’m not even going to bother putting in the “sics.”)

    “For as long as I can remember my mother and father smoked cigarettes and he sometimes would smoke a cigar on special occasions. My dad was a very active hard working kind of guy. He worked for the government as a GS14 which is pretty high up the food chain so to speak. He was a little bit over weight but not what I called fat. We were a team when it came to doing things on the farm but when it came time for me to try to become a man he and I would argue and at one time we actually had a very short fight. Of course I was the looser but, I know that he felt bad because of that fight.” (My objection to this letter stems not from its content–the message seems to be “don’t smoke”–but from its rambling, misspelled nature. On the other hand, the Oregonian seems to have abandoned the traditional “letter” format, for some sort of wikiblog. I eagerly await the Twitter like insanity sure to follow.)

    “You remember that $787 billion package, the one that had to be passes so fast that no one could read it before voting on it, and, amazingly, enough did? And how Obama said it just couldn’t wait, or OMG, everybody panic!!!!”

    Oh.

    And this from a man who turns 40 this year.

  16. Portia Says:

    http://i100.photobucket.com/albums/m35/opendna/lolcat.jpg

  17. Ampersand Says:

    Personally, my all-time BYU favorites are “shocked and appalled” and “one’s spirituality is not determined by the length of one’s shorts.” I’m all for including letters from the Daily Universe in these sorts of posts, though it’s really like shooting fish in a barrel.

  18. Portia Says:

    True, true, &. :P

    This is from a comment on an Oregonian editorial, not a letter, per se, but it provides a nice intersection of the two cultures:

    “I enlisted because I thought I could hide being gay in the military. I did pretty well actually and pretended to be Mormon so I was never questioned.”

    HA.

  19. SilverRain Says:

    C’mon, Eric. Be honest with yourself. The real reason you read Utah editorials is because you are simply pining for good ole Campus Plaza days.

    It’s kind of like how victims of an accident have to continually go back to the scene.

  20. Michael Says:

    That’s nothing. Whenever KSL.com runs a story on gays or Mormons, the self-righteous, insane people from both sides of the political spectrum are drawn to it like mosquitoes to a bug-zapper.

    It’s really fun to watch far right fundamentalist Christians/Mormons argue with far left anti-Mormons.

  21. dave Says:

    I don’t know: the comment posters at most periodicals these days seem to be far more insane than any of the examples given heretofore.

    I mean, if you want to see craziness, go to an alternative periodicals’ comment section and be amazed.

    However, the editors chose these letters of the literally dozens received to be published, so I suppose that is more disturbing. I mean, any fool with access to a computer and the internet can go to some website and post a …

    never mind. good post!

  22. mommy Says:

    Maybe Obama’s tearing off one little tiny bit of the constitution and swallowing it so no one will know…but this amazing Russell has caught it on video and we’ll see it on you tube soon.

    perhaps Barbara’s crap really is special so in her case it isn’t vulgar it is profane? even while it is being beaten out of her?

  23. Casey Says:

    Not so fast, folks – one proper use of “literally” is as a hyperbolic intensifier. Really! Look it up! Let us confine our mockery of Mr. Bender’s wingnuttery to his bizarre paranoia, but leave alone his use of English. The man’s literally insane, but he’s violated no rules of grammar.
    Still, I giggled when I read about Obama “pile-driving the protective glass, and ripping the Constitution into shreds, in full view of bewildered, fanny-packed tourists.”

  24. matt Says:

    I’m with Michael. There are no worse people on the earth than those who comment regularly on KSL.com.

    I would laugh it wasn’t so horrifying.

  25. Christina D Says:

    @matt

    I totally agree. I have to stay away from the comments on KSL news stories because it makes me want to go on a rampage and beat all the stupid out of the commenters. Gah!

  26. Calidaho Says:

    I think Obama has taken money from the archives climate control budget to pay for some commie-pinko program like inner city after school programs or something. This is slowly destroying the Constitution.

    From Dictionary.com:
    Usage note:
    Since the early 20th century, literally has been widely used as an intensifier meaning “in effect, virtually,” a sense that contradicts the earlier meaning “actually, without exaggeration”: The senator was literally buried alive in the Iowa primaries. The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a compromise. The use is often criticized; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most carefully edited writing. Although this use of literally irritates some, it probably neither distorts nor enhances the intended meaning of the sentences in which it occurs. The same might often be said of the use of literally in its earlier sense “actually”: The garrison was literally wiped out: no one survived.

    Just because “all but the most carefully edited writing” is doing it, doesn’t make it right! Irregardless of what Dictionary.com says, I refuse to let it slide.

  27. Bryon Says:

    Calidaho,

    When commenting on usage, it’s probably best to avoid the word “irregardless.”

  28. Calidaho Says:

    It was my attempt at a little joke…

  29. Savvy Veteran Says:

    @ Calidaho:

    Don’t fret. I recognized this and thought it was funny. No, literally. I really did.

  30. Jenn Says:

    Reading the letters to the editor of the Daily Herald, is the highlight of my day!!! We definitely grow em weird here in the valley, & they can get downright hilarious! You can always tell when a letter is written by an old person. I just always have a vision of them spreading out the paper, checking every story just so they can write a letter. I think my favorites are when they rail on politicians.

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