Times fight

Times fight

: In his Sunday column, Dan Okrent named one specific letter-writer for sending bile to The Times. I chose not to name the name (though I did Google him) because this is their fight and I don’t know where this he-wrote-she-wrote will land (and I then took Okrent to task for more generally criticizing bloggers as the muse of poison-pen-letter writers). But the named name just left a comment on this blog and so I’ll bring it out and quote him in full. First, here’s what Okrent wrote:

But before I turn over the podium, I do want you to know just how debased the level of discourse has become. When a reporter receives an e-mail message that says, “I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war,” a limit has been passed.

That’s what a coward named Steve Schwenk, from San Francisco, wrote to national political correspondent Adam Nagourney several days ago because Nagourney wrote something Schwenk considered (if such a person is capable of consideration) pro-Bush. Some women reporters regularly receive sexual insults and threats. As nasty as critics on the right can get (plenty nasty), the left seems to be winning the vileness derby this year. Maybe the bloggers who encourage their readers to send this sort of thing to The Times might want to ask them instead to say it in public. I don’t think they’d dare.

And now here’s what Steve Schwenk — and I presume it to be him — left as a comment below:

For a man who bemoans the absence of civility on the left, Okrent sure has a strange way of dealing with it.

He not only distorted what I said in my e-mail, but he called me a coward and told the entire country who I am and where I live after very effectively making me out to be a monster.

My kids were terrified by the never ending phone calls and hang ups. My daughter asked what we should do if a mob came to the house to get us. And needless to say, the humiliation I now have to experience in responding to the repeated inquiries about whether that was really me will go one for weeks. Did I mention that I am looking for a job?

The worst part is that the bastard completely distorted what my e-mail said and why I was complaining. He left out the 99% that raised legitimate questions and focused only on the sensational words of anger I regretfully used.

Thanks, Daniel Okrent. And thanks, to you too, “Adam.” I all but pleaded with them not to do it, that it would really harm me and was an unfair response to a private e-mail. Okrent’s assistant hung up on me and Nagourney laughed me off, like it was his right to harm me since he works at the NYT and thinks he’s a star.

And they wonder why people are angry.

And you can see what I said below.

Well, Schwenk does say that he is regretful about the words he used.

The object lesson is that this is where anger and mud inevitably leads: to bile and venom and words or actions regretted.

It is our role in this new medium of communication to get people communicating before it gets that far.

: UPDATE: Some additional thoughts above the filthy fray, above.

: Schwenk’s open letter to Okrent. Chris Nolan’s post about it.