Part of the price one pays for being an editor is having to read occasional letters from crackpots. In my case, most seem to be from right-wing Colonel Blimp types (always male for some reason) who are shocked – shocked and appalled! – that I have criticized capitalism or defended socialism.
I have a small checklist to evaluate them. I’ve never received a letter with all of these features, but today one came very close.
- Starts out more or less politely, quickly descends into insults
- Includes at least one paragraph of pseudo-scientific gibberish to illustrate some totally incomprehensible point
- Includes long quotes from something I wrote, to illustrate my depravity and/or ignorance
- In case I missed the point, highlights parts of those quotes in multiple colors
- Adds more emphasis by putting some sentences (sometimes even entire paragraphs) in CAPITAL LETTERS
- Challenges me to a public debate (probably because it’s illegal to challenge me to a duel)
- Compares me to Hitler, Mao, or Stalin – usually all three
- Says I want the whole world to be like North Korea
- Brags about his vastly superior knowledge and/or experience of the real world, where real people can see right through idiots like me
- Quotes Churchill (sometimes others, but usually Churchill) on the evils of socialism
- Says I am a hypocrite for not giving away all my worldly goods
- Predicts, correctly, that I won’t publish his crackpot letter
This is why god made spam filters.