Let’s start with an email I received about a week ago from a free Slope of Hope user, whom I shall keep anonymous:
I have attempted to introduce myself to your website and your community, but I am absolutely disgusted by the political content of your site. Therefore, I have unsubscribed to as much as I possibly can from your site and community and will have nothing further to do with your ilk. Is it asking too much to find financial discussions that are limited to finance and don't gratuitously throw in political agendas? Particularly political agendas that are just a hop, skip and a jump from fascism and racism? I wish I could say good luck to you but I can't. Instead, I wish you the very worst. - Cathie Wood
OK, OK, the name wasn’t real. I replaced the real name. But the rest is genuine and that; was the entire message. (All I added was the boldface for emphasis).
Now, if the email above was received by 1,000 different people in my position, I suspect 900 of them would be hurt and delete it, 99 of them would write some nasty hate mail, and 1 would do what I did, which was to write back an earnest and thoughtful reply.
The gentleman and I exchanged many emails over the next twenty-four hours, and it swiftly became clear that we were actually of virtually identical worldviews and political dispositions. We hit if off grandly, and I’m sure if it was a cocktail party, we would have moved over to a quiet corner and had a terrific conversation. Thus, my 1-in-a-1000 kind of response yielded a friendship instead of hostility. It’s my nature, since I believe in peace instead of acrimony.
What stuck with me was that this chap assumed, not without good reason, that all the loud yammering about how we should all be gun-toting, red-hat-wearing, Fauci-bashing, no-jab-having, January-6th-celebrating yahoos not only aligned with my viewpoint but was cheered on by me. Those who have been on Slope more than, say, a week, probably realize this simply is not the case. For years, I thought all Slopers were just like me. Turns out, I’m the only one like me at all!
Old timers here know that there is no aspect of Slope more time-consuming and emotionally-draining than the “off topic” conversations that take place. I have tried all manner of persuasion, sweet talk, admonition, and technology solutions to remedy the problem, but as long as people have the means to express an opinion, there are going to be opinions that are far afield from my own, yet will be associated with me.
Think of it this way: in the front of my house are two large mahogany garage doors. This is a private residence, so no one is permitted to mess with them, but let’s just say it was common practice in our culture that garage doors were fair game. And let’s go on to say that someone passing by with a white spray paint can wrote in huge letters “Let’s Go Brandon” on my garage doors.
Now the shrewdest observer would note the distinct lack of a vocative comma in the phrase, and thus realize I was uninvolved.
To the more ignorant, however, it would be assumed – – since it’s my house, after all – – that this was a message that I wanted the world to see, and I was behind it. In a manner of speaking, that’s precisely what happened with the fellow whose email is at the top of this post. He read a lot of stuff he find disagreeable, and assumed it was a-ok with me, since it’s my “house”, in a manner of speaking.
Having tried just about everything else (with the exception of shutting down comments completely, which would be throwing out an enormously important baby with the bathwater), I was inspired to do something utterly different. If I can’t control the conversation, I sure as hell am going to disavow myself from it, because I do not want anyone ever to assume, as the fellow did above, that the opinions of a large mass of people, some of whom are absolutely bananas, represents my point of view.
Thus, every single person on the site now is going to be confronted with this:
It isn’t legally binding. And I’m sure some people won’t even read it. But I’m going to require that they at least put forth the effort to click the three checkboxes in order to make this thing disappear. (Alternately, a person can just leave it there until the end of time and not bother; their choice).
Knowing the power of the Ignore button is crucial. Knowing the importance of decent behavior is, too. And, above all else, knowing that the lunatic rantings of a few basement-dwellers has nothing to do with the gentle spirit of Timothy Knight is the most important of all.
In a bizarre way, I am disavowing myself from my own creation, but I feel compelled to do so.
This way, if the actually Very Nice Man who wrote me was aware of these facts, it is unlikely I would have received the email wishing ill upon me (which is actually unprecedented after seventeen years) in the first place.