A Disappointed Reader Responds

Over the years, many of you long-time readers have reached out to me to send me tips or to let me know that you enjoy what I write and share here, and it always means the world to me.

Yesterday I got something notably different in my inbox, and I’m going to publish it here along with my response because I think it’s worth talking about.

Here’s the pseudonymous email I received.

Is Waxy a blog about the internet or is a blog about the personal feelings of the writer? Is it about things you find or make for the internet and share those ideas or is it just a blog where you give us your opinion of how bad Trump is then expect everyone else that reads your blog to agree with your ideas? Is it a blog about how the political right cause all the World’s problems, lead by Trump, then it is your job to let us lesser informed know of this? Is Waxy about turning a blind eye to any bad thing that the Left do so that our minds can only see the ills of the Right who, of course, are lead by Trump? I am so confused.

Is it your vocation in life to tell us how stupid we are and only to show the bumbling of the Right whilst overlooking anything the Left do? Is it that people can only make up their minds if they get biased feedback?

Waxy like so many of my once favourite sites is now only on this planet to tell me one side of the political story so that I can feel bad about myself. What is wrong with people making up their own mind based on ALL the facts or being an individual a scary concept for people with such low self esteem as many of the Left?

Why is it that 95% of us know what an idiot Trump is and most of those 95% don’t give a flying f%$# about American politics yet we have to be bombarded with all his foibles whilst hearing of the saints from the Left. I yearn for the good old days when I could follow and read my fave websites of which Waxy was one and not be bombarded with anti Trump, anti right, pro Left and bury your head in the sand and make up my own mind and not have to read the biased opinions of websites which are now just “safe places”

Disappointed.

I don’t owe anyone a reply and would normally just ignore an angry email like this. But I realized that I’ve never talked about the shift in focus that’s happened here over the last couple years, and I thought it would be worth articulating.

Here’s what I replied:

Waxy.org is, and always has been, my personal sandbox. It’s where I write and share things that I think are interesting or compelling or important that I come across online. In the past, it’s generally been things related to internet culture, copyright and fair use, the intersection of art and code, emerging technology, and the social web.

Right now, those issues just don’t matter very much to me. We’re living in a country facing a badly-mismanaged pandemic that’s killed over 200,000 Americans, a deep distrust of science and the press, the widespread rise of conspiracy theories, racist police violence, an authoritarian takeover of the federal government, a looming election crisis, and a possible civil war.

I live in the U.S., and it sounds like you don’t. That’s great for you, but I have to live here and worry about the safety, security, and future for my family and friends. Quite frankly, it’s hard to think of much else. I still link to fun internet stuff, as I always have, but it’s just one subject of several that matter very much to me right now.

As for accusations of bias, I link to articles that are factual and well-researched from authoritative sources and established publications. But I don’t think there’s “another side” to issues like the mishandling of the pandemic, systemic racism, police brutality, climate change, or the Trump administration undermining the election process. It’s the objective truth, and anything else is just spin.

I’m certainly not forcing anyone to read anything, and I share links that I think are compelling and worth reading. Feel free to read it and make up your own mind. Or unsubscribe if you can’t tolerate viewpoints that challenge your own, if it makes you feel better.

Either way, I’m not going to stop writing about issues like these until things change in this country, and I have the great luxury of focusing my attention on fun and creative things happening online.

Thanks for the feedback.

I hope that clears it up! I welcome all reader mail, anonymous or not. (Preferably nice people, but I’m not picky.) You can always email me or DM me on Twitter.

Comments

    Exactly, @y. Failing to address and acknowledge corruption, incompetency and systemic racism is complacency.

    Very good reply, @Waxy.

    Really good reply, Andy. It’s your blog, you can do what you want with it. What’s happening in the US at the moment should be a grave concern for everyone, regardless of their location, given how pervasive American influence is around the world. This correspondent exposed themselves the moment they started talking about the left and the right because it’s not about that anymore. It’s about right and wrong – and all members of the red hat wearing cult that gleefully cheer on a woefully incompetent person so unfit for office will find themselves on the wrong side of history if the Republic falls to a wannabe dictator in November.

    I agree with everything Andy says about his personal site. I’ve been to conferences organized by him and enjoyed them massively.

    But I want to respectfully address a point that’s bugged me – the assertion that “what’s happening in the US should be a grave concern for everyone, regardless of location, given how pervasive American influence is.”

    To put it bluntly, many people are concerned, but they’re weary of the influence (see the message that started this post), and in reality what happens there doesn’t affect day-to-day life as much, nor can they influence it in turn.

    I lived in the US for a few years as a legal permanent resident. I care deeply about injustice, and suffered at what I saw, even though I was privileged enough not to be affected. It was all emotionally taxing, on top of trying to work. So I wanted to help. But my hands were tied as an alien with no right to vote. I was legally counseled not to donate to causes in case I later wanted to request naturalization. I did what I could, but eventually I went back to Europe.

    I am still gravely concerned on behalf of my friends and family there and even people I don’t know, anywhere on this planet. But I am also weary because of the media point. Not as angry as the person quoted in the post, and certainly not with Andy. I’m still hopeful that American influence can be a good one again. But for now, there’s a weird phase where politicians, CEOs, social/cultural movements have become drama or full blown culture wars. It’s like postmodernism and celebrity culture had a zombie-frankenstein baby. And we’re all suffering.

    “so that I can feel bad about myself.”

    I feel this is one thing many people, myself included from time-to-time, mistake criticism for. The goal of discussing things that make us uncomfortable – foibles, faux pas, intolerances, injustices, mistakes – is not to make you feel bad. It’s to encourage you to do better. To learn from mistakes, yours and others. To be a better person.

    Asking you not to be “biased” on your own website while claiming s/he wants to make up his/her own mind about how self-evidently horrible “leftists” are. Charming.

    Nice reply. I despair how mass death doesn’t seem to focus some minds anymore.

    I’ve given up on “sides” to the degree I’m able to, because it’s largely straw man arguments meant to distract and divide. It feels like each passing day it all becomes more reductive and hateful. The facts are the facts. People are suffering and dying and we should all care deeply about that regardless of the color of our state, our political symbol or our skin. Best regards Andy, and thank you.

    How dare you use your platform to talk about what’s important to you. That’s some late 90’s delusional dream you’re living in pal. Get with the program. The 2020’s are all about monetizing what the Promotional Content Overlords pay you to make us care about. How can I trust you if you don’t write two paragraphs about the millions of customizable character outfits only available in League of Raid Clan Shadow Clash Tribes Royale, along with its bonus signup content if I use your promotional code? So basic.

    If someone hears plain facts which challenge their viewpoints and that results in them “feeling bad about themselves,” well, maybe that just means their viewpoints are bad and should change!

    This says it all: “But I don’t think there’s “another side” to issues like…It’s the objective truth, and anything else is just spin”

    There is not “another side” to many of these stories.

    “But I don’t think there’s “another side” to issues like the mishandling of the pandemic, systemic racism, police brutality, climate change, or the Trump administration undermining the election process. It’s the objective truth, and anything else is just spin.”

    That statement is troubling to me. Just going down the list of topics you provide here where there apparently is no other side then the one you present:

    Pandemic – Trump has absolutely mishandled it, but so have others. There is a lot of evidence that, for instance, quarantines and lockdowns have presented public health issues at least as dire as COVID. Higher instances of suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, reduced life span due to stress of job loss, increased class divide in education, etc. That is a valid “other side.”

    Systemic racism – almost no one denies this exists, but the recent solutions proffered to address this have their own problems. CRT is rife with overreach and divisive tactics, including essentializing race as the primary identity marker. Yet any criticism of it is often met with accusations of racism.

    Police brutality – again, almost no denies this exists, but much of the response is more emotional than fact based. There is no “genocide” against POC being perpetrated by law enforcement; taken per interaction, POC are no more likely to be killed by police than whites. But POC have more interactions with police per capita than whites, and that is a complicated issue where race and racism plays a part among other things. And, we have a heavily armed citizenry due to our insane gun culture, which cuts across racial lines.

    Climate change – again, comes down to response. For instance, nuclear power is almost always seen as a non-starter, yet advancements in power plant technology and safety shouldn’t mean it’s excluded.

    I think Trump is an existential threat, a walking extinction event. I’m a life-long liberal. Yet recently, I’m nearly as concerned with the epistemological rigidity and certainty of the left as I am the right.

    There’s no question that each of these problems we’re collectively facing are multifaceted, incredibly complex, and with a myriad of overlapping causes and possible solutions.

    But that’s not who I’m referring to. There are a disturbing number of Americans who believe, or pretend to believe, that the major societal problems I mentioned don’t exist at all, from QAnon conspiracists to Republican leaders, including the President. How can we begin to address solutions for the most challenging problems we’re collectively facing if half the country, including many of its political leaders, denies they exist at all?

    And just to correct one of your points, the research on racist policing is clear: even when controlling for frequency of interactions, Black Americans are disproportionately more likely to be hurt or killed by police, and the difference is especially pronounced when they’re unarmed. (See Northeastern/Harvard’s 2020 study of 27 states in 2014-15, this American Journal of Public Health study, and this 2016 report of 17 states between 2009-2012 using data from the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System, with many more here.)

    Racial profiling and excessive use of force are part of police training and ideology, and police unions fight reform and allow misconduct to go unchecked.

    But again, how can we even have a conversation about addressing the causes and solutions for racist police brutality when it’s flatly denied or downplayed by so many, led by the President, despite all available evidence?

    As a Canadian looking “down” on the current situation south of our border, it’s hard not to cringe. When Americans point to “the Left” (capitalized, even!) it makes my stomach turn; as though being a reasonable person makes you part of a special-interest group. That group you’re part of includes nearly every other developed country in the world. Trump’s base is the fringe grown mainstream, a cancer. Opposing it doesn’t make you part of “the Left,” whatever that is, it just makes you a global citizen.

    In Canada, our entire mainstream political spectrum lies within the big, massive tent that is the current Democratic party. It’s not even a side anymore, it’s just “not Trump” and the entire world is on that “side” with you.

    Hoping for the best in November.

    Thank you! Not an American, but married to one. I came here from Jason’s blog and just re-found Waxy. Thanks for still being around! One more reader (again). Keep up the fight. Go Vote!

    I have been reading visiting this blog since I was still in high school, I’m currently 33. I remember when Andy lamented Digg as a del.icio.us killer. Typing out waxy.org has lingered in my finger muscle memory far longer than I ever imagined it would and so I still find myself stopping by sometimes with half a year in between visits, always glad I did. I’ll be voting for Trump in November. It doesn’t matter why. The point is I’d rather Andy be up-front and transparent about his views rather than attempt to acknowledge the other side of every issue or to try and project neutrality. And if he wants to use his blog as a bit of a soap box at times, that’s fine by me. What else would you expect from a blog?

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