A Stream of Hate Mail -- the TSA Story Revisited
As a writer I'm accustomed to receiving letters and emails about my books. Some are good, some less so. But these letters pale in comparison to the rants, missives and simply hateful things that people have sent to me. I can only imagine what Monica Emmerson's inbox looks like.
The facts about what happened to Monica Emmerson at Reagan National Airport are still open for interpretation and still elusive. The Transportation Security Administration released video footage of the incident, and as I wrote in my update, I'm glad they did. But only a partial video was released; what's missing is more than half the time Monica Emmerson was detained, as well as footage of what happened at the security checkpoint itself, which is where this all started.
When a story like this is first told, it's often going to be incomplete. Citizen journalists, almost by definition, aren't always able to get to the bottom of an investigation. We don't have the resources, the access, the institutional support to get all the facts. Our role is sometimes to get a story told, to bring it to the public's attention, where additional scrutiny and investigation can reveal more. Unfortunately, despite the release of some video footage, Monica Emmerson's story is still incomplete.
But what I wanted to write about here is about the nature of the responses I've received. Some have been positive. Some have been very critical. Some have been written by people who either didn't read what I wrote carefully or misinterpreted what I wrote as a far-reaching criticism of TSA. (I certainly didn't do that.) But some emails have been intensely angry and intemperate. Here are two examples of what's been sent to me personally:
In your attempt to seek fame and fortune you reported a bogus story. SHAME ON YOU!!!!. You wasted my tax dollars by promoting the cry baby mommy story about the sippy cup thereby forcing the TSA to waste resources to defend itself. Rise to a higher purpose in life. Report on Irag [sic], join a feed the children fund.
Stop trying to push this self important bitch into our lives. Focus on something important, not a person who thinks the laws of this country do not apply to her.
The majority of the abusive emails I've been sent have been anonymous.
In my free time I moderate the Cleveland Park Listserv, a neighborhood email list in Washington, DC. Our listserv has a set of rules that don't allow abusive language, anonymous posts or messages that question people's motives rather than questioning the facts behind an argument. This set of rules works pretty well for us and has created a pleasant place in cyberspace. But obviously not all that goes on in the Internet is like that.
You can read more comments in the comments area that accompanied my original article, if you have the stomach for it. I wanted to report on these because the story has become more than just a story about Monica Emmerson and what happened to her. For me, the story's becoming one of how easy it is for people to use their keyboards to hurl insults at others. I'm not writing this article as a plea for people to stop doing that; that's unlikely to occur. I'm just continuing to report what's happening.