Thursday, December 1, 2011

Intolerance is un-American

A few weeks ago, the manager of the grocery store where I work (on my day job, obviously. I don't practice motorcycle journalism in grocery stores -- that's what Starbucks is for) took me aside. He told me that someone in North Carolina had written an email to the store, complaining about the contents of some of my blog posts. Why would that particular fucktard write my employer and not me? Well, obviously, to harass me by encouraging my employer to fire me, or at least lean on me to silence me.

I didn't see the letter, so I have no way of knowing whether it was my liberal political bias that infuriated the writer, or whether it was the generally atheist and foul-mouthed nature of some of my 'rantier' columns that triggered this cowardly and un-American personal attack.

The manager of the store where I work seemed a little unsettled by even having to raise the subject. I got the feeling that this was something that had been discussed at the head office, and that maybe corporate counsel had weighed in. If that was the case, they'd certainly realize that there's nothing in this blog that could possibly be interpreted as hate speech, or seditious. Although Missouri (the state in which I reside and work) is a so-called right-to-work state (it would more accurately be called a employer's-right-to-fire state) and the company could legally have fired me on the spot, I imagine that the company realizes that firing an employee for exercising his right to free speech is not going to generate a wave of positive press.

I should point out that I've written some highly-politicized posts, and I've written posts in which I named my employer, but that my employer was never cited in any of those volatile posts. Nothing I've written about my employer could be interpreted as particularly negative.

So the fucktard in North Carolina had to read some post that infuriated him, and then dig through the blog to find some other post in which I mentioned my employer by name. Then, said fucktard had to figure out how to contact my employer and craft a letter which had the intent, obviously of either silencing me or punishing me for my views by getting me fired.

Nice, eh?

I should say that, thus far, my employer has been careful not to say "Don't write any more of that stuff," or "You're on report,"  or anything like that. In fact, the only thing I was told was, "You're entitled to your opinion."

I volunteered to remove any direct reference to my employer by name, and in fact have gone back through earlier posts and redacted the company's name. That makes it hard to even write about working, but then I had a brainstorm. Obviously, I have a bit of a potty keyboard when I'm writing here on; I figure, joke you if you can't take a fuck.

But when I used to make a living writing for other sites and pubs, if I had to insert swearing (for example as part of a direct quote) I used to replace the offending words with symbols drawn from math or other alphabets, the way comic book artists sometimes fill a speech bubble with swirls, exclamation points and daggers to indicate a character is swearing without running afoul of censors.

For example, I'd insert fake words like 'Ƒü©≮' or '$#!+'. People knew that those character strings meant 'insert swear word here' but had no idea they specifically meant 'fuck' or 'shit'.

It occurred to me that I could do the same thing vis-a-vis the name of my employer. If I insert this character string - ₮Ʀ@Ƌ’⋲® √⦰⋲$ - in place of my employer's name, people will know they should insert the name of some grocery store in there, but won't have any idea which specific business I'm referring to. I mean, those characters aren't even part of the regular English alphabet.

Let me make this clear: I love ₮Ʀ@Ƌ’⋲® √⦰⋲$. It's a great company that's built a great business by making grocery shopping fun and providing solid values to customers. Really, it's a shame I have to keep their name a secret now. I have a smile on my face every day that I walk in there. I work my ass off, even when assigned the most thankless tasks in the store, from processing spoiled food to cleaning the toilets. I have huge respect and admiration for the brand they've built, and am constantly fascinated by what I learn from them. I like my co-workers and enjoy my customer encounters. I have every reason to think that most of my customers support my employment and enjoy dealing with me.

That said, the writer in me is sorry that ₮Ʀ@Ƌ’⋲® √⦰⋲$ didn't actually just fire me once they'd mentioned the letter complaining about this blog. I mean, every now and then I write a motorcycle-related post read by several thousand people, but my political rants are typically read only be a few hundred people. Firing me for the content of this blog would be a public relations dream come true for me, and guarantee many thousands of new readers for my non-motorcycle writing. I guess, strategically, if the company was going to fire me, it 'should' have fired me for some other reason and never mentioned the letter, since now that I know about it, it opens up a host of First Amendment issues, to say nothing of a possible suit for libel (or do I mean slander?) against the sender. But I have no reason to think the company will fire me, or even really disagrees with what I've written. Why should they? It's all true.

Who is the North Carolina fucktard anyway? That's the interesting question. I'll definitely take legal steps to get the letter - if ever/as soon as - the fucktard gets the 'satisfaction' of getting me fired. I highly doubt that I'm the only target of this fucktard, and I imagine many similar letters have been sent. I imagine that even if the sender's information was redacted, I could eventually identify the sender by finding matching letters elsewhere on the web.

I doubt, in fact, that the North Carolina fucktard is really an individual fucktard. I'm too good at arithmetic and probability to think that amongst the few dozen readers of my typical political posts - many or most of whom agree with me - there's some individual reader who disagrees so violently that they'd go to that much trouble to silence me. It's possible, I grant you, but not likely.

It's more probable that some group like the Koch brothers have funded a group of kochsuckers who, using tools like Google Alerts, are searching the web for people like me, and then engaging in an organized harassment effort. If you were going to conduct such an effort, North Carolina would be a good place to base it, since it is an American Taliban stronghold.

Either way though, whether that letter was written by a lone nut job, or whether it was part of an organized fatwah, my only real comment is this...

Intolerance is un-American.

Oh, and by the way, Ƒü©≮ you.


  1. Mark, you had me at "kochsucker."


  2. Illegitimi non carborundum. Keep on keepin on...

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Hey scott_b...
    I deleted your comment because it was purposely written to insult me. Then, I tried to reinstate it because I decided to respond to it, only to learn that deleting a comment is irreversible. Too bad, because I wanted to point out that, a.) censorship is a big deal to writers; b.) you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to implicate the Koch brothers in a conspiracy, they're already at the heart of most of them; and c.) that when you ask "What's sad?.." I could reply that one thing that's sad is a blogger like you who's generated four, count 'em four, profile views since March.

    Or, I might have simply said, Ƒü©≮ you, too.