Reader Feedback Archives
Letter to the Editor
After nearly a year and a half of publication, and commonly getting about 300 e-mails per day from readers, I finally actually publish a few letters to the editor.
Excuse Me Sir, Your Mailbox is Smoking
Wow! I wonder what my mail would have looked like if I had explicitly asked for comments on the question of whether to put advertising in This is True!
As it was, nearly 1,100 of your have sent in your thoughts (so far!), and the tally is more than 200 to one in favor of advertising to help support keeping True online.
I get a lot of story suggestions from readers.
But please don't send the story about the guy scooped from the lake/ocean off France/California/Colorado by a helicopter/plane and dropped on a fire. It's an urban legend, folks.
A Reader Writes the Ad
I have some truly wonderful readers out there.
One of them, upon getting a copy of my book This Is True: Deputy Kills Man With Hammer, which is the first True book collection with 500 stories and headlines from this weekly column, plus nearly 100 more stories and headlines we didn't have room for once the word limit was reached -- said it was much better and of higher quality than he expected, and added that therefore, I wasn't doing a good job of communicating to people why they should buy a copy. He offered to try to do a better job, and I said OK.
Every once in a while I get a note asking why I use the credit "(Reuter)" instead of "(Reuters)".
Your Source for Medical Info...?
A U.S. doctor who reads True was distressed over the story last week (7 June 1998 issue) on "exploding head syndrome".
A Vote for Independent Content
My web site mentions that One Good Reason to upgrade your subscription to Premium is, "you get to show your support for unique, independent content on the net. It's a struggle to keep True independent! You don't really want Time Warner and Microsoft to own everything, do you?"
Fun Mail, Funny Male
While I'm not always able to reply to e-mail, I love getting comments from readers -- I do personally read them all. I even appreciate the bad stuff. I prefer the fun stuff, of course, but even rants can be useful. Here's one of each type, so you get the idea:
Good Clean Fun
I'm in Southern California, where I'll again be giving the after-dinner wake-up speech at the Skeptics Society's annual conference in Pasadena, Calif. I have the delightful job of presenting an "award" for the dumbest thing of 1998 (culled, of course, from True!) to warm up the crowd for the Keynote speaker. The theme this year: "Reinventing Evolution: The Great Debate at the High Table of Evolutionary Theory."
I Wanted to Hear Some Complaints
Complaints? Really? Really.
"This is an experiment," I wrote in last week's Premium issue, "but if you have a complaint about This is True, I want to hear it. I've set up a special mailbox for you to send your irritations, bothers, and quarrels about True as a service. I'll read every one, but won't reply to anything unless you ask me to -- so no arguments, justifications, explanations or defensiveness, should you be worried about that, but I'll respond to your comments in next week's issue.
Rants and Raves
Remember the "Austin Powers" doll story from two weeks ago that said a naughty word? The mother of an 11-year-old was outraged when her kid asked what it meant and filed a criminal obscenity complaint. The prosecutor said he didn't know who to prosecute; I suggested that he start with the mother.
Why Don't More People Hate Me?
After running some reader letters, David in Maryland wrote in reply: "How come you never run any of them that are from people who are not enamoured of you, if it is considered a 'letters to the editor' space?"
Ah, how short some memories are! I asked him where he was when I ran angry letters about my "Austin Powers doll" story, my "anti-zero tolerance" editorials, or the Clinton Fornigate issue. I actually gave the negative letters a larger percentage of the space than they represent in the mail volume as a whole.
Museum of Geopolitical Insanity
My recent story on preserving a nuclear missile silo brought a fair amount of mail. On the one side was Tim, who didn't say where he was from, who wrote: "Christ, Randy, I hope you're not one of those asshole history revisionists. Agreed, the Cold War was not a high point in the History of Mankind, but shall we deny it ever happened? If we do that, how the hell do we ever learn important lessons. Don't tell me you're turing [sic] into a narow-minded [sic], half-blind Yuppie idiot who's all IQ and no brains, all Volvo and no driving ability. Sure, there are many better ways to spend [$]5 mil; why didn't you focus on that?"
Is Nothing Sacred?
The headline in last week's edition, from the Associated Press, noted "Strike Over, Twinkie Shortage Ends". It was slugged by my comment, "And All of America Breathes a Huge Sigh of Relief". It's pretty rare that people comment on the headlines, and even more rare that the comment is negative.
You Have So Much To Live For
Last week I noted that this week, there would be a letter criticizing me for "making light of suicide". Indeed there were some responses.
Idiots, or Not Idiots -- That is the Question
I got this most interesting letter from a reader:
This is True and your "extra" commentary really exacerbates the conflict I have between my philosophies on the nature of people. This has especially come to light now, as I got behind in my reading of TRUE because I had been out of town A LOT lately. So, I read about 4 or 6 back issues and went to all the extra links, too. First, I have to say, you are a smart man who deserves recognition of your skill to keep the discussions relevant to the points being made. I would get so sidetracked and distracted with all the name calling and personal attacks. You are a big person. My philosophies that are in conflict with one another are whether people are idiots or people are not idiots. I see so much stupidity being perpetrated and perpetuated by people, I think to myself "people are idiots." Then, I go read your writings and the postings of intelligent people who have responded to your expanded discussions and think to myself "there are a lot of people out there who are not idiots." And so the battle rages on; one day people are idiots, the next day they are not. I guess reading TRUE and HeroicStories helps me keep the balance between sides, but now I am ever in a state of conflict. Do you have any suggestions on how to end this perpetual, personal, philosophical conflict? If so, would you share them? Thanks for the good work and keeping the pendulum somewhere close to the middle. --Brian, Colorado
Grasp Of The Obvious
E-mail makes it easy to complain. Too easy. I find people will literally complain about anything they see online. Recently, True ran a few paid ads for an inkjet refill company. In the last week I got several complaints about those ads. Because the ink was bad? No, people seem to like the product. It was the wording in the ads that caused the complaints:
Here We Go Again (More Grasp of the Obvious)
No matter what, there is always someone out there who wants to be offended. Last week I ran a couple of reader letters complaining that a paid ad identified itself as a "Christian source" of its product. I lamented that it was too easy to complain by e-mail and concluded that, in the current dotcom meltdown environment, "anyone who really thinks I'm going to turn down a paid ad because the company's owner is proud of his faith just reminds me of one thing: the world is never, EVER going to run out of stupid people for me to write about!"
You would not believe how many people e-mailed to complain that I "called them stupid".
Get to Know a Cop Today
I figured last week's headline (Black Skin Gives Better Protection than White: Study -- AFP) would raise a few eyebrows. Well, not the headline, really, but my lead-in "slug" for it: "Except From the Police". I did get one fairly outraged letter:
Response to ZT: Let's Mailbomb the Schools!
After yet more recent "zero tolerance" stories, the tenor of readers is "we want to do something about this!" I've had several questions like the one posed by Aaron in California: "I enjoy your passionate expose of Zero Tolerance mania. Quite frankly, this wave of political correctness and ZT have boggled my mind. I encourage and support your passion to wipe this crazy stuff out by taking action and making our voices heard. Do you think it would be helpful, when you publish such stories, to include an address for that school district so we can send a letter decrying these ridiculous actions they've taken? I don't know if school districts would be as concerned about letters from people who aren't in their district, but it would be one step better than nothing."
ZT: Reactions from Readers
I've gotten plenty of feedback on a recent rash of Zero Tolerance stories. Julie in Iowa (Iowa?! Sheesh. ZT has infiltrated!): "Wow, what a day to get an issue on zero tolerance. My six-year-old (kindergartner) came home today and told me that he has a girlfriend and that he kissed her on the cheek. I immediately thought of your stories of all the little people who have been suspended or worse because of doing something so innocent. I had to gently explain to him that it isn't allowed because some 'grownups' don't understand the kindness that children show to one another. He would get in LESS trouble for telling his teacher to kiss his ass than kissing his friend on the cheek!!" Send your son to this page when he's in high school, will you Julie?
ZT: Too Much Coverage?
A couple of letters regarding Zero Tolerance:
It is amazing sometimes what schools come up with. Those stories make wonder about the true example we are setting. These arguments all have a semblance of validity, and therein lies the danger. It seems like a good thing to do, but it is very, very wrong. As an aside, I think zero tolerance is probably being used because it is easier than having to monitor the situation and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. --Wayne in NWT, Canada
Most certainly they are. We wouldn't want the people that take care of our kids to think now, would we?! And indeed I even get "I-don't-want-to-think" reactions from some readers:
One of my interests is "the media" in general. Long gone are the old days when one company could only own a few radio or TV stations. While you were sleeping, one company has managed to buy up 1,200 radio stations with over a billion listeners. Waldo in Virginia, a reader and friend of mine, alerted me to this -- as well as a new web site that's dedicated to letting people know what's going on.
Dirty Politics: The Mail
Last week, a few readers sent scathing letters; they were upset with me for an advertisement that appeared the week before that had some mildly unkind words about the Bush political family. All in all, the four letters I ran (and the 2-3 others I got that I didn't run) represent a VERY tiny minority of my readers -- only about .0068 percent, if I did my math right. But they were so danged entertaining that I couldn't resist running them (and then responding by pouring some cold water on the hotheads). After all, True is about the stupid things people do; my own readers are not exempt from being featured here if they do something idiotic themselves!
The Voices in My Head
As I (ahem) expected, I got a few letters from readers about last week's story about the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill's successful campaign to get Sears to stop selling a shirt that reads "You should hear the NAMES the VOICES in my head are calling you." But the NATURE of the letters weren't what I expected -- no one was mad! (Er... angry.)
Date Rape is Funny?
Last week's story about one of Time magazine's "best inventions of the year" brought a mixed reaction. Let's start with the story, from True's 1 December 2002 issue:
Evangelical = Hatemonger?
A few letters as a denouement on the popularity of the Get Out of Hell Free products (after my essay on the topic, which is still up on the GOOHF site). Pastor John in Oregon: "As a Christian Pastor (Lutheran-ELCA) I too find it interesting how so many who call themselves Christian practice Hate over anything else first. So much so, that when I am asked what I do, for example when riding on a plane, I want to answer something like 'Lawyer'. You made a comment about the 'Christians' that picketed a funeral. A friend of mine, who is a Lutheran pastor and lesbian, felt honored enough to have her church picketed by [the minister who led them]. It truly is a sad day when you judge how 'Christian' you are by how many Fundamentalists you piss off."
The Other Kind of Military Brat
Christopher, with the 21st Air Force in New Jersey: "I just wanted you to know that when I was serving with Operation Deep Freeze (the ongoing Air National Guard operation that supports the National Science Foundation) at McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica, 'This is True' was part of a weekly ritual. There are a number of people in 'Mac Town' that still read you through their Internet mail there. I guess that means you're popular on all 7 continents."
A 'True' Honorary Unsubscribe
There are some readers I correspond with a fair amount over time, especially Premium subscribers. Ian in the U.K. was one of them. I had a recent letter from him in my "use in an issue when needed" folder, in which he had written:
It's an Ad, Stupid (continued)
Some months back an advertiser slammed George W. Bush, leading to a bunch of complaints by readers who wondered if I was some sort of "right-wing pukebag" (as one reader put it). Last week an advertiser asked, "Is Bill Clinton an Alcoholic?" — one of a series of ads for the publisher of an addiction newsletter. Naturally, several readers wrote to complain, wondering if I'm some sort of Cold Hearted Conservative. Um, Hello? Repeat after me: It's an ad! Advertisers are supposed to grab your attention! And note it's a question, not a statement. If We The People can't ask questions about our leaders, what sort of a nation are we?
Groan: Not Again!
Last week there was Yet Another Political (this time, anti-war) ad, and as expected I got a bunch of complaints and petulant "unsubscribe" demands. Bill in B.C., Canada, writes, "When I read the ad I got a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as I rather suspect that you did too when you received the ad from your customer. I'm not writing to complain about the ad or the web site or to give them accolades, but rather to compliment you on the fact that you are willing to run the ad and, I expect, recognize the fact that so many people have died worldwide to protect the right of each of us to speak out regardless of how popular our message is."
It's a Small, Smallll, World!
It seems to me that the world is getting smaller. Recently, within a three day period, I got several notes from readers that showed just how small. I'm not going to say which three (different!) stories are involved to help protect anonymity, but you'll get the idea....
Driving Home a Point
Each month in the Premium edition (only), I run a Tagline Challenge, where I include an extra story without my usual "tagline" and let readers suggest how they think the story should end. This month the Challenge was indeed a challenge.
I introduced it last week by noting that I sometimes use the taglines as a forum to express disgust or outrage about a story, or at least note an opinion or irony -- my tags aren't always meant to be humorous. I noted that this month's Tagline Challenge story is a platform for just such outrage. Exactly 99 entries came in -- plus one disagreement, from Michael in Connecticut:
Driving Home: Reader Reactions
In last week's issue I discussed how the July Tagline Challenge story was one that's not meant to be funny, but rather is an example of the type of story I use to express outrage at something that's not right. It was about an idiot teen who crashed his car while pulling a stupid stunt, killing three friends. He disclaimed responsibility by saying "It's not really my fault. Anybody can drive off the road and hit a tree." It brought the largest ever number of entries to the monthly Challenge, plus one complaint by a reader who had to bury a child after a car accident who said the story went "over the line". I disagreed, noting "you know that many, many parents who get True used the story as an opportunity to bring up the subject of being responsible drivers to their teens, and you know most of those teens think the kid's excuse is beyond lame." The exchange brought several letters.
Liberal Bias AGAIN?!
In last week's issue I ran two stories that were wonderfully balanced, politics-wise. Yet the response was very, very telling. First, here are both stories:
Letters that Make me Smile
Now and then I get a letter from a reader that really makes me smile. Last week it was from Michele in California:
I Believe in Santa
No, it's not "Virginia", but rather "J" in Canada. It started with her letter, which ran in the 7 December 2004 issue' free edition:
Christmas Presents from the Christmas Past
I got some great gifts from my readers this year. Lee in Florida sent one -- a letter:
There is no particular story that stands out in my mind, but each week I look forward to reading your research. They each make you think and what a gift that is when in today's society every little thing is done for you. The gift of thought is truly a treasure. What a gift.
Have Readers Learned?
I spent an hour on the phone Friday with a True reader who hired me to do some consulting for a site he's developing. During our conversation he commented that he noticed I haven't run many letters lately from readers ranting at me (say, telling me I'm going to hell?) True, I haven't. I asked him if he thought that meant that readers have finally figured out that I'm an equal opportunity offender -- that I don't discriminate against people for their religion, profession, political party, whatever, but rather am simply commenting on their often incredibly stupid in-public actions?
No, The Readers Haven't Learned II
I ran a letter from Mark in Australia in last week's issue as "the last word on the racism debate." Mark said "It often astounds me that people with such poor comprehension of written English" completely miss the point of some of my articles. I responded "Even if you consider that True readers are far above average in intelligence, as I do, it's very clear that I have astoundingly good job security!"
The Cradle of Common Law
In the 28 March edition I ran a story about Britain's Home Secretary, who has started billing released prisoners for their room and board when they have been found innocent after spending years in prison. No, they didn't mention the "reasonable and appropriate" salary they could have gotten on the outside. And no, it wasn't an April Fools joke, as many have assumed.
But before we go on to the discussion, here's the story:
I Demand You Agree With This
There was a story last week about the governor of West Virginia, who was so outraged over a joke T-shirt that he demanded 1) that the seller remove them from its stores and catalog, 2) recall them, and 3) destroy them. The company refused. My tagline: "...In other news, the indignant governor said no, it's untrue that only inbred buffoons think they can stop people from telling jokes."
Equal Time Letters
Quite a few readers responded with distress that hundreds of This is True readers unsubscribed because "I made Christians look bad" (or, alternatively, because in the story I wrote "atheists made Christians look bad." Sorry, but both concepts are incorrect: a few Christians made themselves look bad. Was their action an indictment of all Christians? Of course not. But a lot of Christians certainly felt that way, which says more about them than it does about the story (or the atheists involved).
But before we go on, read the story.
Live Free or Whine: Letters
I got quite a few letters from readers after I published the whine from "Tim in New Hampshire", who told me he'd never upgrade to Premium because I'd just use his money to provide employment to others, namely my new part-time assistant. I pointed out that True is about stupid people doing stupid things, and thanked him for providing more content toward that mission.
Reader Reaction to Airport ZT
I've had quite a bit of reaction to the latest airline (in)security story, which is posted on its own page. Some have told me the tagline was "mean", but far more have written of their utter frustration with jumping through hoops for officious morons. (I've indeed seen conscientious, intelligent, personable screeners. Sadly, who can argue that the few I've seen are the norm, rather than the exception?)
The Dumb Leading the Blind
Last week I ran a story about how hundreds of celebrities were on the defense witness list for the Michael Jackson trial. The tag: "...Stevie Wonder is particularly upset at being named. 'Yeah I was there,' he admits. 'But I didn't see anything!'"
Did You "Get" It?
Georges in France writes: "I have read This is True for many years now and enjoy it. You have readers in 200 countries. I suppose that many of these readers are US citizens who are abroad for some reason such as soldiers, diplomats, engineers etc. But you have also foreigners receiving your mail. I am one of them: French citizen, 72 years old. I have studied English since the age of 11 and have never stopped using it, professionally (I was a physicist). I have written about 100 papers in English, discussed in English with colleagues of all countries, spent one full year in the USA and made about 20 trips to the US. So I thought that I am fluent in English and therefore able to understand all your jokes. Alas, I find every week that it is not true. I understand almost completely your stories, but I miss your final joke or pun once out of three. So please, Randy, when you make a joke, try to think that there are maybe 20,000 readers who might not understand it. Either make it simpler or (this is a suggestion), put a footnote somewhere for us, poor ignorant idiots."
The Exploitation of Saaya Irie
The story about Saaya Irie in the 22 May 2005 issue was a tad disturbing by itself, but what really brought the story home was the photos that were the topic of the story. That story — and a couple of example photos of an unusually ...uh... mature 11-year-old girl, are here. On this page, reaction to the story and the photos.
William in Zimbabwe: Letters
My reply last week to William in Zimbabwe, who complained about my "Get Out of Hell Free" cards and a story about a preacher who was "nowhere near a true Christian" brought quite a bit of mail.
Psychic Pay Increase
I often say that the "psychic pay" I get for doing this job is as good, or sometimes better, than the paycheck. Maybe you'll see what I mean when you read this letter from reader Byron in Colorado (and be sure to read my comments below it):
Happy Politically Correct Holiday
Last week's issue included this story, which naturally brought an incredibly whiny complaint by someone who clearly didn't understand the concept at all:
Then, Just Like That, My Faith is Restored
So last week, I was lamenting that some readers Just Don't Get It. This week, a few letters from those who do.
I was in Arizona this week to attend a conference. During the down times I caught up with some of my mail, including this note from another arid zone -- Iraq. Reader PFC Brad writes:
The ZT'd Reader: Other Readers Respond
Last week's editorial brought a fair number of letters. Here are some of the best.
Is There Too Much ZT in True?
After several ZT-in-schools stories over the last month, Laine in Utah complained:
Upset? No: Thrilled!
I recently concluded a debate that started with a complaint from a free edition reader. That led to this comment from Walt in California:
Pretend PETA Apologist
I really had to chuckle when I got this whine -- it's not from a reader, but rather an apologist for an organization I wrote about last year. Deborah, who didn't say where she is, stumbled across the page on my site about the "controversy" and wrote:
Political Correctness II
Speaking of pointing out the foibles of politicians (as I did in last week's entry), and speaking of political correctness, last week's story about the U.K. Member of Parliament who called people in his district "inbred" brought quite a few comments, with most being hard on me.
9/11: Reader Reaction
My 9/11 editorial last week brought two kinds of responses. Marjolein in the Netherlands wrote:
In the 3 December 2006 issue I led with this story:
There was, of course, reader reaction, virtually all of it readers finding it hard to believe there are such nutballs out there. But....
Another Day, Another Cry-Baby
Quite a few Premium subscribers actually stay on the free distribution specifically to see the advertising. That's cool: the advertisers pay for this free distribution, so it's nice that people actually look at the ads! But now and then people whine about the ads. That's dumb: without them, they wouldn't be getting the newsletter at all, would they?!
The Public Be Damned
In the 28 January issue I ran a story about two murderers who escaped from prison in England. I noted the story was an example of "zero tolerance" mentality migrating to the real world:
Honorary Unsubscribes and World Peace
One reader had plenty to say about this week's honoree:
Keeping the Balance Balanced
Yes, True is sometimes a touch raw. Usually it works out fine -- it's balanced well between tragedy (like a school committing a grievous Zero-Tolerance punishment on a truly innocent kid) and comedy. But now and then, after I've written an issue, something comes up that tilts the balance, and the result is awkwardly off-kilter.
Changing the World Just a Touch
One last word about my being called "anti-God" for a recent story. I'm not going to name the reader or her location so she can't be identified:
Lawyers: Burning in Hell?
A story from this week's issue implied (OK: stated categorically) that there are no lawyers in heaven. First the story, and then the reaction from a lawyer reader:
In the 15 July 2007 issue, I ran this story:
A story last week led a reader to accuse me of being racist. I first rolled my eyes over the accusation and deleted the message, but I decided to pull it out of the trash and run it here. I still haven't replied to the message; rather, I'd like you to, by posting a response below. I'd especially like to hear from people who are the victims of racism: do you see his objection as being valid -- is it really akin to the racism you have suffered? How -- or how is it not?
Let's start with the story in question:
The Tyke's Fault?
Several readers wanted to know what happened to the kid in the last story last week -- is he still wandering the airport or what? I of course wondered that myself, but the story I used as a source didn't say! I tried checking other sources and never got an answer. I was pretty sure the kid was fine -- surely airports on Vancouver Island can't be all that big -- but I didn't know.
Remember the story from last week about the high schoolers that created an anti-drunk-driving t-shirt after their classmates were killed in an accident? Well, I got a lot of comments on it. Let's start first with the story:
Hook a Man Up!
I was a bit taken aback by a letter I got this week. The subject line was "Can I be a charity case?" and it was from Bill in Pennsylvania. He wrote: "Please ask your readers if any of them would love to be charitable and donate a premium sub? Or get 24 of them to donate a buck for me? As you can see, I am a gov't worker....so we don't get much. Plus I have a 17 month old and another on the way...due in mid June..... plus 3 step kids that have a deadbeat father....so it's hard to justify to the wife spending the $$..... but I can't get enough of your mailings! So, beg the people to hook a man up!! Oh, and if you do post any of this, please don't mention my full name or email address showing where I work."
Fornigate, Lindbergh and Hawaii
Ten years ago this week I wrote two full columns: the regular one, and one on the breaking scandal with President Bill "I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman" Clinton. I (and many others) dubbed it Fornigate, and it led to his impeachment.
A Family of Readers
Felix in California sent me an error report Monday (I left a confusing extraneous word when I recasted a sentence when I was writing). He posted the error just 11 minutes and 44 seconds after the Premium edition was sent out, and his report enabled me to fix the error for the free edition.
The Right to Be Offended
I continue to be astounded at the number of people who choose to be offended by things that don't exist. I refer this time to a story in the 31 August 2008 issue about the Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin:
Nice Work If You Can Get It
I got a fascinating letter from a reader about a story that really adds to it. First, the story from the 28 September 2008 issue:
There was a horrendous story in last week's issue about a guy who stabbed an intruder to death. Several readers took me to task for my tagline on the story. To refresh your memory, let's start with the story:
Laugh, or the World Laughs At You
It's so sad to see how people just can't take an obvious joke. (Say, like on a site called Jumbo Joke!) There was a political item today, and it resulted in a lot of whining -- and protest unsubscribes.
My mail isn't all whining like last week's post -- far from it. I publish more of the whines because they're so ...well... entertaining! But Paul in Texas really liked last week's issue. He wrote:
Changes to the Honorary Unsubscribe
Now and then, Premium subscribers, the paying customers which, I have said time and again, make True possible, get a little miffed that they get the Honorary Unsubscribe after it's published in the free edition. Frankly, shouldn't they get it either exclusively, or at the very least first? Each time I've responded to the complaint with a "that's the way it is" dismissal, but the most recent one pushed me over the edge, so I put it out to the Premium readers, asking the entire population of them what they really thought about it.
There were several cranky responses to a story in last week's issue. Let's start with the story, from the edition dated 5 July 2009:
"False, Crude and Offensive!"
An angry Premium subscriber, after reading a story in this week's issue, wrote to proclaim "That is not only false, crude, and offensive, it is an obvious, kneejerk response that would occur to many people looking for a cheap shot." Let's start with the story, from the 6 September 2009 issue:
Or, Was I Offensive to Little Girls?
There was a phrase in the previous blog entry on the 6-year-old kid, where I imagined the school staff: "Run in circles! Pull out your hair! Scream like a little girl!" Today Nancy in Illinois complained that was "sexist language".
Poor Taste? Not Offhand.
I did get some complaints last week about the story of the guy who lost his arm when it became stuck in his furnace boiler. I have my own response to the complaints of "poor taste" and "NOT FUNNY!" I also have a reply from the reader I was thinking about when I wrote the story -- a Premium subscriber who is missing an arm.
Is This Zero Tolerance?
A story from last week brought two very interesting reactions from Premium readers (the story wasn't in the free edition).
So, first, here's the story, from True's 8 August 2010 issue:
Animals Love Him, Too (Nom Nom Nom)
Last week, quite a few readers wanted to report an "error." Here's the story, from the 10 October (10/10/10!) issue:
Cathy in Florida
There were two accidentally related e-mails in my morning download that I'd like to tell you about. To truly appreciate what happened, though, there's a bit of backstory. In September 2007, I ran the following reader letter in True.
Fighting the Good Guys
There always has to be at least one idiot in the crowd. The people who fight against the fight against zero tolerance and zero thought, and create more problems for victims -- like the girl I told you about last week who was raped at school.
I Want to Complain, But...
It happens once in awhile that someone really wants to whine at me for something, but doesn't have the guts to sign their name. Normally, such complaints are summarily trashed: if they can't even sign their name to their opinion, then really, what's that opinion worth?
The Drunk Zone
A reader has a very interesting point of view on True's stories -- from the perspective of a (recovering) alcoholic.
I write True to make a living, yes, and it's gratifying that enough people support the publication to make that happen. But there's another reason, too: I want to change the world just a little bit, on both a micro and a macro scale. It's really cool, for instance, to see other columnists slowly getting on my anti-Zero Tolerance bandwagon.
There were very few comments about a tag that Jennifer put on one of her stories, about two people listening to music so loud that they couldn't hear trains coming.
Here's the story, from True's 6 February 2011 issue:
A Bare-Knuckles Experiment
It always fascinates me how readers perceive me and the business behind This is True. This is the story of one reader's ...well... "interesting" impression.
Ooh! Do It Again!
Last week I did a harder-than-usual "push" for subscription upgrades. You might like to know the excellent result: 32 upgrades. Just 32 upgrades is "excellent"?! Yep. The week before, it was four. The week before that was better: 15.
Florida: Officially the Weirdest
Some interesting statistical analysis on True story locations from Premium subscriber Mark in (yep!) Florida:
No Parking -- Lithuanian Style
I've had a couple of complaints about a story in the 7 August 2011 issue. Let's start with the story:
OK, I admit it: I knew the tagline on a story this week would make a lot of readers squirm. I have the story -- and the guy's mug shot -- plus some reader comments. The story is from True's 14 August 2011 issue:
Sacrifice, and Apologies
There were two main themes in reader comments this past week. The first: there are more and more thank-yous for "making me think" or "helping to provoke thought" and similar.
The Burned and the Bees
A story last week brought a lot of objection from readers. Well, actually, the tagline did. Let's start with the story, from the 25 September 2011 issue, by Alexander Cohen:
Reader Survey: Should True E-mails Be HTML?
Both the Premium (paid) subscribers and the Free edition subscribers were asked:
When readers unsubscribe from True they have the opportunity to send a comment. Many give the "reason" they're unsubscribing, and some even apologize (not necessary — really!)
The two most-common reasons people give for unsubscribing is "I've upgraded to Premium" (woo hoo!) and "I'm just too busy to read it" (bummer! Life is too short not to have some fun!) This weekend, one woman put in a rather startling reason:
I've made no secret that I'm pretty much 100 percent egalitarian. I've defended the religious, the non-religous, the "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians", and others in True's stories. I'm interested in whether people walk their talk, not whether they're religious, gay, atheist, pagan, Muslim, employed, educated -- whatever.
Sorry You Weren't Offended
This is True has tackled the issue of people choosing to be offended on a number of occasions (such as in the tagline of this story).
Most times, of course, the offended are complaining about a story, not embracing it. On most of those occasions, when someone is writing to complain how they've chosen to be offended by something I said (or, often, didn't say!), I'll often get an amusing response from other readers — the ones who don't unsubscribe in protest.
After years and years on this distribution, Jeff in Virginia unsubscribed last week, complaining there were "too many ads for the premium edition — it like [sic] a never-ending pledge-week on PBS."
Fair, or Unfair?
A story — or, really, the tagline on that story — by Mike Straw brought some bristling feedback. "Unfair!" But was it? Let's start with the story, from the 18 November 2012 issue:
Asking the Right Questions
After my previous blog post, the response from readers was fantastic — the clarity, the different ideas, the stating the problem without blaming or exonerating guns. But Rob in Sydney Australia didn't seem to "get" what I was saying that in the national "debate" about mass shootings, we're asking the wrong questions. It came to a head after this comment, by Tyler in Massachusetts:
Provoking Thought: Child Support Division
It's nice when someone else goes on a rant, so I don't have to!
A story by Mike Straw in last week's (30 December 2012) issue went for the laugh in the tagline. A reader -- Wayne, in the U.S. military and deployed to Afghanistan -- thought Mike should have gone more for "thought-provoking". Let's start with the story:
Walmart Hostage Situation
A tagline on a story this week was designed to provoke. I even talked about the tagline and said it was to provoke. Yet it still brought complaints and "disagreement" — even though it's impossible to agree or disagree with my thoughts, since the tag didn't reveal my thoughts.
But I still made a huge mistake!
When people unsubscribe from This is True, they have the opportunity to leave comments. Most don't, and oddly some think they "have to" (I mean really: "No comment."?) And of course some use it as an opportunity to protest — like when I tell the truth that they don't want to hear.
And then there are the weird ones.
Premium Subscribers Demand: Raise the Price!
It has nearly been a decade since the price for a Premium upgrade changed -- it went to $24. Premium subscribers themselves have said it's too cheap. I wanted some detail, and was boggled by what they told me.
Clowns to the Left of Me; Jokers to the Right
I got a protest unsubscribe this weekend from “EJ” in California, who complained:
This Isn't About Norman Rockwell
I thought it was clear enough that "the Norman Rockwell" story isn't really about Rockwell per se, but the comments about the story on Facebook are so out of left field, I thought I'd revisit it. First, the story itself, from the 1 December 2013 issue:
Keep the Premium Tagline Challenge?
Once per month, there's an extra story in Premium without a tagline, so that readers can try their hand at ending the story. I call it the Reader Tagline Challenge, and often the readers come up with a wide variety of funny endings to the extra story.
A reader seemed a bit dubious about the lead story last week (6 July 2014, Issue 1047). So let’s start with the story, and then the comment by John in the U.K.:
Florida: Really? Grief?
Tom in Nevada asks, “Given the amount of grief you give the well deserved Floridians, is there an disproportionate number of subscribers from Florida or maybe a disproportionately low number that might be turned off from the constant, once again well deserved, coverage of their exploits? Just curious.”
Know Thy Enemy
A Letter from Roland in Kent, England (where my family name comes from), really got spinning through my mind, because it really helps to put everything in perspective. Let me explain — starting with Roland’s letter (the italics are from the original):
Because They're Not Capable of Defending Themselves
What's more patronizing: making a joke at someone’s expense, or the contention that the subject of the joke is not capable of defending themselves?
This week it’s war veterans who are not capable, or so some readers seem to be saying. Let’s start with the story — from True's 8 February 2015 issue:
Xero Reader Thought
Even though there have been complaints about advertising before, because they either bashed right-wing or left-wing politicians (and, because of what advertisers want to say, readers call me a "communist propagandist" or a "right-wing pukebag," respectively).
Premium Readers Suggest Improvements
I surveyed Premium edition readers to see what they might come up with to improve This is True -- what would make it more of a "must-read" for them? This page reports on the results of the 3-question survey ...and they had a lot to say -- it's long! There were a lot of comments, and a fair number of suggestions.
In all, there were nearly 1,100 survey responses, which represents a very large percentage of the Premium audience -- certainly very "statistically valid."
"Only in Premium"
The Minor Format Change introduced last week brought a lot of positive comments. Just one example: “Love, love, love the new way you tease the 'missing' Premium stories.” —Mark in New Jersey. That’s awfully nice. But, of course, there were protest unsubscribes last week because I stopped gathering all the “stories you missed” summaries into a large paragraph, and instead left their story slugs up among the full stories, and included a brief summary of the story there. A few examples:
A Pride of Obliviots
MSgt USAF (retired) Joseph in Ohio inquires, “As a multi-decade reader I find readers’ comments almost as entertaining as the stories. This brings me to my question. Being an English major I would like to know what the collective is for ‘obliviot’?”
Can't Cure Obliviocy
Every Month, There’s a Tagline Challenge in the Premium edition — an extra story without a tag at the end, and readers can submit their best ending for the story. This month, the story was about a robbery that went bad at a drug store: the obliviot managed to defeat himself by pepper-spraying ...himself.
Dangerous in the Wrong Hands
Some Readers Seem to Want to top recent examples of “Stupid Reasons for Protest Unsubscribes”. This one’s hilarious: in Friday’s free edition, having no paid advertisers, I ran a house ad for my drone site, Drone Pilot Wings. I haven’t been doing much in the way of articles on that site lately, but several that I have done really push for pilots being more responsible with drones, vs. doing stupid things like getting in the way of airplanes trying to fight wildfires. There’s even an article category called “Pilot Error” to highlight such stories. Of course, the tiny ad doesn’t get into all that, it just points interested readers to the site to learn more.
Speaking for Others
There is some great additional detail on a story from True’s 16 August 2015 issue. To start with, you need the story:
Alert the Media.
There Was a Protest Unsubscribe after I ran the plug (below) for Get Out of Hell Free cards in Friday’s edition.
I See the Optimism
A Thought-Provoking Letter from Bill in Utah, after reading one of the many recent cases of someone unsubscribing in protest over a story or comment in True:
Nick in Arizona recently re-subscribed after an absence. He wrote: “I’m looking forward to getting TRUE in my mailbox again. It’s been a long, long time, and what reminded me was the Get Out of Hell Free cards. I came across a few in one of my storage boxes (I remember mailing in my request for several orders, including the nice plastic cards in addition to the card stock version, which I had been handing out like breezy many years ago). I’m a consultant now, and I live the travel life style. I’m always working with people who need the GOOHF, especially since it covers stupidity! Lol. I’m going to need several, soon. I’m looking forward to the true stories and witty commentary, and occasional RIDICULOUS reactions from the reader base! Thank you for still being there, doing what you do!”
Jay Jay is Cray Cray
Sometimes it's fun to poke at obliviots — especially when they're truly oblivious to their idiocy.
That Tagline is Insensitive
There was a little pushback from a story in the 11 September 2016 issue — or, really, about its tag. Here’s the story:
A Little Bit Behind
I Loved This Note this week from David in California:
Women's March (to the Back of the Bus)
I Expect to Be Called Names for my tag on the last story this week. Let’s start with the story, in the 29 January 2017 issue: