July 25, 2009

Dear Blog

This entry is very, very hard to write. Hard enough that it took a family meeting, a call to the authorities, a conference with my webhost and long hours of talks with friends to decide what the right thing to do is.
It is this.

I get mean emails and comments. I don't mean "email that disagrees with me" because disagreeing with me or holding a different opinion than me isn't mean. If I like Prince (and I do) and you send me an email saying you think Prince sucks - I don't think that's mean. What I mean is when I say "I love Prince" and someone emails with "how can you think that you must be so f**king stupid you dumb bitch, I hope you never sell another book that's how f**cking stupid you are." That's mean. (It's also almost a quote from an email from a few years ago,but there you go.) Every once in a while there's a mean comment, but mostly they are mean emails, because most mean people like to be privately mean, and don't care for the light to shine on them at all. The internet encourages this sort of thing, the private meanness, because ... well. It's really private. You don't have to face the person you're hurting, you don't even have to use your real name. You can give over to every single low, unreasoned impulse you have ever had, and there's almost no way that anyone could ever hold you accountable or make you stop.

As a general principle, I am opposed to fighting fire with fire. In my experience it just makes more fire. Usually I ignore the mean emails, as well as ignoring the mean comments - with one exception. Every once in a while, someone who has been commenting nicely on the blog using a name I know hauls off and sends me something terrible under another name- thinking they're anonymous. The first time they do this, I ignore it. Everybody's entitled to a mistake once in a while. If it happens again, I send them a really polite but firm email letting them know that they are actually not anonymous, that my server sends me emails with the IP address attached to comments, and that they might want to conduct themselves accordingly. This has been remarkably successful in reducing the mean. It turns out that if they aren't anonymous, most normal, mentally healthy people having a poor impulse or a bad day get a grip on themselves instantly, and usually, in the spirit of "we all make mistakes" we go on to talk about it, start over and move on. I shine a little light on it, remove the perceived privacy, and the whole thing gets sane fast.

In recent weeks, this approach hasn't worked. There is one person, who had previously commented on the blog who went off the deep end with my Canada Day entry, (although she had previously twittered and blogged some strange stuff about me) and left some anonymous comments designed to insult and inflame people. I sent her a note, letting her know that she was not indeed anonymous, that I knew who she was and tried to shine the light on her.
It read:

Dear Name Removed

I understand you don't like me, that much is clear and you're welcome to feel that way. I do however, want you to know that the attempt to leave anonymous comments is not just somewhat cowardly, but pointless.
Your comments today as "Name Removed " from the fake address of "email removed" still show up as you. If you'd like to take a stab anonymously - this one isn't quite working.


The above (and nothing has been deleted from it, that is how it appears in my sent folder with the exception of her name and email) was an email that the poster has referred to as violent, rude, mean, nasty, insulting and cursing. Since that email and that day, things have been out of hand. Badly out of hand. No matter what I write, what I say or what I do...She's been writing and promoting hateful blog posts and tweets, leaving inflammatory and rude comments, and sending me horrible mail, which I'm afraid may not be entirely rational. I have been doing my best to not feed the fire, although I have been deleting her comments for several reasons. (For the record, there is only one other person who's comments have ever been deleted on this blog. Their comment was blatantly and viciously racist.)

I have been deleting because:

1. Her comments are intended to hurt people. I won't pay for the bandwidth on that.
2. Her comments are intended to rile people up, generate conflict in the comment section, injure me and are not how I will be spoken to in a place where I pay the bills.
3. I believe that if I left the comments, some of you would defend me, thus giving her the satisfaction and attention she craves and giving her a more of a forum for hurting others.
4. Her comments have been accompanied by private email that is nothing short of awful.

These comments appear regularly, I watch for them and I have been deleting all of them as a matter of policy, hoping it would get old for her. Yesterday it all came to a head. I have been reading her blog, partly because I think it's a good idea to know what she's up to, and partly because I'm a little afraid, and reading her blog helps me feel like I know what's going on. She's been sending me email telling me she can see me reading her blog, since she's worked out what my IP address is, and I suppose I don't mind. After all, she's clearly reading mine.

Yesterday, after her latest comment, I checked her blog, read it, and left the window open. (Apparently for 96 minutes. Who knew?) During that time, someone who had seen that comment on this blog before I could delete it, followed the link to her blog and left some sane, reasonable (although not necessarily nice) comments defending me.

This woman is now convinced that I left those comments, or that I had someone leave them. (This is because the other person had a Canadian IP address.) This has inspired her to new and frightening heights. She left a comment calling me names, and I wrote back and told her the truth. It wasn't me, that I would never leave her a comment (I believe I used the phrase "cold day in hell") and suggested that it were possible that there was more than one Canadian in the world.
I was not rude. I was firm. I did not call her names. I did not insult her or threaten her.

She responded with another mocking, insulting email, accusing me of reading her blog, and that informed me that I had no "American Grit" and that she had tracked me down and knew where I lived.
I responded thusly:

Name Removed, considering the number of comments you've left me, I don't think I need to feel concerned that I check your blog too much. After all, you've not been kind, and I think it's reasonable to be concerned.

I appreciate the time you spend on my blog as well, and I'm unconcerned about your analysis of my grit..

Best wishes,


This was a mistake. This was the big one. For some reason, this was my correspondence with her that was so cruel to her that she redoubled her efforts. (Note: These are comments she intended for public consumption. I deleted them.)

At 10:13 she left this comment:

A little advice harlot: Don't try to get into a fight with an American
girl. We fight hard and dirty. Especially when it's directed at a person
who takes Americans like fools. Trust me...we're not fools. And guess
what I also found out? Your publisher is CONTENT DELETED TO REMOVE IDENTITY. I'm already looking up contacts.....unless you change your
ways, of course...

At 10:29:

Like I said before (before you rudely deleted my comment), I DO NOT LIKE IT
when you say anti-American things or else you ridicule us.

We do NOT appreciate being ridiculed. And you can "hate" on me all you
like, and you can get your friends to comment negatively on my site all you
like---but it will STILL NOT take away the fact that you make anti-American
comments on your site.

And I am going to take up for us---both myself and my fellow Americans.
Hell, you make 80% of your money down here in American---and we don't
appreciate the fact that you take our money yet insult us on your Canada
Day postings! It's been happening year after year!

And go ahead---get your friends to comment negatively on my site---I am not
afraid. I will print their comments and answer their questions. (Although
yes, I do frequently cuss--but we're big girls here, right?)

You have enjoyed a time where you believed you were the "darling" of the
knitting world. But that's about to change. From now on, you have to EARN
you reputation. You must show that you love ALL people,not just Canadians.
If you expect Americans to love you, then you jolly well EARN their love
by loving them!

From now on, some of us will be watching and listening.....

and at 10:32 (unbelievably)

Sorry for the grammar errors---I type fast and so I frequently leave out

At this point she switched to email, and after a conversation with several people. I did something I've never done before. I blocked her at the server level. We took her IP address and shut her down. She wouldn't even be able to see the blog, never mind leave comments anymore. I was exhausted with worrying she was leaving them, worrying that she was going to start a riot, worrying about what they said... it was a relief to finally make it stop.
I knew it wouldn't stop the personal mail, but at least then it would be between the two of us.

Here's where I do something I've never done before. I believe that personal email is personal. The above from her were left as comments, something she intended to be public, so I don't mind posting them. What is below is the mail she sent me when she discovered that she had been blocked from the server. (She believed that I had become frightened enough of her to shut down the blog.) I know that posting this is controversial, but I've come to realize that it is only a matter of time until what she's doing goes public anyway, and we feel that it's only fair that we show you what it is that she's doing privately, so that you can understand our extreme measures, especially when we are accused of censorship. We have removed her name, and won't be revealing her identity.

What's the matter, YH? Lost your nerve and guts? You pulled your blog off the server! YOU ARE CHICKEN! Can't take the heat, can you!
You are one of those few cowardly people who can't take criticism---it makes you nervous! You havevn't the backbone to answer back to somebody who takes you to task! This cowardly behavior of yours makes Americans laugh like hyenas! We disdain people who can't use their backbone to defend themselves!
You don't deserve to take a defensive position! You're a PUSSY!, the worse criticism of all the American list of insults.

(I will refrain from making comments here about how I feel about slang for a woman's body parts being used as a hurt...that's a rant for another day) Then about five minutes later:

Sorry....didn't think you were so weak! HA HA Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!! What a weakling. Now I know why your husband is so worthlessl. He's the one who tries to "make music", heh! Got his car stuck in the snow and you (a woman) had to come rescue him!
The best laugh was when you got married by a weirdo who has no religion! Without God as part of your ceremony! You're atheists! And probably wiccans!
sorry----didn't realize how weak you guys were.
Word to the wise---don't take on a CHRISTIAN woman again. We have God on our side. You would do well to read the Christian Bible and find out who Jesus is for your souls.

Then, once she realized it was just that she was blocked:

I love challenges. So does my computer wizard guy, Name Removed (oh, and all his friends....) See you on your website soon.---the problem has been solved already but I'm tired of you this weekend.
And, be advised....I hope you've learned your lesson about how doggedly I complain against anti-Americanism types.

I won't appreciate it if I ever see anymore anti-American comments on your site again. (Yes, I can access your site---did you really think a block would work? You obviously don't know much about computers.)


You're played out as a writer. (How many "comedy" books did you think you could do? It's getting old....)

And Americans are getting TIRED of the left. (And you are a typical Canadian left.)

Keep going.....keep trying to antagonize me....because you are only getting more looney. Haven't you noticed how the "respectable" knitters are distancing themselves from you? (Yeah, you didn't think I knew.)

Hah, keep trying to aggravate me---it will be your downfall. And I will laugh my head off---as will all my friends who can't stand you.

Sadly, it would appear that she wasn't tired of me this weekend, because by this morning there were a few more emails, and she had a new IP address and two new comments, which went up while I was away from my computer. The first read:

Hey, Yarn Harlot, I didn't appreciate your rude emails. I do not deserve
them nor does the rest of the American knitters who don't appreciate your
anti-Americanism comments. Did you think this was a game? It's not. Many
of us have totally HAD it with your arrogant, holier-than-thou
anti-Americanism. I have taken up the cause, because I personally don't
think Americans should buy your books. I will not let you off the hook
for this. I will constantly watch your site for anti-Americanism and I
will hopefully educate you in how to relate to America as a friendly
nation, a nation who saved your butts over and over throughout history.

I won't post the second one, because it reveals her identity. For the record, she is referring to the correspondence I posted above as my "rude emails" I have sent her nothing further. (Also for the record, I believe we define "rude" very differently.)

I have blocked her IP again. Her twitter feed is a string of tirades and accusations about me, the emails keep coming, and I'm sure she'll have her IP address changed in a few hours.

I absolutely cannot keep up with her, the lies, the threats or the accusations. She believes that everything I do, every post I write, ever tweet I log, even mentioning drinking a beer, is about her. Everything I write is bait to her, and I can't stop writing. One of her comments is definitely going to make it onto the blog while I'm sleeping or eating or with my kids. I've spoken with my web host, the authorities, and some other resources to see what I can do... but I realized that this morning, I was going to fail. She is determined to take it public, determined to get a comment up and determined to keep hurting me. She's decided something about me, and I'm not engaging. I don't think it's true, or that she's right... but eventually, she's going to get the attention that she craves. More people are going to notice, no matter how much I keep trying to keep it from going viral and creating conflict in the comments.

This has been a difficult time. I struggle with self-esteem as much as the next person, and these emails feel exactly like my critical inner voice, the part of me that is irrationally hard on me, suddenly got my email address and started sending me mail and comments. I've tried to cope, to not be hurt, to know it's not true, but the whole thing is scary, especially once she started referring to my parenting (didn't tell you about that one) and my family in general. I am searching in my heart for sympathy for her, because this must be taking up a lot of time for her, and because I don't think you do something like this to another person with this sort of dedication without really having some emptiness or hurt inside you, and that's sad. Really, genuinely sad.

Here's the thing, the reason I'm putting all this here now. I've kept this to myself for a month. It's not stopping. I'm trying to stand by what I believe. That shining light on something can help, and because I'm going to need your help. She is going to change her IP address. She is going to leave more comments, and I am going to be busy one of these times that it happens. It's inevitable, and I need to be able to sleep at night without worrying that a riot has erupted in my comments, or that someone is wondering why the hell this woman is accusing me of all these horrible things. I want the background to be public, so that it isn't confusing, suspicious or bizarre when/if you see one of her rants.
When that happens, I'd really, really like all of you to know my position, although of course, you are welcome to yours.

Respect... even to those who do not demonstrate it to you.
I do not believe in an eye for an eye, and I'm asking, politely, that when you hear from this woman... that you just take a deep breath, even if she's insulting (or misrepresenting) your country ( and trust me Canadians, she's no fan) to me, to you... to anyone - that we just all try to take some of this power away from her. The last few days have proved that any measure of attention is incitement. Defending me, explaining to her, taking her on... only makes it worse, only increases the number and hurtfulness of the private mail she sends. She's lost the right to post here, I'll keep deleting her. When or if you see her posts, I hope you won't engage, won't visit her blog to tell her what you think of her, won't insult her, won't injure her... won't lower yourself to her level. (Unless, of course, you agree with her.)

Thank you, and I'm sorry this is where we're at.
Let's never speak of this again.

Posted by Stephanie at July 25, 2009 8:12 PM