Elizabeth (greyautumnrain) wrote,

How to turn people off of a decent message

I was reading today's Dooce at lunch today and I was completely unsurprised to discover that she had gotten hate mail concerning her previous day's post. Not only was I unsurprised, I had actually predicted it to myself that she would upon ready the previous entry. I hadn't thought she would bother posting about the hate mail, in fact, because I thought it was so predictable.

Her crime? She posted that her husband had given her a puppy for Christmas.

Now I am sure that the hate-mail senders have a very good ideal at heart. I am sure of that because I happen to share the ideal. Puppies do not, in general, make good gifts. You should never spring a puppy on someone as a surprise, or even a semi-surprise. Dogs are a long term responsibility, not a spur of the moment purchase. Also, the place where pets are typically purchased on the spur of the moment are very bad. The thing is, if you've been reading dooce.com for any length of time it is obvious that this wasn't some ill-conceived totally out of the blue thing. Heather is an experienced dog owner who has stated several times in the past few months that she would like another dog. In fact, she has blogged about begging her husband to let her adopt another dog, so obviously it was something they had discussed. It would seem to me that anyone with a smidgeon of common sense would therefore realize that this was not one of those cases where a puppy is an irresponsible gift choice, but of course that would assume that people are willing to use common sense.

I think what happened in this situation, and what happens all to often, is people took their general good rule of thumb (giving puppies as gifts is irresponsible), and got so obsessed by the righteousness of that message that they completely ignored the context. These people then wrote nasty emails, which they sent to woman who as it seems actually obtained a second dog under reasonably responsible circumstances. In doing so, they probably did their message more harm than good, because now it looks like an ideal held by people with no common sense, or ability to judge context or proportion. It also starts being associated with the kind of person who sends hurtful emails.

I suppose some people would try to argue that Dooce should have made it clear from the start that her husband did not, in fact, nip off to random pet store on Christmas eve and get her a puppy of unknown breeding rearing who was probably breed in some abusive puppy mill. I don't think she had any obligation to do so. The initial post was very much in the vein of 'look what amazing thing my husband got me'; who wants to write in all the caveats when they are totally thrilled with something. It is also not her job to educate the world on other people's pet. messages. I suppose some argued that her post will inspire others to head out to random pet store and buy random friends and relatives abuse mill-breed puppies. No doubt there are some exactly that dumb and exactly that open to the slightest influence from random blogs they read, but I think dealing with such sad individuals is not the job of any blogger.

Of course this all applies to any message that people feel strongly about. All to often people ignore context and other such details in an effort to get their message out there, and wind up acting like shrill loonies. I was especially not surprised in this case because I've been noticing it from the dog people a lot lately, not sure why that is.

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