A while back, some flaming nutjob who called herself Judith decided that she was entitled to school me on what I owed readers. It started with this:
This is an excellent article on the state of affairs right now. But your answer to GEJC was curt and dismissive.
My reaction was less than supportive. She replied:
By virtue of writing this blog, you do owe something to your readers: a continuation of what was a thoughtful piece of writing. I am no one’s “entitled piece of shit.” I am a concerned grandmother who is very disheartened by the state of race relations in our country today. Your blog was recommended to me by someone whose opinion I respect, someone who would never say “fuck you” to a grandmother. Would you say that to yours? “Fuck you” is the response of the person who has nothing intelligent left to say. “I expect civility from you, but that does not mean I will respond in kind” is just insulting. I will no longer follow your blog. Please remove me from your list.
The only reason I responded in that manner was because I couldn’t reach through the computer and smack her upside the head. But perhaps at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the sense of entitlement of some readers, that I “owed” them.
In the past week, two people, one a reporter who isn’t a lawyer but writes exceptionally stupid law stories for a major online media publisher, and another a reader here, whom I like otherwise, sent me serial emails asking for me to explain stuff about which they were curious. I did, for both. A few times, for both. A few more times, for both. And then, when they still didn’t get it (because they were seeking answers to questions that requires a modicum of legal intelligence), they decided that they should argue their views with me.
I didn’t write them. I didn’t ask them to take their time, consider my questions, and explain whatever they’re thinking to me. I asked nothing of them. I wanted nothing of them. They held no interest for me whatsoever. Or, to borrow from my reply to Grandma Judith, I didn’t give a fuck either way.
But then, after I gave them my time at their request, they assumed that their issues, their questions, their arguments, were so fascinating to them that they would naturally be worth sucking up my time. Didn’t I want to take my time, the hours for which I would otherwise work for clients who pay for my time, and donate it to them? Isn’t the world all about them? Aren’t they, their questions, their thoughts, so utterly fascinating to me that I want to spend every waking moment replying to them?
In a sense, I can’t blame the reporter. Lawyers have led reporters to believe that our time is theirs, without limitation. They view themselves as enormously worthy, hugely important, voices because they got a job writing for a big soapbox. So what if it’s largely because nobody else would work for the peanuts they get paid. They’re very important voices. And lawyers are happy to fall all over themselves to get their name in the papers. Well, some lawyers, anyway.
The reader, the one I like, may not have much of a sense of what would make this a problem for me, to spend a huge amount of my time with him. We’re buds, right?
But much as I try to be accommodating, there are two things I rarely see. First is any recognition that just because I choose to spend some time writing SJ doesn’t mean that you, by dint of reading it, have developed a personal relationship with me. I may know you and like you, but I work for a living. You aren’t my kid or my client. You aren’t entitled to my life because something sparks your curiosity. You aren’t the center of my universe.
And as for reporters, I help a lot of you out, but for fuck’s sake, enough. I really do want to help you not make the world a stupider place. Not necessarily for your sake, but for the world’s. And lord knows, you do your best to bring stupid to the masses. It’s not that I blame you. It’s not your fault that somebody hired a moron to write about law and spread the stupid. Hell, you don’t have the first clue how stupid your writing is, and there’s no reason you should. After all, you don’t know anything except how to write.
On the twitters the other day, I made the mistake of responding to a spamming scumbag, sending the same twit to hundreds of people in an effort to get someone to take notice of his existence. That he was a worthless bug didn’t help. That the app he’s trying to sell was utter crap didn’t help either. But he was trying, and I made the mistake of responding.
After telling him that if he wanted my time to consider his shitful app, he had to pay for it, he replied like the usual narcissistic asshole: So it’s all about money for you. Ironic that a spammer trying to scam a bad app would complain about me being “all about money,” but stupid people gonna stupid. He persisted in this crap for a while, to no avail. He was dead to me as soon as I realized he was nothing but a spamming asshole trying to sell his snake oil.
But it has nothing to do with money. I have no expectation of anyone making demands of me paying for my time. The only point of money is to provide a metric that might, assuming the entitlement isn’t overwhelming, clarify the point that my life isn’t theirs for the taking, and that when I give of my time to someone, it’s a courtesy. Rather than appreciation, I get arguments.
If I ask something of someone, I thank them for it and try not to abuse their graciousness. I’ve had enough of people taking from me with nothing in return. So, as I told Grandma Judith, fuck you. I write SJ and you can read or not. But I owe you nothing, and if you either suggest I do or just bombard me with demands on my time, you should expect an unpleasant reaction. I’ve had enough.