No, You Aren’t Entitled and I’ve Had Enough

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.

33 thoughts on “No, You Aren’t Entitled and I’ve Had Enough

  1. Keith Lee

    I don’t remember exactly what post you wrote the following in a few months ago, but I clipped this sentence as a reminder for when I want to contact someone about something:

    “When you want my attention, you’re asking me for a favor.”

    To me, it sums up the scenario you describe in the current post. Something that happens all too often once you’ve been running a blog for awhile.

    Favors are something to be asked for sparingly, not at a rapid-fire clip. Nor are they one-sided. Personally, if I’m going to ask for a favor from someone, I want to make sure that there has been some value-add on my part first. That there is at least an established relationship. Or I’ve done something for the other person first. Just cold asking for favors is gauche.

    1. SHG Post author

      I’m generally happy to help out. I respond to a lot of emails. I reply to many comments, even if some might prefer I didn’t. I take tons of phone calls from lawyers in trouble, lawyers with questions, lawyers who just need an ear. Most people who communicate with me will say that I’m pretty good about such things. And I ask nothing in return, which is fine because I have a spectacular life and believe, as a personal matter, in giving back to others.

      But, and this is a big but (sorry), does it never end? After 27 emails, does a person not say to themselves, I have asked too much?

      Recently, I referred a couple cases out to lawyer, who were paid some very big fees, more than they would have otherwise earned. I don’t ask for a referral fee. Did anybody send me a check? No. A small car (the fees were that big)? No. A bottle of wine? No. Nothing. This is the world we live in now (this never would have happened 20 years ago), and I’ve had enough of it.

      1. Marc R

        That pisses me off. If I refer a case I’ve spent some time on and they can get the retainer based on my reference, I don’t expect the customary 25% but I expect some recognition from that lawyer. So I don’t have to think about the referring attorney I relfexively send a referral check to them. Sometimes attorneys want the referral in writing and that’s fine, but whether in writing or not if you don’t acknowledge your referring attorney then don’t expect future referral.

        As for blog reader entitlement, I expect to see your posts. But if you stop blogging I can’t fault you; it’s your time. And when I comment I expect a reprimand for veering off course, because, again, it’s your blog. I use what I learn from you and expect nothing more or less, and I certainly deserve nothing for reading your ideas.

  2. enjointhis!

    “curt and dismissive”? Well, duh. Isn’t that the whole point of commenting? To provide you with cathartic release by way of vituperative & belittling comments against teh stupid? Now that I think about it, we’re actually providing you a valuable therapeutic service. My Nigerian accountant will invoice you directly.

    But seriously. I value and appreciate your blog. Although the comments can tend towards snarky, I find the posts are generally quite insightful and thought-provoking. It’s a regular read for me. As for taking from you w/nothing in return, I’ll be sure to donate when my Nigerian contact wires that $12,000,000 into my account. Then we’ll be best buds, right? Right?

    1. SHG Post author

      As I explained earlier (and to which you commented), I say what I want to say in the post. That’s my choice. It’s also as far as I have chosen to go.

      Some commenters fail to grasp this, instead viewing their comments as a fresh starting point for a personal discussion between us. They comment, and that means I am somehow obliged to take their comment seriously no matter how stupid it is, and respond with thoughtfulness, thoroughness and respect. There is also a curious aspect of the commenter thinking that they’re the only reader of SJ, and so I ought to show them my undying gratitude for coming here.

      Is it cathartic for me? No. Not even a little bit. I am more than happy to only have smart, thoughtful, non-idiotic or assholish comments. I have not been so fortunate. Awaiting your $12 mil.

      1. enjointhis!

        Honored (& impressed) you remembered my earlier comments. Not everyone deserves a response, of course, and it’s none of my damn business how you choose to respond. I suppose you’d have had to read my mind w/r/t that. I’m told the $12,000,000 will come within 72 hours after I provide the $2,500 earnest money deposit (I just wonder how Gen. Kayfabe learned of my humanitarian deeds).

    2. Sacho

      I am neither a lawyer nor American, and I work a fairly orthogonal job for a living. I find your blog to be though-provoking on an intellectual level, with the high and pious rhetoric of American “values” meeting the cruel and demanding face of reality. I think some denizens of the Internet should learn that entrance to an “online culture”(and yes, you have crafted one for yourself) requires following the rules and decorum set forth by the host.

      I know that you say you do not wish for any “tummy rubs”, but the list of awards on the right side says otherwise, so I will knowingly break your rules this once. I like your blog and hope you continue writing it, and I hope you will continue to keep it separate from your real life persona. I do not care for Scott Greenfield, the person (that is what your family and friends are for, I hope) – I do care about the ideas you put forward on this blog. I would be sad if you stopped doing it, but I realize that I have no more entitlement to your time than you have to mine. Quid pro quo. I don’t particularly know what you get from this, but I consider it a fair exchange as it stands.

      1. SHG Post author

        The crap awards on the side is for the benefit of shallow people (usually, journalists, looking for superficial cred). I’m not above using cheap tricks. Had you been around when they happened, you would know better. And good for you not giving a shit about me. It’s not about me, at least from your perspective. From mine, it’s all about me, but that’s got nothing to do with you.

        As for it being a fair exchange, I don’t see where I get my quid or quo, but then, since I don’t write for you and you ask nothing of me beyond reading what I write, it’s no big deal either way.

  3. Robert Davidson

    When encountering a another person’s real, solid boundary, it is difficult to overcome years of interactions with “servant leaders” or people who have been trained to never say the n-word (no), but deflect or delay. Keep up the good fight and you might get your own Mr. Manners column in in the NYT one day.

    1. SHG Post author

      I don’t think the NY Times likes me very much lately. I expected a call to be the new Ethicist, but that never happened. It’s a bad sign.

  4. Randy Scott

    I got caught earlier on. In one quiet email sent to a free speech guru he said “don’t contact me every again”. Man it slammed me hard but it focused me too. Another professor free speech guru simply acknowledges “received or thanks got it”. Whether they read or not what I send is a whole other story. My points is you ain’t had enough otherwise you would stop writing. So keep writing holding open doors cause maybe one climbs up that ladder and pushes you higher too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. SHG Post author

      Your one “quiet email” is his thousand demands from people he doesn’t know. You really wouldn’t believe what it can be like on this side of the computer.

      1. Randy Scott

        I blog on issues effecting process servers. I often get emails telling me of others problems in the process serving industry. A few start out with personal health problems and end with can you help look what they done to me.

        So the Internet is funneling people with similar concerns looking for answers and they often pool towards us who write on those issues, whatever those issues are.

        The larger blogs I am sure get disturbing trends in their emails of government privatizing the elimination of the first amendment.

        The first amendment blogs I follow are showing a quasi government attack against the first amendment and the courts decorum of anti butthurt speech in its own operations seem inherently supportive of the elimination of speech in its rulings.

        Yet all those negatively impacted need to be responsible for their own responses and not burden those who write about it by incessantly pointing to their own concern. Albeit one may arise in the emails that can be ripe for correcting through the courts what butthurt should mean under the law before enjoining speech. I. E. Butthurt injunctions picking off the legally untrained.

        Right now butthurtees are winning waiting for the hundredth monkey to appear. That wait requires self reflection and patience. The islands are getting closer. The winner is usually the persistent reader who studies all the writings and acts. Writing emails asking for help shouldn’t be where their full energies lay. For those who do nothing but that it is sad but it is their cross to bear. Not anyone else’s.

        1. SHG Post author

          A rather bold assertion for your second comment here. You don’t have a blog. You’re trying to promote your personal cause, and do it here on my dime. Yours and mine aren’t quite comparable, by about a million miles, and your presumptuousness when you write “towards us who write on those issues” may be a bit misguided. You and I are not “us,” so cut the bullshit.

          And by the way, I had to fish your comment out of the spam folder. Spamming is no way to go through life.

  5. dm

    I believe that many short-time readers become confused because you answer some questions but then react rather negatively to others who ask questions. I recall receiving a response to a question basically saying that I must be some type of entitled asshole. It was the first time I had asked you a question and I thought that maybe you might answer and maybe you might not answer. I had hoped you would share your opinion but I had no sense of entitlement as to your time. If you were a bit less gruff when declining to answer a question, or simply didn’t respond at all, I think most of your readers would “get it.” I think.
    Anyway, thanks for all your effort, I really do appreciate the work you put into this blawg.

    1. SHG Post author

      To the reader, it’s just one guy asking a question. To me, it’s not. As I’ve explained in the past, you don’t see the hundred trashed comments every day, or the hundreds of emails I get from people who want to discuss my posts in privacy, or the telephone calls from people who love/hate/whatever my posts, and think I want to chat about it on the phone with them for a few hours (or at least until General Hospital comes on). And when it’s a new person, who has never contributed anything to SJ, and the first thing they do is ask a question, I parse it pretty tightly. There’s a reason they call these comments, not questions.

      Did I mention the great wealth, respect and fame I get for doing this? Yeah, I’m gruff.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        I wouldn’t want to diss your feelz by claiming that I’m walking in your shoes (I tried ’em but they don’t fit), but I have found that when one creates something that others find appealing, some of those others will want to somehow put their imprint on it or establish a closer relationship — fwiw, I suppose I’m doing exactly that now.

        This is normal human behavior. It’s the same behavior that drives us to collectively seek out and destroy all unspoiled natural areas, one McDonald’s wrapper, moved rock, set of carved initials, or tacky motel with even tackier attached gift shop at a time.

        Making great things by yourself is hard. Making great things while accepting contributions or comments from others is damn near impossible, and requires significant patience and editorial oversight.

        You have created a great blog, and the ones who least like it when you toss out their comments with the McDonald’s wrappers simply don’t realize that they wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for your vision, which includes regularly taking out the trash.

        1. SHG Post author

          That’s how I like to think of it, but in the Age of Entitlement, I may not adequately “feel their pain.” That said, I enjoy and appreciate many commenters and comments. Want to be part of the place, contribute to it instead of demand from it. I very much appreciate learning from commenters, and I certainly do, and they contribute to my being a better, smarter lawyer and writer. That’s the give and take that makes SJ far more than just me.

  6. Mort

    I know Scott doesn’t care, but I just want to say that the few times I have exchanged e-mails with him has has always been quite kind. I probably haven’t e-mailed him in months, may not for many months to come, but he’s never been overly short with me.

    I hope Scott knows that I appreciate that, and that I also hope I don’t ever end up “over-staying my welcome,” either here in the comments section or in his inbox.

    And frankly, I thought the reply to Judith was just fine… But I might have different standards than most…

  7. John Barleycorn

    Maybe grandma just wanted a kiss

    As an aside, if any of your regular email-ers are looking for an ear I have discovered that state and federal banking regulators are actually quite responsive especially if you include a series of escalating juggling memes when while dissecting the nuances of charter launguage and as an extra added bonus, unlike emails to lawyers banking regulators (whom I have discovered get paid every two weeks regardless of the sun spot cycles) will often begrudgingly admit that uncharted waters are arousing to them but they claim it would be unprofessional of them to say if these arousals fantasies of theirs may involves hand cuffs and whips.

  8. losingtrader

    Quit praising Scott before he slams your head into the table.
    As to the grandmother’s problem, that was a misunderstanding.
    You don’t give a fuck.
    She wanted and needed one.
    Needy people don’t take rejection well.
    That’s why I don’t own a gun.

    But…I just have a quick question… ……………….

  9. JAV

    It’s nothing less than what’s in the fine print with each post. I read it and took it seriously. If a post doesn’t go up or gets a dose of fire, it’s “My House, My Rules”, and I move on with my life. Still a great blawg.

  10. David

    Reference to the “n-word” reminds me…

    If one watches or talks about a Mel Brooks film (I was just singing a bit of a Mel Brooks Hitler-based song at a work Christmas lunch at a restaurant in public, so thinking of that example), or watches Amy Schumer, or whatever, there may well be offensive scenes and language. If you don’t like it, don’t watch. If you don’t like SHG’s language, don’t read.

    If I truly thought SHG were being cruelly abusive to a third party I think I would comment, but mere use of language some find very strong doesn’t rise to that level.

  11. Dissent

    I’m right there with you, little bro. This week I hit my boiling point with some mainstream reporters who ask for my immediate time and help when they’re working on a data breach story, but then never mention or h/t me or my blog when they write their story, So it’s “THANKS!” for all the examples and leads I give them, but no public thanks or link to my breach site?

    Screw that. I’ve had it. Wait until the next time they contact me for help. I have a new policy.

    You, however, are welcome to email or call me, anytime.

      1. Dissent

        Hey, just feel relieved that some of us are even older than you are. 🙂

        BTW, am I the only reader who tried to fill in the Captcha box with a Roman numeral when the puzzle had a Roman numeral in it? I can imagine what Judith might say about tricking us old, entitled, folks.

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