On the front of the Accent section in today's Winston-Salem Journal, there is an article about local couples, my aunt and uncle among them, celebrating fifty years of marriage. Today's obituaries are full of wonderful tributes to those who've died. Elsewhere in the paper, one man cites his wife and son as his inspiration for fulfilling a life goal.
As a city, we would seem to be nothing less than love, love, love, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But occasionally, something far less pleasant bubbles up. Winston-Salem has a hidden, small - but strong - Mean Streak. Because most of the city's residents have been raised with some level of civility and decorum, however, those who do not go online rarely see it. Winston-Salem's nastiness, you see, is electronic. And nine times out of ten, it's anonymous.
Witness the debacle that was the response to The Dinner Belle's review of Dudley's On The Park. She didn't give the restaurant a very favorable review, and a slew of anonymous persons came forward to call her "Bitter Belle", snidely remark that, "The fact that you would chase down fried chicken and your familiarlity(sic) with cafeteria food seems to sum up where you are coming from", and advise her to "trade the Beers for a couple of Vodka Sours, at least then, you will have a reason to have that pucker on your face."
Ed Bumgardner, an arts reporter for the Journal, had an even nastier response to his less-than-positive review of the Bob Dylan concert. One commenter inexplicably rants, "You probably got you tech. from an obscure shool (sic) of journalism such as u n freaking c... It's alright ma if I can't please him, or you're an idiot it's a wonder that you still no (sic) how to breathe." Another demands Bungardner resign, then name calls: "Smalltown Ed". Anonymous calls him "old rag", then notes, "In case the words fly over your head and into Dylan's glove in left center...we're all saying: YOURE (sic) AN IDIOT."
There are many, many more nasty bits levelled at both The Dinner Belle and Ed Bumgardner, both of whom have email addresses readily available at the ends of said reviews. Almost all the daggers are thrown anonymously or are virtually untraceable, attributed only to "Mike" or "xyz123" or the like. Not one person who said something just plain, old nasty did so in his or her own, full name. E-cajones. Electronic chutzpah.
My own experiences run the same way: anonymous/untraceable snipe comments or emails sent from email addresses apparently created explicitly for that purpose. I just find it hard to believe anyone's regular email address is actually email@example.com .
I have no problems with criticism, but I generally ignore criticism from those who cannot stand behind their words. Want to email me why you think my pan of Sciworks is a load of bunk? Angry over my assertion that the Buena Vista Shop's ads have the ugliest pictures ever? Super, provide a valid email address and I'll be happy to discuss my position with you.
The irony is that saying anything negative about specific, local places or things apparently justifies the subsequent insults lobbed at specific, local people. Basically the mob will beat the negativity out of you, Gosh Darn It. You! Will! Not! Criticize! You! Stupid! Uglyhead! NOWBEHAPPY!
Well, guess what? I am happy. I love this city. I just don't love everything in it. Who does? I mean, really.
Welcome to Winston-Salem, where all the faces smile with gentility while behind a few of the backs, the fingers are making rude gestures.
Anonymously, of course.
My email, as always, is firstname.lastname@example.org