Secret Stuff: Trivia on Trivia

Our hate mail

Shocking as this may sound, not everybody loves us. While the vast majority of e-mail we've had has been supportive and encouraging, a minority of the e-mail is ... well ... not fan mail. And we're not talking about everybody who writes in to point out typos (weekly) or errors of fact (sometimes). We're talking about people who have gone ballistic over things they have seen in our games. Here is a cross sampling of the folks who have sent us hate mail.

  • Creationists: Our geology game attracted a bizarre e-mail from a creationist who was as opposed to the idea that the Earth "evolved" as he was to the idea that lifeforms evolved. It was a textbook collection of the various lies that creationists tell.
  • >Confederates: A number of people, particularly after our Civil War game, sent us shocking apologetics for the Confederacy, some even going so far as to pretend that the Confederacy was not formed to defend slavery, or that slavery wasn't such a bad thing. This is one of the few times we launched a special rebuttal page.
  • Anti-Catholics: Our games on Islam and Judaism passed without comment. But our games on the popes and on Catholic saints each attracted virulent anti-Catholic e-mail. It was weird. I'd thought anti-Catholic bigotry went out steam engines, but it's alive and well.
  • Canadians: Any game with an American theme is guaranteed to attract a number of angry e-mails from my fellow Canadians, which sometimes comes with a bilious screed about the Bush regime. (Canadians don't hate Americans, but a lot of us really hate Republicans.) Interestingly, US-themed games never attract complaint from our many Aussie players, and the folks from India only complain about the TV games.
  • Republicans: During the teeth of the 2004 presidential election, I ran two games, one on Democratic presidents and then one on Republicans. The Democratic game eviscerated every Democratic president of the 20th century, ripping into them for their sex lives, scandals, racism and so on. Barely a peep of complaint. The next week, we laid off Ike and Ford entirely and even found something nice to say about Hoover. But some relatively anodyne remarks about W produced a handful of violent complaints from Republicans whose delicate sensibilities we'd offended. One e-mail noted: "On 9/11/01 President Bush did not spend 'the rest of the day in hiding.' It is the job of the Secret Service to keep the President safe in time of attack. They whisked him off to a safe place until the status of the attacks was verified." You know, I think being "whisked off to a safe place" is the definition of "in hiding." We ended up censoring most of the politically incorrect material on Bush, but it goes to show, Democrats can take a joke. Republicans ... not so much.
  • Indians and Liberals: The former meaning the Asian variety; the latter meaning the small-l variety. Both object rather strenuously to the essay on Gandhi. Then again, the people who contracted me to write it found it too controversial, too. And, to tell the truth, I suspect at least one of my sources may have been part of the usual right-wing character assassination that happens to most liberal icons. Nevertheless, Gandhi's statements about the Nazis and his family problems are matters of public record, as is his war record.
  • The Standing-Obsessed: Some folks take their standings seriously. Very, very seriously. And they get incredibly vicious when they feel they have been denied their rightful place. Usually, the more abusive the complaint, the more likely it is the problem originates with the complainant, and the more polite the e-mail, the more likely it was my fault.
  • The Internationally Politically Correct: In one of the strangest incidents, our reference to "Ivory Coast" produced paroxysms of rage from some left-wing players, who argue that the country wants to be called "Cote d'Ivoire." I was a racist imperialist for doing otherwise. Except that "Cote d'Ivoire" is "Ivory Coast" in French ... the language of the nation's imperial oppressor. And besides, you can bet that in Ivory Coast, "South Africa" isn't called by the English name used in South Africa. It's called "Afrique de Sud."

Again, I have to emphasize that constructive criticism has improved the site and we welcome any and all feedback, even (especially) negative feedback.