You might think that I’ve made an effort to keep my email (or other ways of getting a hold of me beyond commenting on this blog or tweeting at me) a secret. I haven’t. If you look hard enough and know my full name, then you should have no problem figuring it out. Other times, I email people to ask them to clarify their comments… Or, probably my biggest mistake, I email people to confront them.
As a result, from time to time, I get hate mail.
If you were around in 2011, you might remember that guy who emailed everyone at the health department to tell them how much of a meanie I was for calling him a douchebag. He even threatened to sue me. It all boiled over, but that event and others have not scared me away from being open about who I am and what I do.
The best hate mail is when someone decides that I messed up somewhere in something I said or wrote, and they point it out via email. I can almost hear them laughing maniacally as they tell me that I’m wrong, that they’re right, or that I need to hand over my financials because, surely, Monsanto is paying me to write all this.
Lately, there have been three or four people who just keep finding small things here and there that contradict or re-imagine what I’ve written about Zika (a novel, emerging disease)… So I must have lied or misled when I wrote what we knew about Zika back then. If anything has changed, it’s because I was wrong then, not because we’re finding out new things.
And don’t get me started with the anti-vaccine loons.
What really makes me wonder about these people’s lives is the amount of time they devote to do “research” into whether I’m right or wrong (not on the subject itself, mind you), and how much time they devote to emailing me. They’re not short emails with data. They’re long emails with accusations, demands, insults, and then maybe one or two sources of data.
The best emails are the ones where the author threatens to “expose” me for the “fraud” that I’m supposed to be. They threaten that they will show how my lack of caring about their “concerns” shows that my career in public health will be harmful to someone, or that I will not be “receptive” of public concerns about my work. I don’t respond anymore.
See, there used to be a time when all of this bothered me. I used to care about what random strangers had to say about me through electronic media. Lately, not so much. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older — and probably more mature — or if it’s because I have bigger fish to fry.
I think I’ve stopped caring because I’ve come to understand and consider the source. Anti-vaccine loons are never going to accept that vaccines are not the ultimate evil that they think it to be. Conspiracy theorists are not going to accept that sh*t happens sometimes, and that the correlations they see around them are in no way meaningful or, at the very least, indicative of causation.
On the other hand, if I get an email from a personal friend, one of my many mentors, my advisor, a professor at the school, etc… Then I’ll pay attention to their arguments, weigh them, and offer a thoughtful response. And I’ll do this partly because they know me personally and I know them, and partly because they don’t make it their day’s (or life’s) aim to find a kink in my armor.
So do yourself a favor, if you’re one of these “trolls” who keeps emailing and doesn’t get a response from me: Get a clue. Move on. Walk away.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.