Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Letters to the Editor, or Arguing with Assholes

Friends, I can exclusively reveal the identity of the person every anonymous troll post on the Internet, every premature leap to Godwin’s Law, and every "well you’re just mad because you’re a hypersensitive pussy and you’re probably ugly" rebuttal. He’s the guy who ruined your favorite online forums, and he might even be the guy who once put fireworks in your mailbox and spraypainted a penis on your garage door. That guy is Steven Wells, and he’s somehow employed as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Weekly.

Steven Wells is the kind of guy who would steal from a baby, and then loudly berate the baby for crying. Rather, he writes like that kind of guy. I make no claims to his coolness, attractiveness, or ability to win a fight, since I have never met him in person, and I will refrain from making unfounded ad hominem attacks on him and keep my unflattering assumptions to myself.

I found three of his essays, one published today, to the tune of "knitters are ugly and humorless and oh yeah they are also Nazis and let’s kill them." They’re linked below, if you care to explore the stupidity. Sure I knit. Sure I’m mad. I’m mad as a knitter, but I’m also mad as a reader, one who likes her reading material to be well-written, well-researched, and not irrationally spiteful. I want opinion pieces – even the fluffy ones – to make me think something besides "Whoa, who took a dump in this asshole’s socks? Would they benefit from medication?"

Below is my letter to the editors, in its entirety, in case PW decides to put this up in a heavily edited form, or Wells decides to call me a fat cow with PMS and nasal polyps or something equally dumb.

Today I came across a trio of essays written by Steven Wells "Yarn Die," "The Rise of Adolf Knitler," and today's "Knitzkrieg!") and I'm deeply disappointed with the immature tone of his work, the poor quality of his writing, and the idea that someone on your staff thought it worth publishing. Wells' writing is among the shrillest and most spiteful I have ever read, and easily the worst I have read from anyone in a print publication. His hatred of knitters and crocheters is perplexing and hostile enough on its own. His rebuttal to the knitting community's outrage – and the knitting community has every right to be outraged at his ill-informed tripe, though I may disagree with some of their more strongly-worded suggestions – smacks of immature, playground-bully tactics. Implying that people are furious because they're "humorless... smelly hippie whiners" (and apparently ugly, too), rather than Wells' frothing attack on them, is inexcusably disingenuous and offensive.

I knit and crochet, and I learned of Wells' writing through other crafters, though at the end of the day my hobbies are irrelevant. The subject of Wells' hate is, also, ultimately irrelevant. He might as well have been writing about stamp collectors or Trekkies or amateur athletes. Any activity, whether trendy or nerdy, brings out the quirks in us, and most of us are willing to defend the activities we find fulfilling to outsiders who may snicker at us. I don't expect Wells, or any non-crafter for that matter, to understand knitting, and I don't expect him to care about the difference between a needle and a hook. I do expect, however, professional writers to bother to learn about something they don't understand before publishing an inflammatory essay about it. I also expect professionals to refrain from publicly whining about their irrational hatred for a mainstream community of people, and I certainly expect them to avoid using inflammatory cliches such as calling people Nazis and suggesting that they be shot.

I am not just a knitter. I am also a longtime reader of the alternative weekly papers in my area, and a frequent consumer of goods and services advertised in alternative weeklies. If I lived in Philadelphia, I would be squarely in this paper's target audience. If I had been a regular reader of PW, I would no longer be one today.

I am not, as Wells would like to believe, a hypersensitive prig who hates fun and can't take a joke; far from it. I am, however, an intelligent and discriminating consumer with a low tolerance for crap.

One man's "astute parody" is uninformed, poorly reasoned, inappropriate bile in the eyes of thousands of others – and, yes, I would be surprised if anyone other than Wells himself considers his anti-craft vendetta astute, clever, or funny. I'm gobsmacked at the idea that he actually gets a paycheck for writing something that appears to have taken as much mental effort as the average bowel movement.

It's a shame that so many people from across the country have been exposed to these works as their introduction to PW, especially when so many well-written, insightful alternative newspapers are struggling. You owe an apology to a lot of people for publishing this crap. I expect no such apology from Wells, who will probably just make derogatory guesses about my physical appearance and the last time I had sex.

If you are interested, I would gladly submit an article to PW for publication in response to Wells' sound and fury, and would do so gratis. My only concern is that of being associated with a writer of such low quality.

Update: Jim of Notes of Chaos wrote a letter to the PW editors, too, with twice the awesome in a third of the length. I've posted it here with his permission:

I'm not interested in knitting myself, but the first thing I saw on Philadelphia Weekly is Stephen Wells's column about knitters being Nazis.

That seems to be pretty much the whole article: "Knitters are Nazis, and I hate them." No explanation whatsoever about what makes them resemble Nazis. I've seen better writing in angsty teenage blogs, which his column is not far from being.

Seeing that, I figured that your publication was just the result of another bunch of cranks coming together to waste time on the Internet. However, it did have the name "Philadelphia Weekly," not "THE ORC DUNGEON: NO FAT CHIKS." I looked around at the rest of it, and it seems to a pretty normal alternative weekly, with writing standards. So, I just thought that it's probably not in your best interest to pay this guy.

I have to ask, though, is Stephen Wells related to anyone in management? Is some higher-up just giving him something to do?

If you’re a knitter, a crocheter, or if you just hate bad writing, why not drop them a line yourself? I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.


Mooly said...

You go, Muufy!

nshane said...

I don't remember how I found this post but I just checked the staff page and Steven Wells is NOT listed on it.

Anonymous said...


relax, this is very healthy and cute, you need to knit a cute vagina now with a smilie face on it :)

Anonymous said...

yo what the hell is a knitter? :-/