My neighbour Dr Lewis refused to entertain correspondence by email: sometimes I am tempted to worship at a shrine devoted to his wisdom.
But first a disclaimer: if you are among the majority of my email correspondents who contact me, regularly or irregularly, offering your opinions and helpful advice: I welcome your continuing engagement and none of the following applies to you.
Here are some basic rules.
1. Give your full residential address on every item of correspondence
2. If you are rude, gratuitously unpleasant, or descend to profanity, then your email address will be blocked and any further emails will simply be lost in the aether. If you then wish to contact me you will need to go to the trouble and expense of purchasing a postage stamp.
3. Do not send me internet links and ask for my comments. I do not click on unsolicited links in order to protect my data, and that of constituents who have entrusted me with theirs. Second, I just do not have time to provide commentary on random stuff from the internet.
4. If you have a problem with which you wish to me to assist, please invest the time and effort to state what it is. Don’t just say that it is self-explanatory in an enclosed email chain, with the expectation that I can read your messages in reverse order, and work it all out for myself.
5. Please don’t complain that my responses are ‘curt’. They aren’t. They are brief: brevity is essential when in receipt of 200 emails per day
6. Stop telling me exactly what ‘the British People voted for’. After a lifetime of engaging with voters on their doorsteps and elsewhere, I am quite aware of the extraordinary range of reasons people have in voting in the way that they have. Equally, given the number of representations that I receive, you can be assured that I will have sampled a wider range of opinion than you have, when you tell me that everyone to whom you have spoken agrees with you.
7. If you email me several times per day with your thoughts. I make no complaint, but please do not expect replies.
Now a couple of observations
There is a noticeable overlap between the most strident and vituperative emailers on Brexit and islamophobia. I can’t understand the connection myself, perhaps it’s worthy of a PhD thesis.
There is definitely a rising intolerance, an unwillingness to accept that other people who disagree have simply reached a different conclusion, and instead, to categorise them as traitors, liars and cheats.
So, the sixth-form essay question I leave you with is:
To what extent is social media a cause of our coarsening public discourse, or merely a symptom of it. Discuss.