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12 December, 2005

Mind yer own

As Readers' Editor of the Guardian, one of Ian Mayes' main tasks is to address complaints and publish appropriate corrections.  Unfortunately, one issue seems to be especially persistent, as Mayes explains in a recap and progress report.

One point, which overlaps with my views on petitions, relates to the offensive and unproductive nature of coordinated e-mailing campaigns:

Throughout the entire period of my consideration of the complaint I was among the targets of an electronic lobby group....
I did not engage with or respond to this lobby, whose members poured several hundred emails into the Guardian. I did not read more than a tiny sample of the emails directed at me. I consider organised lobbies in general to be in effect – whatever the rights or wrongs of their position – oppressive to put it mildly. In the case of [name omited to deny publicity], those who respond to their Media Alerts are asked to be polite. They do not all manage to follow that advice. I also consider that it is unreasonable to expect me to read the contents of any email bombardment while dealing with a complaint from the principal person involved.
Correspondence from other readers is often lost in the huge volume of lobby email and thus lobbies tend to undermine the complaints procedures in place at the Guardian. Many of the lobbyists clearly do not read the paper.
In summary, if you participate in such a campaign:
  • your message will neither be read nor receive a response.
  • you will annoy and may intimidate the recipient.
  • you will deny other (more legitimate, genuine) correspondents a voice by swamping their contributions within a mail overload which will simply be ignored.
Bandwagons and petulant sheep don't mix. If you are personally affected by an issue, by all means tackle the person or organisation concerned, but speak for yourself, and only yourself.

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