An ode to the angry email

karim_doumar otb

A proper angry email should flow. It should never use all capital letters or italics, or even exclamation points. The words should speak for themselves. It should have a strong thesis statement seamlessly woven into poetic, rageful prose.

A proper angry email requires editing. There’s nothing worse than penning a complete virtual argumentative masterpiece, sending it and later finding a typo. But the editing process shouldn’t take long, lest the anger that fueled the writing of the email dissipate on its own.

A proper angry email should land in the receiver’s inbox with a subject line in all lowercase — something simple and unsuspecting, but obviously fitting the magnanimity of the moment. Something like “on a personal note” or “the controversy.” It should have the capacity to instigate an all-out war but also be able to stand on its own — to end a conversation once and for all.

Whenever Berkeley finds itself at the center of some free speech fiasco, The Daily Californian’s humble but powerful content faces attack by the scary members of the fringe blogospheres.

The brave students who stand behind the Daily Cal’s relentless coverage face a barrage of spiteful, racist and disturbing emails. We hardly blink, and we barely bother to read them. Their subject lines expose them anyway, and the spelling errors erase their credibility. We are not fazed by the rabid emailing of anonymous trolls. They don’t know proper angry-email etiquette. They are unworthy opponents.

I read often, and all over the place. Books, essays, newspaper articles, columns and the like. But the most brilliant prose I have encountered has arrived in my inbox, generally under some unassuming subject line that camouflages disdainful horrors and aggressive displeasure. I relish every single angry email. I pore over its prose and forward it to my confidants. We check the time stamps and read together in silent awe, wondering what the physical state of the writer was when he sent it.

The angriest email I have ever received, a savage, beautiful broadside, arrived in my inbox at 1:19 p.m. A co-worker and I sat openly baffled. It wasn’t even sent at “drunk o’clock.” I imagine the writer sitting at his desk at work, face red and eyes piercing, typing furiously away at a keyboard that could barely withstand the pressure and hitting “send” just before the end of a lunch break.

I knew that in the face of such rage, and with my harmful hypermasculine pride on the line, the response needed to be perfect, but even then, it wouldn’t matter. I meticulously selected my words, agonized over my tone and sought editing from the Daily Cal’s most brilliant minds.

Some angry emails require a speedier response. These disdainful complaints come from spokespeople, sources and public figures intent on winning corrections, apologies and admissions of mistake. Sometimes, those emails work (or are justified), and Daily Cal corrections appear stoically on page three. More often, they mark desperate attempts by figures of authority to protect their images and undercut the student journalists who spare no detail or fact-check to get the story right.

We wear those emails like battle scars, our fiery and swift responses built upon the hours of solid work. In those replies, we reserve anger for only the most relentless complainers who refuse to understand reason — how dare they waste our time.

I can admit to being on the sending side of more than a few angry emails, inspired by meetings gone wrong, foolish decisions made and nonsensical work ethics. I have sat with the wisest person in my life, huddled over a keyboard, and, in 400 pointed words of rage, accused an entire board of my peers of sexism, a righteous rush coursing through my veins. That board then reversed course, and I keep that email safe, a testament to the power of indignation.

Sometimes, I lay in bed wondering if a more civilized approach might have worked, if burning bridges and cc-ing so many people was the best way to go. As I consider that ultimate moral question, though, another angry email pops onto my screen, and I spring into action. For this is my calling: the angry email. I am its child, bred in the fires of the Daily Cal email flame wars, trained by the best in the business: the formidable Alex, the indefatigable Dani, the hammer (Hooman) and Suhauna, the all-knowing creative genius.  

Karim Doumar joined the Daily Cal in spring 2015 as an opinion columnist. He became assistant opinion editor in fall 2015 before serving two terms as opinion editor in spring and fall 2016. He was editor in chief and president for the 2017-2018 year. He is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in geography.

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