On the Fence : Extra!


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

An Angry Letter I wrote David Macfarlane in November of 2002

Dear Mr. David MacFarlane,
Okay, first of all, I am well aware that this angry tirade you are about to read - or possibly delete without reading - is a little "after the fact". It relates to a column you wrote maybe two or three weeks ago. I'm not entirely sure what it was about. The Rolling Stones or something.
Ah! You remember the column, now, don't you? Anyway, you are probably wondering what it is that you wrote that could illicit anger from a Reader two (possibly three!) weeks after it was published. Well, I will tell you. Please stop multitasking immediately and pay attention.
You may think that it was one of your unneccessary references to whatever book you are currently reading or the opera you last attended, which make some Readers stop reading, roll their eyes, and say to their breakfast companion(s), "Ooh, Mr. David MacFancyPants went to the opera again with his wife! La-dee-dah!" But, no, it was not that.
You may think it was your penchant for not getting to the damn point until halfway through your column that enraged me. You are incorrect in thinking that. (Though for that particular vice of yours, I feel that turnabout is fair play.)
You may even think that I am angry at you for making me picture you having sex with a) your wife while cold-stricken; or b) that Magazines column woman (Crosbie?). No, no, no, Mr. MacFarlane. This is not why I am angry with you.
Pause for emphasis.
I am upset with you because of that pithy little remark you made about only having two or three readers between the ages 18-30 and that they had stopped reading at that point because you were writing about the Rolling Stones. I can't remember exactly how many young readers you said you thought you had, but it was a low figure, anyway.
Okay, buster. I am 21 years old, male (despite my feminine-sounding name; it's Irish), and, yes, a reader of your column. Heck, I'm a regular reader of your column. And I'd like to believe that there are more like me.
Believe it or not, there are young people who read newspapers, are interested in the arts, and subscribe to The Globe and Mail (albeit for a cheaper price if they are students). Some of us (shock!) listen to CBC Radio even. I, therefore, consider it an insult that you think only a handful of people between the ages of 18 and 30 (or whatever range you wrote) read your column. I suppose you think most of us are off gangbanging while hopped up on coke rather than reading The Globe.
I was completely turned off when I read that comment, and immediately stopped reading. That's right, I didn't stop reading because the subject was The Rolling Stones (who, by the way, rock), but rather because of your condescending attitude towards the young'uns and your self-deprecating self-image of being an old fogey. You made me feel like I was a dork to be reading your column, as if I was a loser to be interested in what you have to say.
And so I snorted some coke and went off with my posse to wrangle some booty. (This is untrue.)
To be fair, I have noticed this attitude from other columnists with The Globe and Mail and elsewhere.
I am similarly turned off by CBC Radio and CBC Television's endless hand-wringing over the lack of listeners and watchers in the much-touted under 35 set. It's true that that I would not be caught dead dialing 1-800-SAD-GOAT. It is also true that Danny Finkleman does not appeal to me, nor do his 45s. But his brother Ken Finkleman does (I even liked Foreign Objects!), and so do Shelaigh Rogers and Barbara Budd. And I like Definitely Not The Opera and Brave New Waves, and I liked the Trudeau mini-series a lot and I miss that show where Wendy Mesley sat in the giant, red, U-shaped chair, and I hate Evan Solomon, that smarmy jackass, and his book really sucked.
Instead of trying to attract younger viewers, however, CBC (like you) sometimes seems to be really trying to alienate them (ie. with Evan Solomon). This 50th anniversary stuff is bugging me, all this looking backwards and not forwards. I'm not nostalgic for This Hour has Seven Days; I'm nostalgic for when Rick Mercer was still on This Hour has Twenty-Two Minutes.
And it's the same thing with The Globe quite often. The only time you see youth-related articles, it's all "Why Are Our Kids So Damn Scary" and "Could Someone Tell Me How to Get My Adult Children to Move Out of the House?" and "Please Pull Your Pants Up."
But worse are the methods that the CBC or what-have-you uses to try to court the younger age bracket. Their plans are always presented as a "dumbing-down" of content, as if youth will only be attracted to bright colours, quick cuts, and infotainment, as if they'll only buy a newspaper that puts the Posh Spice kidnapping attempt on the front page.
Lest you think I am the only youth who feels this way, I can tell you that there are many intelligent youngsters out there who read the paper and vote in elections and still listen to Eminem. (No, really, I do like Eminem.) I was just visiting a friend in Toronto this weekend and we were discussing exactly this and he had also been annoyed by your Rolling Stones column, hence my renewed anger at you and this long, rambling tirade.
Perhaps my friends are an unrepresentative sample, but all of the people I hang out with like to read newspapers or listen to CBC or enjoy reading serious fiction or go to the theatre or like opera or appreciate a fine red wine or regularly visit art galleries.
Do you find the young people around you difficult to relate to? Do you speak to young people? Is the difference between the young people (this is a stupid term, I apologize for not thinking of a better one) in Montreal and Toronto that huge?
Okay, so this where I will stop ranting. Consider this a warning. If you do something like this again, I will never read your column again and call you bad names and possibly spill my cereal on the kitchen table in disgust. I will discourage people from buying your books. My purchasing power may be almost non-existent right now, but you just watch out in ten/fifteen years from now.
I am also ccing this to your editor, so she can withhold your next paycheque or write a headline that embarrasses you or something to teach you a lesson.
Respectfully yours,

J. Kelly Nestruck
Montreal, Quebec
posted by J. Kelly 3:29 PM

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